England and Germany prepare for historic Euro 2022 final
“It will be a great football festival,” German coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said on Wednesday. “It’s a football classic, England-Germany.”
England are aiming to win their first major women’s tournament title at the site where England’s men’s national team beat West Germany to win their only major title to date, the 1966 World Cup.
Germany have won all eight European finals they have been in – and crushed England 6-2 in the 2009 final – but their momentum has seemed to slow in recent years as other countries invest heavily in women’s leagues.
England scored a tournament-leading 20 goals on their way to the final, more than half in two blistering wins against former European champions, 8-0 against Norway in the group stage and 4-0 against Sweden in the semi-finals.
Beating eight-time winners Germany would be the perfect way for England to make history.
England showed it was possible in February, winning 3-1 at Wolverhampton for their first-ever win against Germany at home.
German fans are used to their team winning titles, even if it’s not quite the conquering dynasty it once was. Since Germany won Olympic gold in 2016, Euro 2022 marks the first time they have gone beyond the quarter-finals of a tournament.
Forwards Alexandra Popp and Alessia Russo made very different contributions. Captain Popp scored in each of Germany’s five games – a new record – and started all but the opener against Denmark. Russo hasn’t started any but is the ultimate impact replacement.
After missing the 2013 and 2017 European Championships through injury, Popp is making up for lost time as top scorer with England’s Beth Mead with six goals. Popp has her club teammates around her as one of five Wolfsburg players in the starting line-up for the 2-1 win over France, when she scored twice.
Popp started as a full-back at now-defunct FCR Duisburg and won his first European club title aged 18. She studied at a sports-oriented high school with special permission to let her take football lessons as the only girl alongside boys from Schalke’s men’s club academy, and is also a fully qualified zookeeper.
Russo’s explosive impact off the bench was crucial. The Manchester United striker, who played college football at the University of North Carolina, scored four goals as a substitute at Euro 2022, including a goalkeeper leg kick against Sweden in semi final. Equally valuable was his assist for Ella Toone’s goal to send the quarter-final against Spain into extra time.
“I think when you enjoy your football, you play your best,” Russo said. “Maybe (the backheel against Sweden) shows a bit of confidence, but I love playing football.”
England’s Sarina Wiegman and Germany’s Voss-Tecklenburg have already made history as players and coaches.
Voss-Tecklenburg has been a driving force in German football for decades – 125 games played for the national team and four European titles, a UEFA Women’s Cup title (now the Champions League) as a coach in 2009, and even five years of writing a women’s football magazine. .
She noted England’s slow start against Sweden in the semi-finals, with the hosts on the defensive. “The first 30 minutes against Sweden showed that you can hurt (England), and that will be our task,” she said.
Wiegman played 99 times for the Netherlands and coached the Dutch to the 2017 European title before joining England, and is still unbeaten in 11 games as a manager at the Championships.
“We said it before the tournament and we still say it every time we want to inspire the nation,” Wiegman said. “I think that’s what we do and we want to make a difference, and we hope everyone will be so excited and proud of us and even more girls and boys will start playing football.”
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