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It came home
Thanks to Arnold Clark
I needed to take a day before writing this last Euros email, partially because I was absolutely exhausted and partially because I needed some time for it all to sink in. I’m still not sure it has sunk in!
I can’t talk about Euro 2022 without talking about the Arnold Clark Cup. Ever since the tournament back in February, I have thought England would win this Euros. It is just about the only prediction I managed to get right heading into the tournament (damn you France!).
The Arnold Clark Cup is rightly thought of as the football tournament that launched a thousand memes, but for Sarina Wiegman and England it genuinely provided the perfect platform for them heading into the summer tournament. It was the first time that England had played any teams in the FIFA top ten since Wiegman took charge. In the end, England only actually won one of their games, but it is notable that they beat both Spain and Germany at Euro 2022, having played them at the Arnold Clark Cup.
That tournament reminded England that they could compete against high quality teams. Many of the squad had been part of the disappointing Olympic showing, and previous matches against top opposition had brought about losses to France, Canada, Spain and the USA. In fact, England had not really won a tricky fixture since they brushed aside Norway in the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup.
It also reminded England what winning felt like. The 2019 SheBelieves Cup felt like quite far in the distance with considerable change around the squad since then. Lifting the Arnold Clark trophy might have felt pretty inconsequential but it created an aura around this team that losing was simply not going to be an option. I came away from that week of football thinking there was no team at the Euros who England needed to fear playing. Obviously that did not mean they would inevitably win but there was certainly no country that they did not have the tools to beat.
Throughout the Euros, it felt like every challenge England were faced with they were very calmly able to overcome. And that, I think, came down in part to the plan that Wiegman and the Football Association were able to put in place over the past ten months. Obviously the FA’s investment extends back many years in creating the quality of players that England now have at their disposal. But to bring in a new manager and win a first ever international tournament in under a year, in the manner that England did, is exceptional. The idea that this side now gets a further year to gel ahead of the World Cup should make other countries nervous.
For now though thank you to Mary Earps, Ellie Roebuck, Hannah Hampton, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Leah Williamson, Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood, Demi Stokes, Jess Carter, Lucy Bronze, Millie Bright, Keira Walsh, Georgia Stanway, Jill Scott, Fran Kirby, Ella Toone, Alessia Russo, Beth England, Ellen White, Beth Mead, Nikita Parris, Lauren Hemp, and Chloe Kelly. Whether you played no minutes or every minute, you were all absolutely unreal. And of course, as well to Sarina Wiegman and the rest of the England backroom staff. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the most incredible month.
Thank you to everyone who has read Flying Geese throughout the Euros. It has been an absolute blast to write and I’ve really enjoyed engaging with everyone about it, even if sometimes that has just been my dad texting to complain it is out too late in the day. See you all same time next year for the 2023 World Cup?