Monday, July 4, 2022

FEM 2022--Group D Preview

Introduction—“The Official 'Group of Life'"

(France, Italy, Iceland, Belgium)


What a better way to wrap up the final group preview section ever on this blog with one last "Group of Life"?

Sniff. One last time for the bookie

It's all there for the taking in this last one. The French remain the clear favorites, yet (as we'll get into below) are having typical French problems. Italy should finish second, but practically no one tips them to do so. Iceland and Belgium bring too much to the table to find clear separation here. 

So much stands uncertain here that you'll want to look in this group for the wildest games and best stories. Bookie can't really think of anything more profound to say here other than--as we'll be chanting many times in the coming days--"Long live football".



So it all got going three years ago. 

A shame that half of those girls aren't coming along this time. 

At least they'll live forever in these pages. 

France—“Les Bleaus Feminine"

Man, do we ever have a lot to discuss here. Sacre bleau, this team is about as French as it gets. Drama. Controversy. Wild changes. Locker room division. A coach under fire.

We try not to fall into ethnic stereotypes here at the syndicate anymore, but ze Froggies simply obstinately refuse to transcend theirs. They can't seem to live without. 

Yes, yes. I know that I just remarked in the last post that the French are hardly ever the footballing "implosion candidates" anymore. The 2002 and 2010 World Cup fiascos, while not totally fading from memory, do become less relevant every time we see this team progress through a tournament in a professional manner. 

The nice, snazzy new crest (borrowed by the bookie from the men's as a lucky charm of sorts) reminds us that this country can put personal in-feuding aside and get it done when necessary. There's quite a bit that needs to be pushed onto the back burner ahead of this competition. 

The last time we introduced this team, endless praise was heaped on national team trainer Corinne Diacre. Perhaps such lauding shall continue over the course of this chapter. Recall that we are dealing with one of the sport's biggest trailblazers. It's worth emphasizing once again, as the photo-insert above conveys to you, that she is one of only three females to have coached a men's professional squad. 

After a string of controversial personnel decisions, however, this groundbreaking past has come back to haunt the woman who runs this team. Diacre has been rather merciless in not calling up players whom she deems not to meet her form standards. Note that former captain Amandine Henry is no longer with us. Neither are Vivianne Asseyi, Valerie Gauvin, and Eugenie Le Sommer. 

Recently retired players such as Gaëthine Thiney and Sarah Bouhaddi spoke out publicly against Diacre's authoritarian leadership style after the team's untimely elimination at the hands of the US during the 2019 World Cup which they hosted. Extremely harsh words were leveled. According to these girls, the locker-room atmosphere counts as pure "Les Miserable". 

Some of Diacre's former male players at Clermont Foot soon came out of the woodwork to offer up more harrowing anecdotes. Olympique Lyon women's trainer Reynald Pedros spoke on the heartbreak his girls endured whenever reporting to the national team. They all claim that this women is a monster. She's been nicknamed "Attila" and "Dragon Lady". Old skipper Henry talked of"players crying non-stop" in 2019.

Whew. We're sadly not finished yet, either. Sometimes national team player Kheira Hamraoui was kidnapped and assaulted back in November in an incident some of the French tabloids claim involved her PSG and national team colleague Aminata Diallo betraying her extramarital affair with former French international Eric Abidal. 

Some reports suggest the current women's team stands divided on this issue. Ugh. This is all so freaking French that the writer can't stand it anymore! Why must it always be so with this blasted country?!? All one wants to do is talk a little football and instead we have to ruminate over saucy sexscapades and whether the team is, in fact, coached by "Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS". 

No! I refuse! Hell with this!

We're not going back to the days of Raymond Domenech and Nicolas Anelka. From here on out, we're talking football. I don't give a damn if the French must always be mired in controversy just as sure as the Germans must always be cynical. We'll discuss this team's sporting prospects now.

