England edge past Australia to seal series Down Under victory

Sarina Wiegman was the “missing piece of the puzzle” England needed to cross the line and win a major tournament, former striker Lianne Sanderson has told Stats Perform.

England Women clinched their first major title on Sunday with a 2-1 win over Germany at Wembley in the European Championship final.

In doing so, Wiegman became the first manager to win the tournament with two different nations, having come all the way with the Netherlands in 2017.

Wiegman, who officially took over as head coach last September, has a record 12 wins in 12 appearances at the Women’s Euros.

Sanderson herself came close to winning the competition in 2009, coming on as a substitute as England tasted defeat to Germany in the final.

The former Arsenal and Chelsea player, who won 50 caps for her country, believes Wiegman deserves huge credit for helping the Lionesses end their wait for major silverware.

“I sincerely believe she is the missing piece of the puzzle,” Sanderson said. “She’s done it in back-to-back tournaments, both times at home.

“You have to have the right players, but also the mix of a good manager, and I think she showed that.

“A lot of players said she didn’t really rely on her experience with the Netherlands, that she wanted to leave them in the past. But the players have been fantastic.”

Wiegman opted for a winning formula in all six of England’s tournament matches by becoming the first team to name the same starting XI in every match.

The Dutchwoman regularly made the big calls, notably in the final when both scorers – Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly – were brought in from the substitutes’ bench.

Indeed, seven of England’s 22 goals have come from substitutes excluding own goals – only Germany (eight in 2009) have scored more in a single Women’s Euro.

And in Sanderson’s view, that decision-making is why Wiegman deserves so much praise.

“Everyone knew their role and their responsibilities,” Sanderson said. “It was pretty obvious. Sometimes I thought we should mix up the team, like against Northern Ireland.

“There were times when I thought she would play Alex Greenwood instead of Rachel Daly [at left-back]. But she is the only manager who kept the same side and turned out to be the right decision.

“Last year for men [Euro 2020], everyone tried to choose the team. I thought Jack Grealish should play, then he didn’t play in the final.

“We always say we’re all the manager of England when it comes to tournaments. But at the end of the day, that’s why they get paid the big bucks. That’s why they’re in the positions they’re in find.

“I sincerely wish she was there when I was there because I think she was a major catalyst in all of this. And she hasn’t even been there in a year.”

England’s triumph was hailed as a historic moment for women’s football in England, with the tournament drawing record attendances.

More than 87,000 spectators were in attendance at Wembley on Sunday, and Sanderson believes the perception of women’s football has already completely changed.

“I’ve been so delighted and blessed to be at every England game. I think yesterday shows you where the women’s game is, where it’s going to be,” she said.

“It’s huge for women’s football. But it’s huge for football in this country. It’s our first major trophy [for the men or women] since 1966.

“A lot of people were skeptical. They have nothing to say now because people who have that dinosaur mentality will be left behind, and I just think that’s absolutely amazing.”

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