How Sarina Wiegman has transformed England's fortunes ahead of Euro 2022

Sarina Wiegman has made some mark on England in ten months as manager.

New skipper Leah Williamson recently said the Dutchwoman ‘knows what she wants and she’s very, very clear about it.

She is a matter-of-fact person and doesn’t leave many grey areas’. Her experience of leading the Netherlands to success on home soil five years ago has naturally coloured how she has approached this job. Wiegman is the stardust that has been sprinkled over an already a very promising squad.

Where England have struggled to get over the line at recent tournaments and hit a glass ceiling against the better sides, Wiegman could help them break through and win a first major title.

Forward Thinking

The hosts are blessed with attacking talent. Wiegman was able to bring Beth Mead, Nikita Parris, Ella Toone and Alessia Russo off the bench as the Netherlands were smashed 5-1. Not bad when you consider Fran Kirby, Lauren Hemp, Beth England and Chloe Kelly were among the starters. That is a pretty formidable group of forwards – and does not even include Ellen White, who had Covid. Hemp has had a wonderful season with Manchester City and can go on to become one of the star players of the Euros. Aged just 21, she can be the pick of what appears to be a squad with huge strength in depth. Any team that finishes above England will be doing very well. And don’t forget the attacking intent of Barcelona’s new signing Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly from further back.

Tightening Up

Where to look for weaknesses? It’s not an easy one. This Lionesses team have blitzed pretty much everything in their path, unbeaten in 13 matches under Wiegman’s charge, of which they have won 11. They memorably beat Latvia 20-0 in November. In those 13 outings, they have conceded just three goals, which is even more impressive considering defence seemed to be their Achilles heel in recent years. Millie Bright has improved so much since the 2019 World Cup and her new central-defensive partner Lotte Wubben-Moy looks right at home in international football, allowing Williamson to pull the strings in central midfield. If there is a concern, it is a previous inability to kill off the big guns at the business end of tournaments. But that could be about to change.

Safe Passage

Group A does not appear the most arduous way into the knockout stages but two-time Euros winners Norway – with former Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg back in their ranks after five years – will certainly be a tricky second fixture for the Lionesses. Lyon forward Hegerberg quit the national team in 2017 after a dispute with the Norwegian federation and also missed two years with a serious knee injury. Austria are unfancied while Northern Ireland are competing in their first Euros. A big gun in the shape of Germany, Spain or Denmark await England in the quarter-finals, wherever they finish in the group.

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