A tournament they fulfilled all expectations.
Record crowds, quality football, and gripping drama.
A true success on and off the pitch
And a tournament that means Millie Bright, Fran Kirby, Jess Carter and Bethany England will return to Kingsmeadow as European Champions – but one that overall with mixed fortunes for the Blues representing their nations..
The following review focuses on the Chelsea players involved in the business end of the official biggest ever Women’s Euros – appraising how they and their nations fared, as the record-breaking tournament came to its spectacular conclusion at Wembley on Sunday evening, in front of over 87,000 fans of women’s football.
As a refresher, the review of the group stage can be found here.
Sixteen teams had been reduced to eight, but there was set to be Chelsea FC Women involvement in each of the quarter-finals of Euro 2022, as the knockout stage began.
Germany, England and France had won the most plaudits following the opening round of games. Two of the pre-tournament favourites in Sweden and Spain had slightly underwhelmed expectations – in terms of performances, if not results – and the defending champions, the Netherlands, had looked short of the side who upset the odds to win in 2017.
Denmark, Norway and Italy were some of the early casualties – with the quarter-final line up instead completed by the more unfancied Austria and Belgium.
England 2-1 Spain (AET)
England came from one goal down against a Spain team who had frankly been the better side for most of the game, to avoid an embarrassing early exit at the Lionesses’ home tournament.
Spain had not been at their best in the knockout stages, and were clearly missing star players Alexia Putellas and Jenni Hermoso, as they failed to live up to the pre-tournament hype.
La Roja finally turned up in Brighton though – dominating the midfield and possession, to give England by far their most difficult game of the tournament.
Fran Kirby in the midfield was suffocated by the Spaniards, and did not have the best of games, being substituted in the second half.
Millie Bright meanwhile, was outstanding – and eventually named Player of the Match, furthering her claim as the best centre half at this tournament.
England had equalised late in the 90 through Ella Toone – brought on for Kirby – and then won it in extra time with a Georgia Stanway wonder goal.
Jess Carter and Beth England again did not feature.
Germany 2-0 Austria
Ann-Katrin Berger again did not make an appearance for Germany – having not played a minute yet at the tournament, as firm second choice to number 1 goalkeeper Merle Frohms.
Austria have proven themselves with their performances at this tournament to be a very capable and well-organised team – and did pose a challenge to Germany. The game was slightly less straightforward than the scoreline looks – with a late mistake from Austrian keeper Manuela Zinsberger putting a 2-0 gloss on the game, which belied how close the game was in stages.
However, aside from an opening spell where the Austrians hit the post, the Germans never looked in true danger of going out – and so dutifully marched on to the semi-finals.
Sweden 1-0 Belgium
Magda Eriksson did not have much defending to do in a game in which Sweden eventually scored with their 34th attempt, in the 92nd minute.
Belgium had adopted a very low (and successful) block – and the game was a case of challenging Sweden to batter down the barricade.
It was not the best performance from the pre-tournament favourites – but they did what they needed to do.
Again, Zecira Musovic did not play, with Hedvig Lindahl still preferred as first choice goalkeeper.
France 1-0 Netherlands (AET)
A match that the French should have won comfortably, given their dominance – but instead required extra time, and a penalty, to secure the victory and advance to what was their first semi-final at any tournament since the 2011 World Cup.
Eve Perisset, our new signing who turned many heads with her performances in the group stage, was again a standout in what was really an outstanding attacking display from France… aside from the goals.
This was thanks mainly to some heroic defending and even more heroic goalkeeping from breakout star of the tournament Daphne van Domselaar. The 22 year old was only introduced to the team due to the injury to Dutch veteran Sari van Veenendaal in the opening game. Van Domselaar looks to have made the place firmly her own with her performance – and her senior colleague has since announced her retirement https://www.espn.com/soccer/netherlands-nedw/story/4708700/netherlands-captainpsv-goalkeeper-sari-van-veenendaal-retires-at-32, signifying the beginning of a true changing of the guard for the Dutch.
After much toil, it was Chelsea’s Perisset who eventually proved the goal hero for the French – scoring the decisive penalty in extra time.
Aniek Nouwen was a late substitute for the Dutch, in extra time – and could really do little to affect the game. Nouwen will leave the tournament disappointed with the result for her team, but with more valuable experience of a major international tournament – Anieuk is still only 23, and likely has a long career for her national team ahead of her, especially as the Netherlands are a side transitioning to a new era
With the quarter-finals complete, there remained Chelsea representatives in each of the four countries left standing – meaning we still had eight players still in with a chance of becoming European champions.
England 4-0 Sweden
Sweden had been the bookies’ favourites heading into the tournament – but had not really played like it. As in the quarter-final vs Spain, England discovered that it was to be the game against them that their opposition finally turned up in – and were thoroughly under the cosh in the opening 25 minutes.
Millie Bright stood up admirably in defence, as she has done all tournament – and helped England to survive the onslaught.
The game was to completely change shortly before half time, when Arsenal’s Beth Mead finished superbly from England’s first real chance of the game to put the Lionesses into a 1-0 lead that was slightly against the run of play.
But nobody could have predicted the second half.
England stepped it up to their brilliant best – and the Swedes folded, with echoes of England’s thrashing of another Scandinavian nation earlier in the tournament, when they demolished Denmark 8-0.
