England star Lucy Bronze has revealed she is playing through pain caused by a knee injury in order to help the Lionesses' bid a first major tournament victory, having netted in a 4-0 semi-final rout of Sweden.

Bronze's header put England two goals up against the Swedes at Bramall Lane, after which Alessia Russo's incredible backheel and Fran Kirby's long-range strike helped the hosts record the biggest ever victory in a Women's Euro semi-final.

Tournament hosts England, beaten European Championship finalists in both 1984 and 2009, will now take part in the showpiece final at Wembley on Sunday.

And Bronze, who scooped FIFA's The Best Women's Player award in 2020, is blocking out the pain in an attempt to help her country to glory, as she played down her last-four goalscoring feat.

"I've just got to play through it," Bronze said. "There are plenty of players who are having to play through pain in their career and I'm now one of them.

"I don't feel like I did a couple of years ago. The Lucy Bronze of a couple of years ago was 'the best player in the world'. 

"It's been difficult to come back from a knee injury which has lingered for a very long time and still is now."

Bronze added: "The goals and assists are not something I consider a major part of my game. I'd much rather the likes of Beth and Ellen [White] and Hempo [Lauren Hemp] get on the scoresheet. I enjoyed it, though. I'd not scored in a Euros.

"I'm still happy to be contributing to the team, still playing good football, obviously getting an assist for Beth [Mead] and getting her up there to get the Golden Boot. It would be nice to be part of her little individual journey."

England ended a run of three successive major semi-final defeats with their resounding win in Sheffield, having fallen in the final four at the 2017 Euros and the 2015 and 2019 World Cups.

And Bronze believes those painful experiences made Tuesday's win even sweeter, adding: "For players like myself and Ellen and Fran, who've experienced a lot of semi-final defeats, it's nice to get over those defeats, get over the line and finally get ourselves in the final. But it’s certainly not job done."

Meanwhile, England boss Sarina Wiegman has come in for praise after leading the side through an unprecedented 11-match winning streak, the Lionesses scoring 104 goals in her 19 games at the helm.

Bronze believes Wiegman's ability to keep the squad grounded has been a major factor in their terrific run on home soil, adding: "It's just practical information she's giving. I think that being Dutch, she's to the point. She tries not to get carried away. 

"It's quite funny that pretty much everyone in the whole of Holland said they've never seen Sarina Wiegman jump around like she did after the Spain game!

"I think she said herself that the Spanish performance was one of the best she'd ever seen – to come through that was amazing not just for the team but for her as a manager and coach.

"In a home Euros there's a lot of emotion and a lot of support. We don't want to get carried away too much and she's one of those people that is very process-driven. 

"She's very excited, but once the game's done we're on to the next game. We don't get carried away with our emotions but on and off the field we still enjoy the game and still enjoy the moment at the right time."

Lucy Bronze described Spain's setback of losing Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas as "devastating" and a blow to the women's game as a whole.

England star Bronze, who will become a team-mate of Putellas next season after recently signing for Barcelona, backed the 28-year-old to rebound from her crushing Euro 2022 disappointment.

Putellas, who has scored 27 goals in 100 international appearances, suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in training on Tuesday and will play no part in the tournament that began on Wednesday.

"For anyone who suffers an ACL, it's devastating," Bronze said. "My old team-mate [Lyon's Germany international Dzsenifer] Marozsan did her ACL just before the tournament, and I was devastated for her, and now Alexia as well.

"Obviously she's one of the best players in the world – the best player in the world right now – and one of my team-mates.

"For women's football, we want the best players on the pitch. I'm sure she'll get straight back to Barcelona, and they'll want to get her back on the pitch and fighting fit.

"I'm sure she'll be back playing for Barca as soon as possible, and the World Cup is still to come next year, so she's still got plenty of time and plenty of stages to shine."

Putellas' absence is a colossal blow for Spain, with the 28-year-old having top-scored in the Champions League with 11 goals last season.

Bronze, who has battled knee problems during her own career, is hoping for a clean bill of health in the England camp throughout the finals.

The hosts began with a 1-0 win over Austria at Old Trafford, in front of almost 70,000 supporters.

