England v Germany, a clash between two of the best national teams in the world, will be a fitting final to what was a record-breaking tournament at Euro 2022.
After the two semi-final matches, a total of 487,683 fans have attended the games so far, more than double the previous record of 240,055, set at Euro 2017 in the Netherlands.
This is without counting on the historic crowd expected at Wembley Stadium for Sunday’s final. Around 87,000 fans are expected to be at the home of English football, which would smash the current attendance record for a Euro final – men’s or women’s – of 79,115, set in the 1964 final between Spain and England. Soviet Union at the Bernabeu in Madrid.
UEFA, European football’s governing body, says almost 100,000 children have attended Euro 2022 matches so far, while 47% of all fans have been women.
Of course, it certainly helps that the home fans had the chance to watch arguably the most talented England women’s team of all time.
The 8-0 dismantling of a dangerous Norwegian side, ranked just two places below England, and the 4-0 thrashing of Sweden, the second-best team in the world and a team England had never beaten before only three times, will end as some of the most eye-catching in Lioness history.
But the road to the final was not always easy. England struggled to find their rhythm in a tough opening win over Austria, before being pushed all the way in a comeback win over Spain in the quarter-finals.
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England, however, will certainly be happy to have been tested ahead of their toughest game yet. Germany have quite an extraordinary record in the European Championship, winning eight of the 12 contested editions and reigning over the Euro crown for 22 years until their quarter-final loss to the Netherlands five years ago. year.
Head coach Sarina Wiegman, who guided her native Netherlands to victory at Euro 2017, is well aware of the importance an England win on Sunday could be for women’s football in the country. .
“I think we have already been an inspiration to the country,” she told reporters on Friday, according to Reuters. “You know when you win a major tournament it really makes a difference and that would make me very proud. But I don’t think any further than that. Most of the time you only realize the impact probably 15 years later.
“We are approaching this game exactly the same as every other game we have played. We are not talking about the rivalry between England and Germany; we want to show how good we are and play our best game.
“There is so much eagerness in this team to win, and so much resilience. We so want to show again that we are the best and play our best game. That’s what we’ve been trying to do all the time and hopefully that will lead us to win.
One of the best feel-good stories of the summer is Alexandra Popp, who became Germany’s star with six goals in five games at these Euros.
The 31-year-old missed the Euros in 2013 and 2017 through injury and, for a moment, it looked like she might miss this one after injuring her knee last year, but Popp was finally able to compete when the tournament was postponed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She certainly made up for lost time and was visibly emotional after scoring in the first win over Denmark, dropping to her knees and covering her face with her hands.
Popp’s six goals at Euro 2022, matched only by England’s Beth Mead, equals the previous top scorer at just one Euro, set by compatriot Inka Grings at Finland 2009.
“I think the pressure is more on the English side, precisely because it’s happening in their own country,” Popp told reporters at a news conference on Friday. “We know that since 2011 [when Germany hosted the World Cup]suddenly everyone expects something from you.
“We have nothing more to lose. With this attitude, we can enter the game completely free of charge.
There certainly doesn’t appear to be any nerves in the German camp heading into the final, with Popp showing up at the press conference sporting a hidden mustache under his mask. “Hello,” she said, greeting reporters gruffly.
After his winning performance against France in the semi-finals, the German media FUM and Der Postillon published satirical articles saying that men’s national team head coach Hansi Flick had called up a new striker for Qatar, along with a photo of Popp in a mustache with the aliases Alexander Bopp and Alexander Papp .
The striker will undoubtedly be the biggest threat England face on the Wembley pitch on Sunday and it’s likely a moment of instinct from Popp or Mead could decide the game.
Both of these teams have stellar defensive records at this tournament, having conceded only one goal each, and it’s likely that their stingy full-backs will be tough to break through in the final.
The quality on display at Euro 2022 only underscores the accelerated growth of women’s football across the continent in recent years, as football associations have finally begun to seriously invest in their teams.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who says he has followed Germany’s progress closely, said women’s football had “exploded” in recent years.
“I really have to say that I love women’s football, it’s exceptional,” Klopp said in a press conference on Thursday.
“The quality of the tournament is crazy. England are doing exceptionally well. I saw three games of Germany, they did very well too. It’s a very good final, two intense teams facing each other.
“Although I love England, in this case my heart is with the German side, but the best team could win and that suits me perfectly. In a sold-out Wembley with an English crowd, it will be a huge challenge. for Germany.
“The most important thing is the face that women’s football has shown, it’s a fantastic game. Women’s football, in recent years, has exploded in its development. It’s tactically and technically at an incredibly high level. The intensity matches – physically it’s really, really good and I love watching them.
“England are small favorites at home, but Germany have a chance.”
After the defeat in the Men’s Euro final last summer, England fans will be desperate to avoid a double heartbreak. But against a German side desperate to reclaim their European crown, it’s a very likely possibility.