The national anthems were sung, the commentators speculated over who would win, the teams lined up for kickoff and then it was announced that German striker Alexandra Popp had injured herself during warm-ups and would not play.
Just like that, the Golden Boot race was over, game plans were shifted, a player who hadn’t stepped on the field since recovering from Covid-19 was now starting a Euro final and hopes that Germany would hoist their ninth Euro trophy took a nosedive.
England fans on the other hand, probably began to allow faint whispers of the victory song “Sweet Caroline” to percolate through their brains. With England’s recent successes, the country dared to dream. With Germany’s star striker and tenacious goal scorer out, victory seemed all the more attainable.
Both teams were physical and scrappy with yellow cards being brandished left and right (though what constituted a card and what didn’t was anybody’s guess thanks to a wildly inconsistent referee). Even without Popp, however, Germany had the upper hand for large stretches of the game.
England faced a gritty fight ahead
Ella Toone chipped home a beautifully controlled finish to put England up 1-0 in the 62nd minute. However, Germany is not one to let joy linger when it is not their own. It didn’t take long for them to equalize, and the game experienced a momentum shift that would continue through extra time.
Despite being outplayed for stretches, England was never outworked. Ultimately, Chloe Kelly’s persistence led to a ping-ponging ball in the box ending up in the back of the net. As Kelly ripped off her shirt declaring a yellow card to be worth the price of celebrating in style, you got the impression that not even 8-time Euro champion Germany could suck the joy back out of that stadium.
After 123 minutes of thrilling and exhausting soccer, England made history by lifting their first ever European Championship trophy. In the last two months, they’ve brought enormous pride to their nation and changed the course of women’s soccer in England for good.
Historically, women’s soccer in England has included bans, discouragement and an overall lack of opportunity. Now, in front of a near sellout crowd at the iconic Wembley Stadium, the Lionesses are heroes.