Magda Eriksson was amongst a Sweden defence that crumbled as England scored three second half goals. Fran Kirby, starting her fifth consecutive game created the third goal – an absolutely stunning and never-to-be-forgotten backheel nutmeg from Alessia Russo. Kirby then put the icing on the cake with England’s fourth – an audacious chip past the hapless former Chelsea goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, who had had a torrid time in the second half.
Zerica Musovic, Jess Carter and Beth England again did not feature.
The Swedes exited very disappointed, given their expectations pre-tournament, and status as the highest ranked European country in the FIFA rankings. With an ageing side, it may well have been the last chance for this generation of Swedish players to win silverware.
England, meanwhile, advanced on to a Wembley final at their home tournament – and celebrated their success with a raucous crowd at Bramall Lane, amongst scenes of utter delight and rapture.
Wembley awaits, England expects.
Germany 2-1 France
Ann-Katrin Berger was again an unused substitute, although the Germans did concede their first goal of the tournament in this game – an unfortunate rebound off of number one Merle Frohms. Nonetheless, Frohms’ place remained entirely safe for the subsequent final, after the Germans won a deserved victory against a spirited France side.
An Alexandra Popp brace either side of Frohms’ error won the game for Germany – who advanced to their ninth final, having won all eight finals they have previously contested.
Germany legend Popp has been one of the stories of the tournament, having scored in her fifth consecutive game after having never before featured at a Euros, missing the previous two with injury.
Eve Perisset overall had an excellent tournament – and France proved a point to onlookers, who doubted their credentials due to their constant dressing room drama (much of which is attributed to manager Corinne Diacre). Their so-called ‘quarter final curse’ has been broken with their first ever Euros semi-final – and that must be taken as a success for Les Bleus.
The stage was set, with 87,000 in attendance at Wembley – a new crowd record for both men’s and women’s matches at the Euros. It was a showpiece occasion to round off what had been a seismic tournament for women’s football in England, and by extension the game at large.
In a final that seemed destined from the early days of the group stages, host nation England were to play Germany in the latest iteration of a truly historic footballing rivalry.
England had never won a Euros – having lost 6-2 to Germany in the 2009 final, at a time when England were at best semi-pro, and Germany set the standard in the women’s game. England have since caught up, on the back of real investment and support – but were yet to have the breakthrough of winning a major tournament, which would mean they had truly broken through as a genuine powerhouse of the women’s game.
The Lionesses were riding a wave of momentum and public support at their home Euros – but Germany were riding the history of being the country that owns this tournament, having won it eight times, and never lost a final.
All agreed these were the two best countries at the tournament – and hence this was to be a fitting match-up to determine the champions.
England 2-1 Germany (AET)
Sarina Wiegman set a new Euros record, in naming an unchanged XI for the sixth game – meaning Millie Bright and Fran Kirby started again for the Lionesses.
All three of Jess Carter, Beth England and Ann-Katrin Berger were not to feature – meaning the latter two did not play a minute at this tournament, and Carter was limited to only a cameo role against Northern Ireland in a dead rubber.
But that will have mattered little to the two Englishwomen, who celebrated England’s Euros win with all of the enthusiasm that it deserved – Beth England even being one of the first to lift Sarina Wiegman into the sky in jubilation
Millie Bright was again a rock in defence for England – especially in the nervous extra time minutes when Engalnd had to defend a lead for the second time, after having been pegged back in the second half by Germany.
Fran Kirby had looked sharp early on, and created an excellent chance for Ellen White – but was soon taken out of the game by the oppressive Lena Oberdorf in Germany’s midfield, and was substituted around the hour mark.
The details paled into significance at full time for all of Chelsea’s Lionesses though, who are now part of history for their nation.
To round it off, Emma Hayes was spotted crying on the touchline. She surely would have been immensely proud of her players – who it is fair to say, would likely not be performing at this level without the influence of their club manager.
They think it’s all over… et cetera.
The team with the most Chelsea representatives are the one who have won the Euros – meaning Bright, Kirby, Carter and England now have some fresh winners’ medals to add to their extensive collection of club honours.
The best-performing Chelsea player outside of the Lionesses was easily new signing Eve Perisset – whose performances for France should have many Blues fans excited about seeing her at Kingsmeadow come September
The other Chelsea players involved were mainly left disappointed.
Of those who did feature for their nations, Pernille Harder suffered a disappointing group stage exit in a poor showing from the Danes, despite her own individual performances being the best thing about Denmark at this tournament.
Guro Reiten will be even more disappointed after a disastrous group stage failure for Norway – despite her free kick in their 3-1 opening win against Northern Ireland, which had helped get their tournament off to a good start.
Aniek Nouwen’s Netherlands also underwhelmed and were knocked out in the quarter-finals – with Nouwen having had a mixed and injury-hit tournament.
Magda Eriksson performed definitively “alright” for Sweden – who look to have reached the end of their current cycle, and are left without a trophy to show for it despite so many impressive performances at major tournaments in recent years.
Pre-season is already underway at Kingsmeadow for the non-international players. The players involved at the Euros will have a well-earned rest, before coming together again to leave the summer behind them, and start matters anew for Chelsea.