SHEFFIELD: England’s women will be talked about “all over the world” said coach Sarina Wiegman after thrashing Sweden 4-0 in Sheffield on Tuesday to reach the Euro 2022 final. After semi-final heartache in the last three major tournaments, it was fourth time lucky for the Lionesess to the delight of the home crowd of 29,000 at Bramall Lane to set up a clash against Germany or France. England have never won a major tournament in the women’s game, but on this form will take some stopping in front of a sold out Wembley on Sunday.
Goals either side of half-time from Beth Mead and Lucy Bronze put the hosts well on course to inflict Sweden’s first defeat from open play since 2019. But it was substitute Alessia Russo’s stunning backheel through the legs of Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl that will live long in the memory. Fran Kirby then added a fourth 14 minutes from time. “Second half, it was such a performance tomorrow they will talk about it all over Europe, all over the world,” said Wiegman.
A record crowd for a women’s Euro of 87,000 is expected at Wembley for the final, hoping England will end a 56-year wait for a major title in either the men’s or women’s game. “I am going in my own bunker,” added Wiegman on the hype that will follow in the upcoming days. “We noticed that a little bit. We want to inspire the nation, I think that’s what we are doing and we hope we make a difference. That the whole country is proud of us and even more girls and boys start playing football.”
Sweden’s unbeaten run smashed
Sweden’s only defeat in the last 34 matches came in a penalty shootout in the gold medal match at last year’s Olympics. The number two ranked side in the world showed why early on as England struggled to contain the Swedish threat on the counter-attack. Mary Earps was forced into a fine save by Sofia Jakobsson inside 20 seconds before Arsenal striker Stina Blackstenius crashed a header off the bar. “The first 25 mins I felt we had enough chances,” said Sweden boss Peter Gerhardsson.
“When you play this type of opponent you need to be effective with the chances that you get.” In keeping with their tournament, England were far more clinical when their chances game. Blackstenius’ club teammate Mead extended her lead in the race for the Golden Boot to two with a perfect control and volleyed finish from Bronze’s cross on 34 minutes.
Mead has also now matched the record of six goals in a single women’s European Championship held by Germany’s Inka Grings at Euro 2009. That was also the last time England reached the final of a major women’s tournament and Bronze’s header from Mead’s corner three minutes after half-time put England well on the way to Wembley. Any Swedish hopes of a fightback were truly extinguished on 68 minutes with a goal that will be replayed the world over.
A brilliant England move involving Keira Walsh and Kirby teed up Russo, whose initial finish was straight at Lindahl. Yet, despite the presence of two Swedish defenders, with her back to goal and the angle narrowing, Russo produced a moment of magic to backheel the ball with enough power to catch Lindahl napping. The veteran Swedish goalkeeper is closing in on 200 caps, but will want to forget this one as she then failed to keep out her former Chelsea teammate Kirby’s effort that trickled over the line. – AFP