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England are through to their first major final since 2009 after the Euro 2022 hosts powered past Sweden with a 4-0 victory at Bramall Lane.
Following a shaky start for the Lionesses in which Sweden’s Stina Blackstenius hit the bar, Beth Mead, already leading the race for the Golden Boot, put Sarina Wiegman’s side ahead with a 34th-minute strike that took her to six goals for the tournament.
Mead then turned provider in the opening moments of the second half, delivering a corner that was headed in by Lucy Bronze, before substitute Alessia Russo notched her fourth goal of these finals with a delightful back-heeled effort in the 68th minute.
Fran Kirby added the fourth with a chip eight minutes later and it could have been even more for England, with Lauren Hemp having rattled the woodwork at 2-0, as they comprehensively avoided more semi-final disappointment after exiting at this stage at their last three major tournaments.
They can now look forward to a showdown on Sunday with either Germany or France at a sold-out Wembley, where victory will secure them the first major trophy in their history.
It will be a third appearance in the competition’s final after the runners-up finishes of 13 years ago – when they suffered a 6-2 loss to Germany – and at the inaugural Euros in 1984, which saw them beaten on penalties by Sweden.
Triumphing on Sunday would also mean back-to-back Euros successes for boss Wiegman, who, after overseeing her native Netherlands winning the 2017 edition on home soil and then reaching the 2019 Word Cup final, has had an England tenure that remains unbeaten after 19 matches, with 17 wins, 104 goals scored and only four conceded.
The sense the team are on the brink of something special was certainly tangible among England fans in the 28,624 crowd at the stadium, with chants of “football’s coming home” reverberating around the ground at various points.
Wiegman again kept faith in the XI that had started each of England’s four previous matches at the tournament, while world number two-ranked Olympic silver-medallists Sweden, who triumphed 2-1 in the third-place play-off between the teams at the 2019 World Cup, had a line-up showing two changes as Peter Gerhardsson brought in forward Sofia Jakobsson and defender Hanna Glas.
The Swedes threatened in the opening seconds as Jakobsson was played in and saw her strike saved by Mary Earps’ boot, before Mead glanced a fourth-minute header wide at the other end from Kirby’s cross.
There were further scares for England soon after, Blackstenius bringing another save out of Earps, then heading against the bar from the resulting corner, and Fridolina Rolfo shooting into the hosts’ side-netting.
As Wiegman’s side then started to build some momentum, Ellen White and Georgia Stanway saw efforts gathered by Hedvig Lindahl, while Bronze headed a corner wide.
They then grabbed the lead just after the half-hour mark when Hemp’s cross evaded White, Bronze delivered the ball back into the danger zone and Mead turned and fired past Lindahl to add yet another goal to her haul and bring a huge roar from the crowd.
Stanway and Kirby each sent ambitious shots off-target before the break as England sought to boost their advantage.
The second goal did then arrive three minutes after the interval as Bronze headed home from Mead’s corner, the effort being confirmed after a VAR check for offside.
Sweden attempted to hit back, with Blackstenius heading wide, Hemp almost made it 3-0, seeing her shot come back off the bar, and Earps did well to tip over a Blackstenius effort as Gerhardsson’s team pushed again.
England’s job then appeared all but done when Russo once again made a mark after replacing White, beating Lindahl with a fantastic back-heel through the goalkeeper’s legs after she had parried her initial shot.
And it did not take long for the advantage to be extended further – and more singing to break out in the stands – as Kirby collected the ball from Mead and crafted a chipped attempt that Lindahl got gloves to but could not prevent going into the net.
Russo could not quite get on the end of a Hemp cross late on before the final whistle saw the noise level go up once again as England were confirmed as Wembley-bound.