Game changer Russo, superb Earps, magic Mead – the Lionesses inspiring at Euro 2022

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It’s England vs Germany in the Euro 2022 final and the Lionesses, who have made the nation proud, are ready for one final roar.

The fact that England manager Sarina Wiegman hasn’t changed her starting XI or game plan throughout the tournament is a credit to those representing the country.

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This tournament has allowed plenty of England’s players to shine

And they’re inspiring the next generation of footballers

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And they’re inspiring the next generation of footballers

The squad has a fresh look this summer, with new manager Wiegman giving opportunity and responsibility to younger players – some of whom hadn’t played in a major international tournament before.

But whilst many would have buckled under the pressure, England’s star players this tournament have done the complete opposite and shined with the spotlight thrust onto them on home soil.

Norway were thrashed 8-0 despite being pinpointed as a tough test and Spain pushed the tournament hosts hard but eventually fell by the wayside.

Meanwhile, Tuesday night’s 4-0 semi-final win over Sweden – the world’s second ranked side – saw England weather an early storm before unleashing a whirlwind of their own to showcase their resilience.

The Lionesses more than deserve their spot in the final at a sold out Wembley.

But whilst all 23 members of the squad have played their role, there are a handful that have really set the pitch alight and, even if they don’t lift the trophy in the final against on Sunday, will leave a legacy for the UK’s fastest growing sport.

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England’s 4-0 win over Sweden on Tuesday night garnered an audience of 9.3 million on TV

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England’s 4-0 win over Sweden on Tuesday night garnered an audience of 9.3 million on TV

Beth Mead (Arsenal)

Arsenal winger Beth Mead made history in the semi-finals after she scored her sixth goal of the tournament.

Her goal meant she now has the joint-most strikes in a European Champions, level with Germany’s Inka Grings efforts from 2009.

And they were joined by Mead’s opponent on Sunday, Alexandra Popp, who also has six in this tournament.

The 27-year-old opened the scoring on Tuesday night with her 28th goal in her 44th England cap since her debut in 2018.

Her goal-record under Wiegman alone is incredible, notching 20 goals since the Dutch boss took over.

Mead said she was ‘super proud to be English’ after her side’s victory against Sweden

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Mead said she was ‘super proud to be English’ after her side’s victory against Sweden

Leah Williamson (Arsenal)

Taking on the captain’s armband is no easy task, let alone when it’s for your country and when your predecessor wore it for eight years.

Williamson, 25, had big shoes to fill given Steph Houghton’s fine tenure, but Wiegman’s decision to make her the Lionesses skipper has certainly paid off.

Just like she does for Arsenal in the Women’s Super League, Williamson acts as a real leader and is a big reason behind England’s solidity at the back in the Euros.

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And leading her country to victory at Wembley will mark just the beginning of her legacy.

Her excellent ball-playing from the back has been hailed by the likes of LIverpool legend Jamie Carragher too.

Williamson has taken to her new role like a duck to water

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Williamson has taken to her new role like a duck to water

Alessia Russo (Manchester United)

When England looks back on this tournament, a lot of the talk will be about the lack of changes to Wiegman’s starting XI.

But just as important have been game changers like Manchester United’s Alessia Russo.

Introduced in England’s games as a substitute, Russo has been beyond super, scoring four goals from the bench and providing a crucial partnership with fellow sub and Red Devils teammate Ella Toone.

And her delicious back-heeled effort against Sweden perfectly sums up the audacious, never say die attitude England have shown.

Not only that, but her goal on Tuesday night also broke the internet, and left talkSPORT commentator Sam Matterface astounded.

She may not edge fellow striker Ellen White for a starting spot in the final, but she’s certainly stolen headlines.

Russo’s goal will go down in the history books

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Russo’s goal will go down in the history books

Keira Walsh (Man City)

Helping make up the spine of Wiegman’s line-up, Walsh has been key to England’s success.

After being the driving force behind the comeback against Spain in the quarter-finals, Walsh earnt herself an assist for the winning goal, helping set up Georgia Stanway’s rocket.

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Although she goes unnoticed a lot of the time, without the Manchester City star, England would lack the groundwork required to carve out match-winning opportunities.

Walsh is at the heart of England’s team

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Walsh is at the heart of England’s team

Mary Earps (Manchester United)

England’s Euros 2022 goalkeeper of choice has been Manchester United’s Mary Earps.

But not many people would know, or be able to tell, that this is the first major tournament in which she’s started between the sticks.

Shaking off competition from the likes of Aston Villa’s Hannah Hampton and Ellie Roebuck, Earps has been Wiegman’s go to shot-stopper since she managed her first England game in September.

And if her incredible save against Sweden – where she somehow managed to tip Stina Blackstenius’ goal-bound effort over the bar – is anything to go by, Earps will be England’s goalkeeper for the long term.

Earps had dropped to fourth choice keeper once upon a time

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Earps had dropped to fourth choice keeper once upon a time

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