England Women boss Sarina Wiegman is expecting a “difficult” Euro 2022 semi-final against Sweden on Tuesday but hopes her players can “inspire the nation” and make fans “proud again”.
The Lionesses, having last week beaten Spain in a thrilling last-eight contest at the Amex Stadium, take on the Swedes at Bramall Lane for a place in the Wembley final five days later.
Boss Wiegman told a press conference in Sheffield: “The England team is ready to play their best game tomorrow against Sweden, and hopefully we inspire the nation.
“I hope the fans are going to bring us lots of energy again. We’ll do that ourselves, but it was really an extra thing, an extra dimension, what we got in our last games, and that’s really exciting. We hope we’re going to make them proud again.”
England have lost in the semi-finals at each of their last three major tournaments – Euro 2017, where they were beaten by hosts and eventual winners the Netherlands, then managed by Wiegman, and the World Cups of 2019 and 2015.
When asked about those previous last-four exits, Wiegman – in charge of England since last September – said: “I think it’s necessary to be in the now.
“I do think you always have to learn from your experience and take out the things that you can take, to become better and learn.
“But it’s no use now to talk about that all the time, because it’s now, it is now. So why should we talk about that all the time?”
Wiegman then gave a similar response when asked about England possibly winning Sunday’s final, saying: “We first have to play a semi-final and that’s the only thing that counts.
“Again, we’re in the now, all the focus is on our game tomorrow against Sweden, and that’s the only thing we talk about – how do we want to play, how we collaborate as a team, how we can try to exploit their weaknesses, take out their strengths and use our own strengths. That’s the only thing we’re talking about.”
The Lionesses, seeking a first-ever major trophy, and first appearance in a final since Euro 2009, are going up against a Sweden outfit lying second, six places above them, in the world rankings.
Peter Gerhardsson’s side reached a final last summer when they were Tokyo Olympics runners-up, and two years earlier beat England 2-1 to finish third at the World Cup.
Wiegman said: “I think it’s going to be a very tight game. We know they’ve performed really well over the last years, they’ve always performed really well in the women’s game, they are No 2 in the FIFA ranking.
“It’s going to be a difficult game, I think totally different to what we had against Spain, because they have a different style of play. But we’re prepared.”
Bright: We’re embracing the atmosphere
“For us, we remain in our little bubble that we’ve been in from the start of the tournament.
“Everyone speaks about the pressure being on us, but we’re embracing the atmosphere in the tournament so far (which) has been outstanding. Nothing gets in our bubble, nothing gets out, and we stay focused on what we need to do in the game.”
“We had a little setback, of course that’s part of the game too, conceding a goal, but we stayed calm, we stayed trying to play our game and then the result came. I think we’re really strong and we can handle some setbacks.
“I think going through that and being that successful…really helped the team and really showed our resilience and it’s a big step in our development.”
Wiegman, whose starting line-up has been unchanged through the tournament so far, reported she had all 23 players in the squad available for Tuesday’s match.
Analysis: What can England expect?
Sky Sports’ Charlotte Marsh:
“Any England fan watching Sweden’s quarter-final would be forgiven for thinking Tuesday’s semi-final will be an easy ride. Sweden looked ponderous, struggled to break down Belgium’s defence and were not at all near their best.
“But it has not been the easiest preparation. They have been hit by a wave of Covid absentees, including key players like Hannah Glas and Jonna Andersson, who will surely start on Tuesday if they’re fit enough.
“There was no overlap from the full-backs against Belgium, which stifled Sweden’s creativity. Glas and Andersson, who play more as wing-backs, provide this outlet and will provide England’s own full-backs with a tough test.
“But Sweden must be quicker in their play. England are packed with pace in the transition, getting the ball out to their wingers in lightning-quick time. They will punish the Swedes time and again if they are given this opportunity.
“They will likely let England have the better of the possession and chances, especially if they do not have their key players to full fitness. Despite having over 30 chances on Friday, Sweden’s efforts were largely restricted to long range.
“But one area Sweden looked incredibly strong in against Belgium is set-pieces. They scored their goal from a corner and they were the times when the Red Flames looked the most vulnerable.
“Sweden are a big side in terms of height and England can match this, but they must keep their concentration. On the other side, the Lionesses are also dangerous in their set-pieces.
“Sarina Wiegman’s side must also make the most of their two extra days and additional players – at the moment – in training. While Sweden avoided an energy-sapping extra 30 minutes, the extra rest could prove vital.
“But England were also not at their best against Spain and both teams must improve ahead of the semi-final. All eyes will be on Bramall Lane and the occasion deserves an entertaining spectacle.”
Asllani: Fewer cameras at Women’s Euros a ‘catastrophe’
Sweden stand-in captain Kosovare Asllani has criticised UEFA for “using 50 per cent fewer cameras” at the women’s European Championship than the men’s, labelling the situation a “catastrophe”.