Bronze said the occasion was "huge", but it was a scrappy showing from England, with Beth Mead's first-half goal proving just enough.

"We know we can improve on that performance," Bronze said. "Especially under [coach] Sarina [Wiegman] we score a lot of goals and play exciting football and I don't think we did that at our best. We didn't quite click and didn't quite get in the flow.

"Ultimately, the best teams have to win even when they're not playing at their best, so we managed to show that which is a different side to this England team."

Five years after Sarina Wiegman's Netherlands team triumphed on home turf at the European Championship, Sarina Wiegman's England begin among the favourites to ... triumph on home turf.

Wiegman's switch to coach the Lionesses has served as a key sub-plot to the tournament, which will put women's football in the spotlight throughout July.

It gets under way when England play Austria at Old Trafford on Wednesday, women taking the spotlight in a year when the men's World Cup unusually takes place in November and December.

Almost 120,000 spectators attended games when England's north west staged Euro 2005; however, the overwhelming majority were either at games featuring England, or at the final between Germany and Norway at Blackburn Rovers' Ewood Park.

That meant some games were sparsely attended, with just 957 spectators seeing France beat Italy in the group stages in Preston. This time, with the tournament boosted from eight to 16 teams since England were last hosts, over 500,000 tickets have been sold, meaning near-empty stadiums should be a thing of the past.

Here, Stats Perform looks at what to expect from the 26-day finals.

German dominance gives way as rest of Europe catches up

Germany used to be the queens of the Women's Euros, but their crown has slipped. After winning six consecutive titles, the Germans fell short at Euro 2017 when they lost to eventual runners-up Denmark in the quarter-finals.

It was all rather end-of-an-era stuff, with the rise of professionalism across Europe's most powerful and forward-thinking footballing nations only likely to be further in evidence this year. Germany, of course, are included among those powerhouses, but they have plenty of company now at the top table.

The Dutch hosts roared to glory at Euro 2017, with Vivianne Miedema scoring twice in a 4-2 victory over the Danes in the final, having demolished Mark Sampson's England 3-0 to reach that stage. Miedema joined Arsenal shortly before that tournament and has become the Women's Super League's record scorer while with the Gunners, the defining player of the blossoming WSL.

This is a tournament that was first officially staged in 1984, with Sweden beating England on penalties in Luton after the teams finished tied on aggregate after home and away ties.

From the second staging in 1987 through to 1997, the tournament was staged every two years, with Norway triumphing in 1987 and 1993. Germany – and West Germany in 1989 – otherwise swept the board and continued to do so when it became a quadrennial championship.

The mighty Germans dismissed England 6-2 in the 2009 final in Helsinki, with a Lionesses team that included Alex Scott, Kelly Smith, Karen Carney, Eni Aluko, Fara Williams and Casey Stoney overwhelmed. Another survivor from that match, veteran midfielder Jill Scott, features in Wiegman's squad this year.

Mighty Spain top list of trophy contenders

Spain are favourites with the bookmakers, and what a team they are, built on classic foundations of players from Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Their sensational midfielder Alexia Putellas could own this tournament, but the Spanish rise was checked by Barcelona's stunning defeat to Lyon in the Champions League final.

French outfit Lyon have been established titans of the women's game for years, but Barcelona looked to have surpassed them, winning all 30 of their Primera Division games last season in a display of their might. Yet on the biggest club stage of all, Barcelona, with their many Spain stars, were caught cold and slumped to a 3-1 loss.

That should give Spain's Euros rivals some hope, as should the blow that Spain suffered when star forward Jennifer Hermoso was ruled out by a knee injury.

There are plenty of credible challengers, with hosts England among them. Since Wiegman replaced Phil Neville, England have won every match under their new coach, including a 5-1 victory over the Netherlands at Elland Road in June, and they should be able to handle group games against Austria, Norway and Northern Ireland.

Expect the familiar European giants to contend. Women's football is gradually becoming big business, and the richest countries are building the best facilities and funding the game on a professional level, which is a far cry from how the game was a decade ago.

England go Dutch, Dutch go English, Scandinavians on a mission

France have left national team greats Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer out of their squad, so how they cope without that illustrious duo remains to be seen, while England are without long-standing former captain and defensive mainstay Steph Houghton, who was judged not fit enough by Wiegman after an injury lay-off.