 The Talisman—Wendie Renard 

The current face of French women's football gets her captain's armband back. Diacre stripped her of it in 2017 ahead of the Euros, but has now reinstated her as skipper following the fallout with Amandine Henry. Wait a second.....I thought we were.....oh Christ, never mind. 

The 31-year-old, forever one of your friendly bookie's sporting heroes, now has 133 caps and 33 national team goals to her credit. She's tallied five times for country this year and turned in seven for Women's UCL winners Lyon during the just completed club campaign. 

A giant. Literally. At 1.87 M (about 6'2"), she's an Amazonian freak of nature. She climbs above everyone on set-pice aerial duels to ruthlessly slay opponents like the "notorious BFG" Per Mertesacker of the women's game. The "Monster from Martinique" we used to call her.

Suppose we can continue along in that vein.

Hope she gets going early so that we can forget all this other stuff.

  The Legends—


 Kadidiatou Diani 

One of the regular starters--in various nuanced positions--from last tournament who somehow came away from the 2019 FWM without scoring a goal. The 27-year-old hasn't really had that problem since, contributing three tallies in both the Euro and World Cup qualifying rounds. 

She's also turned in 16 across all competitions for PSG this season. From phenom to legend in just three years, bookie's very pleased that she's made the next step and most enthusiastic about watching her in the coming days. 

 Marie-Antoinette Katoto 

You won't recognize Diani's 23-year-old PSG teammate as she wasn't even here last time. Diacre famously left her off the squad, even going so far as to publicly say that France's league-leading goalscorer at the time didn't impress her personally in national team training. 

Well, well, well. Times have certainly changed now. The center-forward enters this competition as the offensive linchpin around which this squad is organized. All of this began shortly after the quarterfinal elimination in 2019. 

Katoto has scored 22 goals for country since. Her all-time totals are 25 tallies in just 30 caps. She's scored 14 times for this program in the last year alone, not to mention 32 times across all competitions for PSG. The "make-or-break" actor for this team's prospects. 

 Delphine Cascarino 


The Lyon attacker is now a regular fixture in the attacking trident; the quieter workhorse of the bunch one might say. She chips in her goals (three in the WMQ round), but is mostly known as an "assist-meister" for both club and country. For those for country this year. Seven for Olympique.

 Griedge Mbock Bathy 

Renard's defensive partner and co-captain. Sixty-seven caps now for the 27-year-old. Bookie absolutely loves this "Brittany Beaut". About as hard-working and disciplined center halve as you're likely to see. She's all over every ball. 

 Kenza Dali 

A fairly important part of the midfield puzzle. The 30-year-old, unlike most of her teammates, mostly accrued her professional experience over on the Isle. She's been there since 2019, playing for West Ham and Everton. 

A very suave style and a penchant for taking advantage of goal-scoring opportunities intelligently. Bookie had to watch her sink his German girls in a friendly earlier in the month. A bad feeling. A good impression. 

Overall in great form entering this competition. Three goals and five assists for country this year. Four more assists for her club across all competitions. 

 Grace Geyoro 

One of the other important pieces of the midfield puzzle. Another former phenom whose time has come. The now 25-year-old has had a brilliant year for both club and country, netting a cumulative total of 10 goals and five assists for Les Bleau and PSG. 

To think that she began her career as a defensive midfielder. We can't compare this prodigy to N'Golo Kante anymore. She does her own unique thing.....and you're truly going to like it. 

  The Next Gen—

 Sandy Baltimore 


Bookie honestly wishes there were room in the starting XI for this PSG left-winger. The 22-year-old has registered eight tallies and a whopping 16 assists for her club across all competitions this year. She hasn't quite broken through with the national team yet, though she has scored two in 15 caps. 

 Melvine Malard 

A talent that should displace Dali or possibly Cascarino at some point. Difficult to fathom that she's not in the lineup after a 16-goal-campaign for Lyon. She's tallied three times for country this year too, but Diacre hasn't quite seemed to figure out where she fits yet. 

