KATHRYN BATTE: There’s no stopping the lethal Lionesses! England have their best chance of winning their first major trophy in Euro 2022 final… everything Sarina Wiegman has touched since taking charge has turned to gold
- England could win their first major trophy if they beat Germany at Wembley
- The visitors have won both their previous match-ups at the iconic London venue
- Sarina Wiegman could win a second Euros in a row after leading Holland in 2017
To win their first major trophy, England will have to do something else they have never managed before — beat Germany at Wembley.
Twice the Lionesses have played the Germans at the national stadium. Twice they have been defeated. There was a joke in Germany’s press conference after their semi-final victory over France that they have more wins at Wembley than England — who got their first win there against Northern Ireland last year.
The best two teams at the Euros have made the final. Each side has conceded just once in the tournament and they are top scorers — England with 20, Germany with 13.
Sarina Wiegman led England to the Euros final, a trophy she won five years ago with Holland
The Germans have won this competition eight times but it was England manager Sarina Wiegman who finally ended their run of six straight titles. She led the Netherlands to victory on home turf in 2017 and now, five years later, she is one game away from doing the same with England. ‘There’s so much eagerness in this team to win and so much resilience,’ Wiegman said.
‘We want, we want so badly to show again we are the best, to play our best game. That’s what we’ve been trying to do all the time. And then hopefully, that will bring us to win.’
Everything Wiegman has touched has turned to gold since she took charge in September. Even Covid could not get the better of her. She tested positive five days before England’s quarter-final with Spain but returned a negative result in time to be on the touchline for the match.
But it is her decision-making that has been crucial. To move Leah Williamson back into the centre of defence and to put Georgia Stanway alongside Keira Walsh in midfield in the last warm-up game before the tournament was a risk, but it is one that has paid off. Stanway has been excellent and Williamson has been a rock next to Millie Bright.
Georgia Stanway has been a vital cog to the Lionesses in their winning run ahead of Wembley
England have scored 104 goals and conceded just four in Wiegman’s 19 games in charge. Eight of those goals came in the second group game against Norway, which many had predicted to be cagey after a narrow victory in the opener against Austria. That night at the Amex Stadium was euphoric, with fans singing on Brighton beach until the early hours.
But when England returned there just over a week later their tournament almost came to an abrupt end. Spain were six minutes from victory in the quarter-final before Ella Toone equalised and Stanway hit a rocket to win it in extra time.
England snatching victory from the jaws of defeat as Wiegman punched the air was a significant moment. It was the first time we had seen real emotion from her. She admitted she had gone ‘a little crazy’.
It showed this England side could come back from the brink where teams of the past have faltered. Breaking the semi-final curse against Sweden was another hurdle they overcame and they did so with ease.
England have reached their third Euros final, tasting previous defeats in 1984 and in 2009
This England team feels unstoppable. This is the best chance they have ever had of winning a major trophy. They have reached this stage twice before, in 1984 and 2009. Thirty eight years ago the final was over two legs, with England losing on penalties. In 2009, they were thrashed 6-2 by a vastly superior German side.
But the investment in women’s football in this country has seen that gap between England and Germany narrow.
Jill Scott, who has 160 international caps, played in the 2009 final and struggled to hold back her emotion when talking about the progression of the women’s game.
‘We had 15,000 at that final. Now to have about 90,000 will be great,’ Scott said. ‘It’s like night and day. We don’t want to forget everyone who came before and wore the shirt. Even thinking about it my voice shakes a little bit. It’s one more moment to go out there and chase our dreams.
‘We know that extra step on Sunday could really make a big difference. It crosses my mind 50 times a day. It’s going to be such a difficult game, we know that. We will give Germany the utmost respect but we can’t help but dream a little bit.
‘All the players that have gone before — this is for everybody on Sunday. If we get to lift the trophy then I hope they know they have their hands on it as well.’
England have only beaten Germany twice — in 2015 and earlier this year. But a third victory, in their third European final and in their third game against them at Wembley, is well within their grasp.
Wiegman said after the semi-final that her team were ready to make history. On Sunday, they must prove they are.
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