Rachel Major can’t stop talking about it: Sarina Wiegman’s clothes. “So professional,” she says. “So smart. In everything she radiates that what she does is serious business. I often see national coaches standing along the field of whom I think: present yourself a little better. You are on an international stage!”
Major, a 49-year-old retail manager from a suburb of London, follows the England team closely – she is a member of a fan club and attended every European Championship match. “Sarina exudes such calmness during matches,” she says. “During the semi-final against Sweden, she watched from the bench. Not once did she get up to give directions. That gave me the confidence that victory was within reach.”
It became a place in the final, on Sunday at the beginning of the evening Sarina Wiegman – staring straight, but apparently calm – was at Wembley, among more than 87 thousand fans, most of whom God Save the Queen passionately sang along. This could be England’s first European Championship win in history. The first win at a final tournament since 1966 for an England national team. Against Germany – strong in women’s football – an opponent that always unleashes a little more in England.
Wiegman’s performance has been admired in recent weeks. She became a major topic of conversation in the pub, on television, in the newspaper columns. Her posture, facial expression, analyses, what she does in her spare time – everything has been covered widely in the British media. And, indeed, her choice of clothing, the British kept talking about that too (the suit she wore became a sales hit). That was also the case during the men’s European Championship, when England also made it to the final and Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat raised a lot of conversation. England are crazy about football – and Wiegman has unleashed that madness with her team. Prior to the final, Prince William – present at Wembley – wished the team personal success.
A well-reasoned guess
„A breath of fresh air”, calls talent scout Donna Newberry the coach from Monster. “She is serene and bright. Has a lot of experience. Can read the game well. She has the confidence of both the players and the English Football Association.” Newberry – who worked for top clubs such as Wolfsburg and Chelsea – was surprised when Wiegman made the switch to England last summer. “She has a good reputation and led an experienced team in the Netherlands. The English way of playing is quite different from the Dutch. And the team was in transition. So yeah, that was quite a gamble.”
An educated guess, yes. Wiegman is a known success coach. It was her third final at a final tournament. With the Netherlands, she won the European Championship in her own country in 2017 and reached the World Cup final in France two years later, which was lost to the United States. These achievements ensured that women’s football became more popular in the Netherlands than ever before, just as it is now in England.
Also read: a backstory about the way boss Wiegman prepared her team for the European Championship
The Premier League
Her success in England also raises a new point of discussion: does Wiegman (if she wanted to) have what it takes to coach a Premier League men’s club?
„Why should an excellent coach like Wiegman be there? not qualify for it,” wrote the English daily express in the run-up to the European Championship final. “The psyche of the game, the machismo and the testosterone scare women. But it happens in other sports as well. [Tennisser] Andy Murray already hired Amélie Mauresmo as a coach in 2014.”
Also read: a report from our correspondent Annemarie Kas from Londonabout the Lionesses who get English girls playing football
“Sarina Wiegman is very much loved in England,” says sports reporter Suzy Wrack of The Guardian. „She has the team in a short time a complete makeover given.” Due to the good performance, women’s football in England is penetrating the capillaries of society for the first time, she says. “People become familiar with the sport, knowledge grows.”
A while back, Wrack interviewed the national coach in Switzerland. Wiegman said that she thinks it is important that her players enjoy and think about their career. Wrack: „She is protecting them, because the team was under heavy pressure during the 2019 World Cup [Engeland verloor in de halve finales van de Verenigde Staten]. That is why she refused to talk about individual players during the European Championship – sometimes to the frustration of journalists. It was always about the collective.”
The players often showed their gratitude for the approach of their coach in recent weeks. Striker Beth Mead said after the semi-final against Sweden: „I cannot give any higher from her. She is a great coach, she has brought a fantastic atmosphere to the team.”
Wrack: „Under Wiegman’s predecessor Phil Neville, players did not dare to take risks, because they were afraid of the consequences. They were not aware of the tasks they had to perform. That was very different during this European Championship. Everyone knew what her role was.”
Busy coaching on the sidelines
Sarina Wiegman is almost every second of the first half against Germany in her coach section, in front of the reserve bench. If assistant coach Arjan Veurink wants to consult, he has to walk over to her. She’s thinking, Wiegman. It’s a typical finale. A little nervous, not great football. The type of match in which one moment – perhaps one move by the coach – can be decisive. Wiegman is a coach who can make tough decisions – she replaced her captain for this tournament – but who also gives confidence to her basic team for a long time. Now as well. She always chooses the same players, she never lets anyone down.
Was it great what Wiegman’s team showed during this European Championship? Certainly not always. It was especially difficult in the quarterfinals against Spain. It wasn’t until the 96th minute – extra time – that Georgia Stanway scored the winning goal. It was almost done with the Lionesses.
But that image will not last. The weak Northern Ireland won 5-0 in the group stage. Norway went down 8-0. Then the semi-final against Sweden was yet to come, a game that England won 4-0 – some players of Wiegman’s team could hardly believe it afterwards.
Shortly after the break in the final, Sarina Wiegman appears on the big screens of Wembley. Cheers rise from the stands. But soon there are concerns. Germany starts the second half stronger. Two chances, just no goals. Wiegman intervenes. She brings Alessia Russo and Ella Toone – permanent subs. So trust. And it pays off. After more than an hour of playing a fantastic deep pass from Keira Walsh. Toone had already left, comes one on one with the keeper, and puts the ball in the goal. Wiegman raises two arms in the air. Screams for a moment. Immediately consult with her assistants. Hold on now.
It does not work. Germany continues to fight, hits the post and finds space with the English in the back more than ten minutes before time. Lina Magull – playing strong – appears completely free at the first post after a cross and taps in: 1-1. extension.
Wiegman stands in a circle of players. She slams her fist into her hand, one, two, three, four times. Do not give up.
It happens. The 110th minute. The ball falls into the penalty area after a corner. Chloe Kelly puts her body in, misses the ball halfway, gives another tap: 2-1 for England. She takes off her shirt, Wembley in ecstasy. Wiegman not. She cheers for a moment, then calls a player for consultation. A little while longer. Another substitute who does it for her.
It is a historic moment for English women’s football. The first big prize, after two lost finals in the past. it’s coming home it sounded in the stands – finally another prize for an English football team (m/f) – they have been waiting for it since 1966.
Will it also pay off in the long run? Newberry thinks so. “I think it will have a big impact on how women’s sport – not just women’s football – is experienced in England. The sport will professionalize at an accelerated pace.”
For Wiegman it is the second European Championship victory in a row, after she won the cup with the Netherlands. She got a statue for that. After the final whistle, she walks into the field. She kisses a bracelet, which she wears after her sister’s death. Just a moment alone. Then the players jump her around the neck.
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