England’s Lionesses have a bright future after Euro 2022 triumph, but it’s important the rest of women’s football follows suit

5 min

England Women may have brought football home last weekend, but the legacy of the tournament has to be more than just the Euro 2022 title.

Sunday’s showpiece Wembley final against Germany was played out in front of a record attendance of 87,192 for a European Championship game as the Lionesses secured their first major trophy.

As a gesture to her childhood hero Brandi Chastain, Chloe Kelly whipped her top off and wheeled away in jubilation after scoring the winning goal, conjuring memories of the former USA player’s celebration after scoring the winner in the 1999 World Cup.

Wembley erupted into pandemonium, including pundits and journalists in the press box who found it almost impossible not to get caught up in the moment, while the scenes only intensified at the final whistle as players and coaching staff ran onto the pitch to celebrate a monumental achievement.

Dancing in-front of the crowd, kissing the trophy and making star-angels in the glitter confetti on the pitch, it was a beautiful sight to see Sarina Wiegman’s side celebrate a huge milestone not just for England but women’s football.

In the stands, fans were reduced to tears while there were more celebrations at Trafalgar Square a day later – albeit at a frustrating 11am start when this side deserved to be recognised at a more prime-time slot.

That’s because the magnitude of the Lionesses’ achievements cannot be understated with records tumbling throughout the tournament.

The free-scoring Lionesses have captivated a nation this summer, with viewing figures soaring to 17.4m for the final to make it the most-watched Women’s football game in the UK.

From the very first record attendance game at Old Trafford against Austria, iconic images and memories have been made over the course of the last month – from the subsequent 8-0 demolition of Norway (another record, this time for the biggest winning-margin in a European tournament) to Alessia Russo’s back-heel goal against Sweden and images of eight-year-old Tess Dolan joyfully dancing to Sweet Caroline after that same sensational semi-final win.

Behind it all was the calming and humble presence of manager Sarina Wiegman, with not even a bout of coronavirus ahead of the Northern Ireland clash able to stop her or her team’s indomitable rise to the top.

READ MORE: England’s Lionesses are more than equal to their male counterparts – now it’s time for their game to be taken as seriously

Wiegman delivered a tactical masterclass throughout the tournament – resisting calls to play the likes of super-subs Russo and Ella Toone and instead sticking with the same starting XI for every single match.

It was a bold move but even braver were her in-game changes – particularly against Spain where not long after going 1-0 down she substituted mainstays Beth Mead, Ellen White and Fran Kirby for the young guns of Kelly, Russo and Toone.

Wiegman’s faith in Ellen White in particular, still one goal shy of equalling Wayne Rooney’s all-time England record, is an astute one.

Although the 33-year-old may not have grabbed the headlines this summer, her tireless work upfront can be seen as ‘softening’ the opposition defence in readiness for the introduction of the likes of Russo.

Had the likes of Russo been preferred from the start, they may not have been able to have the same impact with Russo perhaps not going on to claim four goals off the bench – making her the highest-scoring substitute in the history of the Women’s European game.

Either way, there is no doubt Wiegman has managed to take this England side to the next level since being appointed last autumn, with her predecessors often falling just short at the semi-final stages of competitions.

She has instilled an unshakable confidence in the squad that has led to a 20-game unbeaten run, winning 18 and scoring 106 goals and deservedly becoming the first coach to win the trophy with two different nations having guided the Netherlands to victory in 2017.

READ MORE: How Euro 2022 success for England’s Lionesses can propel women’s football to another level

With talks of a new contract for Wiegman on the horizon, a squad brimming full of talent and the prospects of a sell-out game against the US at Wembley in October, England’s future is positively glowing at the moment.

However, it is key the Football Association and the rest of the country continue to build on the momentum this summer has created to ensure the development of Women’s football continues unabated.

The entire England Women squad has already penned an open letter to the Government urging all girls to be allowed to play football at school while more support is also needed at grassroots level.

Only if these calls are answered and young girls are able to follow in the footsteps of their new-found heroes that these Lionesses will be given the lasting legacy they fully deserve…


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