England’s path to the UEFA Euro 2022 final has been tough, but they are driven by history and inspiring the nation

TEDINGTON, England – Friday’s England training session at the team base was the most competitive so far.

According to veteran Jill Scott and others who have been there, this has been the busiest in the past nine weeks. Interferences were flying in – Scott felt the full power of one with Millie Bright, while Georgia Stanway threw it in too. “Her handling of this tournament has been exceptional, so I’m going to get some marks for that,” Scott said.

There is a big final on Sunday – the Euro 2022 final against Germany, to be exact (LIVE at 12pm ET on ESPN and ESPN+) – This means there are precious few opportunities to convince coach Sarina Wegmann and force her to rethink choosing another team that hasn’t changed, so there’s no point in keeping anything in reserve.

Scott, 35, is the most experienced in this group and embodies the team’s goals. She was on the bench most of the time but was used as an influential substitute in her eighth major tournament, along with two Olympics. The reception you get is a testament to what you did for the game.

Many in this England team speak with reverence for the 2009 finalist – they remember watching that final broadcast in Finland and seeing England defeated 6-2. They are the latest ladies’ game legends – they even have rooms named after them at their hotel in southwest London – those immortalized on YouTube who influenced this current crop.

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But there’s this wonderful generational crossover in Scott: She’s been there during the days of poor funding, little crowds for league games, and inappropriate kits. When you talk about what it’s been like to be an England player for the past 15 years – the experiences she’s been through, how she saw the game develop before Sunday’s final – you’re listening. That goes for some of the younger players who picked her brains this week.

“They want to learn about the history of the game,” Scott said. “I keep telling them getting to the finals isn’t the norm, it’s been a long time. But they’re ready for it. The hunger and determination they show – the performances were out of this world.” Then comes the qualification: “But you don’t want to put too much pressure on them.”

That’s the thing with this group – they are familiar with their multi-level mission. Not only do they want to win on Sunday and become European champions, but in the process they want to inspire the kids who watch, while building on the foundations laid by previous generations – from those who struggled to play in 1972 when women were banned. Football was lifted, the game became more widespread and to the current group.

Each of them is compelling in its own right, and when they talk about legacy, it’s not company talk – you feel it is rooted in them. They know the importance of looking for role models, and being one of them. Take Lotte Woobin-Moy. She has not yet played in this Euro, but she has also contributed to that legacy. Inside camp, players Wubben-Moy, Beth England, Ellie Roebuck and Hannah Hampton haven’t played yet, but they were all there for “blast sessions” the day after the game. These players, deep within the squad, were an integral part of preparing the starting lineup.

After Tuesday’s game in Sheffield, where Wubben-Moy took part in the team’s celebrations, a group from Football Beyond Borders, an education and social inclusion charity, found out. She gave them the match shirt and asked them to give it to whoever deserves it. Elsewhere, superstar Alicia Russo picked 10-year-old Nancy from her old football club Burstead and gave the youngster the match shirt. All decisions are being made at the moment, but they will leave a big footprint. It’s something the players talked about before the tournament started.

“The most important thing Sarina said at the beginning was: ‘Play for the little girl who wants to be where we are,’” Stanway said. “So I’m going to play for the little girl who wanted to play at first, she went to training, loved it, dreamed of being in our position. Yes, play for her.”

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Emma Hayes talks about the legacy of Euro 2022 after England’s success in reaching the final.

Legends like Scott can’t help but feel the pain of nostalgia for what came before. Scott suffered from the heartbreak of this final in 2009, but often plays with missed opportunities from her Euro 2017 quarter-final defeat to the Netherlands and England’s 2019 World Cup semi-final exit to the US women’s national team.

this group? Well, she doesn’t want to compare generations and their quality, but she loves this group.

“Just speaking of this squad, I see the likes of Keira Walsh and she is a very talented player,” Scott said. “People say to me all the time when participating in the tournament, ‘You play against the best players in the world. “But I play alongside them every day in training, I really think so.

“What people don’t see is their dedication – their whole lives focus on becoming better players. The mix of experience and youth was good too, but we have a special group. The passion and joy we have for football unites us all.”

Listening to the England squad on Friday, you wouldn’t think they were under pressure. Stanway was one of the stars of this tournament, and she has two thoughts at the forefront of her mind when she allows herself to dream about the final: first she wants to win, and secondly she wants to hug her parents for the first time. in six weeks.

Stanway’s ideas are a symbol of the group – each member has a collective and individual motivation for Sunday. Collectively they want to end the wait. They have all individually overcome their difficulties on and off the field and heartbreak to be here.

Take guard Mary Earps. She once thought her international days were over. She was the third choice in 2019, then saw the promotion of two other goalkeepers before her after the World Cup. She had those bleak moments as thoughts of failure seeped into her mind, but she stuck with them – and here is the sultry first choice.

“I don’t think I really want to go back to the past,” she said after England’s victory over Sweden. “I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now, I love being part of this team and I love every minute of it.”

Beth Meade was heartbroken by losing a spot in the Tokyo Olympics squad; Captain Leah Williamson played just six minutes in the last World Cup. Neither of them will allow this to happen again.

There are also off-court struggles that have been overcome, such as those faced by Fran Kirby, who in the past two years has struggled with extended periods of the game with heart disease and then fatigue. However, here she is preparing for the final after her stunning semi-final performance against Sweden. Chloe Kelly spent 11 months with an ACL injury but she came back in time.

Then there are those who want to make up for the previous disappointment with the England shirt. For those who have experienced heartbreak from previous tournaments like Elaine White, the emotions became too much after Wednesday’s game.

When Scott talks about her past experiences, she hears her voice trembling slightly as she talks about the importance of legacy and those who wore the shirt before her, and will do so in the future. But then comes that competitive advantage, focus on not missing out on this moment and what it can impact you personally this weekend.

“We really want to inspire the nation,” Scott said. “We’ve ticked all these boxes. Like I said before, all the players who’ve gone before, put on this jersey, the learning experiences we had as players – that’s for everyone, really, on Sunday.

“Absolutely everyone. The volunteers who just went and helped the local girl teams, the ones that still do, the ones that just love the game. I see reporters here and I’ve seen them here for the past 16 years, and they’re just doing it for the love of the game.” I hope everyone knows that, on Sunday, if we wanted to lift the cup, they all got it too.

“We got the team right to get out there on Sunday and enjoy it. It’s been a great ride so far and hopefully there’s one big sign to make.”

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