So the Women’s Euro 2022 ended with England crowned champions against Germany after a thrilling final at Wembley on Sunday. And now it’s time to reflect on the tournament as a whole with our best XIs, then compare and contrast with the XIs that we were most interested in taking part in the competition.
ESPN’s Kathleen McNamee, Sophie Lawson, Julien Laurens and Tom Hamilton bravely chose to reflect on their picks ahead of the tournament and revise accordingly given how the results played out. (If you need a refresher on their top picks, look here.)
Which players met expectations and which failed? Which stars surprised us out of nowhere to burst into Best XI consideration?
Kathleen McNamee: the stars of Oberdorf, just like England
(4-3-3): Daphne van Domselaar (Netherlands); Sakina Karchaoui (France), Mapi Leon (Spain), Millie Bright (England), Lucy Bronze (England); Keira Walsh (England), Lena Oberdorf (Germany), Lina Magull (Germany); Beth Mead (England), Alex Popp (Germany), Alessia Russo (England).
When I made my pre-tournament XI I wrote that I would probably swallow my words after the tournament, and here I am doing just that with just two players keeping their place. In fairness, some are due to injuries, but others are purely for outstanding performance.
Few knew Daphne van Domselaar’s name before the tournament, with the 22-year-old goalkeeper having had just one national team cap before this summer. An injury to the prolific Sari van Veenendaal in the opener threw her into the spotlight, and she responded with the confidence of someone much older. She wasn’t the only young player to announce herself on the big stage either, with Alessia Russo also scoring some outrageous goals and vying with England team-mate Beth Mead for the team’s top scorer despite coming off the bench at every game.
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Mead may have won player of the tournament, but I think there was a strong case to be made that Keira Walsh deserved that title. The defensive midfielder was the linchpin of every move England made and carefully dished out some of the tournament’s best passes to help set up the attack. Largely underestimated, it deserves a lot of applause. Lucy Bronze also provided a key angle into England’s forward play and spent much of the tournament running up the right and providing Mead.
While Lauren Hemp was tipped to have handsome Euros and she didn’t quite live up to it, Lena Oberdorf took the hype around her before the competition started and fully delivered on that promise. It was hard to see her so upset when she received the Young Player of the Tournament award after the final, but she should have several more opportunities for silverware.
As this was Alex Popp’s first European Championships, it was hard to know what to expect from her, but the German captain was a beacon for her team – she scored 46% of their goals – and they really struggled not to have it in the finale. Her physicality meant she could outmaneuver most defenses to get past crosses, but her movement and leadership on the pitch were also phenomenal. It was a joy to watch her play and such a cruel end to her Euro 2022 experience.
Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens discuss the growth of women’s football after a hugely successful Euro 2022 tournament.
Sophie Lawson: Surprises galore as Scandinavian teams fail
(4-3-3) Daphne van Domselaar (Netherlands); Giulia Gwinn (Germany), Leah Williamson (England), Marina Hegering (Germany), Verena Hanshaw (Austria); Lena Oberdorf (Germany), Aitana Bonmati (Spain), Grace Geyoro (France); Kadidiatou Diani (France), Alex Popp (Germany), Beth Mead (England)
And this this is why you never predict the best XI before the tournament starts; frankly, yuck. The Scandinavians have been hugely disappointing this summer and I shouldn’t have hung my hat on them before the tournament, but that’s life.
There are definitely 50/50 picks here, but my instincts are that it has to be a tournament breakout, Van Domselaar in goal, to start with. The 22-year-old has been fantastic this summer, coming up with big saves and taking care of all the bases without panicking.
The backline is rather simple – two defensive rocks in the middle, plus two players who exemplify modern full-back play – but liberties have been taken in midfield to accommodate three central players. Along with her goals, France’s Grace Geyoro has really demonstrated how far she’s come over the past season or two as a complete midfielder, and she’s more than earned her place in my best XI. Next to her Aitana Bonmati ran the show for Spain from the heart of midfield and with Oberdorf you have two of the smartest players in the Euros – even though I’ve done 10 versions of a Best XI, these are the two that would be ubiquitous.
The attack is a bit obvious: Mead and Popp have scored 12 goals between them, rather eclipsing most of the other strikers in the Euros even though they’re worth the extra applause. (Hello England super substitutes!) France’s Kadidiatou Diani, with her silky first touches and ability to tie up defenders, completes both attack and squad.
Julien Laurens: Popp by far the best in front
(4-2-3-1): Mary Earps (England); Lucy Bronze (England), Mapi Leon (Spain), Leah Williamson (England), Sakina Karchaoui (France); Lena Oberdorf (Germany), Keira Walsh (England); Kadidiatou Diani (France), Beth Mead (England), Kosovare Asllani (Sweden); Alexandra Popp (Germany)
My pre-tournament eleven was pretty good. It was just bad luck that Marie-Antoinette Katoto got injured 15 minutes after France’s second game; that Dutch star Vivianne Miedema has tested positive for COVID-19; that Caroline Graham Hansen was anonymous like her team, Norway; that Sandra Panos’ campaign with Spain ended in the quarter-finals; that France’s Wendie Renard, despite being taller than almost anyone else at 6ft 2in, cannot score a header; that Sara Dabritz was not decisive enough for Germany; and that Manuela Giugliano, like Italy, never started…
For the rest, I was there!
More seriously, what a Euros it was, and what a post-tournament XI it is. The best of the best. In goal, Mary Earps showed great qualities down her line and showed great leadership, while Leah Williamson was just amazing for England in central defence, and I was also impressed with Mapi Leon for Spain. Bronze and Sakina Karchaoui were the two best full-backs in the tournament.
In midfield, Oberdorf is only 20 years old, but she has shown that she is already one of the best in the world even if she is sometimes too aggressive. Next to her, and for me the player of the tournament, is Walsh. She led every game, producing masterclass after masterclass until her magnificent through ball for England’s first goal in the final. Without her, I don’t think England would have become European champions.
In front of them I have Diani on the right side. The French winger has shown that she belongs to the best; his pace and skills are something else. Behind the striker, I chose Mead, of course. She won the Golden Boot with six goals, including a hat-trick against Norway, and was also rightfully voted Player of the Tournament. She is an excellent finisher. On the left I went with Kosovare Asllani who was the only one to shake things up with the ball for Sweden with one goal and three assists in five appearances. Technically, she was a joy to watch.
Finally, in front is Popp, one of the stories of this 2022 Euros. She started the tournament as a substitute and scored in every match she played. After missing the last two euros through injury, she had the opportunity, at 31, to bring the trophy back to Germany. Alas, getting injured before the final was another blow for her and for her country. However, she was still by far the best striker in Europe this month.
Tom Hamilton: In Praise of Van Domselaar
(4-3-3): Daphne van Domselaar (Netherlands); Lucy Bronze (England), Marina Hegering (Germany), Millie Bright (England), Sakina Karchaoui (France); Lena Oberdorf (Germany), Keira Walsh (England), Kosovare Asllani (Sweden); Alessia Russo (England), Alex Popp (Germany), Beth Mead (England)
Picking a core from Barcelona (and Spain) originally meant similar issues to Jules, but the latest best XI had multiple contenders for each spot.
Earps narrowly misses the goal against Van Domselaar of the Netherlands. Earps has been almost flawless in these Euros, but the Dutch goalkeeper has had four truly exceptional matches. In defence, I opted for Millie Bright alongside Marina Hegering in central defence, with France’s Karchaoui on the left and England’s Bronze on the right. But you could have easily had another back four from Sophia Kleinherne, Williamson, Mapi Leon and Giulia Gwinn.
In midfield, the double pivot of Walsh and Oberdorf is slightly ahead of other contenders like Georgia Stanway, Bonmati and Geyoro. Russo, Mead, Asllani and Popp are the forwards with Svenja Huth and Mariona Caldentey both unlucky. As for my super-sub — well, it has to be Ella Toone. The English Sarina Wiegman will of course lead this team.
The official team of the Euro 2022 tournament
On Tuesday, UEFA’s Technical Observer Panel released their own team from the competition, which we’ve included below. Despite not winning the tournament, Germany placed five players in the official best XI:
4-3-3: Mary Earps (England); Giulia Gwinn (Germany), Leah Williamson (England), Marina Hegering (Germany), Sakina Karchaoui (France); Keira Walsh (England), Lena Oberdorf (Germany), Aitana Bonmati (Spain); Beth Mead (England), Alex Popp (Germany), Klara Buhl (Germany)