LONDON (REUTERS) – All eyes were on England like never before as the Lionesses completed their fairy-tale run at the Women’s European Championship by beating the dominant Germans 2-1 in Sunday’s (July 31) final at a sold-out Wembley Stadium.
A record 87,192 crowd went into a frenzy when substitute Chloe Kelly scored in extra time to seal England’s victory and a first major trophy for the Lionesses, who roared throughout the tournament.
The win marked a monumental day for English football – it comes 56 years after England’s men beat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final, the only previous major trophy won by a men’s or women’s England senior team.
But above all, it highlighted the huge strides made in the women’s game in the country, where the Football Association (FA) banned women’s football for nearly 50 years in 1921.
Having twice fallen at the final hurdle, it proved to be third time lucky for England as the Class of 2022’s memorable run throughout the tournament lifted spirits all around the country.
“The Championships and your performance in them have rightly won praise,” Britain’s Queen Elizabeth said in a letter to the Lionesses. “However, your success goes far beyond the trophy you have so deservedly earned.
“You have all set an example that will be an inspiration for girls and women today, and for future generations.”
Sarina Wiegman’s team were unstoppable as they scored a record 22 times during the tournament, including an impressive 4-0 thumping of second-ranked Sweden in the semi-finals.
After the final, she said they had changed society with their win. The tournament smashed records from one week to the next and garnered huge media coverage in Europe. The entire attendance record for a Women’s Euros was beaten halfway through the tournament in England and the hosts were ever-present on the front pages of newspapers as they reached their third major final, finally getting over the line.
“I think we really made a change. I think this tournament has done so much for the game but also for society and women in society in England but I also think in Europe and across the world and I hope that will make a (bigger) change too,” Wiegman told a news conference shortly after it had been interrupted by the team coming in, dancing and singing around her.
“It’s really, really nice to see what we saw today when we came into the stadium how enthusiastic everyone was and how the fans have stood behind us.”
Prior to the final, skipper Williamson hoped that regardless of the result, the tournament would prove transformational for not just the women’s game but gender equality at large.
The 25-year-old emphasised the team’s impact after lifting the trophy: “The legacy of this tournament and this team is a change in society; we’ve brought everyone together.”