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England take on serial winners Germany in showdown at women's Euros

By Paul Myers - RFI
Germany AP - Rui Vieira
JUL 30, 2022 LISTEN
AP - Rui Vieira

It's always good news when the hosts get into the final of an international football tournament. When the hosts are England and their opponents in the decider are Germany, you could hardly ask for a more compelling crescendo.

It happened only a week ago in the women's Africa Cup of Nations when Morocco played South Africa in Rabat.

At the Prince Moulay Abdallah Stadium, two sides were vying for a first continental crown in front of a packed stadium. And bar several intriguing side stories, that was it.

England versus Germany, however, carries existential heft.

Everybody gets sucked into the urtext: two world wars.

Barely two decades after the end of the second global conflict, a men's World Cup final in 1966 between the then West Germany turned around a controversial goal - cleared by a Russian linesman - which helped England to a 4-2 victory and their only triumph in the competition.

The Germans, who had lifted the 1954 title, have gone on to win in 1974, 1990 and 2014.

Success

While the women's side cannot boast such renown in their equivalent competition, they are the supreme beings in the European championships having claimed eight of the 12 championships. They will win around 2.4 million euros for the DFB coffers with victory

"England have been incredible in this tournament,” said Germany boss Martina Voss-Tecklenburg after her side saw off France 2-1 in the semi-final at the Stadium MK.

“They are so confident and we'll play in Wembley in front of about 80 or 90,000 people - most of them rooting for England and only a very few for us. But we are accepting the challenge.”

No choice really. Fear hardly appears an option so close to a record-extending ninth trophy and the chance to mythologise skipper Alex Popp.

Popp star

Since making her senior international debut in 2010, Popp has twice been denied the chance to play for her country at the Euros.

In 2013, it was an ankle injury that stopped her participation in a squad that won its eighth trophy. Four years later, a knee injury was the problem.

And she would have been absent with another knee injury had the tournament been played as scheduled in 2021 and not postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It means a lot to me to be here, I have to admit,” she said after her semi-final brace took her to six goals in five games.

"I am more emotional than I used to be because I know how I have arrived at this point.

“Being here, having this opportunity to perform like this, being fully fit at this stage, that makes me very proud, but I also have to say a big thanks to everyone who has been there with me."

Run

Germany waltzed through the group stages racking up nine goals. Austria were dispatched 2-0 in the last eight. The defence was breached for the first time in the semi-final victory.

England's rearguard have been equally stingy. No goals were conceded as the side hit Norway and Northern Ireland with eight and five goal barrages respectively following a 1-0 victory over Austria in the opener at Old Trafford.

Spain took the lead through Esther Gonzalez just after half-time in the quarter-final. 

But Ella Toone equalised six minutes from time and Georgia Stanway grabbed the winner in extra-time.

Sweden were then dismissed 4-0 in the semi-final.

Hope

"We said before the tournament that we want to inspire the nation and I think that's what we are doing," beamed England boss Sarina Wiegman after that victory.

"We want the country to be proud of us and that more girls and boys start playing football."

The voyage to the final has also burnished Wiegman's credentials. The former Netherlands international was appointed head coach of the Dutch national team in January 2017 and led them to victory at the 2017 Euros and to a runners-up medal at the 2019 Women's World Cup.

Sunday will be her third consecutive final as a coach.

"You can't take things for granted," said the 52-year-old. "It takes hard work to connect with people but I have felt the energy and people believing in how I want to work and how I want the team to play.

"The results have been good and that's very nice but we know how tight things can be and sometimes they don't go your way but you still have to work if things don't fall for you."

Unbeaten in 19 games since assuming control of England in September 2021 suggests she will not fall victim to hysterical overreaction should Germany edge the final.

And yet, 20 out of 20 would not only continue the marvellous start to her tenure but it would also offer up England's first international footballing honour since those glory boys of yore.

In this final, video assistant referees will be surveying the action to ensure more accurate calls.

And why not? Vorsprung durch Technik (progress through technology) indeed - to borrow the slogan for a certain German car.

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