Watching England dance, sing and show off the Euro 2022 trophy in front of thousands in Trafalgar Square was enough to keep fans happy for years to come.
A first major trophy in their history, a fine run of 20 games without defeat under the management of Sarina Wiegman and a Euros record at home on several fronts. Well, it doesn’t get much better, does it?
Delighted England fans have called for statues of Wiegman to be built outside Wembley Stadium to celebrate her – and her team’s success – and hometowns having offered the honors « liberty of borough » to English stars.
However, despite all the accolades and deserved praise, defender Lucy Bronze has already started thinking about the World Cup in 2023.
« I feel like I’m on top of Europe, but there’s still one we can get our hands on, » said Bronze, speaking on stage in London’s iconic square.
« Our crest on the England shirt is missing a little star, » Bronze added, referring to the star which signifies a team has won the World Cup.
“It’s definitely one of our missions to get this star there. »
And the Lionesses, who top their World Cup qualifying group and have every chance of qualifying for next year’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand, don’t have long to wait. to try to add to their trophy cabinet.
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Given what England have achieved in the 10 months since Wiegman took over, there will be high hopes that the team can also end their wait for a first-ever World Cup title.
Football Association (FA) chief executive Mark Bullingham even admitted winning the Euros so early in Wiegman’s tenure was something they hadn’t expected – and winning the World Cup was more realistic.
But what England’s incredible success at Euro 2022 has done is lay a very solid foundation for 2023.
As Bronze pointed out, young players like last game winner Chloe Kelly, 24, ‘super-sub’ Alessia Russo, 23, and Manchester United star Ella Toone, 22, have all taken part in their first major tournament and have known nothing but victory.
The confidence, fearlessness and joy of this final victory over Germany will serve them well in the future.
After stopping the cycle of successive semi-final exits, the mental barrier that was once there for senior players is no longer in the way.
« We always want more, » Toone said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a very long time and now we have it, we want more.
“We want to go to the World Cup and do exactly what we just did. »
The youth is also on the side of England.
Eleven of the Euros squad’s 23 players are aged 25 or younger, including captain Leah Williamson, 25, and key Manchester City duo Keira Walsh, 25, and Lauren Hemp, 21.
Euro 2022 Golden Boot and Golden Ball winner Beth Mead is still just 27, while number one goalkeeper Mary Earps is 29.
This means there is unlikely to be much change in the squad next year and they can continue to build strong bonds under Wiegman.
USA’s golden generation of Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd have helped them dominate the last two World Cups – knocking out England in the 2019 semi-finals en route to back-to-back titles.
But this is England’s ‘golden generation’ and it’s hard to see them not fighting for more silverware, given how efficiently they won their first.
From the moment Wiegman arrived, there was a cultural shift in the English camp that brought them together in a way they had never been before.
Early successes helped reinforce this. England won 8-0 in their first match in charge and by the end of 2021 had scored a staggering 53 unanswered goals in six matches.
A first taste of silverware came in February when they won the Arnold Clark Cup Invitational, beating out Germany, Canada and Spain, who were all seeded above them.
Confidence continued to grow, performance improved, and Wiegman impressed with his tactical intelligence and effective decision-making.
Wiegman managed to successfully chart a route to the Euro 2022 title – she asked for more competitive fixtures, she asked to play games across the country to build home support and she had specific requests for the Euro base camp in London – all of which were delivered.
With the FA showing they are fully willing to support Wiegman and his team, they delivered the results and the much sought after trophy. There is no doubt that she will have the support of the organization again next year.
Expectations will rise, of course, with players now in the spotlight after their historic success.
But the Lionesses have shown this summer that they can handle the pressure.
Other nations will be stronger next year – Spain, Germany and France showed their pedigree at Euro 2022, while Austria and Belgium also impressed. Add the United States, four-time world champions, to the Olympic champions of Canada, and all of a sudden, winning the World Cup becomes a more difficult proposition.
However, as the teams begin to prepare for next year’s tournament, the question of how to stop Wiegman’s England will be foremost on their minds.
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