On Friday 7th October, the newly crowned European champions, England, will take on the USA, the reigning world champions, at Wembley Stadium. The event could be yet another record breaking moment for women’s football, with general sale tickets having sold out within 24 hours of release.
The last time the two teams met was at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. The USA beat England 2-1 to book their place in the final. Ellen White had got England back level but had a second goal ruled out for being offside. Steph Houghton also missed an opportunity to take the game to extra time, having a poorly taken penalty saved by USA goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. The game was also filled with plenty of drama, including a late red card for Millie Bright, and who can forget Alex Morgan’s iconic tea drinking celebration.
However, this England team is a very different outfit compared to the one the USA faced back in 2019. Under new manager Sarina Wiegman the Lionesses appear unphased by any challenge that comes their way, with the results speaking for themselves - 22 games played, 20 wins, 0 defeats, and over 100 goals scored. Pressure does not seem to be a word in this England team’s vocabulary, if anything the players seemed to grow in confidence as the European Championships progressed.
The team has gone through some changes though, since their 2-1 win against Germany. Ellen White and Jill Scott have now retired, and captain Leah Williamson, along with super sub Alessia Russo, will not be available for selection on Friday due to minor injuries.
The USA will also be without some of their star names, including Christen Press, Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan. All 3 have experienced playing in England since the last Women’s World Cup but they unfortunately will not be available for selection due to injuries.
However, England will have to watch out for names such as Crystal Dunn, Hailie Mace and Kristie Mewis - all of them have ways of conjuring up special moments to turn games on their heads.
The name on the USA roster that has caused the most excitement amongst fans is 17 year old Alyssa Thompson. Along with sister Gisele, they are the first ever high school athletes to sign an NIL deal with Nike. Also, despite being only 17, Alyssa has already won Gatorade player of the year in 2021-22, and committed to playing college football at Stanford.
Thompson is also the only girl to play in the MLS Next as part of the Total Futbol Academy. The young prodigy has said that playing against boys has increased her ability to pick out a pass, knowing she must be quick to pass the ball to refrain from getting hurt.
Something that has changed significantly since the two teams last played each other is the amount of interest in the women’s game. Back in 2019, just over 53,500 fans were in Lyon to watch the USA progress to the final, with 11.7m watching at home. At the Euros this summer, 87,192 fans packed out a sold out Wembley, and 17m were glued to their television screens, to witness England women lift their first ever major trophy.
Even just a few weeks ago the WSL and the Frauen Bundesliga saw record attendances with 47,367, and 23,200 fans, respectively cheering on their teams. And who can forget the triumphs of Barcelona at the Camp Nou last season, when they recorded two world record attendances for a women’s football game within the space of just one week.
Another reason why Friday’s game is set to be such a special occasion is that it will celebrate the 50 year history of the England women’s national team. Women’s football in England has come a long way, from being banned from 1921 for 50 years, to winning their first major trophy 50 years after the ban was lifted. Friday’s game will be a celebration of that progression. Over 100 special guests have been invited to be honoured by the FA, in recognition for their trailblazing work in the women’s game.
Friday’s game will undoubtedly be one for the history books, adding to what has already been an incredible year for women’s football across the world. The message from the players, and the fans, is clear - women’s football is here to stay.