The Lionesses have drawn the curtain on a monumental and historic year for both women’s football and women’s sport in England, following a trip to the Pinatar Arena on the Spanish coast.
Sarina Wiegman’s side kicked off 2022 with a 1-1 draw against Canada in the Arnold Clark Cup, a game which saw Alessia Russo make her first senior start. The player of the match, Millie Bright, opened the scoring in the 22nd minute.
The second game ended in another draw, this time 0-0 against Spain, which was watched by a crowd of 15,000. Wiegman handed goalkeeper, Hannah Hampton, her first start which she impressed in.
The final game of the friendly tournament was the most entraining as England made a statement 3-1 win over Germany. Goals came from Ellen White, Millie Bright and Fran Kirby to crown the Lionesses 2022 Arnold Clark Cup champions. Millie Bright finished the tournament as joint highest scorer alongside Alexia Putellas.
The Lionesses returned to action after their Arnold Clark Cup victory, with a trip to
North Macedonia in 2023 FIFA World Cup Qualifying. Beth Mead and Ella Toone contributed a total of six goals to the game as they both scored a hattrick each, to round off an attacking clinical 10-0 performance. Recently retired Ellen White scored her 50th goal in this game, which put her ahead of Harry Kane and Sir Bobby Charlton in the list of England’s all-time top scorers.
Off the back of an empathic win, the side travelled to Northern Ireland for another World Cup qualifier. A brace from both Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway contributed to a comfortable 5-0 win, which was played in front of a sold-out Windsor Park.
The third camp of the year saw England compete in three friendly matches as they prepared for the Euros.
The first game saw England face Belgium in a 3-0 win. The crowd at Molineux were witness to Chloe Kelly’s first appearance under Sarina Wiegman. Kelly appeared as a second-half substitute and scored her first senior international goal only twenty minutes later.
The second game saw England debut their new away kit at Elland Road. A brace from Beth Mead, secured the Lionesses another victory in a 5-1 win over the Netherlands. The game was played in front of 20,000 as the team looked to impress in their last home game before the Euros.
The Lionesses recorded an emphatic 4-0 win over Switzerland on the road, in their final game before the Euros. Alessia Russo opened the scoring in her fourth senior game before Georgia Stanway added a second from the penalty spot. Goals from Beth England and Jill Scott ensured the victory. The result meant that Sarina Wiegman's side headed into the Euros on a 14-game unbeaten run.
England got their Euro 2022 campaign underway at a sold-out Old Trafford with a 1-0 win over Austria, with Beth Mead opening her scoring for the tournament. Although a tight game, England’s dominance was clear to see and was to set the tone for the tournament.
The Lionesses' next game was against Norway who were thought to provide Wiegman’s side with the toughest test in their group. England produced an 8-0 thrashing in a truly dominant and clinical performance. Beth Mead again stole the show as she was awarded player of the match after scoring a hat trick. Stanway, Hemp, White and Russo also scored. This result ensured that England would progress to the group stages, as group winners.
England followed up this performance with a 5-0 victory over Northern Ireland. Russo scored two goals in five minutes to ensure that the Lionesses maintained their winning streak. Player of the match, Fran Kirby scored a wonderful goal as she curled the ball into the top corner. This result ensured that the Lionesses topped Group A without conceding a single goal.
England faced a tough and resistant Spanish side in the quarter-final. A nervy game as Spain took the lead shortly after halftime. England continued to attack but struggled to find a way through the defence until Alessia Russo's header was met by Ella Toone who equalised. Georgia Stanway scored the winner in extra time, as England booked their place in the semi-finals.
England, now only two wins away from their first major trophy, faced Sweden. The Lionesses cruised past the Swedish test as they beat them 4-0 in a surprisingly dominant performance. It wouldn’t be possible to mention this game without mentioning that goal by Alessia Russo. The backheel by Russo was subsequently named the goal of the tournament by fans.
