01 Aug 2022: The Year Football Came Home
In front of 87,192 people, at Wembley Stadium, on the 31st July 2022, football came home. Kelly’s goal and iconic celebration in the second half of added time contributed massively to the country’s success.
As Ella Toone chipped Germany’s goalkeeper Wembley erupted in ways we haven’t potentially seen yet at a women’s game. It was a very nervy start to the second half for England fans as Germany looked threatening. Toone’s goal on the 62nd minute caused memorable scenes around the country. However Germany’s equaliser from Magull meant that to bring it home England would need to push for more goals. In the second half of added time Wembley broke out into cheers for the second time. Chloe Kelly bagged her first goal for England and it couldn’t have been a better opportunity for the striker. Talk about heroes.
Statistics show the massive spike in attendances throughout the Euros, not only England but also for other nations as records were smashed. Since the opening game at Old Trafford the support and interest in the game has been overwhelming and incredible. In fact, it’s hard to find a word to sum it up. Women’s football has seen massive growth over the last few years but this tournament has been above and beyond and hopefully it will stay this way.
The tournament, which had been rescheduled from last year, had people on the edge of their seats, screaming at the tv. However the Lionesses adopted a calm mindset. One where they took each game as it comes. That worked out to be a success. Manager Sarina Wiegman deserves huge credit for how she has led the team, although the players did the work on the pitch it’s undeniable that her experience and leadership qualities were vital in the country’s success. Captain Leah Williamson also deserves a well-deserved mention, at the age of 25 she led her team to a European trophy. Some accomplishment that.
Despite the glorious and outstanding performances the Lionesses had their struggles along the way. Wiegman, Wubben-Moy and Hampton had COVID along the process. Stokes missed out on the Northern Ireland game due to injury and Bronze revealed how she has been playing through pain due to previous injuries.
Some iconic moments over the course of England’s journey have brought the nation together. Whether that be Russo’s cheeky back heel that was trending all over social media, Stanway’s stunning strike, Bright’s last-ditch defending, Earps’ fascinating save or young girls having the time of their life dancing to Sweet Caroline. Even young girls walking up to Wembley Stadium with Lionesses’ names on the back of their shirts is heartwarming to see. The twenty-three player squad have most certainly paved the way for future generations. Player’s names will go down in history and will be remembered forever by so many.
The last time the Lionesses had an opportunity to win a major tournament was back at the Women’s World Cup in 2019. A defeat against the USA saw them bow out of the semi-finals. Sweden then went on to beat them in the third-place match. They then jetted off to Tokyo in 2020 for the Olympics. Once again England were knocked out of the competition after Canada beat them 2-0. The feeling of getting to a final isn’t something more recent Lionesses fan will be used to, making the occasion as a whole an exciting one.
Not only has this tournament inspired young girls across the nation and given them something to aspire to be, but it’s also inspired a much wider variety. It will have inspired PE teachers to make sure girls have the opportunity to play the sport. It will have inspired more parents to get their kids involved and sign them up for teams. It will have inspired parents to take their kids to watch women’s football whether that be WSL teams or a club more local. Hopefully the women’s glory has also left young boys inspired and shown them that women playing football is here to stay.
The Lionesses have shown every young girl that they can in fact achieve their dreams and that their names can be remembered.