The Three Lionesses are starving. After reaching the semi-finals of the last three international competitions in which they took part, the English finally hope to be able to triumph on their land for this Euro football 2022. The mastery and ease of the host country during the group stage are commensurate with the expectations placed on the selection.
However, the Lionesses initially doubted, after a sluggish victory against Austria (1-0) at the opening of the tournament, on July 6 in Manchester; but they reassured themselves by disintegrating Norway (8-0), then walking around against Northern Ireland (5-0). Result of these three meetings? Fourteen goals scored, a record at this stage of a Euro (the previous one was held by Germany, with eleven goals scored in 2001), none conceded, and a ticket for the quarter-finals easily composted.
It is therefore against Spain, on Wednesday July 20, that the English tournament really begins. With a lively and diligent game, they now have a mission: to win the first trophy in their history, after the unfortunate finals of Euro 1984 and that of 2009. The Three Lionesses are increasingly seen as favorites. "England are so far ahead of everyone at the moment," Northern Ireland coach Kenny Shiels said in a press conference after suffering British efficiency on the pitch. I must say that if they didn't win the tournament, it would be a failure. If you have the best players, you have to win. »
The Batavian method
Successful in recent years, the English seem to have taken a further step with Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman, undefeated at the head of the selection since her arrival in September 2021. The replacement for Phil Neville, former boss of the women's country team -Bas, has already left its mark. "England have always had talented players, but Wiegman has brought confidence and freedom to this team," said Emma Sanders, women's football journalist for the BBC. She develops clever tactical plans, is adept at calm management, and shines with her personality: the players have immediately reacted positively to her method. »
Starting with Bethany Mead, current top scorer of the tournament. Since the arrival of the Dutchwoman in charge, the Arsenal striker has been reborn. "She is the top scorer under Sarina Wiegman [19 goals and 12 assists in 16 games] and has also been excellent with Arsenal throughout the season," said Emma Sanders. She was unlucky not to be selected for the Olympics last summer, but bounced back confidently to show her quality. A rebound confirmed by his remarkable start to the Euros: five goals and three assists in three games played.
But the high-flying performances of Beth Mead and her teammates have so far failed to provide them with the same grassroots fervor as their male counterparts, beaten by Italy in the Euro 2021 final. matches of the English selection were still sold out - nearly 69,000 spectators in the opening match - the country is not yet living to the rhythm of its Euro. "I think that outside of the usual football fans, the craze will not really start until the semi-finals, regrets Charlotte Harpur, journalist for the site The Athletic. People who aren't very interested in the sport will then think, "Oh, the women's team is pretty good, actually!", and they'll relate. »
Win the Euro to win hearts
Generalized indifference confirmed by Emma Sanders. "There's always a lot of excitement about the England team, but in this tournament it doesn't feel like there's been a big push into a new market and into a new audience," he said. she. The BBC Sport website and BBC Radio 5 Live were well attended. But, yes, the TV numbers at the moment are lower than the 2019 World Cup."
This burst of interest will perhaps be too late to permeate an entire society and bring about the paradigm shift desired by the Football Association (FA), the English Football Federation. “The FA would like the attention linked to the Euros to carry over to the national championship, the Women's Super League, explains Charlotte Harpur. The objective is to ensure that people will regularly fill the stadiums in the heart of the season, to exceed a thousand or two thousand spectators per game. »
Lucy Bronze and her teammates know what they have to do to win the hearts of England: win. But there is still a long way to go before the coronation, Sunday July 31 at Wembley Stadium. In the quarter-finals on Wednesday, the Lionesses will first have to tame the Spanish selection at the Community Stadium in Brighton. "Spain are very good in midfield, we know that," Charlotte Harpur said. But La Roja haven't been clinical in front of goal, they've lacked accuracy so far: it's up to us to put them under pressure! “Spain as an appetizer for the country of football, which dreams of feasting on a first continental title.