England’s character shines through
Wednesday’s quarter-final was the toughest test Sarina Wiegman’s England have faced so far. As soon as Spain scored, this was the time where everything they have learned under the Dutch coach was about to come into play.
In previous tournaments, the Lionesses may have become overawed by the occasion. Much of the almost 29,000-strong crowd were backing England, and often at times, got on their backs when things were not going well. This has rarely – if ever – happened to the Lionesses under Wiegman.
- England 2-1 Spain (AET) – Match report from the Amex
- Women’s Euros 2022 fixtures and results
- Listen and subscribe to Sky Sports Women’s Euros podcast
- Download the Sky Sports App
They were also facing a Spain side who tried everything in their arsenal to put off an in-form and often dominant England. They had the better possession, more shots and other tried other tactics too, but England’s mental toughness won the day.
It could almost be dubbed ‘the Sarina effect’. This is exactly the kinds of situations she was bought in to navigate, making the Lionesses better at riding through those tough moments – or this case, almost entire games – and still come out on top.
While England did go into the fixture as favourites, Spain were the bookies bet before Alexia Putellas was ruled out with an ACL injury. La Roja are the first team the Lionesses have faced this tournament who are ranked above them and their character to reach the semi-finals under such pressure cannot be underestimated.
“It’s definitely one to be proud of,” winning goalscorer Georgia Stanway told the BBC after the game. “It just shows the level we are at. We get a setback and we come back. Job done.”
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
Every player and even Wiegman herself said during the build-up that the manager’s absence due to Covid-19 had not interrupted preparations, and neither did the UK’s unprecedented heatwave. For a while, some may have whispered that they were mitigating factors, but in reality, neither had a contribution to the outcome either way,
And while the singing and celebrations will go on for another few hours yet among the England camp, immediate focus will turn to next week’s semi-final when dawn breaks tomorrow. The Lionesses will have two extra days of rest than either Sweden or Belgium – who play on Friday. They must make that preparation count.
Walsh key in England turnaround
For much of normal time, Keira Walsh found herself unable to influence the game. Spain, wary of her ability to dictate proceedings from the base of midfield, hounded and harried her in possession, their pressing ensuring she had no time to settle on the ball.
As they started to tire, though, Walsh took advantage.
The 25-year-old, finally able to find space for herself as England searched for their equaliser and Spain became stretched, began doing the things she does best, carving the opposition open and providing the ammunition her team-mates needed.
She was involved in the build-up to the equalising goal, a key figure in the patient build-up play which allowed Lauren Hemp to cross for Alessia Russo to set up fellow substitute Ella Toone.
And from then on, she ran the game, showing off her full repertoire of distribution as she did it.
In stoppage time at the end of normal time, there was a sublime, diagonal pass to release Chloe Kelly on England’s right. Not long after that, a brilliant through-ball for Hemp sent her Manchester City team-mate scampering into the Spain box.
Walsh even claimed the assist for the winner, feeding Georgia Stanway to charge forward and score in sensational style. Stanway’s strike ensures her name will dominate the headlines, but it was Walsh who laid the groundwork for the turnaround.
England will hope the injury which forced her off in the closing stages was no more than cramp. They will need her back at her best when they take on Sweden on Belgium in the last four.
Hemp, Mead struggle to have an influence
England’s frontline going into this game had the tournament’s top scorer, the country’s soon-to-be record scorer and one of the best young players on the planet.
Each of the trio of Beth Mead, Ellen White and Lauren Hemp were either out-schemed or weren’t at their best on a night England had their struggles.
Ona Batlle still possesses Hemp’s soccer soul despite the result, while White’s position in the starting XI comes under huge scrutiny going into the semi-finals due to the international emergence of Alessia Russo.
Spain showed how to deal with each threat individually, causing huge problems for England’s attack collectively.
It can be argued England have only started one of their last seven games with conviction. That kind of trepidation could be punished in the final four.
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
Keep up with all the latest from Euro 2022 across Sky Sports and Sky Sports News this summer.
Coverage will be anchored by Sky Sports WSL presenter Caroline Barker, alongside Jessica Creighton and Kyle Walker. Meanwhile, Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett will give analysis throughout the tournament.
They will also be joined by experienced England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Manchester City defender Esme Morgan.
The pundits and presenters will work from the Sky Sports Women’s Euro 2022 Mobile Presentation Bus, which will follow the Sky Sports News team around the country to the various stadiums where matches are being played.
In addition, Sky Sports’ Essential Football Podcast will be rebranded for the tournament to Sky Sports Women’s Euros Podcast from 21 June. Hosted by Charlotte Marsh and Anton Toloui, it will feature exclusive news and player interviews in addition to a strong programme line-up around the tournament.
The knock-out phase…
Wednesday July 20
Quarter-final 1: England 2-1 Spain
Thursday July 21
Quarter-final 2: Germany v Austria – kick-off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Friday July 22
Quarter-final 3: Sweden v Belgium – kick-off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Saturday July 23
Quarter-final 4: France v Netherlands – kick-off 8pm, New York Stadium
Tuesday July 26
Semi-final 1: England v Winners quarter-final 3 – kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Wednesday July 27
Semi-final 2: Winners quarter-final 2 v Winners quarter-final 4 – kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK
Sunday July 31
Winners semi-final 1 v Winners semi-final 2 – kick-off 5pm, Wembley