Euro 2022: How England have evolved under Wiegman

Even Sarina Wiegman could not have predicted the first 10 months of her tenure would include a 19-match unbeaten run, which saw over 100 goals scored by England on their way to a first women’s major tournament final in 13 years.

The Lionesses manager came with a pedigree – she had guided the Netherlands to back-to-back major finals and won Euro 2017 on home soil.

Her aim was then to win Euro 2022 with England.

But while those expectations existed, it was always a big ask for the Dutchwoman to come in and turn a bruised England team into European champions in less than year.

Yet, as England supporters once again serenaded their team at full-time on Tuesday following their sensational 4-0 win over Sweden , singing the lyrics to Three Lions, they were dreaming of glory.

One more victory is needed at Wembley for England to become European champions, joining the men’s 1966 World Cup team in the history books.

Wiegman could become one of only four coaches to win the women’s Euros twice if England claim victory in Sunday’s final.

Her impact on this England team is already clear.

Their Euro 2022 campaign has seen them score the most goals in a group stage while conceding none, as well as recording the competition’s largest margin of victory (an 8-0 win over Norway) and the biggest semi-final win in the history of the tournament.

Those impressive results have coincided with an improvement in performances.

England look fluent and creative in attack, more solid and combative in midfield and assured and composed at the back.

Individuals are thriving. Beth Mead is leading the Euro 2022 Golden Boot race with six goals and three assists, Millie Bright has become a prominent leader in defence and Alessia Russo has been given a licence to cause havoc as a substitute.

England huddle

But the most crucial influence Wiegman and her staff have had is bringing a change in culture, something Mead highlighted after their semi-final win.

“From the beginning there was a click,” said Wiegman.

“You feel an energy and that people believe in how we want to work and play. I don’t take it for granted.

“Sometimes it goes in good ways and sometimes in wrong ways, but you have to believe in what you are doing.”

There is no doubt England believe in the process.

Despite being 1-0 down to pre-tournament favourites Spain in their quarter-final, they did not panic and conversations with captain Leah Williamson and Wiegman took place as they tweaked formations and style.

Bright seamlessly moved into a centre-forward position like it had been rehearsed daily, while the substitutes came on knowing their exact roles and what was expected of them.

Wiegman is a pragmatic person – she has plans, back-up plans and a level-head in pressured situations.

All of those traits have rubbed off on her players so not only do they know precisely what their jobs are on the pitch, they do not panic when it is not working because they move on to the next gameplan.

“We can’t speak any more highly of her. She’s brought such a great environment and culture into the team,” said Mead.

“There’s a lot of clarity in the way we’ve played. We’ve always got a Plan B, C, and D. We know the way we play and it’s very good right now.”

Sarina Wiegman and Rachel Daly

There has been a distinct change in mentality among England’s players too.

Tuesday’s match was their fourth successive major tournament semi-final, with their three previous attempts ending in defeat.

The 2015 and 2019 World Cup defeats involved individual errors and cruel misfortune, with a humbling defeat at the hands of Wiegman’s the Netherlands in Euro 2017 sandwiched inbetween.

But despite England’s well-documented inability to jump the final hurdle, there has been resolute confidence in the team this tournament.

England’s players look relaxed and, as the cliche goes, they ‘take each game as it comes’.

Of course, an unbeaten run and victory in February’s inaugural Arnold Clark Cup tournament helped boost confidence, but Wiegman has taken pressure off individuals – rarely singling out players in post-match media conferences – and has always encouraged a togetherness in achievement.

She wants her players to enjoy themselves too.

Wiegman has often said their aim is to “entertain fans” with their style of play and she encourages England’s extensive depth of attacking quality to express themselves.

That means doing so on the pitch but also off it. England have celebrated long after the final whistle following each victory at the Euros.

Asked about the celebrations in the dressing room after the victory over Sweden, Mead said: “There’s some classic songs being played. I think I’ve been more out of breath in the changing rooms than in the game!”

You would expect an England team chasing the country’s first major trophy in 56 years to feel pressure – but they don’t seem to.

Wiegman, speaking to the media for the first time as England manager back in September , said: “I come here to bring the next level.”

She has already done that, whether England win Sunday’s final or not.

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