 Sakina Karchaoui 

Our darling Moroccan phenom is now the team's starting left-back. She does a great deal for this team. Everything except score that is. Still no national team goals for the 26-year-old in 47 caps. Definitely rooting for her to break the duck in this tournament. She has turned in four for PSG this year.

 Projected Lineup (4-3-3) 


Diacre tends to like to work with a false-nine. She frequently used Diani in this regard last tournament. It happens to be--the author shall remark for the thousandth time--supremely French that she found a player infinitely better at serving this system in Katoto, someone she formerly rejected. Now the whole team is organized around the PSG forward. 

Not expecting too many personnel surprises her as the tightly bunched together midfield of Bilbault, Geyoro, and Dali remains far too important to this squad's current 14-game-winning streak. Diacre has sometimes played about with the inverted eights, giving Ellie Palis and Sandie Toletti starts beside Bilbault. 

We could see some of that here, but the bookie wagers that Diacre will play it safer with her go-to actors. All bets are off should the collapse begin to commence with an opening group stage loss against the Italians. Okay, in the literal sense all bets will still be on. Bookie maintains a nagging suspicion that an early surprise could lead to major (possibly catastrophic) tinkering. 

That's about as French as it gets. 


Italy—“Le Azzurre"

Everyone's favorite surprise from the 2019 tournament is back! Retuning with them are practically all the same legends and phenoms. 

Recall that the bookie engaged in one his biggest about faces ever when it came to this country. A pretty harsh Preview Section downplay quickly gave way to lavish praise and unremitting respect once they pulled off that early upset against  Australia.

Later, when they went on to demolish Jamaica and unexpectedly top the group and punch through to the quarterfinals, it became a full-fledged love affair. This are the moments such tournaments are made for.

Ben forte, signore. 

Più dello stesso, per favore!

The Cinderella run of this team in the last major tourney was about so much more than a mere feel-good underdog story. Those of us who really like the women's game find ourselves genuinely sick with the low level of respect it gets within Italian Machismo culture. At least that's what the son of an Italian literary scholar thinks. 

The lack of interest in Italian women's football, of course, owed much to other factors. Prior to 2019, the girls hadn't even qualified for the World Cup since 1999. That didn't help. Now these "donna" get another chance to introduce themselves to an Italian football-starved public as....let's face it....what the hell else are they going to take interest in after the men's team failed to qualify for their second consecutive WM?

One can still find heroes in the women's team, you poor, sordid souls. They still need your support. In point of fact, they've earned it. Consider checking out Melena Bertolini's squad. Might as well twist the knife in a little deeper and pose the question.....seriously....what the hell else do you have going on football-wise?

 The Talisman—Cristiana Girelli 

We'll go ahead and flip the talisman this time, though let it be known that Barbara Bonansea remains almost, if not just as important to this team. The current squad's all-time leader in goals scored (53 in 89 caps) is coming off a massive club campaign for Juventus Ladies. 

Girelli netted 14 and added 8 more assists for club this year. For country, she's scored eight in the current WMQ round. Five goals in the Women's Champions' League this year for the 32-year-old back-to-back Itlian women's player of the year. 

She was the one who got the whole tournament rolling for this program back in 2019. Would probably be a candidate for the female Ballon d'or if she didn't play domestically. As noted above, the Italian women's league desperately needs more attention and support. 

  The Legends—


 Barbara Bonansea 

Our previous talisman--also a pivotal figure in the 2019 tournament--hasn't been doing exactly poorly either. Thirteen goals across all competitions for Girelli's Juventus teammate. Three more for country this year bring her career totals to 30 in 81 caps.

A lot of handicappers are down on the Italians given how unpredictable this group looks. The Girelli-Bonansea engine doesn't seem to factor into the calculus of others in the same way as it does for the bookie. Too bad. Their loss. This tipper and his reader's gain. 

 Daniela Sabatino 

Father time (or mother time if we must) finally appears to have caught up with this legend. The 37-year-old with 32 goals in 68 caps hangs around mostly for moral support and perhaps PSO prowess. On still has fond memories of her, dating all the back to the 2013 FEM. 

