French - women
France's defender Griedge Mbock Bathy (centre) celebrates with teammates after scoring her team's second goal during the Uefa Women's Euro 2022 match on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

London: England, Germany and France look like the sides to beat after booking their places in the quarter-finals of Euro 2022 with a game to spare.

Five other spots in the knockout stage are up for grabs in the coming days in the final round of group games.

A look at the three talking points from the tournament after the second round of fixtures:

England make their case

A clash against Norway was supposed to be England’s toughest test of the group stages.

Instead, the Lionesses smashed the record margin of victory for a match at the European Championship with a stunning 8-0 win over the side just three places below them in the world rankings.

Any doubt over England’s capability to win a major tournament for the first time after a nervy 1-0 win over Austria on the opening night of the tournament game was blown away in Brighton.

Beth Mead’s hat-trick put her in pole position to win the Golden Boot with four goals for the tournament, while Ellen White’s double took her to within one of Wayne Rooney’s international record of 53 goals for England.

The hosts are still unbeaten in 16 games since Sarina Wiegman took charge in September.

Another cricket score could be in store when England face already-eliminated Northern Ireland on Friday in Southampton.

Wiegman is likely to make wholesale changes with one eye already on what appears a tough route to the final.

Spain or Denmark await in the last eight with Sweden, the highest ranked team in the tournament, a potential opponent in the semi-finals.

But on this form it is England who are the side most want to avoid.

Miedema missed as Covid cases mount

Holders the Netherlands were forced to cope without one of the star names of the tournament, Vivianne Miedema, for their 3-2 win over Portugal after the Arsenal striker tested positive for coronavirus.

Miedema joined a steady stream of players forced onto the sidelines by surging case numbers in England.

Dutch midfielder Jackie Groenen has also been forced to isolate, while Italy’s Valentina Cernoia and England defender Lotte Wubben-Moy tested positive.

Uefa have taken precautions with masks required for indoor face-to-face media appearances.

However, pre-match tests are no longer mandatory and no postponements are allowed so long as teams have at least 13 players, including one goalkeeper, available.

Spain’s ‘early final’

Spain’s status as pre-tournament favourites was rocked before a ball was kicked by the loss of Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas and all-time top goalscorer Jenni Hermoso to injury.

A 2-0 defeat to Germany, Spain’s first loss since 2019, leaves La Roja facing a showdown with Euro 2017 finalists Denmark on Saturday just to make the last eight.

Madrid sports daily Marca described that clash as “an early final”.

A draw will also be enough for Jorge Vilda’s side to progress. But with England waiting in the quarter-finals, that could just prove a stay of execution.