"England have a ruthless side to their game"Ailura/Wikimeda Commons (Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Four years ago today, everything stopped. For seven minutes on a Tuesday night, the nation held its breath. In the Russian capital, Eric Dier stepped up to face Colombia’s David Ospina. One kick to make history. As we all remember, Tottenham’s midfielder converted, sending England through to their first World Cup quarter-final for twelve years. In a pre-Covid world, the Three Lions’ success marked one of the most memorable summers in recent years.

Four years on, and the football fanatic’s body clock feels off. The sun is setting late, pub gardens are heaving, and the club season is over. The time is right for international football. The forty-seven months since the last World Cup final have very much elapsed. But for the first time since the Second World War, the footballing world is being asked to prolong its wait. Due to the extreme heat in this year’s host country, Qatar, the World Cup will take place in the winter, adding five additional months to the inter-tournament gap.

“The women’s Euro has the rare opportunity to fill the vast vacuum that the men’s World Cup has left in its wake”

Enter, Euro 2022. This summer, under unique circumstances, we have a women’s competition in place of the men’s. Better yet, it’s right on our doorstep. Yes, the 2022 edition of the Women’s European Championships is being hosted by England. In the past, the men’s and women’s tournaments have operated on an alternating basis, with the men’s taking place in even years, and the women’s in odd years. However, this time around, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, everything is slightly out of kilter. With the men’s Euro 2020 being bumped forward a year, so too was the women’s Euro 2021.

The women’s Euro has the rare opportunity to fill the vast vacuum that the men’s World Cup has left in its wake. With the entire nation clamouring for its four-yearly dose of international football, denouncing the FIFA machine for spoiling its summer, the solution is staring us in the face. The stars have aligned for what could be a spectacular summer, this time with our Lionesses.

A possibility that is all the more likely given the history of the England side. Since the turn of the century, the Lionesses have outperformed the Three Lions, reaching three major semi-finals, as well as a final. The men, for context, have managed just one of each. While the factors explaining this comparative success are complex, the bottom line is that the women are capable of providing just as much excitement. All that remains is for the nation to invest.

And this should not be difficult considering the talent in the squad. Having announced her 23-player group, Sarina Wiegman has chosen a balance between experience and exciting new prospects. Between Fran Kirby, Lucy Bronze, Jill Scott and Ellen White, the four veterans share 219 England caps. These memorable names, who have featured in almost all of the recent major tournaments, are shouldered by the next generation. Arsenal’s Leah Williamson, for example, is taking on the captain’s armband, following the departure of defensive stalwart Steph Houghton. The midfielder is well respected as a leader, having captained the England U15s, U17s and U19s, with whom she famously took responsibility for a crucial penalty that had to be retaken five days after it had originally been converted.

“There’s huge potential for the Lionesses to capture the hearts of the nation, as the men did four years ago”

20-year-old Lauren Hemp is another player of note. Playing down the left-wing, the 2018, 2019 and 2020 winner of the PFA’s Young Female Footballer of the Year award will be a crucial element in the English attack this summer. The second-youngest player in the England squad has an aura about her that is simply bewitching. Her close control, low centre of gravity and attacking instincts make her a joy to watch.

Such exciting qualities have been on display throughout England’s three warm-up matches, whose results bode well for the tournament ahead: a 3-0 victory over Belgium was followed by a surprise 5-1 thumping of the Netherlands (the winners of the competition’s last edition and World Cup finalists in 2019), with preparation being rounded off by a 4-0 demolition of Switzerland. While England’s continuous pressure in their dominant display against Belgium eventually yielded a comfortable victory, the match against Sarina Wiegman’s home nation began as a much more balanced affair, with the Netherlands taking the lead in the first half. But it was Lauren Hemp’s pin-point cross to Beth Mead that opened the Dutch floodgates. Similarly, against Switzerland, the Lionesses were held to a stalemate until the 56th minute, at which point England’s opponents buckled under the attacking pressure.


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As is evident from the last few weeks, England have a ruthless side to their game. Twelve goals in three games against respectable opposition is impressive to say the least. Should they continue their form into the tournament, nothing will be out of reach. And with the path cleared by the Qatari summer, there’s huge potential for the Lionesses to capture the hearts of the nation, as the men did four years ago. Euro 2022 has already been identified as an enormous opportunity for women’s football. But, while the growth of the women’s game has been exponential in the last decade or so, if parity with the men’s game is really to be achieved, the focus on how far the game has come and how far it has yet to go must be dropped.

This summer, it’s time to enjoy the women’s Euro for what it is: a showcase of talent, passion and physicality, an enthralling, three-week box-set of sporting drama, and a chance for England to actually win something for once.