 Valentina Giacinti 

The third piece of the attacking trident. Twelve goals across all competitions this for AC Milan and ACF Fiorentina. A very impressive 11-scorer-point performance for country in the WMQ campaign and Algarve Cup. 

 Elisa Bartoli 

Pretty decent year for the two-footed versatile fullback, who starts on the right for this team. The 31-year-old, together with center back AS Roma teammate Elena Linari, do a really good job with this defense. They both do well with club and country. 

 Sara Gama  

Yes, thank goodness. The captain is back! The now 33-year-old's game has matured to the extent that she's absolutely the fully rounded player we'd all hoped she'd become. An excellent club year for Juventus. An even better one for country with two tallies in the World Cup qualifying campaign. 

Bookie crush. 

You all know that.

 Manuela Giugliano 

Yes, thank goodness. She's back as well!. The fresh-faced, ever so lively and talented central midfielder (who became the face of the team last time) now has 56 caps and six goals to her credit in her relatively young career. 

The 24-year-old also plays for AS Roma now. Five goals and eight assists in her most recent club campaign. Another bookie crush, despite her orientation. You all know that too. 

  The Next Gen—

 Agnese Bonfantini 

The 23-year-old striker, after some stellar breakthrough years at Roma, made the step up to Juventus this season. Been a very good year for her club wise with 14 scorer points. She doesn't feature much for the national team yet. Only seven caps with no goals. 

 Valentina Bergamaschi 

One of our old phenoms is regrettably still waiting for her breakthrough. I've dropped her out of the XI for the time being. She's done okay for Brescia and Milan since hopping across the Swiss border. She can still score for the national team, registering two tallies in the WMQ. 

She could crack the XI here. Bertolini has great use for a player coming off an excellent a 16-point-scorer campaign for club who can score from both sides. I just like the form of the young phenom below better. 

 Arianna Caruso 

Errm....who? A 22-year-old who popped up not long after the last major tournament. She's a Juventus Lady as well, meaning that some of us are familiar with her for club. Admittedly, I had no clue how well she was doing for country. Six goals in 20 caps. Five scorer points in the WMQ. I think she starts...and stars. 

 Projected Lineup (4-3-3) 

About as straightforward a 4-3-3 as it gets. Recall that Bertolini didn't even configure it until the second group stage game of the 2019 FWM. Once it got there, all of us tactics-heads immediately fell in love. It's a beautiful little system with heavy forward rotations and that spritely little playmaker Giugliano coming out from deep to make things happen. 

Bookie is fairly confident in this projection. It's possible that Valentina Cernoia or maybe even Bergamaschi starts above Galli in midfield. Lisa Boattin could also potentially not be the starting left-back. I just don't know enough about the other contenders for that place. 

The basic constellation that you see has continued to do very well in the World Cup qualifying game, some recently scouted friendlies, and this past Spring's Algarve Cup. It can't be stressed enough that picking this wild and unpredictable group remains hard as hell. 

Few are actually tipping the Italians to finish second. Bookie will roll with it and them, with some tightly crossed fingers and a slight sense of dread. They're barely above the level of the two teams we've left to discuss. 

Iceland—“Stelpunar Okkar


Who's ready for some massive confusion?

Luckily for us, these girls from the most ridiculous country on the planet are not syndicate debutants. We watched them reach the quarterfinals in 2013. 

Your friendly bookie watched them partake in the Euros once again in 2017, as well as this year's SheBelieves Cup. 

I remain consistently confused about some of the names despite all of the scouting. Rest assured that you need not feel bad about having the same problem. It's not your fault. Ahem. Shall we review Icelandic naming customs? 

The Iceland (or archaic Norwegian if you prefer) word for "daughter" is "dottir". A person's last name in Iceland is determined by either the name of their father, followed by the respective suffix --sson (meaning "son") or "dottir" meaning "daughter". 

This should clear it up. 

