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  • Matt Codd

England vs Sweden: The Lionesses Roar into The Final With A Dominant Display

England secured a chance at history with a marauding display against Sweden in their semi-final at Bramall Lane. The fourth and final game to be hosted in Sheffield in this tournament had the makings of an absolute classic: England, the home nation and unbeaten under manager Sarina Wiegman, facing Sweden, world number two and one of the favourites for the tournament. It was England’s first trip up north this summer, whereas Sweden had already played twice in this stadium, and had been heavily backed in the stands at both. That wasn’t the case for this game though.

Tickets for this game, understandably, were sold out even before England’s previous match against Spain. Extra tickets were made available as the week went on, but they were snapped up within minutes. Sheffield was ready to welcome The Lionesses to our city and you could tell as soon as you got anywhere near the ground.

As we walked under St. Mary’s Gate roundabout, the noise of horns and chants was deafening, echoing through the tunnels as you emerged onto the Lane in a sea of red and white. Not an uncommon sight for Bramall Lane, but this was entirely different. St. Georges crosses and Three Lions were everywhere you turned, with the odd sprinkling of yellow and blue being heavily drowned out.

As we took our seat in the Kop, the atmosphere hit and the reality sank in, we were about to watch England in a semi-final. The teams emerged to an almighty roar before the anthems were performed. As both sides lined up for kick-off, you could feel the whole country waiting with bated breath.

The whistle blew and it was arguably Sweden who had the better of the earlier passages; threatening Mary Earps and the England goal a couple of times early on with direct runs in behind Millie Bright and Leah Williamson. England soon grew into the game though and stamped their authority, threatening the Swedes constantly out wide with the exceptional Lauren Hemp and Beth Mead.

It was Beth Mead who broke the deadlock in the 34th minute when Sweden failed to effectively clear a cross from the left. The ball ran through to Lucy Bronze on the right who fired a cross in. It was brought excellently by Mead before rifling home for her 6th of the tournament and bringing Bramall Lane to their feet. The eruption as the net rippled was unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of; a mixture of relief, elation, and hope… Football could be coming home.

England only grew from here and were unlucky to only be up by 1 goal going in at half-time. As the second half began, the result began to appear inevitable. England came roaring out, pun intended, and never took their foot off the gas. Just 3 minutes into the half, Mead turned provider as Lucy Bronze added to her earlier assist with a free header at the back post, a tactic that was clear with every corner, and finally paid off here. England were really going to do it.

Wiegman had fielded the same starting 11 in every game, and the first substitution was just as expected. The legendary Ellen White, who is one goal away from equalling Wayne Rooney’s England record, was replaced by youngster Alessia Russo. Russo went on to produce not only the moment of the night, but the moment of the tournament too just 10 minutes later. After an excellent move down the left from England, the ball was cutback to Russo on the penalty spot. Somehow, she hit the effort straight at the ‘keeper. Russo raced after the rebound and, facing away from goal, produced a moment of magic to put the Lionesses 3 goals up.

Under pressure from a Sweden defender and moving away from goal, the Manchester United forward backheeled an effort which somehow passed the defender and squeezed through the legs of the Sweden goalkeeper. It was incredible, it was so good that the fans in the Kop around me had no idea what she had actually done until the replays showed on the screen and was met with gasps and cheers alike.

The icing was put on the cake in the 76th minute by the mercurial Fran Kirby. The ball fell to the midfielder 20 yards out and she lifted the ball brilliantly over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, whose glove could only help the ball into the net. It sealed England’s place in the final and their shot at history, with the chance to go one further at Wembley than the men had just one year ago.

Sweden’s excellent run in the tournament was coming to an end. The Euros hadn’t gone as they had hoped, they struggled to get going, besides a 5-0 demolition of Portugal, but that wasn’t enough to see them go all the way. They threatened England on occasion in this game, producing an absolutely incredible save from Mary Earps in front of us at one point, but England cruised through the majority. The Swedes have been a wonderful addition to the Steel City for the entire month, their fans bringing the place alive for every game, Sheffield became their second home. We hope they’ve fell in love with the city as we have.

Once the final whistle blew, the party truly started. The celebrations on the pitch were echoed in the crowd, and I didn’t see a soul leave until the Lionesses had completed their full lap of honour. Choruses of Sweet Caroline, One Kiss, Free From Desire and, of course, It’s Coming Home were performed not just by the 28,000 fans in the stadium, but by the entire England squad and staff. The game saw yet another attendance record at Bramall Lane, a record crowd for a Women’s Euros semi-final. A perfect way to round out this tournament’s stint in Sheffield. The home nation pushed into a major final by the best crowd around … And we all know what happened next. These Lionesses are the pride of our nation and it was truly an honour to see them do what they do best in person. Thank you for bringing football home, LEGENDS.


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