Euro 2022: The inside story of England’s win, as told by the Lionesses

World
Watch Lionesses: Champions of Europe on BBC iPlayer.

A new BBC film reveals the inside story of England’s fairytale success at Euro 2022 – told by the players involved.

In July, England made history by winning their first major women’s tournament. The circumstances in which it happened – with a final against Germany at Wembley, could not have been more perfect.

Along the way, the Lionesses broke all sorts of records and captivated a nation.

An insightful hour-long documentary on BBC iPlayer relives the whole thing – here are five key takeaways.

1. ‘Scorelines like that, in a Euros, it really doesn’t happen’ – England 8-0 Norway

Beth Mead celebrates with Leah Williamson of England after scoring their team's fourth goal during the UEFA Women's Euro England 2022 group A match between England and Norway.
Beth Mead got a hat-trick against Norway, after scoring the winner against Austria

The Lionesses did not fire on all cylinders in their opening match of the tournament – a laboured 1-0 win against Austria.

However, they took things into fifth gear for their second match in Group A, trouncing Norway 8-0.

This had not been in the script. Two-time European Championship winners, Norway were considered England’s biggest test in the group stages. Amongst their many qualities, having 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg up front made the Scandinavian side a real threat.

In the documentary, ex-England international Alex Scott underlines the achievement.

“Scorelines like that, in a Euros, it really doesn’t happen,” Scott says. “The teams are so close in Europe – the standard is phenomenal…I still can’t believe it happened.”

2. ‘Sarina came in and life changed’

England came into the Euros on the back of being knocked out at the semi-final stage in three successive major tournaments.

When Dutch manager Sarina Wiegman took over the team in 2021, part of her job was to instil a belief that her squad really could go all the way.

Ellen White, 33, had been there and done it all. Euro 2022 was her sixth major international tournament. She says that Wiegman “changed so much”.

“She really gave us a sense of belief and she had that communication in a manager that we’ve never had before.”

‘The world around me has changed’ – England boss Wiegman on Euros triumph

Mead also credits Wiegman with helping to turn her own fortunes around. During the summer of 2021, before Wiegman’s arrival, Mead was left out of the Team GB squad for the Olympics. She went on to become top scorer and the player of the tournament at Euro 2022.

“Football can be overcomplicated sometimes,” Mead says during the documentary. “We over-complicate it, bring all these tactics, talk and buzz around it, but Sarina has an amazing knack of just simplifying things.”

Another player who almost dropped out of the England set-up was goalkeeper Mary Earps. The 29-year-old considered quitting football in 2021. For her, the understanding with Wiegman helped to turn things around.

“I didn’t even think I was going to be in a squad for a major tournament again, let alone playing in a final against Germany at Wembley,” she says. “I can vividly remember the days of feeling really down. I’d reached my limits, given it a good go, but I just wasn’t quite good enough. I had responsibilities and a mortgage. It wasn’t adding up. Eventually, I decided, ‘okay, I’ll give it a couple more years.’ Sarina came in in September and life changed.”

3. ‘I felt like we were destined to bring it home’ – coming back against Spain

Ella Toone of England celebrates after scoring her team's first goal during the UEFA Women's Euro England 2022 Quarter Final match between England and Spain.
Ella Toone scored arguably the most important goal of her career after coming on against Spain

One of the Lionesses’ toughest tests came in the quarter-final match against Spain. The Spanish were pre-tournament favourites and when Esther Gonzalez’ goal went in, some fans’ heads dropped.

Not for the only time that campaign, Wiegman’s substitutions paid off. Manchester United forward Ella Toone gave England the equaliser from the bench in the 84th minute before Georgia Stanway completed a dramatic comeback in the sixth minute of extra time.

Toone, 23, reflects on her volley: “That was the most important goal of the tournament, I’d say. If that didn’t go in, we could have been knocked out there and then, which is crazy to think.”

Captain Leah Williamson describes how that goal changed the mood of the squad.

“This is how I felt – we were just not going to be beaten. Or at least not that easily, anyway.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Earps.

“I just didn’t feel like we were destined to go home,” she says. “I felt like we were destined to bring it home. It’s weird – as soon as we equalised, I knew we were going to win the game.”

Meanwhile, defender Lucy Bronze says that the Spain result “made us realise, ‘We can win this tournament’.”

4. ‘Where have you pulled that from?’ – Russo’s backheel and 4-0 v Sweden

Alessia Russo's celebrates scoring against Sweden in the Euro 2022 semi-final
Alessia Russo’s backheel against Sweden will go down as one of the most skilful major tournament goals

The Lionesses went through to the final in style when they beat Olympic finalists Sweden by a scoreline that nobody predicted. Well, almost nobody. Former England international Fara Williams, who was commentating pitchside, got the call right, explaining in the film that four is her lucky number.

Player of the tournament Mead broke the deadlock on 34 minutes to get England going.

“I wasn’t selected for the Olympics,” she says. “Obviously, I was in not a great place after non-selection. It lit a fire inside of me. I was very much motivated to show people what I was about as a footballer and not let that one moment define me.”

Manchester United forward and England ‘super-sub’ Alessia Russo – who scored four goals and made one assist in six appearances off the bench – scored the cheekiest of backheels for England’s third.

“I said, ‘where on earth have you pulled that out from’?” says Toone. “I’ve never seen Less do that in her life and I’ve known Less a long, long time. I honestly couldn’t believe that she did that.”

5. ‘Nothing will ever change what we’ve just done’ – the Wembley final

Everything that the Lionesses had achieved in the tournament culminated in a magical final against Germany.

Toone started on the bench again, but was brought on in the second half and managed to break the deadlock.

Reflecting on her goal, she says: “I didn’t think that I was at Wembley, in a final, playing in front of all those people. I just thought, ‘it’s another game of football and I’m through, one-on-one with the keeper, so I best put it in the back of the net’.”

After Germany equalised in the 79th minute, the game went to extra time. Manchester City forward Chloe Kelly scored an iconic goal in the 110th minute that would ultimately win the game and the trophy.

“It felt so quiet to me,” she remembers. “I didn’t hear the roar of the crowd in that moment – I couldn’t hear anything other than the girls on the pitch.”

Euro 2022: England players & manager react to winning final against Germany

Pandemonium followed at the final whistle – England finally ending their long wait for a major trophy.

“I still get goosebumps now thinking about it,” says Toone. “We were laughing, crying, celebrating with the fans – all within one minute of what felt like madness. I get a lump in my throat thinking about that moment and how special it was.”

Williamson adds: “All I kept thinking in my head was, ‘nothing will ever change what we’ve just done’.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *