England stutter, but find their gear to arrive at the Euro 2022 final in style.
Updated: Jul 29, 2022
England 4-0 Sweden
Fourth time lucky, as they say. England went from the brink of crumbling to a triumph against Sweden.
Thought Fara Williams was having us on when she predicted 4-0 to England before the game - she probably was. The thought of that score line seemed even more ludicrous 25 minutes in, but miraculously, that’s how it ended up.
Goals from Mead, Bronze, Russo and Kirby saw England beat Sweden convincingly - in the end.
This puts the Lionesses into their first major final since 2009 and they finally win a semi-final, at the fourth consecutive time of asking.
The first 25 minutes…
Frankly, the first 25 minutes were bad. Worryingly bad.
Sweden hadn’t really played that well up until this point, but they didn’t half start this game well.
Mary Earps had to make, one of many, good saves 20 seconds in from Sofia Jakobsson. A very early wake up call.
Earps did punch the ball onto her own crossbar about 5 minutes later - but she didn’t put a foot (or hand) wrong with everything else she did.
Fridolina Rolfö was giving Lucy Bronze the runaround and hit the side netting. Kosovare Asllani was everywhere, much like in the 2019 World Cup bronze medal match.
England for the most part looked like they had the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Turning the ball over in midfield constantly to set up Swedish counter attacks, which is where they are most dangerous. Struggling just to pass the ball to each other. Overthinking in the final third. Making the wrong decisions.
Very much like their quarter final, Sweden could’ve wrapped the game up in the first half really, with the chances they had.
It wasn’t looking good.
England turn it around (with a bit of help from Sweden).
England had settled down a bit but Beth Mead’s goal still came rather out of nowhere.
Rachel Daly found Lauren Hemp (who had her best game of the tournament) who flashed a good ball across the box, Lucy Bronze picked it up and crossed to Beth Mead who had far too much time to touch, swivel and put the ball into the bottom corner.
Mead was really quite poor for the first 34 minutes, before she scored her 6th goal in 5 games.
Much like how France came alive after they scored against the Netherlands in their quarter- final, England seemed to take the hand-break off a bit.
Lucy Bronze - who, like Mead, really wasn’t having her finest game - headed in England’s second 3 minutes into the second half.
The timing of that goal saw Sweden off really. They responded by bringing on the likes of Lina Hurtig, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd and Hanna Bennison.
Earps did have to make another very good save, tipping over from Blackstenius. But as the game went on, Sweden just wilted.
England did anything but wilt. Alessia Russo came on for Ellen White on 55 minutes and did about the most audacious thing ever seen in a Euro semi-final.
After rather poorly hitting a shot right at Hedvig Lindahl, she made up for it by back-heeling it through the goalkeepers legs. As you do.
Russo is now joint second in the golden boot standings, despite not having started a game.
That nutmegging was only the beginning of the nightmare for Lindahl.
Fran Kirby deserved a goal. Even when England were in the trenches in the first 25 minutes she - and Leah Williamson - stood out. Kirby was essentially anonymous against Spain, but she had one of the performances of the tournament against Sweden.
Lindahl clearly agreed with this sentiment, as Kirby’s chip from distance slid through her hands and into the back of the net with 14 minutes remaining.
It was bedlam by this point at Bramall Lane.
England saw out the rest of the game with minimal drama. And that was that. England through to the final.
Even the players looked like they didn’t know what to do with themselves when the full time whistle went.
So then, the final…
At long last, after years of investment into professionalising women’s football in England, by the FA (still with a way to go), they are on the brink of reaping the rewards.
Germany or France will await on Sunday at Wembley.
England will be bouncing into it. But there’s still things to work on.
Sarina Wiegman made her disapproval of the poor first half performance very clear in her post match interview. England must sort that out.
It’ll be a step -or two- up, but if they can keep the nerves in check and play to their potential. It’s absolutely there for the taking.