Discover more from Flying Geese
Day 22: How to end a semi-final jinx in four easy steps
Step 1: Release Lauren Hemp on the left hand side to cause chaos. Let Beth Mead get free in the box, stop a cross dead and volley in.
2015 was heartbreaking. A Laura Bassett own goal saw England lose to Japan in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
2017 was shocking. England were blown away 3-0 by a Netherlands team riding on a tidal wave of home support.
2019 was frustrating. A missed penalty from Steph Houghton and an Ellen White goal narrowly chalked off by VAR.
If England wanted to make up for lost semi-finals, they certainly did so last night. A 4-0 thrashing of Sweden which was the biggest semi-final win for any team at a Euros, men’s or women’s. After the nerves of a quarter-final against Spain, England regained their swagger at Bramall Lane.
Step 2: Get Lucy Bronze to peel off the back of the mass at a corner. Header into the far corner.
Coming into the match, it was notable how similar both teams were in terms of their ‘bridesmaid’ trajectory. Sweden were the highest ranked team at the tournament thanks in part to their silver medal at the Olympics as well as a third placed finish at the 2019 World Cup. There was another silver medal in 2016 as well. Sweden were searching for their own first Euros final in 20 years.
Naturally football teams go through cycles. A group of similar aged players can spend many years training together for it all to come together over a couple of tournaments. There is a sense for Sweden that maybe this is where they have reached. Their elder stateswomen are losing some of their shine and the young group of players coming through are not quite ready yet.
It would be reasonable to feel the same about England. Five of the squad from 2015 featured last night and there are plenty of players in this team with significant experience. Yet part of what has given England so much zest over the Euros has been how well they have integrated their younger players. Ella Toone, Alessia Russo and Georgia Stanway have all had their own moments as have 2015 veterans Fran Kirby and Lucy Bronze.
Step 3: Don’t worry when Alessia Russo misses the easy chance. She will make up for it.
It feels like that combination of young and old is what has helped take England to another level in this tournament. Whenever some players have looked like fading, others have stepped up and that is what has allowed England to carry on returning from setbacks. Although under the lights at Bramall Lane, it was more about celebrations.
It was both unbelievable and fitting that this England team won in the semi-final like that. Unbelievable in the sense that this is just not how England are supposed to do things. It was almost too good. But fitting because that is how this England team plays. It is impossible to argue that they have been one of, if not, the best teams at the Euros. There is nothing flukey about them contesting the final at Wembley on Sunday. If you are still feeling surprised, get used to it, fast.
Step 4: Let Fran Kirby do what Fran Kirby does best. The unexpected that should have been expected
Whatever happens in four days time, this is a team that has captured the imaginations of so many people. And not because of their back stories or quirks the way we have been pushed to care about women’s footballers in the past. But because everyone enjoys Millie Bright booting the ball away, Alessia Russo’s tricks, Georgia Stanway’s tackles. God, sometimes you can even enjoy Ellen White straying offside.
Because this England side are familiar and they are fun. They are joyful and they work hard for the results on the pitch. They have one more game to go.