You just missed the greatest sporting event of 2022
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A celebration of women’s football. Record breaking. Unbelievable.
These are just a few ways to describe last month’s Women’s Euros. Yes, that’s right, the Women’s Euros was the best sporting event of 2022.
You may not have seen much of it, but the tournament will leave a legacy that will change women’s football forever, at least in Europe.
It was probably one of the most talked about women’s European Championships before a ball was even kicked. Before the tournament started, there were two sets of expectations: on the hosts’ side to do well and even take home England’s first-ever Women’s Cup, and on the FA’s shoulders to deliver the biggest and best European Women’s Championship yet.
It looked like it was when Manchester United’s Old Trafford, which seats 74,310, was announced as the venue for the opening match between England and Austria. Most exciting, however, was the final, which was to be played at Wembley Stadium with 90,000 spectators.
Context is needed for everything, and context shows how big the tournament really was. At the last women’s European Championship in 2017, the average number of viewers was 7,743. In 2013 it was even higher at 8,675. At the first women’s European Championship there were 3,472, at the latest 18,544.
There must be a reason for this increase in visitor numbers. The BBC put its full weight behind the tournament, with notable pundits such as Alex Scott and Ian Wright. As previously mentioned, the size of the stadiums hosting the games was unprecedented and all of Europe looked to England and set the stage for the entire tournament.
The first game broke the attendance record for a game of the Women’s European Championship with 68,871 fans. Beth Mead’s chip, which won the game 1-0 for England, sent the country into an uproar and meant all of England were right behind the Lionesses from the start.
Excitement grew as the hosts scored 13 goals in their last two group games to easily qualify and were joined by England, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Austria, France and the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.
There were no big shocks in the quarterfinals, but some big statements were made. England came back from behind, beating favorites Spain while reigning champions Netherlands were eliminated by France. The England-Spain game drew a peak TV audience of 7.6 million in England alone and the quality of not just that game but the tournament as a whole was outstanding.
The semifinals continued the drama as the Lionesses beat then world No. 2 Sweden 4-0 and Germany, who have totally dominated the tournament in recent years, defeated France 2-1. Top TV audiences were surpassed in the semi-finals when 9.3 million people tuned in to BBC One.
The conditions for a brilliant finale were perfect.
Interest in women’s football was at an all-time high and it was to be played at Wembley, Europe’s second largest football stadium. It would be the exciting home nation who have yet to win a trophy against the grandmasters of European women’s football.
87,192 spectators attended, the highest number of spectators at a UEFA match ever, whether male or female.
England opened the scoring with another chip after a dismal first half, this time courtesy of Ella Toone. The Germans weren’t down and equalized 17 minutes later, the second goal England would concede.
When the game went into extra time, a lot of English people were certainly thinking about penalties and the fact that they were playing against Germany.
The final would not follow the traditional storyline as Chloe Kelly scored in a goalmouth scramble. Soccer had come home. England had won the Euros.
I believe the impact of the Women’s Euros will be felt for years to come. Girls across the continent who want to get into the sport have role models to follow and coverage of women’s football continues to increase.
Clubs in the Women’s Super League reported an increase in ticket sales following England’s victory which will hopefully see women’s football go from strength to strength.