The hosts have Barcelona's new recruit Lucy Bronze, another rock of their team for many years, while the likes of winger Lauren Hemp and strikers Ella Toone and Alessia Russo should announce themselves on the big stage. Not for the first time, England look forward-heavy, with question marks over their midfield strength. New captain Leah Williamson attended the last Euros as a fan, so this is a significant step up.

While England are coached by a Dutchwoman, the Netherlands are bossed by Englishman Mark Parsons, who had a long spell with the Portland Thorns before replacing Wiegman. The reigning champions are contenders again, given the presence of Miedema and the mercurial Lieke Martens, who has traded Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in the off-season. The thumping by England was a jolt, but don't read too much into that result.

Denmark's Pernille Harder and Norway's Ada Hegerberg are superstar strikers in teams that might cause a surprise, Sweden sit second in the FIFA rankings so rightly fancy their chances, and then you have Germany. The eight-time winners lack the star power of their rivals and must play Denmark and Spain in the group stage, but their squad is packed with experience, so count them out at your peril.

England captain Leah Williamson was full of praise for Lucy Bronze after the Lionesses emphatic 5-1 friendly win against the Netherlands on Friday.

Bronze, Beth Mead, who netted a double, Ella Toone and Lauren Hemp scored to seal an emphatic victory for Sarina Wiegman's side in Leeds.

England had fallen 1-0 behind to a Lieke Martens header, before Bronze put a cross into the box that somehow found its way into the net.

A Netherlands penalty was missed by the Dutch captain, Sherida Spitse, who was making her 200th international appearance, before the hosts put on a show in the second half at Elland Road, bagging four more goals to ease to victory.

"Lucy scored one of them in training yesterday, so I was trying to tell her to take it," a smiling Williamson told Stats Perform after the game. "But at the end of the day she's got forward and we've seen her in that position so many times that when she gets there she'll take it for the team.

"But also the state of the game and the penalty, it's not great, but our reaction after, you can't change that."

Following the win, Netherlands boss Mark Parsons said England are favourites for next month's Women's Euro 2022 tournament, and Williamson was asked if teams are playing against them with some fear.

"A little bit, I think, we're playing well, we're the home nation. It's a brilliant combo to have," she said. 

"Other countries will potentially look at the score lines and think 'Yeah, England are doing really well,' But I think we've just got to stay focused on what we're doing and what our job is.

"We know that even though we won 5-1 tonight, there was many things that we can work on, and get better at. Being clinical is something that we've wanted to improve on and we've obviously done that tonight and in a lot of the games previously with Sarina [Wiegman].

"I mean, if I was on another team, I don't really pay too much attention to score lines, because you don't know the ins and outs of the game. But I'm sure a lot of people will be speaking about us.

"We're very much focused on the one game at a time cliche."

England defender Lucy Bronze says the choice to move to Barcelona was a "no-brainer" and that she always draws confidence from the interest of big teams.

The Lionesses full-back has made the switch to Spain from Manchester City, electing to stay in Europe despite speculation she was set to head to the United States for the next step in her career.

Having previously played for Lyon, where she was a three-time Champions League winner, it marks another move to the continent for the 87-cap veteran.

"I had offers from Lyon and Barca, the two best teams in the world. It wasn't bad to be able to pick from that and make my decision," Bronze stated.

"It gives me loads of confidence as a player knowing these big teams who are so successful want to sign me."

"I knew I wanted to play abroad again. My experience at Lyon was the best time and best moments in my career," she added.

"Going out and pushing myself into a different culture, a different experience, playing with the world's best players - to have the chance to do that again was a no-brainer.

"Maybe I can't hype doing the same experience again with Barca but I would love to. I've not had that experience in England quite the same as in Lyon.

"Hopefully, I can do it again."

England star Lucy Bronze insists too much pressure is placed on the team's captain and is determined to ensure Leah Williamson is supported at Euro 2022.

Barcelona defender Bronze felt the strain on Steph Houghton, who led the national side for eight years, became increasingly difficult to deal with.

Houghton is not in the squad for the continental tournament on home soil and Arsenal's Williamson has been named as the replacement captain for the competition.

