Although Germany is the team to beat in the 2013 Women's European Championship, Group C features two squads capable of knocking off the favorite. Both France and England are among the second tier of contenders as they prepare to begin tournament play.
First, both sides must take care of business in the group stage. France begins its journey with a very winnable matchup against Russia. England should receive a tougher test from Spain, but anything less than three points would still be a disappointing start.
Let's take a closer look at the opening matches and make a prediction for each. For more information about Women's Euro 2013, including updated tables and upcoming fixtures, visit the tournament's official site.
France vs. Russia
France features a veteran squad with plenty of international experience. It starts with midfielder Sandrine Soubeyrand, who's appeared in nearly 200 matches for the national team, and includes the others with at least 100 caps.
The Blues also sport a deep attacking group. The trio of Marie-Laure Delie, Eugenie Le Sommer and Elodie Thomis can match up with any team in the tournament and should be able to generate plenty of chances against a suspect Russian defense.
Russia can't match France's experience or talent level, which means its best chance of success is keeping large numbers behind the ball. By slowing the match down and keeping the French attack to the outside, it should allow Russia to keep it close. At least for awhile.
That said, the Blues should eventually break down the defensive wall. Once it happens and the Russians are forced to play a more aggressive line defensively, France should be able to pull away and secure three points with relative ease.
Prediction: France 3, Russia 0
England vs. Spain
Four years ago, England made a run to the championship match but were overwhelmed by the favored Germans in the final. The Three Lionesses return with hopes of improving on that result, but will face an immediate test.
Normally, England would be expected to handle Spain. Yet the side is dealing with some injuries to key players, including Kelly Smith and Casey Stoney, according to the BBC. Their uncertain availability heading into the event makes things a little trickier.
The good news for England is that Spain lacks firepower. Aside from striker Veronica Boquete, who will test the Three Lionesses' back line, Spain doesn't feature the depth necessary to seriously worry the title contenders.
Even though the match will likely be too close for comfort for England, it should have enough depth regardless of the injury situation to pull out the victory. Expect a strong showing by Fara Williams to lead the way.
Prediction: England 2, Spain 1
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