England are one game away from their greatest success on the pitch since 1966 and their greatest of all time

Twenty goals scored, only one conceded. Winning margins of four, five, and eight. 282 of 480 minutes ahead, just half an hour behind. Only once were they taken past the 90th minute. Most of their other matches at Euro 2022 had ended as a competition long before that point. It’s hard to imagine how realistically England’s journey to Sunday’s final against Germany and arguably the greatest night in their history could have gone any better.

It was a strange serenity bordering on unsettling hilarity, and if that’s due to anyone, it’s Sarina Wiegman. Her reputation for not only meeting but exceeding expectations through careful, methodical preparation – punctuated with yoga sessions and afternoon naps – has only improved over the past three and a half weeks. England have come to Wembley with the calm, steady assurance of their unwavering manager.

Even on the rare occasion that their players have faced somewhat adversity approaching, they have been quick to rise to the challenge and respond. Getting off to a slow start against Austria at Old Trafford, Beth Mead’s first of six goals she has scored at the tournament so far calmed her nervousness on opening night. When a few minutes before the elimination in the quarter-finals in Brighton, a relaxed but concise game led to Ella Toone equalizing, Spain were second best from then on.

In the first half hour of Tuesday’s semifinals, Sweden was the better team. Had they missed one of several early chances, the evening would have been different. Instead, Mead scored again, England settled down and won comfortably. When a team like Wiegman slides through a tournament, there’s often a nagging doubt that it wasn’t really put to the test. But England have been – especially in that knockout phase – and have passed that test every time.

Equally well this team has dealt with the gradually increasing expectations, with the attention that has slowly and gradually built up with each step closer to this final. ‘You talk pressure, we talk football’ is one of the most memorable quotes from her manager’s pre-game press conferences at the tournament, aptly summing up her approach to media duties. Wiegman gets down to the task at hand and doesn’t waste time discussing much else.

However, two broader themes have emerged throughout. One is the story and the place of the lionesses in it. Wiegman has stressed the importance of living in the present throughout, but the magnitude of what her team could potentially achieve on Sunday cannot be ignored. This could be the first time in 56 years that England – with either the men’s or the women’s team – have won a major tournament. Outside Wembley stands a statue of the only England captain to lift an international trophy. Inside, Leah Williamson could emulate Bobby Moore and finish second.

Captain Marvel: Leah Williamson could emulate Bobby Moore

(AFP via Getty)

Comparisons to 1966 were inevitable given the identities of the two finalists and their immediate surroundings, but then this is also a repeat of the 2009 final – one of the records Germany has contested and one of the records Germany has contested won. England lost 6-2 in Helsinki that night, but the scale and speed of the changes the sport has seen in recent years make any comparison irrelevant.

Most of this team, managed by Hope Powell, were semi-professionals. Jill Scott is the sole survivor after 13 years but was limited to three cameo appearances from the substitutes’ bench at the tournament, totaling 21 minutes. The crowd at Wembley Stadium is said to be at least five times larger than the 15,877 at the Olympic Stadium in the Finnish capital. Whatever the global television audience was that Thursday night in September, you expect it was just a fraction of the 30 million who will watch this final.

All of this serves as an invitation to discuss the other broader topic. Wiegman hasn’t shunned questions about the growth of women’s football, he’s embraced them. She has been open about her team’s intention to inspire her adopted homeland. She has expressed hope that if England play well and win at a home tournament they can not only encourage more young girls to play football but also influence young boys’ attitudes. Nearly 100,000 children were part of the tournament’s record-breaking attendance, while 47 percent of all fans were female.

Nearly 100,000 children were part of the tournament’s record-breaking attendance

(Getty)

“I think what we’ve already seen in the tournament is that it was not just a change for women’s football, but also for society in general, how we’re viewed,” said Williamson, who sat next to Wiegman, at the preliminary round on Saturday. Press conference on the game.

“I think tomorrow is not the end of a journey, but the beginning of one. And I think regardless of the outcome of this game, there will be a nice moment to think about. Of course my job is to go out there for 90 minutes and play and win, but I think when we look back at this tournament as a whole we really started something.

“I think in most workplaces around the world, women still have a few struggles to overcome,” she added. “I think for every success that we achieve, for every change in judgment or perception, or the opening of the eyes of someone who sees women as someone with the potential to be equal to their male counterpart, society is transformed. I think that’s a powerful message: that in a typically male-dominated environment, we have the power to take these steps forward that can impact everyone on this larger scale.”

Women’s football can sometimes feel like a prisoner in the debate about its own growth, but occasions of this magnitude offer an opportunity to step back and celebrate the progress that has been made. England have accelerated that progress this summer with their many, many goals and dominant performances, winning the hearts, minds and eyeballs of their audiences. They are now one game away from a success that would eclipse anything English football has had to offer since 1966 on the pitch and the greatest off it.

https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/euro-2022-final-england-germany-lionesses-b2134824.html England are one game away from their greatest success on the pitch since 1966 and their greatest of all time

Fry Electronics Team

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