Discover more from Flying Geese
Day 15: Some final thoughts on England v Spain
The first quarter-final of Euro 2022 takes place tonight with England facing Spain in a match which about two weeks ago might have been earmarked as the final. It is a very satisfying fixture between two national teams who have played each other on a fairly regular basis over the past couple of years - although nothing this high stakes - as well as being filled with players who have met a LOT in high stakes club football.
Barcelona and Real Madrid have caused English football teams serious problems over the past two seasons. By my count, eighteen members of the England squad have lost to sixteen of the Spanish squad in Champions League fixtures. The Twitter debate over the “competitiveness” of the WSL versus the superiority of Barcelona in the Primera Iberdrola is one that it is really not worth getting involved in, but it is undeniable that Spain have taken all the plaudits when it has come to facing their English equivalents.
Thanks for reading Flying Geese! If you haven’t already, you can subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
At a national level, Spain and England have both been countries ‘on the rise’ for the past couple of tournament cycles, although England have had significantly more success than the Spanish for whom getting through tonight would represent their first ever knock-out win. The two of them have met at the previous two European Championships, both times in the group stage with Spain getting a last minute winner in 2013 but England winning in 2017.
The most recent meeting between the two was the 0-0 at the Arnold Clark Cup. It was somewhat of a strange game (in somewhat of a strange tournament), with both teams playing very different starting XI’s from who will play tonight. However, Spain did play their famous midfield three of Aitana Bonmati, Patri Guijarro and Alexia Putellas, with England’s second string finding it not overly complicated to limit them. In fact, the main test for England was when Athenea del Castillo faced up to Lucy Bronze. Athenea started Spain’s final group stage match against Denmark and it will be interesting to see if Jorge Vilda uses her again here. Bronze is asked to do a lot in Sarina Wiegman’s system - only Keira Walsh has covered more ground then her in the England team - and she could end up being exposed.
Whilst there are lots of question marks over who Jorge Vilda might play, Sarina Wiegman will almost certainly stick with the same starting XI she has used in every game so far. What feels particularly noticeable with Wiegman’s England is a genuine refusal to get carried away. Phil Neville famously asked his players ‘Are you ready to go and win a World Cup?’ after England beat Norway in the 2019 quarter-finals.
Reader, they did not go on to win a World Cup.
It feels impossible to imagine Wiegman getting anywhere near that giddy. Instead she just seems content to relish each fresh challenge that is put in front of her. England deservedly go into tonight’s game as favourites but there is no way Wiegman is getting ahead of herself.
There has been lots of great writing about how this game might play out. Here’s some that I think are worth having a read before kick off:
Michael Cox wrote about how Lauren Hemp has got the better of Ona Batlle in the WSL over the past season for The Athletic. This should be one of the tastiest match ups on the pitch between two of the best young players in the world
Now I’m off to have a large beer in the sun to settle my nerves.