Women's Euros: 'Missing puzzle piece' Wiegman the key to England's triumph, says Sanderson

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Sarina Wiegman was the "missing puzzle piece" England required to get over the line and win a major tournament, former striker Lianne Sanderson has told Stats Perform.

England Women landed their first major title on Sunday with a 2-1 victory against Germany at Wembley in the European Championship final.

In doing so, Wiegman became the first manager to win the tournament with two different nations, having previously gone all the way with the Netherlands in 2017.

Wiegman, who officially took over as head coach last September, has a record of 12 wins from 12 matches at the Women's Euros.

Sanderson herself went close to winning the competition in 2009, a substitute as England tasted defeat to Germany in the final.

The former Arsenal and Chelsea player, who earned 50 caps for her country, believes Wiegman deserves huge credit for helping the Lionesses end their wait for major silverware.

"I genuinely believe she's the missing puzzle piece," Sanderson said. "She's done it in back-to-back tournaments, both times on home soil.

"You have to have the right players, but also the blend of a good manager, and I think she's shown that.

"A lot of the players said that she didn't really draw upon her experience with the Netherlands, that she wanted to leave it in the past. But the players have been fantastic."

England are the fifth side to win the Women's Euros
England are the fifth side to win the Women's Euros

Wiegman settled on a winning formula across England's six tournament matches as they became the first team to name the same starting XI in every match.

The Dutchwoman regularly got the big calls correct, not least in the final as both goalscorers – Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly – were introduced from the substitutes' bench.

Indeed, seven of England's 22 goals came via substitutes when excluding own goals – only Germany (eight in 2009) have scored more in a single edition of the Women's Euros.

And in the view of Sanderson, that decision-making is why Wiegman deserves such high praise.

"Everybody knew their roles and responsibilities," Sanderson said. "That was pretty evident. At times, I thought we should mix up the team, like against Northern Ireland.

"There were times where I thought she'd play Alex Greenwood instead of Rachel Daly [at left-back]. But she's the only manager that's kept the same side and that proved the correct call.

"Last year in the men's [Euro 2020], everybody tried to pick the team. I thought Jack Grealish should be playing, then he didn't play in the final.

"We always say we're all the England manager when it comes to tournaments. But ultimately, that's why they get paid the big money. That's why they're in the positions they're in.

"I genuinely wish she was there when I was there because I think she's been a major, major catalyst in this. And she's not even been there a year."

England's triumph has been hailed as a landmark moment for women's football in England, with the tournament attracting record attendances.

More than 87,000 spectators were present at Wembley on Sunday, and Sanderson believes the perception of women's football has already completely changed.

"I've been so thrilled and blessed to be at all the games for England. I think that yesterday shows you where the women's game is at, where it's going to be," she said.

"It is massive for the women's game. But it's massive for football in this country. It's our first major trophy win [for the men or women] since 1966.

"A lot of people were sceptical. They've got nothing to say now because those people that have those dinosaur mentalities will get left behind, and I just think it's absolutely incredible."

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