England return to Wembley Stadium for a European Championship final. This time it is the women’s team that is going for the title.
Sealed with a brutal goal from Alessia Russo, England swept past Sweden on Tuesday with a 4-0 win in the first semi-final of Euro 2022.
Germany or France await in Sunday’s final – they play on Wednesday – and the winner takes on a host team that captures a country’s imagination. Just like the England men’s team did at Euro 2020 last summer, when it reached the final at Wembley but lost in a penalty shootout to Italy.
“Football’s Coming Home” chanted the excited home fans in the crowd of 28,624 on Bramall Lane in Sheffield in the closing minutes of what turned out to be a one-sided match as England reached the final of a European Championship for the third time, after 1984 and 2009 England lost both times and never won a major international tournament.
The Swedes, the world number 2 behind the United States, would represent England’s toughest test of the tournament, but they had no answer to the attacking power of Sarina Wiegman’s team.
Or its brilliant finish.
Beth Mead scored her sixth goal in the tournament to get England on track. She controlled Lucy Bronze’s cross from the right and fired the first turn on the turn from 10 yards in the 34th minute.
After Germany’s Inka Grings in 2009, Mead is only the second player to score six goals in a single European Championship for women.
Bronze scored himself in the 48th with a header into the far post from a left corner, the ball went through two pairs of legs and past late diving goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
The third goal was the best of them all and summed up the confidence that flooded through this England team.
Russo – like a substitute – had saved a shot from close range, but collected the rebound and, away from goal, produced a brutal heel that went through 39-year-old Lindahl’s legs.
Fran Kirby added the fourth chip from the edge of the area where Lindahl got both hands but couldn’t prevent the ball from rolling into the net.