The Swedes will take on hosts England, who will be bidding to reach their first Women’s Euros final after coming through a 2-1 extra-time victory over Spain in the last eight, in front of a packed Bramall Lane on Tuesday evening.
Peter Gerhardsson’s side have had five goals ruled out through VAR en route to the semi-finals and lodged a complaint over the decision to disallow Rebecka Blomqvist’s goal for offside during their 2-1 win over Switzerland on July 13.
VAR has also come in for criticism from those watching Euro 2022, given the amount of time it has been taking to arrive at decisions during matches, and Asllani believes it is due to a lack of cameras.
“Using 50 per cent fewer cameras in our tournament than the men’s game, that is a catastrophe really,” the 32-year-old said.
“The decisions can’t be made with the same precision. It’s not just for us, for other teams. There are situations where I think you should have more cameras, that can be really decisive.”
Gerhardsson, Sweden’s head coach, claimed former official Jonas Eriksson pointed out the alleged error for the Blomqvist goal.
“If you’re talking about the complaint our staff made, it was obvious,” he said. “We hadn’t seen it ourselves but a Swedish referee pointed out they drew the line incorrectly.
“You are incompetent at your job if you are doing it that way. There shouldn’t be a difference if it’s women’s football or men’s football. Of course it’s not good enough.
“My feeling is sometimes we put too much trust in it. Even if it’s an offside that’s very obvious then you wait for the VAR decision, you don’t know until the ref whistles if it’s a goal or not.
“We’re going to have to hope that they’ve looked at improving themselves for the semi-final.”
Kirby: We want to put smiles on faces
Fran Kirby is trying to stay level-headed but admits putting smiles on fans’ faces during a difficult time for the country is driving England on ahead of Tuesday’s Euro 2022 semi-final.
She said: “As the tournament has grown, we have been walking down the river and seen people leaning over and going, ‘Well done, girls – we’re supporting you!’
“It’s great and not something we have been used to in terms of the level the Women’s Super League creates compared to this, it’s incredible. Hopefully we are giving the country something to smile about and to be proud of in terms of the way we are playing and the way we have been playing.
“The other thing is that if we get the chance to win in the semi-final and get through to the final, I think it will be incredible for people in this country to have something to celebrate and enjoy. We want to do that as much as possible.
“As much as we want to win, we want to put a smile on people’s faces. They may be going through a hard time in terms of the fuel costs and the cost of living now, so hopefully we can give people an escape for 90-plus minutes when they turn their TVs on.
“We want them to have something to cheer about, something to watch and they will see how passionately we play for this country. Hopefully it gives them a sense of pride and they can switch off from everything that is going on.”
Triumphing in the last four of a major tournament is a hurdle the Lionesses are yet to conquer, having lost at that stage in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups and the last European Championships five years ago.
Kirby added: “I don’t want to be another player who loses in a semi-final and doesn’t get to the final of a major tournament with England.
“It’s in the back of the minds of a few of the girls who have been there. We’ve been in the four semi-finals now, but for us it’s about the present and making sure we’re not in that position again.
“No-one has really spoken about it in the camp, in terms of the ones who have been in that situation, so it’s about winning the game and getting to the final.
“For me, I would love to win the trophy, 100 per cent. I’m a very competitive player when it comes to football, so I would love to win. My sights are on winning the tournament, but I know to do that we have to have a good performance in the semi-final.”
The knock-out phase…
Wednesday July 20
Quarter-final 1: England 2-1 Spain (AET)
Thursday July 21
Quarter-final 2: Germany 2-0 Austria
Friday July 22
Quarter-final 3: Sweden 1-0 Belgium
Saturday July 23
Quarter-final 4: France 1-0 Netherlands (AET)
Tuesday July 26
Semi-final 1: England vs Sweden – kick-off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Wednesday July 27
Semi-final 2: Germany vs France – kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK
Sunday July 31
Winners semi-final 1 v Winners semi-final 2 – kick-off 5pm, Wembley
Sky Sports News and Sky Sports’ digital platforms will be following every step of England’s Euro 2022 journey ahead of Tuesday’s semi-final.
On the road, the Sky Sports News Mobile Presentation bus will continue to bring you all the best guests and analysis from the likes of Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett offering their expert insight. The bus will be based in the heart of Sheffield ahead of England’s last four fixture, before heading to Wembley for the final.
Across SkySports.com, the Sky Sports App and on social media, we’ll have all the big moments covered with our previews, features, reports, analysis, plus the the Sky Sports Women’s Euros podcast with Sky Sports’ senior football journalist Charlotte Marsh and Sky Sports News reporter Anton Toloui.
And if you’re new to the England squad, don’t worry – here’s our guide to meeting the Lionesses.
As well as England, Sky Sports News and Sky Sports digital will also be covering all the knockout games as we head towards the showpiece final on July 31.