England win Women’s Euro 2022, but the tournament’s biggest winner is sport itself

LONDON – The full-time whistle on England’s 2-1 Women’s Euro 2022 The final victory over Germany was still blown away on Sunday when “Three Lions” – aka “Football’s Coming Home” – started blaring over the sound system at Wembley Stadium. The song has been something of a curse for English football since it was released in the build-up to Euro 96, but finally, after so many heartbreaking near misses for the country’s men and women, England have a team of winners to celebrate in Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses. .

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Captain Lea Williamsonwinner of the Golden Boot tournament Beth Mead and other featured artists including Ella Toon, Chloe Kelly and Alessia Russo – have, with their performances over the past month, taken women’s football to a whole new level, and their success will secure a boundless future in England.

For the men, the wait to add to their solitary World Cup victory in 1966 continues – Gareth Southgate’s side may well do so at Qatar 2022 later this year – but the women have ended their own long years of injury. Two lost World Cup semi-finals, in 2015 and 2019, and European Championship final defeats in 1984 and 2009 had been the misfortune of England’s women at major tournaments, but goals from substitutes Toone and Kelly, on each side of Lina MagulThe 79th-minute equalizer for Germany sealed that side’s place in English football history.

The team’s collective success is one thing, and its importance cannot be overstated for a country as powerful, yet traditionally underachieving, as England. Yet the Lionesses did more than just end the country’s long wait for glory. They didn’t just bring football home; they allowed the game to find its soul, on and off the pitch.

It may be unfair to draw too many comparisons between men’s and women’s football, but with both reaching a Euro final at Wembley within 12 months, it’s inevitable that both occasions will be measured against each other. to the other. A year ago, the men’s final was blighted by shameful scenes of fan violence outside the stadium, with ticketless fans rushing through turnstiles and physically intimidating children into illegally entering the pitch . Investigation has since confirmed excessive drinking and drug use during a day of carnage before and after England’s biggest game since 1966.

But for the women’s final, the atmosphere was completely different. It was welcoming and inclusive, as young families could mingle without fear of being bullied or verbally abused. There were no abusive chants and no boos of national anthems from a crowd of 87,192 – a record for both men’s and women’s European Championships, surpassing the 1964 men’s final, in which 79,115 watched Spain take on the Soviet Union in Madrid. (In addition, overall tournament attendance ended with 574,875 over the past three weeks, more than double the previous record of 240,055 in 2017.) It was a day when football showed that it could still take place in an atmosphere of civility.

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The thugs who attach themselves to men’s football have shown no interest in Euro 2022, for which we can be eternally grateful. As Emma Hayes, Chelsea’s women’s coach, told ESPN, “The fans were huge. It wasn’t hostile.”

Sure, many matches in men’s football are uneventful and many clubs are a family-friendly environment, but that hasn’t been the case with the England national team for too long. The English FA now need to find a way to make the men’s game as welcoming and friendly as the women’s for what is clearly a huge following who want to build on their Euro 2022 experience.

This tournament and the final reminded us all why we fell in love with football in the first place. There was no nonsense or aggravation off the pitch. Meanwhile, the game was played without the anger and ego that has become a regular sideshow in the men’s game. This does not mean that the final was not fiercely contested. Both groups of players engaged in challenges, forcing Ukrainian referee Kateryna Monzul to issue five yellow cards for tackles and overly physical fouls. But there was a refreshing honesty to it all, as well as an acceptance that the officials were in charge and had the final say, rather than a succession of players waiting to argue with them or berate them.

However, none of the above would really matter if the show on the pitch wasn’t up to snuff. There needs to be top-level quality and determination to excel and win, but England and Germany showed world-class technical ability for 120 minutes, as did Sweden, France, Spain and the Netherlands in the previous rounds.

All in all, Euro 2022 has shown that there is a depth to the women’s game that deserves the biggest stage possible. Who will forget Russo’s magnificent backheel goal in the semi-final against Sweden, or Georgia Stanwaylong-distance winner against Spain? What would you say Alex Popof Germany’s double in Germany’s 2-1 semi-final victory over France?

The muscle strain – suffered during the warm-up – that forced Popp to withdraw from the final may have cost Germany their chance to claim a record ninth Euro title. But this was England’s tournament, and the manner of their victory will inspire a new generation.

Toone’s awesome first game – a cool lob Merle Frohms of Keira Walsh-‘s precise long pass was a magical moment, but the honor of scoring the winner went to Kelly, who returned the ball from close range in the 110th minute before running away with a Brandi Chastain-style celebration, taking down her up and waving it above her head. (The USWNT legend certainly noticed, Tweeter“I see you Chloe, well done!”) It earned her a yellow card, the sixth in the game, but she had also just sealed England’s final victory at Euro 2022, so it was probably worth it.

The next challenge is the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2023. Who knows if the men’s team will beat them to become world champions later this year. Whether Harry Kane & Co. did it or not, it was women who showed them how to win.

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