England face Germany in the final of Euro 2022 on Sunday. Pre-tournament, our supercomputer gave the Lionesses’ a 33% chance of making the final at Wembley on Sunday. Five matches, 20 goals scored, and only one conceded later, they’ve made it.
Things haven’t gone England way against Germany historically in Women’s football. Just two of the previous 27 meetings have been won by the English (21 by Germany).
Despite the history, our pre-match predictor rates them as slight favourites for the title with a 52.5% chance of winning England’s first major international crown – men’s or women’s – since 1966. The Germans however have never lost a Women’s European Championship final, and they have plenty of experience having taken home the European title a record eight times.
How did England make it this far? We look at four reasons behind England’s success at Euro 2022.
No Need to Press
One of the most interesting differences between England and Germany at this tournament has been their approach to pressing. England’s Opposition Passes Per Defensive Action average (PPDA) has been firmly mid-table throughout the tournament, averaging 10.8 whilst Germany have been one of the most intense pressing teams, with a PPDA of 8.4 – second only to Spain (7.5).
Sweden for the most part kicked long against England, but when they did play it out from the back, England were generally happy to let Magda Eriksson progress with the ball until she began to approach the halfway line. In the picture below you can see that Beth Mead, who had been retreating towards her half, only looks to engage Eriksson once she approaches the mid-way point.
This is in contrast with Germany who often position two players on the edge of the opposition’s areas, including occasional midfielder Lina Magull, in order to immediately press when the ball is back in play.
Despite this difference in approaches to pressing, both England and Germany have recorded the two highest numbers of shot-ending high turnovers with 12 and 13 respectively with both teams scoring four goals because of their turnovers.
In the final, we can expect both teams to be focusing on finding chinks in their opponent’s armour as they build up. Both teams like to build up from the back so there will be plenty of opportunity for each side to put the other under pressure.
Building from the Right
England have created the most open play chances from the right third of the attacking half of the pitch at Euro 2022 – more than finalists Germany (19) and losing semi-finalists France (24) and Sweden (17). Therefore, it’ll come as little surprise that right winger Beth Mead and right-back Lucy Bronze have the second and third highest sequence involvement numbers with Mead having been involved in 32 shot-ending sequences and Bronze in 31.
Generally, England like to build up along the left-side of the pitch before switching it over to the right to attack the area. Germany’s left back Felicitas Rauch has had a very impressive tournament, but England will certainly be looking to put her under pressure. Equally their left-sided centre-back Marina Hegering has supported Rauch well, making the most interceptions of any player at the tournament with 12.
England manager Sarina Wiegman is nothing if not methodical so will likely have a number of other plans if England’s favoured attacking strategy is not offering as much joy.
Bringing Players Back from the Cold
It is astounding how two of England’s standout players at Euro 2022 did not go to the Olympics as part of the Team GB squad.
Neither Mary Earps nor Beth Mead travelled to Tokyo, with Carly Telford preferred as the experienced option in goal and Mead deemed not good enough. Yet both have had exceptional Championship tournaments.
Beth Mead is facing a shootout for the Golden Boot against Alexandra Popp on Sunday with both players on six goals apiece. There is a sense of ‘anything you can do I can do better…” between those two, with Mead breaking records throughout the tournament and Popp equalling it the next day.
In the semi-final against Sweden, Mead became the player to have scored the most goals ever in a Women’s European Championship, until Popp equalled her the next day with her two against France. However, Mead has not just been a scorer for England; she’s also been a key provider with three assists.
Mary Earps, meanwhile, has shown her quality particularly in these knock-out matches against Spain and Sweden. Earps has currently only conceded one goal despite having faced an expected goals on target of 5.3.
The distribution ability of Millie Bright and Leah Williamson in central defence have allowed her to focus on her shot-stopping. She got down smartly in the opening minute in the semi-final to save an early shot from Sofia Jakobsson with Williamson clearly knowing how crucial this save was for the Lionesses’ – when Alessia Russo scored England’s third a few minutes later, it was Earps who Williamson immediately ran too.
The performances of both have shown the value in Wiegman coming in to reassess the pool of players at her disposal and being open-minded about who she wants to use. Both Earps and Mead tend to improve when they are feeling confident and Wiegman’s faith in them has paid dividends.
It would be impossible to talk about this England team and not mention Wiegman’s super subs. Wiegman has used the same starting XI in every match this tournament and has used her substitutions almost identically as well.
In all five matches, Ella Toone, Chloe Kelly and Alessia Russo have been brought on, normally around the 60-minute mark. Their impact has been undeniable, particularly Russo’s, who has scored four goals in five games off the bench.
The more dynamic movement of Russo (in comparison to Ellen White) has made her tough to deal with for tiring opposition defenders whilst Chloe Kelly’s one-on-one ability makes her the perfect option as games drag on.
Whilst there have been some calls for Russo to start ahead of White, the way Wiegman uses her substitutions makes it clear that these attacking partnerships have been worked on specifically for the final 30 minutes of matches. You only have to look at the disorganisation of France as they attempted to get a goal against Germany in their semi-final to see how making lots of random attacking changes can actually disrupt your team. The impact of Wiegman’s shows how well-rehearsed these substitutions are.
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