Sarina Wiegman, the “X Factor”

Tossed back and forth by Spain for 70 minutes in the quarter-finals, England won in the end. A success that owes much to the presence on the bench of Sarina Wiegman, precisely recruited to see her through to the end of her Women’s Championship.

Sarina Wiegman celebrates the England team qualifying for the semi-finals of Euro 2022.

KEYSTONE

The negative Covid test that the 52-year-old Dutch woman suffered a few hours before the game after several days of isolation may have been one of the major turning points of the tournament. Leading 1-0 at the start of the second half and suffering from Spanish possession, the English made the difference thanks to their coach’s inspired coaching.

Substitutes Alexia Russo and Ella Toone equalized six minutes from time. And a rocket from Georgia Stanway in the top corner after 6 minutes of overtime then sealed their place in the last four, like 5 years ago and like during the last two World Cups.

Three halves ended with three losses. But that was before Wiegman… The former physical education and sport professor remains unbeaten to date with 10 wins in 10 games at Euros, having guided the Netherlands to the crown at home in 2017.

The elbow room

When Phil Neville left in January 2021, just under a year and a half before a home European Championship, the English FA had only one name in mind to take a seat on the “Lionesses” bench: Sarina Wiegman. The FA even agreed to postpone taking office until September 2021 after the Tokyo Olympics, where he still wanted to lead the Dutch.

But the wait was worth it. In 18 games under his command, England have yet to taste defeat while remaining on 6 defeats in the last 10 meetings prior to his arrival.

Blindly supported by the authorities, her players and the supporters, Sarina Wiegmann has a free hand and uses it. She had no hesitation in leaving emblematic captain Steph Houghton on the side of the road as he felt he had not sufficiently recovered from an Achilles tendon injury.

She also called up Beth Mead, who had scored 5 goals and provided 3 assists in the first round after just 58 minutes against Spain, as did 109-cap, 52-goal centre-forward Ellen White or creator Fran Kirby, six minutes later .

“We are in control”

Before the games, “we talk about all possible scenarios and we are prepared for it,” she explained after the game. “Everything starts with the quality of the players. We have so much quality in the group that it’s easy to decide to make these changes because we know the players who come in can make the difference,” she added modestly.

But for his players, Wiegman is undoubtedly the “X-factor”. “We’ve always had a game plan, but now we’re managing to express ourselves in it as a player,” said defender Millie Bright when asked what Wiegman had changed and whose strengthening the players praised.

“Sarina has this principle that the one with the ball makes the decisions. We’re in control, it’s really what I liked when it arrived,” she elaborated.

“We don’t feel any pressure to play certain passes, it’s your decision and the team has to follow. If it was the wrong one, you learn to make a better decision next time. Being able to play like that gives me a lot of confidence. I feel really free,” continued the player of the match against Spain.

In view of Sweden, second in the world rankings, and in front of the 30,000 spectators who will fill the Sheffield stadium on Tuesday (9 p.m.), the march will still be very high. But with their talented workforce, one of the best coaches in the world and the support of an entire people, England intends to finally cross it.


European Women’s Championship: Results

TTY


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