England vs Spain: Lionesses know they can’t make any errors against pre-Euros favourites

·3-min read
All smiles: England captain Leah Williamson in training ahead of tonight’s Euros quarter-final (Getty Images)
All smiles: England captain Leah Williamson in training ahead of tonight’s Euros quarter-final (Getty Images)

Before a ball was kicked at Euro 2022, it was Spain, not England, who were the favourites to go all the way. Now, though, as the sides prepare to meet in the quarter-finals tonight at the Amex, the tables have turned and the Lionesses are the bookmakers’ pick to be holding the trophy aloft at Wembley on July 31.

England’s status as tournament favourites is justified, given they breezed through the group stage with a perfect record, scoring 14 goals and conceding none in the process.

Spain, in contrast, had to settle for second place in Group B after losing to Germany — their first defeat since 2020. The air of invincibility they have built up over the past two years has certainly faded. It has not completely gone, though, and England will not expect anything like a similar night to the 8-0 group-stage thrashing of Norway on their last visit to Brighton.

Spain, who are one spot above eighth-placed England in the world rankings, will present a much sterner test, and the Lionesses are well aware of the challenge ahead of them.

“They are a team that we obviously massively respect,” said England captain Leah Williamson. “The way they play football is good to watch and they are all a product of that same style. All the players are on the same page.

“They definitely have a lot of threats, but I think we are a team, despite our ranking, in good shape and form. Hopefully, our threats are enough tonight.”

Spain are England’s toughest test so far at this Euros and theirs is a team very much in the mould of great Barcelona sides of old. It is likely more than half of their starting XI tonight will be from the Catalan club, and their influence on the team is clear to see.

Like Barcelona, Spain love to keep the ball and will try to dominate possession and pick a way through England’s defence. When the two sides met at Norwich’s Carrow Road in February in the Arnold Clark Cup, Spain had 66 per cent of possession in a goalless draw.

England fielded a rotated team that night, and they are a different proposition now.

Their attack is flying and will be almost unrecognisable from the one Spain encountered five months ago. Lauren Hemp and Fran Kirby were both on the substitutes’ bench that day, while Beth Mead was not in the red-hot form she is now.

Spain’s hunger to dominate possession should play into those forwards’ hands, with Germany and even

Denmark showing how space is there for attackers to exploit behind the defence.

“I expect them to play the game that they’ve played all the time,” said England boss Sarina Wiegman. “They will probably have a lot of the ball, too. It’s all about trying to use our strengths and trying to exploit their weaknesses. Yes, we do know if we are a little deeper on the pitch there comes a lot of space, because they have such an attacking style of play. We absolutely are aware of that.”

England are aware, too, of all the talk about the pressure on them to deliver on home soil, but they are not letting it faze them. Many of the squad have taken self-imposed social media bans during the tournament, insulating themselves from the outside world and focusing on the job in hand.

“What I want us to do is just play football,” added Wiegman. “Play at our best and use our strengths to exploit the weaknesses of the opponent. We know it’s the knockout stage, but that counts for the opponent, too. You (the media) talk about pressure all the time and we talk about football.”

England, as they have all tournament, will hope to let their football do the talking tonight.

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