England’s chance to finally ‘bring it home’ was against Germany. The game was played in front of a record crowd for either a men’s or women’s European Championship final: 87,192. Ella Toone opened the scoring, but England were quickly pegged back as Lina Magull scored with ten minutes to go. It was in extra time when a moment of history was written. Chloe Kelly scored in the 110th minute to crown the Lionesses European Champions, and a moment of history was written.
A standout performer of the tournament was Beth Mead, who scored an impressive 6 goals, which earned her the Golden Boot. Mead also added to her trophy cabinet as she was awarded Player of the Tournament, becoming the first English player to win the double award in a major tournament. The 27-year-old has had an outstanding year, as she was named FSA Player of the Year, BBC Women’s Player of the Year and was runner-up in the Ballon d’Or Feminin. Mead, alongside Mary Earps, Leah Williamson and Kiera Walsh was also named in the Team of the Tournament.
The European Champions travelled to Austria for the first of the final two World Cup Qualifiers. A dominant performance from England earned them a 2-0 victory over Austria. England then hosted Luxemburg at the Stoke City stadium, in what was a clinical attacking performance, as they came out 10-0 winners. With 8 different goal scorers in the side, it proved the attacking depth of the side.
Wembley hosted the USA in a much-anticipated game, marketed as ‘World Champions v European Champions’ the game sold out in hours, proving the growth and demand for women’s football. England claimed a 2-1 win over the current World Champions with Beth Mead and Georgia Stanway both scoring.
England a few days later hosted the Czech Republic in Brighton, a place which holds many memories from the Euros. Sarina Wiegman's side was held to a frustrating 0-0 draw, and the Czech Republic showed a resistant display. The game saw Lucy Bronze handed her 100th senior cap, after making her debut in 2013.
The final camp of the 2022 season saw England travel to the Pinatar Arena in Spain, where the team faced Japan and Norway. The Lionesses recorded a comfortable 4-0 victory over Japan, in which Jess Park scored within minutes of coming on for her debut. Beth Mead won her 50th cap for the Lionesses in this game.
In the final game of 2022, England played Norway, a rematch of the Group A game which ended in an 8-0 Lionesses victory. The game was certainly tighter than last time and Wiegman’s side was held to a 1-1 draw. Rachel Daly scored the England goal, and she was named player of the match in both games. Debuts were handed to Maya Le Tissier and Katie Robinson who became the fifth and sixth players to make their debuts this year. Georgia Stanway captained the side in the second half, becoming the fifth different player to wear the armband this year alongside, Leah Williamson, Ellen White, Millie Bright and Mary Earps.
2022 has been successful both on and off the pitch for Sarina Wiegman and her team. The highlight for most people is the Lionesses ending decades of hurt for English football and finally bringing it home, at a home tournament!
The year has been full of records, awards and achievements. The success of this year has seen the Lionesses be nominated for numerous awards: they were presented the ‘Inspiration’ award at the Pride Of Britain Awards. The Lionesses continue to fight for equal chances for girls in England to be involved in sports as they wrote an open letter to the government to allow all girls to play football at school after their European triumph.
The future generation of Lionesses are certainly starting to emerge as six debuts were handed out throughout the year. This year has also seen two long-serving Lionesses retire: Jill Scott and Ellen White. Jill Scott and Ellen White retired within days of each other and after being crowned European Champions. Jill Scott made her debut in 2006 and went on to earn 161 caps, retiring as the second most capped England international player behind Fara Williams. Ellen White made her debut in 2010 and has since earned 113 caps and has been named England’s international player of the year three times.
2023 is expected to be just as busy and hopefully just as successful. The Lionesses will next meet up in February as they compete in the Arnold Clark Cup, as they are set to face Belgium, Italy and Korea Republic. Wiegman's side will also be hoping to lift the Finalissima trophy and they face Brazil at Wembley in April in the first edition of the Women’s Finalissima. This is all before, the side travel to Australia to prepare for their first game in the 2023 World Cup on the 22nd of July. England have been placed in Group D alongside Denmark, China and the winner of the Group B playoffs which will be either Senegal, Haiti or Chile. The Lionesses will go into the tournament as one of the favourites having beaten previous winners this year: Japan, Norway, USA and Germany. The countdown to the World Cup is now on.