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There’s a youthful layer beneath England’s experience which could deliver for a long time to come

July 28, 2022

ENGLAND spent years building for Women’s Euro 2022. Their run to the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup and 2017 European Championships hinted a team reaching maturity and the sight of the Lionesses in Sunday’s Wembley final against Germany will be further proof of this. This tournament has been the culmination of a long process.

Ellen White, who has started all five of England’s matches at Women’s Euro 2022, has 112 caps to her name. She had made her senior international debut all the way back in 2010. Lucy Bronze will soon join White as an England centurion having been a regular first team performer for the best part of the last decade.

Bronze, Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood, Millie Bright, Fran Kirby, Nikita Parris, Jill Scott, Demi Stokes and White have collected 740 England caps between them, highlighting the experience within Sarina Wiegman’s squad. England might never have won a major tournament before, but they are certainly accustomed to high-pressure encounters.

Beneath this veteran experience, though, there is a layer of youthful exuberance that will sustain this England team for years to come. Wiegman hasn’t made many changes – she has stuck with the same starting lineup in four of England’s five matches at the tournament so far – but the Dutch coach has been smart with the young players she has introduced at opportune moments.

Alessia Russo has been one of the emergent stars of England’s Women’s Euro 2022 campaign, and not just because of her audacious backheel-nutmeg in the semi-final demolition of Sweden. Only Beth Mead and Alexandra Popp have scored more goals at this tournament than Russo whose pace, strength and tenacity has given England a different dimension in attack.

Unlike many of her England teammates, Russo is still a relative international newbie, but already boasts a track record of eight goals in just 12 appearances. On top of this, the 23-year-old finished the 2021/22 NWSL campaign as Manchester United’s top scorer. She has the potential to be a central pillar for club and country for a long time to come.

Another Manchester United youngster, Ella Toone, has also made a valuable contribution at Women’s Euro 2022, most notably scoring the equaliser in the quarter-final against Spain that essentially kept England in the tournament. Her appreciation of space and how to exploit it gives Wiegman another useful option.

Georgia Stanway has been a driving force through the middle of the pitch for England and is still only 23. Keira Walsh, Wiegman’s first-choice anchor at the base of the midfield unit, is 25 and still has her best years ahead of her. Lauren Hemp is only 21 and might well be the brightest young English talent of her generation.

Of course, England’s medium-to-long term outlook could depend on Wiegman’s plans. The 52-year-old is widely revered as one of the best managers in the women’s international game right now and could feasibly desire another challenge should she lead England to Euros glory. But with the 2023 Women’s World Cup on the horizon, there is surely more for Wiegman to target.

No matter what happens at Wembley on Sunday, England can look back at a landmark tournament that has captured the imagination of a nation. The Lionesses have more than proved themselves as one of the strongest international teams around and the depth in their squad points to more than just a golden generation. There has been a culture shift. Women’s Euro 2020 may have been the culmination of something, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a continuation.

 

Women's Euros