Bronze hopes a collaborative approach will mean Williamson does not have to change as a person or player to fulfil the demands of the role.

"As a captain, everybody knows Leah really well," said Bronze. "Sometimes people put too much pressure on the captain, I've seen it with Steph previously. 

"But Leah is still the player that she's always been in this England squad, and she'll remain the same for us - a good person to have around, a good person to have on the pitch. 

"It will be a big moment for her but she's the same as everybody else.

"We have plenty of leaders on the pitch and in the squad who may not even step on the pitch - and it's important that we remember that as a team. 

"It's not just on one person's shoulders, it's falling on 23 players."

Bronze elaborated on the pressure felt by Manchester City's Houghton, who could not suitably prove her recovery from an Achilles injury to be picked for the Euros.

"I spoke to Steph a lot in previous years," said Bronze. "She told me about being given the captaincy so young and what pressures it put on her.

"She didn't know quite who she was as a captain and as a leader. It can be quite difficult to handle that.

"The media especially are the ones that are putting the pressure on captains because from inside the squad and even the coaches, you don't change as a person, people don't see you any differently. 

"You're the captain because you're the person that you are. It's not because you want to become something else or change who you are. It's for that reason only. 

"Steph felt that pressure a lot. Although she probably didn't admit it at the time, I know it was difficult. I was her right-hand-woman for a long time and I could see it. 

"For Leah, it's important that we have other people step up to the plate to take the pressure off her and know what it means to be a leader in this team."

Bronze played the full game as England beat Belgium 3-0 in their first warm-up game for the Euros last week, with friendlies against the Netherlands and Switzerland up next.

The Lionesses then begin their Euro 2022 campaign against Austria on July 6 rated among the favourites to go all the way.

Bronze added: "Really good [preparation so far], the excitement is definitely there.

"There are so many players in their first tournament, people like Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Ella Toone. 

"Just seeing their faces when they found out they were picked and that excitement just brings the buzz back to players like myself and Jill [Scott] who have regularly gone to tournaments." 

Barcelona followed the eye-catching signing of Lucy Bronze by adding Brazil striker Geyse Ferreira to their star-packed squad on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Geyse was joint top scorer in last season's Primera Division, matching Barcelona's Asisat Oshoala with 20 goals.

Geyse achieved her feat while playing for lowly Madrid CFF, who finished 13th in the 16-team competition, and now joins a team who won all 30 of their league matches.

Barcelona club president Joan Laporta saw the deal over the line alongside women's football director Xavier Puig, as Geyse signed a two-year contract.

England defender Bronze was revealed as a major new recruit by Barcelona on Saturday, with the former Best FIFA Women's Player arriving after her contract expired at Manchester City.

Geyse is relishing her new challenge after swapping the Spanish capital for a new home.

"Like every big team, I have always enjoyed playing against Barca," Geyse told Barcelona's website. "I am happy to have been joint top scorer with Oshoala and that I am going to be her team-mate next season.

"I am here to help the team achieve its targets."

Barcelona won a domestic league and cup double last season but fell short in Europe, denied a successful defence of the Women's Champions League title when French giants Lyon upset them 3-1 in the final in Turin.

England star Lucy Bronze has called time on her Manchester City career after a second stint with the Women's Super League outfit.

Bronze, who won FIFA's The Best Women's Player Award in 2020, is set for a crucial role with her country when England host the European Championship in July.

The Telegraph reported last week that 30-year-old Bronze has received offers from clubs in the United States and is considering a move to a team on the west coast.

She has been spending time in California this week, according to pictures posted on her Instagram account.

City said in a statement on Thursday: "Manchester City can confirm that defender Lucy Bronze will depart the club at the end of her current contract this summer.

"The defender will bring the curtain down on her second spell at the Academy Stadium and five years altogether in sky blue next month, having made 111 appearances and scored 14 goals."

Bronze has been a league and Women's FA Cup winner with City, but her greatest run of success came in a three-year spell at Lyon, where she helped the French giants land the Champions League three times.

Scotland midfielder Caroline Weir is also leaving City, the club said this week, while versatile forward Georgia Stanway has agreed to join Bayern Munich.

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