England vs Germany: Continuity crucial for Wiegman with Lionesses to avoid urge to tinker in Euro 2022 final

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·4-min read
England vs Germany: Continuity crucial for Wiegman with Lionesses to avoid urge to tinker in Euro 2022 final
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It just had to be Germany. England already had enough to contend with ahead of their first major final in 13 years, with the pressure of the biggest night in the history of the women’s national side and a chance to change football in this country forever.

Now the Lionesses must cope with the expectation of a nation at Wembley and also try to find a way past the most successful team in Europe.

Sunday will be the Germans’ ninth final since the competition was launched in 1984. Their record reads: eight finals, eight wins. xThey are not the dominant force they once were but they are a slick, well-oiled machine who have a knack of turning up when it matters most.

The football rivalry between England and Germany adds an extra edge to a meeting of the two best teams in the tournament. Everyone knows about 1966, 1990 and 1996, but Germany beat England 6-2 the last time the Lionesses reached a major final, in 2009.

This England side, though, are in a very different place to the teams who have suffered disappointment against their old rivals in the past. There is a belief at the FA and among the players that this is the best-prepared England squad ever. The team’s two bases for the tournament — St. George’s Park and the Lensbury in Teddington — boast state-of-the-art facilities and head coach Sarina Wiegman has been given all the necessary tools to end the country’s wait for a major trophy.

In Pictures | Women’s Euro 2022 (Semi-Final): England vs Sweden - Lionesses celebrate victory

England’s Ellen White, Hannah Hampton celebrate and teammates celebrate (REUTERS)
England’s Ellen White, Hannah Hampton celebrate and teammates celebrate (REUTERS)
Ella Toone and Rachel Daly of England celebrate (The FA via Getty Images)
Ella Toone and Rachel Daly of England celebrate (The FA via Getty Images)
England’s Beth Mead, left, celebrates after scoring her side’s first goal (AP)
England’s Beth Mead, left, celebrates after scoring her side’s first goal (AP)
England’s midfielder Fran Kirby celebrates after scoring her team fourth goal (AFP via Getty Images)
England’s midfielder Fran Kirby celebrates after scoring her team fourth goal (AFP via Getty Images)
Lucy Bronze of England celebrates scoring their side’s second goal (Getty Images)
Lucy Bronze of England celebrates scoring their side’s second goal (Getty Images)
Alessia Russo of England scores  a sublime back heel third goal whilst under pressure from Caroline Seger and Jonna Andersson of Sweden (Getty Images)
Alessia Russo of England scores a sublime back heel third goal whilst under pressure from Caroline Seger and Jonna Andersson of Sweden (Getty Images)
Alessia Russo of England celebrates scoring their side’s third goal (Getty Images)
Alessia Russo of England celebrates scoring their side’s third goal (Getty Images)
England’s coach Sarina Wiegman celebrates with England’s midfielder Jill Scott (AFP via Getty Images)
England’s coach Sarina Wiegman celebrates with England’s midfielder Jill Scott (AFP via Getty Images)
England players celebrate in the dressing room after their sides victory (The FA via Getty Images)
England players celebrate in the dressing room after their sides victory (The FA via Getty Images)
England’s Leah Williamson, left, and Ellen White celebrate (AP)
England’s Leah Williamson, left, and Ellen White celebrate (AP)
The England team form a huddle following victory (The FA via Getty Images)
The England team form a huddle following victory (The FA via Getty Images)

Now they are in the final, England must not forget what got them there. Their success at this tournament and under Wiegman has come from playing sharp and incisive attacking football, with the focus on getting wide players Beth Mead and Lauren Hemp into the game.

It has proved incredibly effective, with England scoring 20 goals in five games at these finals. The only time they have stuttered was against Spain in the quarter-finals, when they were starved of possession and needed a late equaliser before sneaking through 2-1 in extra-time.

Given the size of the occasion and quality of opponent there could be a temptation to tweak and tinker with that approach, but Wiegman will not fall into that trap. She has named the same ­starting XI for every game at this tournament and is expected to do so again on Sunday. No manager, in a men’s or women’s Euros, has done that.

Wiegman is a fan of continuity and rhythm, which is why she has kept preparations for the final the same as other matches.

The squad travelled back from Sheffield on Wednesday morning after their 4-0 semi-final win over Sweden, with those who played doing a recovery session in the afternoon. The unused substitutes trained normally. Yesterday, the whole squad had a rest day before training ramped up this morning ahead of another session tomorrow.

It is the same strategy Wiegman employed five years ago when she was in this position with Holland, and they went on to beat Denmark 4-2 in the final.

“It’s quite easy to prepare for a final: just do the same as for the other matches,” she said in 2017, which gives an insight into her thinking this week. “Keep things as normal.”

Germany, like England, also believe the key to victory will be getting their forward players on the ball. Their captain and striker Alexandra Popp is a formidable presence upfront and is tied with Mead on six goals in the race for the Golden Boot.

Sarina Wiegman will resist the urge to tinker with her England team against Germany (The FA via Getty Images)
Sarina Wiegman will resist the urge to tinker with her England team against Germany (The FA via Getty Images)

Popp provides Germany a focal point in attack and, while she is a huge goal threat, her ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play is just as vital.

“She’s just a beast in there,” said Germany midfielder Lena Oberdorf. “That’s exactly what we need from her.”

A clash with Germany might make England’s quest for Euros glory harder, but there is an argument that it is good news for the FA.

The game is the perfect crescendo to a tournament that has captured the attention of more and more people as each round has progressed.

England vs Germany is the perfect crescendo to a tournament that has captured the attention of more and more people as each round has progressed

Sunday’s match is expected to draw a record crowd for a women’s Euros final and a record TV audience for a women’s sporting event in the UK.

This whole tournament has been about getting eyeballs on the sport and there is no easier sell than England versus Germany in the final at ­Wembley. The FA just hope the lasting image is Lionesses captain Leah Williamson holding the trophy aloft.

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