England v Sweden preview: Fourth time lucky for the Lionesses to reach major tournament final

The host nation are looking to end their semi-final hoodoo by securing a place in the Euro 2022 showpiece tonight at Bramall Lane, kick-off 8pm. Although the Swedes have beaten them in the recent past, the momentum of an 18-match unbeaten run and raucous home support should roar England to victory, writes Rachel Roberts.

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The Lionesses have had a memorable summer thus far, galvanising record crowds along their way through the tournament. Over 150,000 fans have attended their four sell-out games, setting record turn-outs for the Women’s Euro. After overcoming a challenging tie against Spain in the quarter-finals, they are now one game away from a home European Championship final, prolonging the dreams of an energised home support.

Midfielder Ella Toone spoke this week on the focus in the camp to deliver for their fans: “For all of us, it would be amazing to get that win in the semi-final. We’re so grateful for the fans that support us, whether that’s in the stadium or at home, and we just want to keep making them proud. Hopefully, we can go on and put on another big performance.”

Five years ago, the Netherlands dumped England out of the competition at this stage with a 3-0 defeat and Sarina Wiegman’s then-side went on to win the tournament. Now, the manager’s unbeaten run as a manager in the Euros remains, but it is England’s pursuit of glory she is masterminding.

Against Spain, her team displayed resilience to come from behind after conceding their first goal in the tournament. Georgia Stanway’s extra-time thunderbolt strike was a moment to behold as elation burst through the crowd and for the seven million viewers at home. Fran Kirby reflected on that performance, and what she anticipates from Sweden, stating: “I’m hoping we’ll have a bit more of the ball than we did against Spain. But they are a quality side, an experienced side. They’re very similar to us in terms of where they’ve reached in tournaments… They’re going to come with a very physical game – all the Swedish players I’ve played with and against are very physical. The way that they press, the way they defend, and set-pieces will be massive for them.”

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Sweden have achieved what England have yet failed to do – win a final. The Blue and Yellows were champions of the inaugural Women’s Euro in 1984, when they pipped England to the crown 4-3 on penalties after a two-legged final stalemate. More recently, they have once again come close to success, winning the third-place play-off at the 2019 World Cup against tonight’s opponents England, and were finalists at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

Ahead of this semi-final, defender Magdalena Eriksson shared her view of the tie at their pre-match press conference, stating: “I think a lot of things have to click in order for us to win against England tomorrow. It’s going to be our toughest game so far in the tournament but if we can defend as [a] unit, something we are so good at, we will be really hard to beat.”

It took a last-minute Linda Sembrant goal to evade extra time against Belgium last Friday, but Sweden made it through their quarter-final tie – and in a tournament setting, the result is really the only thing that counts. Although they may not yet have put together the flashiest of performances, as the second highest-ranked side in the world there is great expectation on Peter Gerhardsson’s side to reach the final. But a confident England stand in their.

Key battle: Stopping Mead and Hemp

Tournament top-scorers England have more than proved their prowess up front with 16 goals and counting. Beth Mead herself already has five goals to her name, whilst Lauren Hemp has one goal and one assist.

Gerhardsson is yet to name the same starting backline for Sweden, suggesting uncertainty in that area. Last time out against Belgium they fielded a back four featuring Ilestedt and Nilden as full-backs and if they are to start again tonight, their role of stopping wingers Mead and Hemp will be critical. If they are able to strangle possession in the midfield, as Spain did to England’s frustration, then they could find success. The Blue and Yellow’s own forward line is more than capable of causing damage, but limiting the Lionesses’ activity in the box will be crucial to their chances in this fixture.

Team news

The full pride of Lionesses trained yesterday and are available for selection, after Hannah Hampton’s recovery from illness.

Captain Caroline Seger was back in full training for Sweden after suffering a heel injury. Furthermore, Hanna Glas and Emma Kullberg are back in contention to start after recovering from Covid, but Jonna Andersson remains unavailable for selection.

Last five results (all competitions)

England: WWWWW Sweden: WDWWW


England wins: 1 Sweden wins: 5 Draws: 1

Recent meetings

06/07/2019: England 1 Sweden 2 (2019 World Cup, third place play-off)

11/11/2018: England 0 Sweden 2 (friendly)

Predicted line-ups

Game changer: Alessia Russo

In truth, any member of England’s attack can change games: Mead is on the hunt for the Golden Boot, Ellen White – yet to spark so far but never to be counted out for delivering for her country – is only one away from equalling Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time record goalscorer.

But Alessia Russo really has been a game changer this summer. Providing the assist for Toone’s vital equaliser and scoring three goals all off the bench, she has been Wiegman’s super-sub and her performances have proven she can be trusted to have a similar impact as a substitute tonight when called upon.

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Score prediction: England 3 Sweden 1

After their test against Spain, England should be coming out the blocks fast to calm nerves in this semi-final. An early goal from Mead would be a dream start, but with Sweden being the third highest scorers in the competition, the hosts are not invincible to the Swedish attack, especially from a set-piece. We predict this game will be a closely-fought contest for large portions; but we believe England will be able to score two second-half goals, bolstered by a Russo appearance off the bench, to help send them and their jubilant fans marching up Wembley Way this Sunday.

You can follow Rachel on Twitter @rachellrobertts

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