The great "Magnus ver Magnusson"

In addition to being the world's strongest man, Magnus had a father named Magnus. That's an easy one. Now you try. Take the name of your father. What's your Icelandic (or old-school Norwegian) name? Take your first name, your father's name, and round it all out with either the "sson" or "dottir" suffix. 

All clear?

You can switch the parental genders if you like. Some do. The name need not be patronymic. Some girls choose the names of their mothers, though the vice-versa remains pretty rare. One supposes it will become more common in time. 

Excellent. Now we'll discuss this team. 

 know something. These "Girls of the Thunderclap" are actually surprisingly good. They finished second in SheBelieves after beating both the Czechs and New Zealand. They're on a six-game-winning streak in their World Cup qualifying group. I've even watched them achieve upset wins in a pair of friendlies this year. 


Jan Thor Hauksson, the head-coach who helped them qualify for this tournament, got drunk at the victory victory celebration right after they clinched the berth in December 2020 and started berating the girls with profanity lacedtirades. Christ, as if the sex abuse scandal involving the men's team wasn't enough.  

The girls shook it off and, under their new coach Thorstein Halldorsson, have put together one of the best 18 months of any women's national footballing program. You'll be very pleased to meet the "dottirs", even if you won't be able to tell one from the other in a few days. It's worth your time. 

 The Talisman— Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir 



Here's the team's big superstar and captain. A legend in the heart of your friendly bookie  after her four seasons spent playing with the German She-Wolves. The now 31-year-old won the league and cup double during all those four seasons between 2016 and 2020. She moved on to Lyon afterwards....proceeding to break our hearts. 

After taking pregnancy leave, she's ready to restart her career over at Juventus next season. That should be a fun team to watch. Her production numbers as of late haven't been so hot due to her leave of absence. She's still the most capped player for this team. One hundred thirty nine total appearances for country. Twenty-two goals. 

Probably as good a time to mention this as any. Sara joined her coach in vocally criticizing some of the smaller venues this small country was assigned in this competition. A fair point. 

You'll notice that England get Old Trafford and St. Mary's while Iceland have to play at Manchester's academy ground and Rotherham's York ground. Seventy-thousand-seat super venues versus seven-thousand-seat cubby holes. 

Oh well. Everyone else in this group has to play there too. You can always strive for the Final at Wembley, Ladies! Maybe host a tournament on your Island. Venue choices include Reykjavik 


 Berglind Björg Thorvaldsdottir 

This is the other big name that you should get to know. If "Gunnarsdottir" and "Thorvaldsdottir" are too complicated to remember, just think "Björk" and "Björg". The 30-year-old American-educated striker is the other big scoring threat on this team. 

She didn't play at the big European powerhouses like Sara, but still put together a great club career that included stops at PSV, Milan, and Le Havre. Great form this year for the current SK Brann striker with four goals for country. 

 Glodis Perla Viggosdottir 

The 27-year-old FC Bayern fullback--who's hair color the bookie can never seem to figure out--scored three goals this year for the Bavarians and is a familiar to your friendly bookie. She's also a regular fixture on this team, with 102 caps despite her relatively young age. 

 Dagny Brynjarsdottir 

This former FC Bayern München attacking midfielder might look vaguely familiar to some NWSL fans. She played for the Portland Thorns for three seasons before moving back to her domestic league and later West Ham United after the pandemic. 

She also, like Thorvaldsdottir, went to college in the States at FSU. She's the current leading goal scorer on this team. Thirty four national team tallies in 102 caps. Four goals for country this year. Six for club. 

Still don't recognize her? Think shorter hair. She tends to lop it off from time to time. 

 Karolina Lea Vihjalmdottir 

Another one of Vicey's "Bayern Bundesliga Beauties". What? We can't use that potentially condescending language anymore? Okay, fine. It was piss-poor alliteration anyway. Besides that, she doesn't even play on the Bayern first-team. 

