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soccer, european women's championshipsAll you need to know about the European Women’s Championships 2013.

With the announcement of the England squad last week, now is a good time to profile the tournament which kicks off in Gothenburg, Sweden on 10 July.

Firstly, a potted history.

The Women’s Euros, as the European Women’s Championships are commonly known, has existed in various incarnations since 1984.

This year will be the 11th competition.

The inaugural winners were Sweden, followed by Norway in the second year. Since then Germany have been largely untroubled, winning eight of the following nine contests. Their only blip came in 1993, when Norway slipped in for a second triumph.

The closest a home nation has come to winning the trophy was in the first competition, when England lost on penalties in a two-legged final, and again in 2009 when Hope Powell’s England side were beaten by Germany at the final in Helsinki.

The format of the tournament is three groups of four, with the top two from each group plus two best runners-up going through to the knockout quarter finals.

England will again be hard pushed to carry off the trophy this time round. Injuries to key players have been a recurring theme in the build up to the tournament.

With a serious knee injury, experienced defender Rachel Unitt is a notable absentee. First-choice left-back Steph Houghton is also a worry, but is named in the squad, as are captain Casey Stoney and strikers Kelly Smith and Karen Carney, all of whom have been plagued by niggling injuries.

The uncapped Gemma Bonner and Lucy Bronze have been drafted in as defensive cover. There has been some controversy over the omission of the WSL’s leading scorer, Natasha Dowie, who must be wondering what she has to do to get a game, after scoring 10 times in 12 games in the league this season.

England are drawn in a tough group. They are in Group C, based in Linkoeping. Their first group game is against Spain on 12 July, with Russia following on 15 July, finishing off with a dangerous France on 18 July.

The other groups are: Group A: Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden and Group B: Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway.

As to who is going to win it – no one seems to be looking further than Germany.

However, they too have suffered an injury crisis in the lead up to the tournament. Coach Silvia Nead has lost defenders Babett Peter and Verena Faisst, midfielders Viola Odebrecht and Kim Kulig, forward Alexandra Popp and the experienced Linda Bresonik.

Nead has been forced to select six young players, each with fewer than ten appearances. Defender Babett Peter will, arguably, be the squad’s biggest loss. She was an integral part of the side that took the title for the fifth time in a row in 2009. A stress fracture of the foot keeps her out this time.

“I’m unbelievably disappointed,” she said. “I’ve had some minor pains for a while but I didn’t think it was anything major. It was a shock to find out I have a serious injury.”

France’s squad, too, has not escaped unscathed.

Top striker Laëtitia Tonazzi has withdrawn with a calf injury. At 32, this would probably have been her last appearance at a major tournament. Her place is taken by an uncapped 19-year old, Viviane Asseyi.  Coach Bruno Bini is also still waiting on midfielder Amandine Henry, who is struggling with a thigh injury.

England were unbeaten in qualifying, but the latest injury scares must put a dent in their hopes. If they get out of the group, they surely have a chance, but at the moment, this is all we can hope for.

France and Spain are improving fast and you can never discount the hosts, Sweden. In fact, you can make a case for just about everyone, which should make it all very exciting.

England Coach, Hope Powell, is fully aware of the task ahead.

“You go into major tournaments and the idea is you want to win it. I’m under no illusion though; everybody else has the same agenda and we recognise it’s going to be tough,” she said in an interview with the BBC.

“I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Germany will win it. Historically they have been such a powerful nation and they have won this tournament on countless occasions, but this year I think they have got as good a chance as everyone else.”

The final takes place at the Friends Arena, Solna, which has a 30,000 capacity, on 28 July.

There’s good news about media coverage, too. All England’s matches will be broadcast live on BBC television; this may be on BBC Three or BBC Two, so check listings for definitive details.

In fact, a total of 16 games will be shown live throughout the tournament.

There will also be radio coverage on BBC 5 Live or 5 Live Sports Extra and text commentary of England’s matches on the BBC website.

UEFA also has a comprehensive website covering the tournament in depth.  Take a look here for profiles of each team and player and regular updates.

If you’ve never got “into” women’s football, now is the time. Never has there been so much accessible, terrestrial coverage.

This will be an exciting, close tournament, so check it out! Surely Germany can’t win it again, can they?

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