They came, they saw, they conquered. England’s Lionesses captured their first major international title this weekend after beating Germany in extra time to seal a 2-1 victory. Chloe Kelly sent Wembley into delirium with a 110th-minute strike, cancelling out Lina Magull’s equaliser that took the game beyond the 90. Sarina Wiegman managed the game excellently in the capital, as the Lionesses edged past the Germans in a nail-biting finish.
A fixture laced in history, England once again gained the bragging rights, and the win will help continue to break down barriers in the women’s game — helped by a crowd with exemplary behaviour on the night. Indeed, it was refreshing to see the hostility associated with this fixture almost nullified before a ball had been kicked. And while fans inside Wembley refrained from the usual derogatory chants from the stands, it was still a heated affair on the pitch.
Germany coming to town meant there was always a big-game-feel about the occasion. This was an opponent who established themselves as the dominant force in women’s football for over two decades, winning six Euros in a row as well as two World Cups at the turn of the new millennium. Fuelled by the burning desire to right the wrongs of their premature exit and title defence in the Netherlands back in 2017, there was no surprise Germany were favourites amongst football odds today but the home advantage certainly made its presence known, levelling the playing field for England and serving as a 12th woman on the pitch.
The testimonial-like atmosphere that echoed around the likes of the Amex Stadium and Bramall Lane was now replaced by a boisterous crowd eager to see their side take the trophy on home soil, something the men’s team failed to do months earlier.
Where Gareth Southgate’s side were swept away by the occasion — undone by the emotion of the game and losing on penalties to Roberto Mancini’s calculated and experienced Italy side, Wiegman’s composure from the touchline — characterised by her neatly arranged sleeves, which maintained their place throughout the 120 minutes, and wristband dedicated to her late sister always on display — got the team through its toughest moments.
They often say a team is a personification of their manager’s character and this England team had composure in abundance. The Dutch coach was a breath of fresh air throughout the tournament, inheriting solid foundations laid by Phil Neville and taking the Lionesses to the next level.
When Ella Toone opened the scoring just after the hour mark, it looked as though the trophy was as good as won. England had controlled the majority of possession, and while Germany had shown glimpses of quality, they failed to really get a grip of proceedings until their desperation really showed. Magull’s equaliser could have caused the players to panic, but like their manager kept their cool and avoided the tension of a penalty shootout with Kelly’s winner.
“This is unreal. This is what dreams are made of,” the Manchester City player said. “Thank you to every single person. Honestly, it’s amazing.
This is what dreams are made of.
“It’s unbelievable. To be here and score the winner, these girls are special, this manager is special. This is amazing. I just want to celebrate now.”
The win at Wembley will hopefully go a long way to increase participation in the women’s game and serve as a watershed moment in the country’s history — the day football finally came home.