She has netted a very impressive four goals and chipped in three assists for country during the World Cup qualifying campaign this year. She was also among those who looked very sharp in SheBelieves 2022. A definite starter. 

 Alexandra Johannsdottir 

More Bundesliga. This 22-year-old attacking midfielder just completed a tour over at Eintracht Frankfurt, where she scored a goal in the domestic cup. She went back home this offseason to work on her game more, yet still remains an important starter on this team.

 Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir 

Still more Bundesliga. This is the young phenom you really need to watch. The twenty-one-year-old "She-Wolf" just helped VfL Wolfsburg to the domestic double with a six-scorer-point campaign. She's also tallied five times for country this year, bringing her total to seven goals for country in just 19 caps. want me to address that something seems a bit off? Yes, she has a Ghanian mother. Interestingly enough, she's not the only non-blonde representing this country. An African American from Texas named Natasha Ansasi also plays for Iceland after becoming naturalized later in life. 

We could surely use some more brunettes on this team. Every so often there's someone of half-Norwegian heritage who adds non-recessive genes to the pool. Surely like to see some more mixing on this Isle. It's nevertheless getting there. All shall become more mixed in this ever-evolving species. 

 Projected Lineup (5-1-4) 


It takes a brave man to build an Icelandic lineup. At least the back-four remains fairly straightforward. The problem I ran into when considering the age of players like Altadottir and Viggosdottir is that we definitely needed a sweeper for extra protection. Enter Brynjarsdottir to fill that need. Johannsdottir can do it as well, but I like her further afield. 

I'm definitely going with my Wolfsburg girl Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir, not to be confused with the Orlando Pride's Gunnhildur Yrsa Jonsdottir, for the start up front. Halldorsson doesn't always pair Gunnarsdottir with Thorvaldsdottir in a two-striker set. I'll bet that he does it here as those two girls belong together. 

In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, feel free to blither now. So long as you reserve some blithering for the tactical analysis in the dailies, we're cool. Save some sympathy for the play-by-play announcer assigned to cover this team too. Even Derek Rae would find himself having trouble prepping for this crew.

Belgium—"De Rode Flamme"

A lot could be possible for this female footballing side that we're taking a look at for the first time in the syndicate pages. The bookie knows this much from his prep work and scouting: These girls know how to score goals. 

They've registered a most impressive 49 tallies in their current World Cup qualifying group. I've watched them put past four against tournament competitors Northern Ireland and six when squaring off against (yeah, I know) Luxembourg.

To be fair, I've also witnessed them looking pretty toothless against other tourney competitors Austria and England. It wasn't that long ago that a totally disorganized German side had their way with them in a test match that left the bookie swearing he would absolutely never wager on this team. 

What we're left with counts as a highly inconclusive picture to round out the "Group of Life". Fitting enough for a country that--whenever we cover the men's team--question if the existential pressures of existing at all suppresses their potential. This relic-of-the-Napoleonic wars nation-state can never seem to get it straight. 

The FEM 2017 side was appropriately inconsistent, dropping matches to the Dutch and Danes whilst also upsetting Norway in the group. What to make of them? We'll simply have to break it down and see.

 The Talisman—Tessa Wullaert 

This program's all-time top-scorer has a total of 65 goals in 107 caps for country. After stints playing with both Man City and VfL Wolfsburg, she returned to domestic club RS Anderlecht in the "Vrouwenvoetbal league". The bookie's very proud of himself for looking up the Flemish bastardization of "Frauenfußball". 

Christ, what a goofy language. Nothing goofy about this 29-year-old's production stats whilst playing "Vrouwenvoetbal" in Anderlecht. She's netted 79 goals and registered 57 assists in the last two seasons alone. Obviously, the biggest female football star this country has ever had.  

Next year she's off to Fortuna Sittard in the Dutch "Pure Energie Erdevisie Vrouwen". Cool. Bookie does recall her prolific days in the Bundesliga. She racked up 26 scorer points in two seasons as a "She-Wolf". 


