The appointment of pedigree manager Sarina Wigman has been pivotal to the progress of this England team. Since arriving last fall, she has instilled confidence in the Lionesses, leading to a 19-game unbeaten streak, 17 wins and 104 goals. Tactically astute and unafraid to stand her ground, she has proven her ability to change the game with substitutions. In addition, she has already won this competition before, leading her native Netherlands to the title of Euro 2017. Having results that back up her instructions can only help attract players.
Depth in the tournament is crucial and England has it in abundance. Each of the 23 players plays professionally, and all but one were regulars in the Women’s Super League last season – Rachel Daly plays for the Houston Dash in the US Women’s National Football League. They spent considerable time on the field gaining vital experience. Wigman rarely changes her starting line-up – she names the same 11 players every game in this tournament – but her use of the bench is key. Its finishing players play an integral role, whether it’s kicking in front of the net or adding cover to help them finish the game.
Strong youth path
England is reaping the benefits of a strong youth system. The five lionesses have played together since they were young. Alessia Russo, Georgia Stanway, Ella Thun, Ellie Roback and Lotte Wubben-Moy reached the quarter-finals of the 2016 World Under-17 Championships in Jordan before three out of five took home bronze medals at the 2018 World Under-20 Championships . Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp. Wubben-Moy missed it and Thun was injured, but these tournaments provided important development opportunities. There is DNA in English football. Mo Marley, who has coached both campaigns in these age groups and influenced the careers of so many Lionesses, has come out of retirement to lead the under-23 team, and Wigman has made sure that coaches along the way have their say.
If any team has benefited from the one-year delay due to Covid, it has been England. A year ago, the Lionesses were a shadow of themselves, without a permanent manager after the departure of Phil Neville and with a drop in results after the 2019 World Cup. The extra year, which included competitive World Cup qualifiers, allowed that team to get back on its feet and Wigman to realize his vision, while also giving the younger players a longer period of time to get used to them.
Football Association Development plan from 2017 to 2020 laid a solid foundation to create the conditions for success. The first two targets of doubling the number of entries and attendances have been achieved and England’s goal of success was for them to reach three consecutive semi-finals and now a major final on schedule. The FA supported women’s football by heavily investing in the Lionesses as well as the home game. The professionalization of WSL, sponsorship from companies such as Barclays and the unrivaled support staff hired for the national side have all contributed.
Hosting this tournament
Hosting a major football competition can work both ways. This can significantly increase the pressure, especially in a country so absorbed in football. But he can also provide the vital support needed to give teams the energy to push the line. It was enough to listen to the roar of 28,994 people in Brighton during the quarter-final victory over Spain to understand the role played by crowded stadiums. After the match, Wigman was keen to acknowledge how key the fans were. “Today we showed what the fans have done for us,” she said. “It really was an advantage at home.”