‘It’s just the beginning’: How the Lionesses Captivated a Nation
Friday, 5 August 2022
Women's football supporter Finley Chung talks us through his experience of the Lionesses' historic Euro's campaign
Girls on the Ball
On Sunday 31st July 2022, 54 years of English football hurt was no more. Chloe Kelly stabbed home from close range in extra time to seal a historic win for the Lionesses and an even more historic moment for English football.
Euro’s fever had certainly captivated the nation since the tournament’s beginning on the 6th July 2022. Whether it was through Beth Meads goalscoring exploits, Mary Earps pulling out unreal saves or Keira Walsh dictating play, the demand to see the Lionesses came from all corners of the country. Each game virtually a sell-out, players becoming household names, Ella Toone and Alessia Russo being serenaded any time anyone put on ‘Rockin All Over the World’ in any pub or club.
From my personal point of view, I had been a fan of the Women’s game for a while. Being a Spurs fan and season ticket holder for the men’s side, I often took interest into what the women’s team were doing, especially following our promotion to the WSL back in 2019. On the international front, I only attended my first ever Lionesses game in 2021, a 5-0 win over Northern Ireland at Wembley in a World Cup Qualifier. Walking away from Wembley that night, not only was I dazzled by Beth Mead’s brilliance from her fourteen minute hat-trick, but I had a new found soft spot and connection for the Lionesses.
Fast forward to July 2021, ‘Meado’ had just scored (shock) the winner in the opening game to Austria at Old Trafford and I thought to myself, ‘I wonder how far this team can go?’ The group games rolled by and 3 wins later, we were handed a tough test. Spain were our opponents in the Quarter Finals. I sat down to watch that game at home, thinking about how even if you travelled back one year and told me I would be this captivated, this hopeful and this invested in the Lionesses, well I’d have laughed you back into the pub you’d probably just stumbled out of!
Photo: Girls on the Ball
As we all know, Georgia Stanway’s rocket was the difference in extra-time and aside from waking the neighbours children, that goal encapsulated everything about this team. Fight, passion, desire and a sprinkle of magic. We saw off Sweden in the semi’s, with I’m sure hundreds of people attempting and watching Russo’s delicious back heel the day after! I for one am still amazed how she had the nerve to do that in a European semi-final, it’s probably why she’s the professional footballer and I’m sat in my room writing this!
That was it, England were in a major final, against Germany at Wembley. There was something rather poetic about it! I managed to bag myself tickets in the extra sale on the UEFA portal on the Wednesday before the final which put me on cloud 9, if only I knew how worth it all the queuing on the portal would actually be!
Final day came around, I dusted off my England shirt and headed off to Wembley. After getting off at Wembley Park and getting a glimpse of Wembley Way, there was a special feeling in the air. No flares, no open use of drugs, not too much of a heavy police presence, all of which happened the last time an England side made a European final.
This time you felt safe, kids getting face painted, programme sellers enjoying cheerful banter with fans, English and German supporters mixing, chatting, TV cameras getting photos of people, the whole walk up just felt so smooth. No sooner was I in the ground, Becky Hill opened the pre-game show with a brilliant performance and then the teams came out. Raucous cheering, the Wembley band blowing their trumpets and banging their drums, the Lionesses were in the final and the majority of the 87,000 crowd inside Wembley would back them all the way.
In the first half, both Germany and England battled and defended well. Mary Earps and Millie Bright somehow denied Germany in a goalmouth scramble while Ellen White prodded over from close range at the other end, 0-0 at half time.
Photo: Girls on the Ball
Second half substitute Ella Toone was introduced and soon showed why, Kiera Walsh delivered a superb ball over the defence for Toone to lift deftly over the advancing keeper and put England ahead. Cue, bedlam!! ‘It’s coming home’ was being belted out of the Wembley stands and admits all the joy, bang. A German sucker punch. An equaliser to take it to extra-time.
England v Germany in extra time of a major tournament, many of us had seen this film before, but these Lionesses clearly ripped up the script. In the second half of the extra period, Chloe Kelly won a corner then geed’ up the crowd, got herself into the box and made history. She stabbed the ball home at the second time of asking to send Wembley into raptures and create a moment of English football history.
Photo: Girls on the Ball
I went mad, as well as everyone else and after superbly seeing the game out, the party could really start. England had not only beaten Germany, but the Lionesses had secured their first ever major trophy and ended 54 years of hurt in the Sunday sunshine in a moment nobody under the Wembley arch will ever forget.
Writing this in the days after, it’s all I can still think about, it still feels so surreal to have even been there for the final! One thing it does do, is catapult Women’s football in England to the forefront of everyone’s mind, every news outlet and so much more. Couple that with the excellent work campaigns like HerGameToo are doing and selling out a friendly against the US Women’s National Team inside 24 hours, I along with many others have a new found love and obsession with Women’s football, and it’s all thanks to these wonderful, inspirational, Lionesses.