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Day 26: The final countdown
So we have reached the day of the final as England and Germany face up to each other at Wembley. It honestly feels very tough to predict how this match might go with both of these teams seeming very well matched. But here are three areas where I think today’s game will be won and lost.
Alex Popp vs Millie Bright
I wrote about Alexandra Popp after the semi-final match between Germany and France but she is the obvious player that England will have to stop today. With six goals in five matches, she is in a ridiculous run of form and no defence has been able to stop her scoring yet. Millie Bright will probably be her trickiest opponent yet, with Bright having both the physicality and no nonsense attitude to defending that could halt Popp in her tracks.
What will be interesting is whether because of this Popp tries to put herself up against Leah Williamson instead, and if that is the case how England can support her.
Overrunning Lena Oberdorf
Lena Oberdorf has had an exceptional tournament so far, firmly cementing herself as the best defensive midfielder in the world. Her ability to cover huge amounts of ground has given the German defence a lot of protection. Yet she will come up against a midfielder who enjoys a meaty tackle just as much as she does in Georgia Stanway.
When Germany played Austria in the quarter-finals, the amount of space between Oberdorf and Germany’s other midfielders allowed Austria to find some joy. Stanway and Kirby will be hoping they can exploit that same area and simply leave Oberdorf with too much to do.
Overloading the fullbacks
Both England and Germany have excelled in their wide play with their fullbacks for the most part also holding up. Germany started with Jule Brand on the right against France and having seen how Rachel Daly failed to cope with Athenea del Castillo against Spain, they will surely look to do the same here.
England however have built up so much of their attacking play down the right hand side with Lucy Bronze and Beth Mead doubling up on fullbacks. Felicitas Rauch has been very reliable this tournament but her and Marina Hegering will have to be at their very best to deal with the combination.
Whatever happens today, this game looks set to be a fantastic tactical battle between two teams who have both had excellent tournaments. What is particularly exciting is how many young players who look ready to be important members of their nations for many years to come. I think this won’t be the last time we see these two generations of teams facing up in the latter stages of an international tournament.