LONDON — England are your Women’s Euro 2022 winners after a thrilling back-and-forth final against Germany on Sunday. Substitute Ella Toone gave the tournament hosts a second-half lead with a brilliant individual goal, only for Lina Magull to level in the 79th minute. When the game went to extra time, it was another England sub, Chloe Kelly, who scored from close range after Germany failed to clear a corner.
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Oh, and the game took place in front of a European Championship (men’s and women’s) crowd that set a record for attendance, with 87,192 in the stands to see England’s women win their first major competition.
Here are ESPN’s Tom Hamilton and Kathleen McNamee with three quick points from a remarkable final at Wembley.
1. England’s supersubs deliver a first international trophy
Chloe Kelly waited a moment after stabbing the ball home beyond Merle Frohms in the 110th minute. And then once the winner was confirmed, Wembley’s record crowd erupted and Kelly ran to the bench doing her own version of Brandi Chastain’s sport-changing moment from 1999. It’ll be one of the defining images of these four weeks and for years to come, but that she was on the pitch to make that impact was down to Sarina Wiegman’s perfectly judged substitutions.
Having made history at the Euros by naming the same starting XI for every game, it took just six minutes for the first group of “supersubs” to make their impact. Just like we’ve seen in every match this tournament, Alessia Russo and Toone made an impact from the bench. Ellen White and Fran Kirby had put in the miles for the first 55 minutes of the match, but as the spaces opened up, Toone’s fresh legs caught Germany out with the game locked at 0-0. First the ball: Keira Walsh’s pinpoint pass into space was fantastic, but Toone’s run was on the money and her finish perfectly weighted as she lifted it over the onrushing Frohms for the game’s first goal.
That substitution came at a point when England were struggling to find their rhythm; in the end, the energy and Walsh’s direct long ball opened up the game, taking the momentum away from Germany’s boa constrictor style. But Germany’s switch on the 73rd minute was also decisive when Sydney Lohmann got her chance in midfield. It was her mazy run through England’s defense that created space for Tabea Wassmuth (a half-time sub), who managed to get in behind England’s defense and square a low cross for Lina Magull to finish at the near post.
In the end, of all 12 substitutions across a gripping 120 minutes, it was Kelly who had the final say. With legs burning in extra time, it was her winner in the 114th minute that secured the title for England. The finish was determined, a testament to her hard work after 11 months out with an ACL injury; it was also a sign of Wiegman’s faith in her entire 23-player squad. –Tom Hamilton
2. Popp’s sad absence too much for Germany to overcome
The news that Germany captain Alex Popp had injured herself warming up ahead of the final sent shockwaves through the stadium and through Germany’s fans and supporters back home. It was the cruellest end to a stunning tournament from the 31-year-old, who was tied with Beth Mead for the Golden Boot heading into this game. She’d scored six goals in five matches for Germany and her individual scoring/shooting stats were better than the entire squad put together. It seemed even worse when you consider that Popp missed the last two tournaments with serious injuries as well.
Having done so much to get Germany to this point, she was forced to watch on from the sideline, though her replacement in the starting XI, Lea Schuller, was far from an inadequate option for an occasion like this. The Bayern Munich player was named Germany’s Player of the Year in 2021 and was the starting striker for their first game of the tournament; however, on Sunday she struggled to get into the game and was replaced by Nicole Anyomi after 67 minutes.
Popp’s movement and leadership are difficult to replicate, and it was a game where Germany needed her. It was clear they missed her physicality in the box, especially in the first half. Sara Dabritz and Magull both had decent chances to put them ahead, but they were from long shots from difficult angles. There was little muscling in the box, something for which Popp is well known, and that aggression was sorely needed against an English defense boasting strong players like Millie Bright and Lucy Bronze.
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In particular throughout the Euros, Germany found success with Svenja Huth running down the wings and delivering crosses for Popp that she would either volley or head in spite of attention from opposing defenders. When Magull eventually did score off a low cross into the box, it felt like an avenue Germany could have exploited a lot earlier had their captain been on the pitch.
Germany did improve after leveling at 1-1, creating several chances to seize the lead, but you can’t help but feel that if they’d had Popp from the start, they could have wrangled a few more goals a lot earlier out of England and taken home a remarkable ninth European title. — Kathleen McNamee
3. How far can Wiegman take this England team?
When the England players came out to soak up some of the Wembley atmosphere before the game started, there were cheers from the crowd. When Wiegman came out a few minutes later, England fans were on their feet, bellowing their appreciation towards her. The fans undoubtedly love this team, but they indisputably love her more.
The reception was symbolic of how Wiegman has captured the attention of the nation, and of the faith they have put in her. And why wouldn’t they? Her record with England is impeccable, and she has now delivered them the most elusive prize of all: a major tournament trophy. (It also means she has been manager for the past two Euro winners, having guided the Netherlands to glory in 2017.)
It’s never been in doubt that this England team possessed world-class players, but Wiegman has come in and added an air of confidence and togetherness that wasn’t there before. Even in their shaker moments, this team has rallied and come into its own. After their tournament opener, a nervy 1-0 win over Austria, there was a question over whether England could handle the pressure of a home tournament. It showed, though, that Wiegman had been here before with the Netherlands. She steadied the ship and didn’t falter in her commitment to her starting XI. When talking about super substitutes Toone and Russo, she gave them their due despite them arguably having a reason to be in the starting XI.
Every player who was asked about Wiegman during the Euros talked about her in the highest regard, but most importantly, it seemed incredibly genuine. For both goals in the final, Kelly and Toone ran to celebrate with her and the team. This wasn’t a moment about them as individuals; it was about everyone.
Not much has changed with this team compared to previous years apart from Wiegman’s influence. She is the cog that England have been missing for years, and now they’re reaping the rewards. It’s a tantalising prospect for the chances at the 2023 World Cup. — Kathleen McNamee