European Football Championship: England’s historic triumph is also thanks to coach Sarina Wiegman
After 66 years, England wins another title in the European Championship final against Germany. Victory at the home tournament is also thanks to the Dutch coach, who triumphed at a women’s European Championship for the second time in a row.
Actually, one would have liked to listen longer to the wisdom of the woman who had led a team to the European Championship title for the second time in a row. In 2017, Sarina Wiegman became the women’s European soccer champion with her home country, the Netherlands. Five years later she delivered her opus magnum: Wiegman managed to end England’s cross-gender title drought that had lasted since 1966.
But when the 52-year-old started to explain, the media conference literally crashed: the English team, enraptured in their collective bliss, stormed the stage and sang, of course, the song of longing of English football: “It’s coming home”, the hit of the Lightning Seeds , the England Men’s Euro 1996 soundtrack, about the trophy returning home to the homeland of football. «It came home!» headlined the British gazettes almost in disbelief.
There was something poignant about the exuberance of the Englishwomen’s celebrations, testifying to the rawness of emotion in the hour of triumph. 2:1 the hosts had defeated a strong Germany somewhat luckily. The decision after extra time, which brought back memories of the 1966 men’s World Cup when the pairing was the same and England won 4-2 thanks to the legendary “Wembley goal” – also after 120 minutes. But this time England didn’t need a wrong decision to be crowned. Striker Chloe Kelly scored the winning goal in the 110th minute. Shortly thereafter there was no holding back at Wembley and much of the country.
The unerring intuition of the celebrated trainer
The nomination of matchwinner Kelly, 24, for this tournament had come as a surprise. The Manchester City attacker had missed almost the entire 2021/22 season with a knee injury. Under the coach Wiegman, who was only appointed in September, she had not played a single international match before the Euro. But when top scorer Beth Mead had to be substituted after an hour, Wiegman chose Kelly. And did everything right with her change.
Fortune was kind to Wiegman throughout the tournament, it seemed as if she couldn’t make any wrong decisions. In all six games she relied on the same line-up. It caused astonishment that she entrusted the post to left-back Rachel Daly, a trained striker. But England conceded just two goals – the intuition proved correct.
The two-time World Coach of the Year has done a lot for the English team in a short space of time. Wiegman is considered relentless and demanding; when England won 10-0 in one of the first games she was responsible for in the World Cup qualifier in Latvia, she said coolly: “We have to play more mercilessly.” Their charges took the words to heart: a month later they demolished the same opponents in Doncaster 20-0.
It’s an episode that fits Wiegman’s image from the early days of her coaching career. Back then, she told her players at Ado Den Haag that they all had to drink at the same time. She has long since discarded this almost military severity; Reserve goalkeeper Hannah Hampton recently told the BBC: “The atmosphere in the team has changed under her. We’ve gotten closer, it feels like we’re one big family now.”
The icon van Gaal admires Wiegman
After the historic triumph, that almost sentimental end to an exciting tournament, one wonders what it takes before Wiegman receives an offer from men’s football. Coach icon Louis Van Gaal , who is currently in charge of the Dutch national team for the third time, has been one of her advocates for years . Van Gaal said years ago: “I have observed that teams go through fire for Sarina.” The Euro 2022 provided further proof of this: the English won not least with their power, their bite, their fighting spirit.
The performances also made people sit up and take notice. Neil Redfearn, once Leeds United manager and now Sheffield United women’s manager, told the Mirror: “She’s inventive and innovative. I’ve been coaching women’s football for a long time and I see things about her that are completely new.” Redfearn also said: “I am convinced that very soon we will see a woman coach in one of the four top English leagues.”
The door to men’s professional football has remained largely closed to female coaches in Europe. An exception was the current French national coach Corinne Diacre, who coached the then second division club Clermont-Ferrand for three years from 2014.
The future is something for other days. On the night of Monday, England indulged in a lavish party. Queen Elizabeth was among the first to congratulate, who tweeted: “The tournament and your performance are deservedly applauded. But your success extends even beyond this tournament. You will be role models for women and girls in this country for a long time to come.” The monarch will also have meant Sarina Wiegman.