On the opening day of the tournament, Germany – despite missing a penalty – raced into a 5-0 half-time lead in a rematch of the senior UEFA European Women's Championship final against Norway. The panache and fluency of their slick combination moves served as a warning that Maren Meinert's side would be the team to beat – so much so that Sweden, the 2012 champions, set out literally to defend their title in their second game. Switching from 4-4-2 to a deep-lying 4-1-4-1, they rode wave after wave of German attacks for almost an hour, until a courageous diving header by striker Pauline Bremer breached their resistance. Another Bremer header clinched the 2-0 win which gave Germany, hungry for success after their absence in 2012, a semi-final place with a match to spare.
Elsewhere, the form book gained lesser respect. Calle Barrling's Sweden had made a dream start to their championship defence by going 1-0 up against Finland after just over three minutes. But Marianne Miettinen's charges rolled with the punch and played their way into such a dominant position that Juliette Kemppi's equaliser was scant reward. The Finns were then forced onto the back foot by a Norway side keen to bounce back from the heavy defeat by Germany, yet produced a classic counterattack 12 minutes from time to eliminate Jarl Torske's team. Second spot, however, was still in the balance. Sweden could take it by beating Norway and counting on Germany to conquer Finland. However, the final matchday witnessed tales of the unexpected. A goal down at half-time, Sweden conceded two more within six minutes of the restart and plummeted to the bottom of Group B with a 5-0 reverse, while the Finns, again unfazed by going a goal down, secured second place with a 1-1 draw.
Group A also had a sting in the tail. Jarmo Matikainen's well-organised Wales coped stoutly with Denmark, England and France for long periods only for the hosts to lose all three games. England, withstanding sustained pressure against France, reacted after the interval to earn a goalless draw in their opening match. Gilles Eyquem's French side fell behind to a Danish penalty early in their second fixture, but hit back with three goals in 16 minutes. The scenario on the last matchday was that France and England had four points apiece and Denmark three. Les Bleuettes took their tally to seven by downing the hosts 3-0. Yet the other game provided the surprise climax. Denmark, needing to win and pushing forward after conceding a 34th-minute penalty, consummated their elimination by shipping two more goals in the last five minutes. Those late strikes handed England top spot on goal difference and the French, to their consternation, found themselves facing Germany in the semis.
Eyquem, however, did his homework. During the first half of the match in Llanelli, the focus was on defusing Germany's explosive attacking play by keeping six players behind the ball. The strategy was jeopardised by frequent loss of possession against the Germans' ferocious high pressing but, after a goalless first half, Eyquem threw on Kadidiatou Diani and Claire Lavogez to play wide on the left and right respectively. Diani responded with two goals in as many minutes, with Germany's solitary reply an added-time penalty while France were reduced to ten after the dismissal of captain Griedge M'Bock Bathy.
In the other semi-final, the Finns were overwhelmed by England's commitment, power and speed to the ball, being undone three times before half-time and finally bowing out with a 4-0 defeat. The outcome represented rich dividends for Mo Marley's game plan and an effective execution of it by a team seemingly growing in stature and confidence by the match. The tournament was going to close with a fascinating sequel between the sides who had drawn 0-0 on the opening day.