 Tine De Caigny 

Vicey maintains much respect for the current Bundesliga star. The 25-year-old turned in nine goals across all competitions for the surging Hoffenheim women's team that Germans don't mind supporting. Her goal-scoring prowess since moving to German football last year still isn't nearly as good as for her national team.

Twelve goals in the qualifying campaign that saw them through to this tournament. Eleven more for country this year, ten of which came in the vitally important World Cup qualifying group. She should definitely start up front with Wullaert moving over to the left. 

 Janice Cayman 

A fairly recognizable name in women's football after she put in late career stints for Montpelier and Olympique Lyon. The 33-year-old did well for club this season, accumulating seven-scorer points and two goals in the Women's UCL. 

Head-coach Ives Serneels uses her all along the right side as a winger, midfielder, and fullback. Just about anywhere seems to work as she's scored seven and assisted on a further five for country this year. The current squad's all-time appearances leader with 126 caps. 

 Davina Vanmechelen 

The 22-year-old served as an attacking midfielder for Reading FC this year. There, she's scored 13 goals across all competitions. Once upon a time, she was also a forward eight for the national team program and still fulfills that role semi-regularly. 

If the bookie's eyes don't deceive, she has more of a defensive role amid all the other forward players on this team. She fulfills it reasonably well too, sweeping away balls pretty clinically.  

 Julie Biesmans 

Kind of the inverse of Vanhaevermaet. A center halve by trade, Serneels uses her in a more offensive role for country. The 28-year-old PSV professional has been capped 98 times by the current coaching regime. For the bookie, definitely one that stuck in the mind from the 2017 tournament. 

 Amber Tysiak 

There appears to be a bit of a competition to see who will serve as a center-halve next to veteran Laura De Neve. Bookie taps this 16-times capped 22-year-old, who has already scored five goals for country. Her name is currently being traded at a few Bundesliga clubs. Maybe? Hopefully. 

 Hannah Eurlings 

Another young phenom whom the bookie picks for the staring XI. The 19-year-old turned in three goals for country in the current World Cup qualifying round. After scouting her a tad, I'll place her right up in that attacking trident. That's where she belongs. 

 Davina Philtjens 

Just a very fine, damn good fullback. Caught her a few times whilst watching the Italian Serie A. The 33-year-old Fiorentina veteran, currently of U.S. Sassuolo, has been capped 108 times for country and netted 10 tallies over the past 14 years. 

She's one of the few players left that preceded the Serneels regime, in place since 2011. Familiar with many of the Italian girls from her long club career down there, she'll bravely work her way up the flank in this competition. 

 Projected Lineup (4-3-3) 

Definitely need to put de Caigny in the center-forward position. Trainer Serenely has been experimenting with a 4-4-1-1 as of late, trying to see if the Hoffenheim star can function as a short striker behind the talisman. Bookie wouldn't necessarily say that results have been putrid, but it's far too late in the game to make it work. 

That constellation needs to be consigned to the trash bin, returning us to this straightforward 4-3-3. Bookie finds room for both Biesmans and Cayman in deeper roles. He also takes a chance on Eurlings up front. Tysiak wins the battle for the center back slot in this hypothetical. 

With interesting youngsters like Marie Minnaert, Sarah Wijnants, Elena Dhont, and Feli Delacauw in reserve, the bench actually exhibits great potential. Looked at another way, we have a typical Belgian recipe for an erratic tournament. 


Vicey’s Fearless Group Prediction (2 to 1 Odds for bookie)

 1) France  

 2) Italy 

 3) Iceland 

 4) Belgium

Overall Championship Odds

 France (Straight Up)  

 Italy (6 to 1)  

 Iceland (12 to 1)  

 Belgium (14 to 1) 

Quarterfinal Odds

 France (NO BETS)

 Italy (NO BETS)

 Iceland (3 to 1)

 Belgium (4 to 1)

Semifinal Odds

 France (Straight Up)

 Italy (3 to 1)

 Iceland (6 to 1)

 Belgium (8 to 1)