England’s journey to UEFA Women’s Euro glory

The month of July was one of euphoria and celebration in England. The whole country united to support Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses as football finally came home.

For England, this tournament win is more than the trophy – it is about the legacy that has been created and inspiring the next generation. Stars were created throughout this tournament and the popularity of the women’s game has increased massively. But how did England manage to win the Women’s Euro’s and what does the future now hold for women’s football?

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England opened Euro 2022 with a narrow 1-0 victory over Austria and there were many signs of what could come in this tournament. Most impressively though, an attendance of 68,871 was at Old Trafford, breaking the record for a Women’s Euro’s game.

The large-scale occasion may have got to the England players in the opening proceedings of the match but they slowly grew into the game. In the 16th minute, Beth Mead scored her first of six goals in the Euro as a dinked pass from Fran Kirby fell to Arsenal’s Mead who dinked over her Gunners teammate, Manuela Zinsberger, to open the scoring. This game also displayed England’s strength in depth, especially in the attacking areas with Chloe Kelly, Ella Toone and Alessia Russo all coming off the bench in the second half.

Next up was the most impressive performance in the whole tournament from any side. England met with dark horses Norway at the Amex Stadium, home of Brighton & Hove Albion, and saying this was a resounding win would be an understatement. Goals courtesy of Russo, Georgia Stanway, Lauren Hemp, an Ellen White brace and a Mead hat-trick recorded the biggest scoreline in Women’s Euros history.

On the ten-minute mark, White was brought down by Maria Thorisdóttir and Stanway fired the ball past Guro Pettersen from the subsequent penalty. One became two soon after as neat play from Mead resulted in the winger crossing into the box for Hemp to poke home. White made it three before Mead inflicted yet more damage as she headed past Pettersen after a precise Hemp cross.

One of the best goals of the night followed as Mead glided past the Norway defence with ease and she passed the ball into the back of the net. England were not done there. Following an intricate pass from Stanway, Kirby was through on goal and she crossed to White for her second of the night. Two goals from Mead and Russo in the second half ensured England booked their quarter-finals spot and this 8-0 win was a real benchmark for other teams in the tournament. This was when everybody realised the Lionesses were a force to be reckoned with and this record victory certainly would have created a fear factor for other teams.

England’s emphatic win over Even Pellerud’s Norway meant even a defeat in their final group game against Northern Ireland would still guarantee them 1st place in Group A. Northern Ireland was defensively robust for the majority of the first half, however, Kirby scored with five minutes of the half remaining and Mead did so again with a composed finish soon after.

In the second half, it was the Russo show as the Manchester United forward scored a sublime header and then an emphatic finish to make it four with a brilliant turn and an even better shot. Most teams would rest their best players for a final group game with no significant importance, however, England opted to stay with the same starting eleven – something they did for the whole tournament.

England’s first real test in the tournament came in their quarter-finals match with Spain, one of the favourites to lift the Euros alongside England but only one could book their place in the semi-final. It was an even first half and chances were at a premium for both sides.

Spain were slowly asserting their dominance on the match in the second half. That showed as Real Madrid’s Esther González calmly slotted home following good work from Athenea del Castillo on the right wing to damage England’s hearts with half an hour left to play. It appeared as if England could have been knocked out on home soil with Spain leading, however, Toone had other ideas.

Lauren Hemp’s cross fell to Russo who headed the ball to Toone who thumped home to equalise. Not long after the first half of extra-time had begun, a thunderbolt from Georgia Stanway flew past Sandra Paños, this all but guaranteed a place in the semi-finals for England – and it did. This victory for the Lionesses showed a lot of character as it appeared as if England could have been knocked out on home soil with Spain leading. Bramall Lane was waiting…

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The country was behind England ever since the opening group match against Austria at Old Trafford but it seemed different now. Yet again, Wiegman opted to go for the same line-up that she had used for the whole tournament. The Lionesses started the game on the back foot with their opponents, Sweden, starting the better side and hoping to spoil the party.

However, it didn’t take long for Mead to score another goal in this tournament as her volley was fired past Hedvig Lindahl. Just after the break, England doubled their lead as Barcelona’s new signing, Lucy Bronze, headed home at the back post. Then, a moment of magic from Russo where her backheel went through the legs of Lindahl for a third, the goal was subsequently awarded Goal of the Tournament. A fourth was added by Kirby which meant Wembley Stadium was waiting for the Lionesses to clinch Euros glory.

Olympic Way was filling up hours before kick off and Sarina Wiegman’s side were greeted by a record number of England supporters – all desperate to see their England heroines. Germany suffered a huge blow before kick off as the Euro’s joint-top scorer, Alexandra Popp, suffered an injury in the warm up. The visitors came close on the 25-minute mark as a scramble inside the box looked as if a German player would damage England hearts, however, Mary Earps ensured that didn’t happen.

The Germans began the second half the better side but Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side’s good work was undone with half an hour to play. A pitch-perfect pass from Kiera Walsh was placed for Toone to audaciously dink the ball over Merle Frohms which raised the decibel levels considerably in Wembley Stadium even higher. With just over 12 minutes remaining, Tabea Waßmuth’s low cross fell to Lina Magull who hit the ball into the roof of the net to level the scoring.

Game management was key as extra time had to be played after a 1-1 draw. Lauren Hemp’s delivery from a corner kick was touched on by Lucy Bronze and the ball subsequently fell to Kelly, who despite not getting her foot onto the first effort, the Manchester City attacker poked the ball into the Germany net to cause ecstatic celebration around the country. That was game set and match – football had finally come home.

This game and tournament, in particular, has changed women’s football for the better. An attendance of 87,192 at Wembley Stadium was a record for both men’s and women’s Euro finals. The England players were in tears at the full-time whistle after a lot of hard work over the past few years and they have inspired many across the country to play the beautiful game.

Hopefully, the attraction of this tournament should also boost Barclays Women’s Super League crowds and therefore more revenue for the clubs. Eyebrows were raised by some of the stadiums that were chosen with some Sky Bet League One stadiums playing host to games at this tournament. This is because the so-called ‘bigger’ teams didn’t want their stadium being used for games – something they will certainly regret now.

The good thing is – it is only getting started.

The Author

Jack Patmore

Billericay Town Media Assistant | Work for The Non-League Paper, VAVEL, Phoenix FM & others | Part of The Football Writers Association | BBC Young Reporter Winner 2023

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