England hold their bottle in front of 68,817 at Old Trafford (just).
Updated: Jul 16
England 1-0 Austria
After what feels like about 72 years of build-up, can you believe it, Euro 2022 is finally underway.
The Lionesses are receiving more media attention and hype than ever before. They are being labelled as one of the favourites in a group of 16 very good teams. With all eyes on them, this was their chance to get off to a good start at their home tournament.
It was rather important for them not to bottle it.
Captain Leah Williamson started at centre half after all, at the expense of Alex Greenwood. Wouldn’t say it’s curtains for Greenwood, Wiegman has made it very clear that Williamson can play in both positions, therefore there is a high likelihood that we will see her in midfield at some point during the competition. Ellen White also returned, despite Alessia Russo’s recent good performances in her absence.
Let’s not forget Austria. They are good. A bit of a dark horse perhaps. Stacked with a fair few regulars from the Frauen-Bundesliga, as well as some WSL players, they could’ve been (and nearly were) a banana skin for England, particularly on such a high pressure occasion.
After a rather lengthy video package from Natalie Portman, of all people, and UEFA’s best pyrotechnics, the game began.
The atmosphere was absolutely booming, but it seemed to have an adverse effect on England, who were really not very good for the first 10 minutes. A frenetic start was perhaps to be expected, but Austria were on top by quite a distance, with the adrenaline evidently coursing through England’s veins.
Fair play to Austria, they were going for it with their press, not giving England a minute and it was working for them. England were making a lot of mistakes.
England rode the wave and after the first 10 or so minutes, they got into it a bit. Ellen White subsequently headed over from a Lauren Hemp cross in England’s first attack of the game.
After 17 minutes (and a rather edgy VAR check), England took the lead through Beth Mead. Fran Kirby played the ball across to Mead, who chested it into her path and lobbed Zinsberger in the Austrian goal. The ball just about squeezed over the line. Old Trafford erupted.
(Just to bring everyone back down to earth after such jubilation, there was a Mexican wave.)
The goal did England the world of good, for a period. Austria began to fade and it should’ve been 2-0 shortly after, with Ellen White somehow managing to put a header from the middle of the goal, rather far wide.
By the half hour mark, England had improved and looked more comfortable in possession, but if we're being honest it was quite hard to look more uncomfortable than they did in the first 10 minutes.
Their final decision making however, was still rather awry and they seemed to go into cruise control, when in reality they were still teetering on a perilous edge with just a 1-0 lead. Said edge was demonstrated when Austria fired just over towards the end of the half.
There was another wasted opportunity just on half time, with Kirby putting too much on the pass across the six yard box to Hemp, meaning the latter had to take a touch and allowed Zinsberger to get across and make a save.
The first half was not vintage by any means, but England grew into it and most importantly, were winning.
Moving into the second half there was still some uncharacteristic errors, from Walsh and Bronze in particular, which was creating momentary panic stations, worryingly close to England’s goal at times.
England started to waver again and Wiegman clearly noticed, having no messing around, as she made a triple substitution on the hour mark. Russo, Kelly and Toone all on for, White, Mead and Kirby.
With 20 minutes remaining, it was Russo’s turn to miss a good opportunity, adjusting well to meet Hemp’s deflected free kick, just not able to get a good contact on the ball.
Even the usually unflappable Sarina Wiegman was starting to flap just a touch, pacing along her technical area as England laboured to kill the game off, whilst it got more and more transitional.
Mary Earps had a couple of straightforward saves to make late into the second half but nevertheless, England held on.
You could almost hear the sighs of relief from the England team amongst the raucous euphoria at full time. Of course, it was a fantastic occasion for all involved, but there is a definite sense of it being out of the way.
It was perhaps the worst England have played under Wiegman. Yet they still won.
Stanway and Bright were both very good. Amongst some nervy looking performances, those two stood out.
The substitutes. All were keen to get on the ball and added a positive energy.
The start. England just need to calm down a bit because they can’t be starting the same way against Norway.
Missed good chances. Ellen White in particular, as well as Hemp and Russo. That won’t slide if England want to go far.
The midfield was wide open, leaving the defence looking extremely exposed at times. Wouldn’t be surprised if Williamson plays in midfield against Norway.
England can do better, the players know that, Wiegman knows that and the fans know that. This was a performance to build on, and build on it they must against Norway on Monday.