by Andrew Crawshaw
Well we all know of the historical precedent to this game – England v Germany at Wembley. I just hope this re-run lives up to the 1966 preview and the current hype and expectation.
Semi-final 1 – England v Sweden
England qualified by four goals to nil, a far bigger margin than the 3 – 2 scoreline I predicted in my preview. In truth for the first 30 minutes or so Sweden were the better side and could easily have been ahead by two goals at least. The Swedes had an off day with their finishing, Blackstenius being somewhat unlucky to have a shot come back off the bar in the 9th minute. In general they weren’t as precise and incisive in their passing, particularly in the attacking third and didn’t look like the second highest ranking nation in the FIFA table.
The first proper chance that England fashioned came in the 34th minute of the game. A quick break down the left brought a cross which was just too high for Ellen White. Lucy Bronze recycled it on the right hand side and crossed back to the centre of the area, Beth Mead brought the ball under control with her back to goal, swivelled and shot in one movement leaving Lindahl in the Swedish goal no chance. An audible cheer of relief as much as expectation went around the crowd, commentators and my sitting room! No further first half goals. England needed to start the second half quicker and more pro-actively than they did the first half. The Question was would they?
The answer came from the outset as England were far more positive. Beth Mead added another assist to her six goals when she crossed for Lucy Bronze to double our advantage just three minutes into the half and from then on I never felt that the outcome of the game was in any way in doubt. Alessia Russo replaced Ellen White and was immediately in the action herself. She missed a routine chance inside the box but retained possession of the ball and scored an outrageous back heel which completely caught Lindahl cold. One of the goals that will be shown in highlight reels for decades I think.Our fourth goal was from another Mead assist, Fran Kirby supplying the coup de grace.
Semi Final 2 – Germany v France
Germany qualified winning 2 – 1 in normal time. It was, as I expected, a fairly cagey affair with both teams cancelling each other out for large parts of the game. Germany opened the scoring the 40th minute with Alexandra Popp heading home a Svenja Huth cross. It was about the only ball in the half which the 6ft2in defender Wendie Reynard couldn’t reach. Wendie was, by far the tallest outfield player in the competition. France levelled the score four minutes later, an own goal by Merle Frohms. A different halftime team talk required from the two managers than the ones they were planning six minutes earlier.
The second half was pretty much a repeat of the first, not a lot to choose between the two teams; lots of earnest effort, but teams defending well and in numbers and neither looking likely to land a killing blow. The game needed a moment of magic. It came from the same combination as the first German goal. Svenja Huth crossing the ball for Alexandra Popp to head home. Popp had pulled back from the French defenders by a couple of yards as the cross came in and used the space to get forward and vertical momentum to get higher than the French defenders. Her header was exemplary giving Pauline Peyraud-Magnin (ex-Arsenal) no chance again. France were beaten and knew it.
Final – Sunday afternoon, Wembley Stadium kick-off 17:00
The game is televised live on BBC1 from 16:00, Punditry from Alex Scott and Ian Wright to add an extra Arsenal flavour.
Let’s look at how the two teams have progressed to the final
Group stage – P3, W3 Goals For 14 Against 0
Knockout stages – P2, W2 goals For 6 against 1
Group Stage – P3, W3 Goals for 9, Against 0
Knockout stages – P2, W2 Goals for 4 against 1
Golden Boot Contenders
The two leading contenders are Beth Mead for England (and Arsenal) and Alexandra Popp for Germany. Both have six so far, although Beth has four assists as well and so would get the award if they are tied for goals scored at the end of the game. Alexandra Popp has scored in every game so far, three headers and three with her feet She is the epitome of the classic centre-forward (although is listed as a midfielder) whereas Beth Mead relies far more on guile.
There really isn’t much to choose between the two sides. England probably have more depth on the bench but they really must start out on the front foot from the start, if they don’t then Germany could easily be a couple of goals up within the first 10 minutes or so. The England defenders really must find a way of preventing Alexandra Popp from getting her head on the ball. Our fullbacks must be alert to prevent the crosses coming in and we should minimise the number of corners we concede and free kicks we give away.
So who is going to win?
My heart says England but my head says never bet against the Germans. Oh what the hell England by 3 – 1 and Beth Mead with the opening goal and Leah Williamson to lift the trophy.
Come on you Lionesses
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