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Football Came Home!

Football Came Home! 

England women have overcome eight-time European champions: Germany, to win their first ever major trophy, and the first for the nation since the men’s world cup glory in 1966. 

A record-breaking 87,192 spectators were in attendance to witness goals from Ella Toone, Lina Magull, and eventually the winner in extra time, by Chloe Kelly, that saw the lionesses reign supreme on home turf. 

Sarina Wiegman once again showed her faith within her favoured starting lineup as she named an unaltered eleven for the sixth consecutive game of the tournament. Meanwhile, Germany were forced into a frustrating early change when, joint top goalscorer of the competition, Alexandre Popp was ruled out of the tie due to an injury in the warm-up. 

Ellen White was presented with the first real chance of the game early on after a Fran Kirby cross found her at the back post. It was almost deja vu for England fans, scoring early on in the European final. However, it was not to be as her header was met by the gloves of Germany’s Merle Frohms. 

England looked to establish an attacking theme early on as deep crosses towards the back post were attempted regularly, including Lucy Bronze’s headed attempt following a corner that was caught comfortably but showed signs of better things to come for the Lionesses. 

Georgia Stanway was booked in the 22nd minute which harshly put her on a tight rope for the rest of the game and also marked the beginning of a yellow card frenzy throughout the game, including a booking for England’s all-time leading goalscorer: Ellen White, moments later. A total of 7 yellow cards were shown by the seemingly trigger-happy referee throughout the game. 

Hearts would have been in mouths of many English fans as they watched Germany’s corner delivered by Lina Magull turn into a goalmouth dogfight. England captain Leah Williamson managed to deny the ball from crossing the line before Mary Earps gratefully dropped to the ball and held it firmly in relief. VAR was summoned for a potential handball amongst the chaos but was quickly dismissed. England fans could breathe again. 

Ellen White missed another big opportunity after sliding the ball through on the right flank to Beth Mead. Her run towards the box allowed for the cut-back which she hit first time, narrowly over the bar.

At halftime, German coach Martina Voss Tecklenberg decided it was time for a change up top as she clearly felt they were lacking enough attacking threat with the absence of Popp. Tabea Wassmuth replaced Jule Brand which added a bit more experience to the front line. 

England made their first substitutions of the game when Sarina Weigman called Fran Kirby and Ellen White to the bench and sent on trusted super sub Alessia Russo (who had already scored 4 goals all from the bench at the euros) and Ella Toone who actually made the real impact. 

Wembley had to wait over an hour for the deadlock to be broken but it was worth the wait. Keira Walsh found herself with enough time and space to play a long ball through the defensive lines to which Ella Toone latched onto and lifted over the keeper’s outstretched gloves, in a display of incredible footballing acumen and composure. Much like the finish, Wembley also had lift off. 

Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly came on for Beth Mead who came off injured just before Ella Toone’s stunning opener. Beth Mead and Alexandre Popp were both level at the top of the tournament’s goalscoring chart, sharing 6 each, and with both now off injured that would be the final total too. However, the golden boot was later awarded to Beth Mead regardless due to her racking up more assists throughout the competition. 

England’s lead didn’t take long to be tested as Lina Magull struck the near post 5 minutes later. Magull refused to be kept at bay though as she eventually poked the equaliser home following a low cross from earlier substitute Wassmuth. 

At the end of the 90 minutes, there was nothing to split the two sides unsurprisingly. Both teams had been formidable throughout the entire tournament after only conceding twice each and deploying the previously mentioned: joint top scorers. Extra time was needed to split the two sides. 

The first half of extra time brought no answer to who was going to be crowned European champions. However, it proved to be a day for substitutes as after 110 minutes, Chloe Kelly netted from close range during another struggle for the ball on the goal line. After suffering a career-threatening ACL injury at the previous summer’s Olympic games, Kelly scored her first ever international goal and made sure to celebrate it in style with inspiration from Bobby Zamora. 

England were 10 minutes away from their first ever major trophy and the first for the nation since the men’s 1966 world cup glory. The Lionesses just had to shut Germany out and they’d won, and they did exactly that! England made sure to try and run the clock down using a few cheeky tactics including keeping the ball near the opposing corner flags which riled up the German opposition and led to some heated remarks exchanged between opponents and match officials. 

After a long free kick from Frohms in desperation to salvage something, the full-time whistle was blown. England had done it! The stadium erupted with screams from the home fans and players. Their first major international trophy! Sarina Weigman also becomes the first manager to win the women’s Euros with two different nations. Winning goalscorer Chloe Kelly dropped to the floor in disbelief and told the BBC: “This is what dreams are made of” in her post-match interview. 

The Lionesses finally got their hands on what they’ve so desperately wanted and since earned, courtesy of Prince William as he delivered the trophy to the podium. Beth Mead was also awarded Player of the tournament whilst Lena Oberdorf was named young player of the competition despite her tears.

England Captain: Leah Williamson also took part in speaking to the BBC and stated that the “legacy of this tournament is a change in society”. She also encouraged the fans to continue their support, not just for the Lionesses but for women’s football as a whole: “We’ve brought people together, we’ve brought people to games, we want them [the fans] to come to WSL games”. Hopefully, this monumental win for England can do just that and act as a catalyst for the development of women’s football in England. Young girls around the country can definitely look up to this group of players as role models who have inspired a nation. Football finally came home!