Euro 2022 lives up to the hype with a stunning summer of football
This summer’s Women’s Euro has been touted as the “biggest and best” incarnation of the competition – something hard to argue with as it draws to a close.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin used those words on the day the 13th edition – delayed by a year from its original date due to the coronavirus pandemic – began.
By then, ticket sales had passed the 500,000 mark, indicating that the Euro 2017 competition’s overall attendance record of 240,000 in the Netherlands was about to be broken.
And on Wednesday, turnout for the second semi-final, between Germany and France at Stadium MK, brought total attendance to just under 490,000, with a sold-out final at Wembley still to come. come.
The tournament opened with England playing Austria at Old Trafford in front of 68,871 people, the largest crowd for a Women’s Euro game, and other attendance records were set at various stages over the course of the tournament. of the last few weeks.
There was also a large number of screen views – BBC One’s coverage of the last four Lionesses’ victory over Sweden attracted a peak TV audience of over nine million people.
And the action people have seen is a compelling showcase of the evolution of women’s football.
The hosts have certainly played their part in that regard, with their 20-goal run to the final including an 8-0 demolition of Norway in the group stage, the most emphatic win in Euro history. and a spectacular 2-1 victory in the quarter-finals. on Spain, sealed by Georgia Stanway’s decisive goal in extra time.
Their most prominent star en route to Wembley was Beth Mead, with six goals – a tally matched by Alexandra Popp in a classy German side’s campaign, a remarkable personal story of rebounding from injury.
France were among the most entertaining teams to watch, as were Portugal, who only entered the tournament as a late replacement for Russia and gave a very glowing account of themselves.
The group stage also saw Belgium and Austria do an admirable job of qualifying at the expense of the top-seeded teams.
Northern Ireland, the lowest-ranked side in the competition, were able to celebrate a first goal at this level when Julie Nelson scored in their 4-1 loss to Norway.
Returning Norwegian superstar Ada Hegerberg, who ended a voluntary exile from international football earlier in the year, hasn’t made the kind of impression many had expected as her side failed to reach the knockout stages of final.
Hegerberg’s fellow Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas was robbed of the chance to shine for Spain at the tournament due to an ACL injury, and another big name was ruled out when Marie Antoinette Katoto suffered a similar problem in France’s opener, while Netherlands star striker Vivianne Miedema had his campaign disrupted by a positive coronavirus test.
Among those who have stood out in recent weeks are some exciting youngsters, such as 20-year-old German midfielder Lena Oberdorf and 22-year-old Miedema team-mate Daphne van Domselaar.
Van Domselaar has been a key contributor to some impressive goalkeeping throughout the tournament – an area of women’s football which has come under particular scrutiny over the years.
Euro 2022 has in general been a statement for anyone doubting the women’s game, and hopes are high for the impact it will have – in the host country and overall – adding to what was already considerable momentum.
On the eve of the final, Ceferin spoke of inspiring growing participation across the continent by calling this summer’s showpiece a “tournament for the ages” and said: “We were hoping it would be the best Women’s Euro ever. all the time, but it was even better than we imagined.