It’s finally come home! England have won the UEFA Women’s Championship 2022 in a 2-1 defeat of Germany just moments ago. The squad have concluded their Euros tournament with a thrilling win, going to extra time after a tense 90-minute bout.
In front of a sold-out Wembley audience of near 90,000 – an attendance record in a European Championship – the squad rightly topped off an incredible season. Their 4-0 victory against Sweden during the semi-finals cemented them as the team to beat, and boy did they make it tough.
The first goal came from forward Ella Toone 67 minutes in, with England's victory looking certain until an equaliser from Lina Magull in the 79th minute. The 1-1 draw was eerily similar to the Euros mens final in 2020, right up until Chloe Kelly scored a whopper at 110 minutes bringing England's win home. The ladies played in front of FIFA president Prince William who looked jubilant throughout the game.
Prior to the tournament, Grazia spoke to midfielder Fran Kirby and defender Lucy Bronze who both hoped their Euros success would create the same buzz enjoyed in 2021 for the men’s Euros. ‘We want to create that buzz again,’ Kirby told Grazia. ‘The whole team is so excited.’
Sold-out stadiums are a stark contrast from when Fran and Lucy first took centre stage for England, with Fran noting that her first game for the senior squad wasn’t even televised. But the attention is well-deserved, the women’s game has been massively underrated since its inception. It was only in 2018 that the FA Women’s Super League announced all of England’s top tier players would be paid full-time, previously they had to hold down traditional jobs while playing football on the side – all the while competing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup and UEFA Women's Championships. Still now that remains the case for players in lower league tournaments – an unimaginable fact compared to the men’s game, where players in the lowest leagues still make an average of £1,000 per week.
Will Euros success make a difference to how seriously brands, sponsors and football associations take the women’s game? The players certainly hope so. ‘For me, it’s about time brands started to see women’s football as a way to generate their profile and build the women’s game,’ Kirby says. ‘We deserve it. The girls who I grew up playing with on the England team have fought so long and hard for it.’
Lucy agrees, in fact she wants more for the women. ‘As much as everything has improved, every single area can keep improving whether that is sponsorship or facilities – I don’t think there’s any place that’s completely nailed down everything in a whole package. We see the things [the men’s teams] have that would improve the women’s game – the number of staff for example, some women’s teams have one physiotherapist whereas men’s have 10.’
They’ve proved they deserve it time and time again, and after tonight’s game? No one can argue against that.