England are through to the final of the European Championship after an impressive win over Sweden with goals from Mead, Bronze, Russo and Kirby
BRAMALL LANE – In England we like to portray ourselves as a nation of sporting losers. It takes the sting out of the inevitable lows and even injects a little humor into them.
England 4-0 Sweden (Met 34′, Bronze 48′, Russo 68′, Kirby 76′)
Not this team from Sarina Wiegman. They’re winners, determined when they’re second best, and enthusiastic when they finally get going.
It’s hard to underestimate how quickly they’ve captured the public imagination, from the fan zones of Trafalgar Square to deafening Sheffield – but Fran Kirby had previously insisted that wasn’t enough.
They didn’t want to be known as just another team of do-gooders and do-gooders who didn’t win anything. After three heartbreak doses in the semi-finals, England finally have a chance to make amends under the Wembley arch on Sunday.
Nights like these should never be taken for granted, especially when they could have been so different. The clock had barely reached 30 seconds when Sofia Jakobsson broke through, one of many occasions when England’s high line made her sweat.
Sweden aimed for the space between Lucy Bronze and Millie Bright, Jakobsson had time to get her shot away and without Mary Earps’ legs Sweden would have broken some hearts.
Just as Spain have shown in the last eight, if you push hard enough it is possible to cut off England’s blood supply. Magda Eriksson dealt with Beth Mead’s early crosses and Fran Kirby couldn’t quite find the pace on the counter to break through the final third. Hanna Glas’ move to left-back, with Jonna Andersson only fit enough for the bench post-Covid, threatened to throw a corner ball to England.
This was an opportunity for the attack behind Ellen White to use her imagination, and Kirby in particular has it in abundance.
Lauren Hemp has not achieved the tournament many hoped for, but while she is on the court her pace will always be a weapon. That’s how it turned out when she got her back off, only to dodge White’s stretching boot.
Bronze was waiting. She was given an unfortunate taste of next season’s Barcelona training when she was terrorized by future teammate Fridolina Rolfo in the early stages, and Wiegman may have been thinking carefully about how far she wants her full-backs to rise on the pitch , when there was bronze Mead. The striker’s touch was precise and ended in a shot that was so well placed that the camera flew into the goal.
Mead knew exactly what she was doing. Bronze, on the other hand, looked a little surprised just after half-time when the ball flew in mid-air from a corner and, despite another ridiculously drawn-out VAR check, realized she had put England out of sight.
As English Euro history is being made, and it could soon be all going according to plan in Sunday’s final, think of Earps, who may not be mentioned in the introductions but lacks the joy and simplicity of the final minutes would not have been possible. With the score at 2-0, England sat low and was hanging for their lives as two saves in as many minutes – the second full force – thwarted the threat.
The best was yet to come. If Alessia Russo’s spin against Northern Ireland had been glorious, her hacking into Muscat goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl would hardly have been allowed before the turnaround. Luckily the sky had turned black and the night was as good as over from a Swedish point of view.
If anyone deserved to be involved, it was Kirby. After all she’s been through, no one would have blamed her if her speculative attempt from distance had gone wide, but a clumsy rebound ended in the net. In truth, Lindahl – and the rest of the country – was still reeling from Russo. England turned the style up as far as Wembley.
ears 9 – Denied Jakobsson within 30 seconds, stopping Blackstenius with one hand and making two incredible saves with England sitting deep 2-0
bronze 7 – Assisted Mead’s goal and scored England’s second goal but had to recover after Sweden identified the gap between the right-back and Bright as England’s Achilles
bright 7 – There was a risk she wouldn’t have the pace to handle England’s High Line. Fewer aerial threats to contend with, but well-done basic clearances
William’s 7th – Lost the ball in a tussle with Kosovare Asllani in the middle but was composed overall
day 7 – Could have been targeted after their struggles against Spain but knew their role and did well in their 1v1s
Walsch 7.5 – Typically subtle and somehow instrumental in one. The highlight was a great cross field ball out for Hemp
Default 7.5 – Some huge tackles in the middle and even tried to replicate her miracle shot from the quarters but waited a moment too long
Kirby 8 – Ex-Chelsea team-mate Hedvig Lindahl almost lent a hand on her long-range shot but she deserved her goal. Some delightful through balls to Mead
Mead 8.5 – A goal where the camera broke in the goal and then she retaliated for bronze. England’s player of the tournament strikes again
hemp 7 – Has drawn criticism in recent weeks, but caused problems for Björn and Ilestedt and switched far into the middle