SOCCER

Euro 2022 final: Women’s football will never be the same

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Dutchman Sarina Wiegman led England to victory five years after doing the same for her home country

England have been singing the lament over football returning home for some time – but after the barren years of misery, it finally walked through the door into the welcoming arms of a jubilant Wembley as the Lionesses were crowned champions from Europe.

It was 7:51 p.m. in the Wembley evening sun when the exceptional captain, Leah Williamson, lifted that precious piece of silverware above her head and it all really felt, looked and sounded real.

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The gorgeous Lionesses of England were Euro 2022 champions and had secured their place in history. The women of England had won their first major trophy. A senior England football team had won their first major trophy in 56 years.

On a day when 87,192 people filled Wembley, an all-time UEFA tournament record, coach Sarina Wiegman and her players became legends.

English women took center stage. Winners. No one can ever take that away from them.

The years of disappointment are over. English football had a success story – a winning story – to finally tell, and no one deserved it more than a manager and a team who quite simply changed the face of women’s football in this country throughout a Euro campaign. 2022 impeccable and superbly managed. over the past month.

For those of us who have witnessed the years of suffering after the England men’s team, five European Championships and five World Cups in this particular case – a journey that spanned Japan, Portugal, Germany, South Africa, Poland and Ukraine, Brazil, France, Russia and last summer’s Euro 2020 – the misery was ended by the Lionesses on their doorstep at Wembley.

This was how an England team winning a trophy felt and how the Lionesses deserved it, how they had the right to milk every second of Wembley ecstasy, the Wiegman team and the support team taking a lap of honour, gazing at a sea of ​​thousands of smiling, festive faces.

“We couldn’t be further from last year’s final”

It was just over a year ago when the England men’s team was close to ending the curse, only to lose on penalties to Italy in the Champions League final. Euro 2020, another story of bad luck after losing the semi-final of the World Cup. in Croatia in Moscow three years earlier.

The occasion was one of abject misery and shame from start to finish, a day marred by disgraceful crowd behaviour, lack of organization and racial abuse against England players who missed the penalty shoot-out during the shootout that left the crushing loss just another item on a bleak agenda.

This day couldn’t have been more remote as an experience – joyful, peaceful, but still containing all the necessary risks and tensions that come with a major finale. It was wonderfully civilized and friendly, but the atmosphere was not lost. It still felt like a grand occasion, but devoid of the slightest trace of toxicity. It could cling.

The game was not a classic when measured in quality, but it was fiercely fought, brutal at times, and delivered the scenario that English football fans have dreamed of for so long.

England have found a way to prevail, as they have before in this difficult times tournament, and 31 July 2022 will now be marked as the game changer for women’s football. The sky is the limit now with this team capturing the hearts and minds of a nation, surely ushering in a new era.

The win also brought more iconic moments to add to The superb heel of Alessia Russo in the semi-final against Sweden, with the winner of the match Chloe Kelly in the central figure.

Chloe Kelly takes off her shirt to celebrate
Chloe Kelly’s goal saw the Lionesses end their wait for a first major trophy

England led despite Ella Toone’s superb finish on Keira Walsh’s perfect pass just after the hour mark, but the dangerous Germans, cruelly deprived of top scorer and talisman Alexandra Popp after she injured in the warm-up, rightly fought back when the dangerous Lina Magull cut in the equalizer at the near post with 11 minutes to go.

In extra time they went, and with the prospect of penalties looming – and we all know how painfully that usually ends for England – Kelly came out of a scramble in a corner to put the winner back to the home.

The sequel will forever be etched in memory. It was England’s Brandi Chastain moment.

Dark blond famous famous scoring the winning penalty for the United States in the 1999 World Cup by ripping off his shirt. Kelly followed suit as she ran around Wembley almost in disbelief. His shirt-swirling jubilation will provide an image for the ages.

Kelly had been introduced to one of those masterful changes that Wiegman implemented throughout Euro 2022, usually perfectly timed and with maximum impact.

England were ten minutes from history, Wembley had their nails bitten to their knees, but they survived with barely a moment of anxiety thanks to a masterpiece of game management that kept the ball in the corner and therefore Germany at arm’s length.

Wembley erupted as Ukrainian referee Kateryna Monzul sounded the final whistle, with Kelly interrupting her post-match interview by running away singing Sweet Caroline into the microphone. Lucy Bronze launched headfirst into layers of silver tape that exploded behind England as they lifted the trophy.

Wiegman’s smiley figure, reserved and calculating in the technical realm, joined in the celebrations with flying colors after delivering why the Football Association hired her after lifting the trophy with the Netherlands in a home tournament five years ago.

Wiegman was brought in to make England the winners after losing three semi-finals. Work done.

She exuded a fresh air of calm and authority throughout. Wiegman stayed with the same team for six games, and for all the arguments over whether Alessia Russo should have started ahead of Ellen White, Wiegman can point to a big silver trophy as the answer to that.

As for the Lionesses of England, it was the crowning of an unforgettable Euro 2022. Women’s football – in the best possible way – will never be the same again.

In Wiegman’s words as she left the scene of England’s triumph: “We changed society.

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