England 2-1 Germany (aet) | match review
aet = after extra time, for those who didn't know.
Match summary: Hosts England took on the incredibly successful German team to decide who would become champions of Europe.
Yeah, this is going to be a 'review' rather than anything serious, because I've watched very little of the game since yesterday other than Chloe Kelly's winning goal and Ella Toone's world-class finish to give England the lead initially. So this more of a recollection of my experience watching the game rather than any kind of detailed analysis - if you're looking for that kind of thing, there are countless articles for you out there.
I watched the game at a friend's place, with me being the only guy out of the three of us watching it together (a fourth unfortunately unavailable due to Covid) and also the only one who had any real knowledge of women's football, making for a slightly odd experience - although I certainly didn't boast about my extra understanding other than to continually praise captain Leah Williamson and Beth Mead because they play for Arsenal more than anything else!
Much like most men's finals, the overall quality of the match wasn't particularly great and the opening exchanges really exemplified that with both England and German not committing too much, but instead probing for any obvious weaknesses. The match then felt like it settled into a pattern of England trying repeatedly to break through the excellent German defence, while also having to watch out for any dangerous counter-attacks.
I know that a lot of the German team and especially the media are fuming about Williamson handling the ball on the line to prevent a goal, but I think it was a genuine accident and not worthy of punishment - although at least I saw the bloody incident unlike the incredibly biased BBC commentators. It was such a scramble in the box at that moment that I doubt Williamson even knew that much about where the ball was for once, and certainly wasn't looking to gain an illegal advantage.
That moment aside, the first half felt pretty anticlimactic, even if the caution of both sides was entirely understandable. Personally, I was just glad that England hadn't made any glaring mistakes or given any other signs to their opponents about any glaring flaws they might be trying to conceal. I also have to admit that, until yesterday, I had no idea just how successful the Germans had been in previous European Championships and was relieved that they hadn't proven dominant at all up to that point.
That relief faded in the second half as Germany started much the stronger and had apparently identified Rachel Daly, a right-footed player at left-back, as a potential weakness, and a lot of their more dangerous attacks in the second half came down her side of the pitch. Fortunately, nothing had come of the increased attacking threat from the Germans by the time the first goal was scored.
And what a goal that was from Ella Toone! Keira Walsh played an absolutely phenomenal ball for Toone to race on to and scoop the ball beautifully over the advancing Frohms and into the net. There are some who have tried to blame the German goalkeeper's decision-making for making the chance easier for Toone, but that ball from Walsh made it an impossible task with the entire defence left trailing in Toone's wake.
Falling behind didn't seem to deter Germany as they continued to press forward at every opportunity and England were reliant on Williamson's composure at the back and an excellent display from Mary Earps in goal for not conceding earlier. I don't know if it was due to tiredness, but the England midfield really struggled to keep hold of the ball for the majority of the second half, but it thankfully didn't matter too much.
When the equaliser came, it was engineered on the left side of England's defence with the ball making its way to Magull, who finished expertly. In all honesty, it was entirely deserved for the Germans' performance in that second half and I was now worrying that they would gain even more confidence and leave England regretting not doing better in the first half.
Despite a few scares, the regular ninety minutes finished without too much further excitement, although I was starting to feel even more strongly that Germany were still going to come out on top, with a lot of poor control and passing from England continually gifting possession back to their opponents and not allowing the team much chance for a breather.
I have to admit that I can barely remember anything about the first half of extra time other than feeling somewhat relieved that the match felt a little more even by that point, although I'm not sure whether it was due to England finding their way back into the game with the substitutions finally having the desired effect on the pattern of play, or if the Germans were finally starting to feel tired themselves.
The second half of extra time was possibly the most relaxed part of the match for me, especially after Chloe Kelly scrambled home a goal at the second attempt before racing off to celebrate as you can see in the image at the top of this post. That goal was obviously the most important contribution Kelly made to the game, but it was what followed that sealed how important she was to winning the match.
It was a genuine delight to see her spoiling play and winding up the German players at every opportunity, especially every time she took the ball into the corner and waited for a reckless challenge to win another free-kick, throw-in or corner to waste as much time as possible. Seeing the Germans very quickly lose their cool as they struggled to respond to Kelly's shit-housing was just fantastic, making me laugh more than once.
Those final ten minutes were so expertly managed by England that it almost felt a little too easy at times for England to brush off what few forays forward Germany could muster, but I really couldn't have cared less at that point and was just eagerly awaiting the final whistle, which prompted a very loud cheer from myself and my friends when it finally came - a reaction we could hear being repeated elsewhere through the open windows.
I had my own bout of Covid at the start of July, and this final of the 2022 Women's European Championship had caused me to ruin my just-recovered throat, but it was so worth it. I was so proud of the Lionesses that I was close to tears from pretty much the moment the final whistle went until the coverage finally ended, my friends unable to hold the tears back and having to constantly wipe away very happy tears.
The relative ease with which England saw out the last ten minutes of the game has slightly coloured my view of the match as a whole. From what I've already written, you can obviously tell how much I remember of the threat the Germans posed, but it's as if the anxiety I felt at the time has been erased from my memory and I simply remember all the positive emotions of the day instead.
So which players deserve special mention out of a squad of instant legends? For me: Earps in goal was excellent; Williamson was easily the most composed of all the England players in my opinion; Walsh's sublime pass for the first goal is deserving of almost as much praise as the finish; while Toone and Kelly's goals after coming off the bench deserve praise for the skill and persistence of the respective players.
That's not to put down the rest of the players who featured, as everyone worked so hard to get this result, even if a lot of the stuff they tried didn't come off. They have all become instant legends in English football as only the second side to win a major international trophy after the men in 1966, and they all deserve to become household names too - here's hoping that this victory revolutionises the women's game in England and we hopefully get to see the same kind of scenes in Australia and New Zealand, in the 2023 World Cup.