An extra-time strike from forward Chloe Kelly gave England a 2-1 victory over Germany in the Women’s European Championship final to claim their first-ever major title in front of a record home crowd.
Substitute Kelly was quickest to react to a loose ball from a corner in Sunday’s second period of extra time to give her side the win and avenge their defeat to Germany in the 2009 Euro Final in Helsinki, Finland.
England coach Sarina Wiegman became the first manager to win the European Championship with two different countries, after leading her native Netherlands to the title in 2017.
“I just can’t stop crying. We talk, we talk and we talk and we finally did it. You know what, the kids are fine. This is the proudest moment of my life,” England captain Leah Williamson said on the pitch.
“Listen, the legacy of this tournament is the change in society. The legacy of this team is winners and that is the journey. I love you all, I am so proud to be English. I try so hard not to swear.”
After the final whistle, the English players danced and the crowd sang their national anthem, Sweet Caroline.
The good-natured atmosphere in the stadium on Sunday contrasted with the violent scenes when the England men’s team lost the European Championship final to Italy a year ago in the same stadium.
“I always believed I would be here, but to be here and score the winner, wow. These girls are amazing,” said Kelly, who returned from a serious knee injury in April. “This is great, I just want to celebrate now.”
It was a historic night for England, who opened the scoring in the 62nd minute via striker Ella Toone to a sold-out crowd at Wembley Stadium.
The 87,192 attendances were a record for a Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) tournament, both for men and women, underlining the growth of women’s football in Europe since the last time England and Germany met for a continental 13 years ago. played title.
Substitute Lina Magull brought Germany back into the game to send it into extra time, but Kelly showed up at the right time to win it for England and drive the home fans wild.
Germany suffered a blow in the warm-up when striker Alexandra Popp, who had scored six goals in five games in her debut European Championship, suffered a muscle injury and had to withdraw from the line-up and was replaced by Lea Schuller.
Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s team missed Popp’s presence in the penalty area, but it was a tough physical duel that resulted in a scoreless first half.
Toone opened the scoring shortly after the hour with a beautiful chipped finish, just after he came in as a substitute.
However, that was negated by Magull, who scored the equalizing goal 17 minutes later after the hosts were pushed back by their opponents.
The game ended in a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes to go into extra time, when the mood slackened a bit as thoughts began to sink in that Germany would win a record-breaking ninth euro crown in the home of the English football.
That was until the 110th minute, when Kelly, who had just urged the crowd to raise their voices and cheer on the side, reacted fastest by scooping the winner and inflicting Germany’s first defeat in a grand final.
Nadim Baba of Al Jazeera, who reported from outside the stadium in London, said there were record visits to stadiums across the country during the tournament: more than 500,000 people attended matches.
“The hope is that, beyond the elite, it can lead to greater investment in basic sports with girls of primary school age and beyond, not only having access, but also paying to train at the elite clubs,” Baba said.
“Sometimes it’s not free for them in academies associated with premiership clubs, while it’s for boys,” he said. “A little bit of equality, a little bit more respect and financial stability for the professional players so they can devote themselves to the sport. If there are any questions about the quality they provide, I think this tournament really took those questions away.”