Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman says leading England to a first Women’s World Cup final is a “fairytale”.
After England’s 3-1 win over Australia in the semi-final, Wiegman is the first coach to take two countries to the final of the tournament, having led the Netherlands to the 2019 showpiece.
“We achieved the final, it’s unbelievable,” said Wiegman.
She also achieved back-to-back wins at the Women’s Euros with the Netherlands in 2017 and England in 2022.
“It feels like we won it [the whole tournament], we didn’t win it, but we won this game,” added Wiegman, 53.
She has now reached four major tournament finals in a row, with her two triumphs at the European Championships separated by a 2-0 defeat for her native Netherlands by the United States in the 2019 World Cup final.
“The chance that, as a coach or as players, to make it to finals is really special – we made it to four already,” added Wiegman after England’s semi-final success.
“I never take anything for granted but it’s like I’m living a fairytale or something.
“We made the first final in 2017 [with the Netherlands] and thought this is really special, it might not ever happen again. Then you make the second, the third and the fourth and still think this might never happen again because there is so much competition.”
England will play in a first football World Cup final since the men’s side won the 1966 tournament.
“I can hardly describe how proud I am of the team,” said Wiegman.
“This team has adapted all the time. Before the tournament, during the tournament then this game again – how we came through and found a way to win again is so incredible.”
Before Wiegman took charge in September 2021, the Lionesses had made it to two consecutive semi-finals under Mark Sampson and Phil Neville.
But they lost on both occasions – defeated 2-1 in 2015 by Japan, before losing to the United States by the same scoreline in 2019.
Since Wiegman’s arrival, England have gone on to win 30 of their 38 games, picking up two Arnold Clark Cup titles, the Euros trophy and the first Women’s Finalissima.
A 30-game unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of Australia in April – their only defeat under the Dutchwoman to date.
After England’s victory over Australia this time around, captain Millie Bright said: “The mentality of this group is something I have never seen before. That comes through Sarina and the belief she gives us.”
Former England international Izzy Christiansen said the semi-final win was “another masterclass” from the England manager.
“I’m out of superlatives to describe Sarina Wiegman,” said Christiansen.
“To come in and change the culture, instil a winning mentality, to create a brand of football that is pragmatic, interesting and lets the talent flourish.
“We saw in the starting XI tonight that she had all of her best players on the pitch – some managers struggle to find ways to get the best out of their best players.”
After Chelsea’s Sam Kerr cancelled out Ella Toone’s opener for England, it was Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo who stole the show for England with the decisive goals.
Hemp showed great determination in chasing down Australia defender Ellie Carpenter to grab the second, while Russo completed the scoreline with a calm finish for her seventh goal in 12 appearances at major tournaments.
“I came to this competition with so much belief. I just want to be fearless, I want to show what I can do on the biggest stage,” said Hemp.
“I feel really fearless at the moment. I feel like I’m playing some of my best football but obviously there’s still more to show.
Speaking about her partnership with Russo, Hemp added: “I feel like my connection with ‘Less is so strong.
“We work off each other really well and I think we complement each other’s strengths. We’re both so different as players that we just work so well together.
“Throughout the tournament we have built such a great connection on and off the ball. She’s a great person to be my strike partner.”
Russo said: “I love playing with Hempo. First of all we have such a nice relationship off the pitch. I think we know how to get the best out of each other and she’s brilliant.”
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall, who will have Russo in the Gunners ranks for the forthcoming WSL season after her move from Manchester United, said the England pair are the “two hardest-working forward players” he has seen at this year’s World Cup.
“I think when you see her and Lauren Hemp play together, they are not only good with the ball and with their movement, they are so hard working,” said Swede Eidevall.
“Together they never give up. They hunt down every ball down to the last inch and it paid off two games in a row.”