Women's Euros: Can Mead or Popp lead their team to final glory at Wembley?

By Sports Desk July 30, 2022

It is a major tournament held in England where the hosts are looking to end a long wait without silverware, but Germany stand in their way.

This feels awfully familiar.

Sarina Wiegman's Lionesses have captured the hearts of a nation, with fans flocking to watch them reach their first major tournament final since 2009 where they lost to *checks notes* Germany.

Meanwhile, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg's side have advanced to the final comparatively under the radar, with Die Nationalelf picking up impressive scalps of their own along the way.

It promises to be a fascinating contest at Wembley Stadium in front of what is expected to be a record crowd for any European Championship game - men's or women's - on Sunday.

A huge 90 minutes, maybe more, awaits the two teams, but where will it be won and lost? Stats Perform takes a look at the finer details ahead of the Euro 2022 final.

Raise a glass to Mead and Popp and drink it in

While teams win tournaments, we always look to those individuals who we will remember in years to come for their performances.

Undoubtedly two of the standout players in England during the last three weeks have been Beth Mead and Alexandra Popp, current joint-top scorers with six goals each.

The Lionesses have not found it difficult to score goals, finding the net 20 times in five games in the tournament so far. In fact, only Germany in 2009 have ever scored more at a Women's Euros (21).

Mead's goal in the opening 1-0 win against Austria at Old Trafford was vital for getting their campaign rolling, before she grabbed a hat-trick in the 8-0 thrashing of Norway, another in the 5-0 win against Northern Ireland, and the opener in the 4-0 semi-final humbling of Sweden.

While Germany have not been quite as proficient – still scoring a respectable 13 goals – Popp's contributions had initially come when adding to leads, with the captain's goals against Denmark, Spain, Finland and Austria all arriving when her team were already ahead.

However, she came into her own in the last-four clash with France, scoring both goals in the 2-1 win, including a dominant header to win it with 14 minutes remaining.

Having scored in all five of Germany's games so far, a goal at Wembley would see Popp become just the second player to score in every match from the group stages to the final at a single edition of a European Championship (men's and women's), after Michel Platini for France in 1984.

Whichever one raises their game for the final could ultimately provide the deciding factor. In the case of Popp, it could well be that she has to score herself to make a difference, as she has not yet recorded an assist in the tournament, whereas Mead has four assists to her name, more than anyone else.

The strongest spine could be the key

They say a good attack wins games while a good defence wins trophies. So far, both of these teams have been effective at each end of the pitch.

England's only goal conceded in five games came when they went 1-0 down to Spain in the quarter-finals, before coming back to win 2-1 in extra time, while Germany's one against was an own goal in their semi-final against France.

An opposition player is yet to find a way past Germany, and it is not hard to see why. Kathrin-Julia Hendrich and Marina Hegering have been a steely combination at the back for Voss-Tecklenburg's team, with Hegering making 41 ball recoveries in her five games, the joint seventh most among outfield players in the tournament.

Germany youngster Lena Oberdorf has had an outstanding tournament in midfield and has 44 ball recoveries to her name.

That is the same number as England captain Leah Williamson, a player who leads by example at centre-back alongside Millie Bright, who has managed a team-high 21 clearances.

Both centre-back pairings have had plenty of help in front of them, with 20-year-old Oberdorf attempting more tackles (19) than any other player from the two finalists, while England's Keira Walsh has recovered the ball 36 times and has the best passing accuracy of any player to have attempted at least 250 passes (89.56 per cent).

Midfield could be a key area for England, who as a team have attempted 2,597 passes overall with an accuracy of 83.4 per cent, both ranked second across the tournament, while Germany have attempted 2,222 passes (ranked fourth) with an accuracy of 77 per cent (ranked seventh).

England's Germany hoodoo

It is not exclusive to the women's game, but England have an unflattering record against Germany, especially in major tournaments.

The Lionesses have won just two of their 27 meetings with Germany in all competitions, and have lost more often against them than any other opponent (D4 L21), though they did win their last meeting 3-1 in February.

Germany have won all four of their matches against England at Women's Euros by an aggregate score of 15-4. This will be the first meeting between the sides at the tournament since the 2009 final, which Germany won 6-2.

That was the last time England reached a Women's Euros final, having also lost to Sweden in 1984, while this will be Germany's ninth appearance in a final, meaning they have appeared in 69 per cent of Women's Euros title matches. They have triumphed on all eight of their previous appearances in finals so far.

You could therefore be forgiven for thinking that too much history is on the Germans' side for England to stand a chance, but the tournament hosts have a not-so-secret weapon.

Wiegman will be the first manager to have led two different nations in Women's Euros finals, having won the 2017 tournament with the Netherlands, and her overall record in the competition shows 11 wins from 11 games, with her teams having scored 33 goals and conceded just four.

Whatever happens on Sunday, it is sure to be quite a spectacle. Will football finally come "home", or will Germany repeat history and add to their own outstanding legacy?

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