A record-breaking and epoch-making win against Germany saw Keira Walsh and super-sub Chloe Kelly shine for the Lionesses; but this final victory is only the beginning for England’s women and English football at large, writes Jessy Parker Humphreys.
If football is art, the final five minutes of the Euro 2022 final was a masterpiece. Having gone 2-1 up in extra time, Sarina Wiegman’s England killed the game in a more effective manner than has ever been seen. Chloe Kelly, scorer of the winner, was in her element as she used every single trick and flick to keep the ball safely in the German corner. With Kelly supported by Lucy Bronze, Germany had zero chance of ever getting back in the game after England’s next star had bundled the ball into the net in the 110th minute.
This was yet another skill on display that Wiegman’s team had perfected, having spent this European Championships showing off how to build the ultimate football team. It is easy to see this win as written in the stars – beating Germany at Wembley to end 56 years of hurt – but in truth, this trophy is one that was at times spectacularly, at times boringly, and most of all deservedly collected.
The final epitomised how Sarina Wiegman has used this collective of players. Having rigidly stuck to her starting XI and set substitutes, different players have shone at different moments. Today it was the time for Keira Walsh. Much had been made ahead of the game of the battle between the two midfielders from each opponent – Lena Oberdorf on one side and Walsh on the other. It is hard to think of two more different players, but it was Walsh who wore the crown today. Her exquisite assist for Ella Toone’s opener was the obvious example, but she ticked the team over throughout the game, sometimes through her passing, sometimes through her physicality.
Other players stood out too. Chloe Kelly became the final ‘super sub’ to make a true impact on a match, with Ella Toone and Alessia Russo having already sparkled at different points in this tournament. Leah Williamson too had probably her best game at centre-back for England, reading the German’s attacking play perfectly to make key interceptions.
And so it all played out at Wembley, in the end, as it should have done. In front of more people than have ever watched a European Championship match, in a men’s or women’s tournament, England got to lift their trophy. It has been a scarcely believable ten months for Sarina Wiegman, who is yet to lose a match as manager of this team, with the feeling there is still so much more to come from her and the players under her direction.
The challenge now will be to take all 87,192 people who were at Wembley and convert them into caring about women’s football all year round. On the basis of what they saw today, it should not be hard to do so. Because this is a Lionesses team that has dazzled and fought, that has struggled and overcome, and that has brought more success to English football than any other English team has managed in over 50 years.
With all said and done, that has been the crowning achievement of England at this tournament. As game after game has been played, it has genuinely become less about women’s football, and more about football. The opportunity to win a trophy on home soil. The prospect of an English team, regardless of their gender, winning a major tournament. There are scores of people who have fought for years to win the attention that these players have brought to the team. Those with medals around their necks today wouldn’t be here without them. And in the end, the players did the work to put the cherry on top of the cake, to bring home a Lionesses win after a long journey on a long road. England: 2022 European Champions. Who would have thought it?
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