A moment of brilliance from Alessia Russo helped power England into the final of Euro 2022, beating Sweden 4-0 in front of a record-breaking crowd at Bramall Lane.
The Manchester United striker is a regular fixture off the bench for the Lionesses, but continued to put pressure on Sarina Wiegman’s team selection when she scored with an audacious backheel (68), sending the ball wriggling past goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl at the near post.
It saw England go 3-0 up, having taken the advantage in a first half that saw them tested by Sweden for large parts. But Beth Mead (34) finally broke the deadlock, collecting a pass from Lucy Bronze before finishing on the turn for her sixth goal of Euro 2022. She is now two goals clear in the Golden Boot race, ahead of Germany’s Alexandra Popp and Russo.
Bronze added a goal to her evening’s work early in the second half as Sweden failed to deal with a corner. The right-back nodded home with a free header, but the celebrations were abruptly halted for a VAR check for offside. However, after lenghthy checks, the goals stood.
After failing to deal with Russo’s backheel, Lindahl’s evening went from bad to worse when Fran Kirby scored England’s fourth. She spotted the goalkeeper off her line and went for the lob. Lindahl did manage to get a hand to the ball, but not enough as it looped over her head and rolled into the back of the net.
Despite a nervous opening half an hour, the Lionesses qualities shone through once again in front of a crowd of 28,624 – a record attendance for a Women’s Euros semi-final. They will now face either Germany or France in Sunday’s final at Wembley.
How England reached their first Euros final since 2009
With just 20 seconds played at Bramall Lane, Mary Earps was called into action as Sweden gave their opponents a taste of what was to come for the majority of the first half. Sofia Jackobsson was released down the left with only the goalkeeper to beat, but Earps stuck out her leg to help the ball loop away.
England player ratings
England: Earps (9), Daly (7), Bright (7), Williamson (8), Bronze (7), Walsh (8), Stanway (7), Hemp (6), Mead (7), Kirby (8), White (5).
Subs used: Russo (9), Toone (7), Greenwood (n/a), Scott (n/a), Kelly (n/a).
The teams continued to trade blows early on – Mead sending a corner wide of the post before her Arsenal teammate Stina Blackstenius sent a header onto the crossbar.
Sweden continued to probe in a chess-like game, before Mead made the move to fire home her sixth goal of Euro 2022. It gave England the shot in the arm they needed and almost scored a second before half-time. The best of the chances came as Georgia Stanway sent in a searching cross for Ellen White, but the striker could not get there in time.
Sweden would have hoped to hit back immediately after the break, but instead quickly found themselves 2-0 behind after Bronze’s free header.
England could have scored a third before the hour too as Russo made an immediate impact off the bench – as now seems to be the norm. She raced down the right flank, picking out the incoming Lauren Hemp at the back post, but the winger sent the ball onto the underside of the crossbar with the goal at her mercy.
But the game arguably hinged on two second-half minutes. Earps made a world-class save to tip Blackstenius’ chip over the crossbar from close range in the 66th minute, before Russo’s sensational backheel at the other end shortly after.
From then on, it was all England, as Kirby again capitalised on some questionable goalkeeping from Lindahl. Russo could have added her second and England’s fifth late on too, but she could not reach Hemp’s cross in time.
But it was not needed as England cruised into the final against Sweden, ranked second in the world, setting up a historic Wembley showdown.
Wiegman: History in the making
England manager Sarina Wiegman: “You asked yesterday if we were ready to write history. This is history.
“We said before the tournament and throughout that we want to inspire the nation, I think that’s what we’re doing and making a difference. The whole country is proud of us, and even more girls and boys will want to play football.
“We have confidence in this team, our players stay calm and stick with the plan. We spoke about scenarios and sometimes things go well and sometimes things don’t. We can count on each other and our task and then come back into the team.”
Gerhardsson: Nature of defeat tough to take
Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson: “I can’t give analysis, but I can give emotions. It’s tough, naturally. In the first 25 minutes I thought we had chances, even though England did too. We had the more dangerous chances to score first. It would have given the game a different outlook.
“Going 2-0 down from a set piece early in the second half against a difficult opponent like England is going to be tough. Then going to 3-0 and 4-0 doesn’t make it any easier.
“We were playing a really talented team and when you face that sort of opponent you need to take your chances. We matched them physically but there are various reasons why it went the way it did in the second half.”
Sky Sports’ Adam Bate:
“Few would have thought of it and even fewer would have tried it. Alessia Russo went and executed it. A backheeled finish when running away from goal that not only went between two defenders but between the two legs of the Sweden goalkeeper.
“This was the moment in a summer of them. England’s women were already well on their way to the Euro 2022 final but the third goal in their 4-0 semi-final win at Bramall Lane is one that everyone will remember. They have the nation. Will the trophy follow?
“Viewing figures are high and getting higher, just like the noise levels inside the stadium on Tuesday evening. Imaginations captured. Individuals inspired. But this group of England players, this England coach, want more than all that. They are one game away now.
“The country has its psychoses as it reckons with more than half a century of disappointments in major tournaments whether that be men or women. These players do not appear to share them despite their own near-misses. The plan is clear.
“Wiegman has stuck to it. An unchanged line-up in all five matches, despite, or perhaps that should be because of the impact of the substitutes. England know their starters but they know their finishers too. Russo, on for Ellen White again, brought her best.”
Analysis: This is England’s moment – savour it
Sky Sports’ Charlotte Marsh at Bramall Lane:
“As many predicted before the tournament, England have reached the Euro 2022 final. On paper, Sweden were their toughest test so far, ranked second in the world and also due some silverware themselves.
“Although Sweden have not looked their best during the tournament, they somehow reached the final four. But finally, their number was up against an England side who have largely steamrolled anyone in their path.
“Scoring four goals is good. Scoring four goals against a team like Sweden is incredible. Scoring four goals in a semi-final is almost unheard of.
“Under Wiegman, England have learned how to be ruthless at both ends of the pitch – the Lionesses have still conceded just one goal in five Euros matches.
“They have changed their entire mentality too. Going behind in a game, while it has not happened often under the Dutch coach, is no longer the confidence-beater it used to be. Wiegman has harnessed the talent in her squad to become serial winners – as she has done throughout her career.
“There is an increasing feeling that this is England’s moment for their first major trophy. They have the location, manager and players to do it. Let’s savour this incredible journey and what is sure to be a superb final at Wembley on Sunday.”
From Twitter to Trafalgar Square – reaction to England’s victory
England will face either Germany or France in Sunday’s final at Wembley. Kick-off is at 5pm.
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 4-0 Sweden
Wednesday July 27
Semi-final 2: Germany vs France – kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK
Sunday July 31
England vs Germany or France – 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 Sunday’s 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 head 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 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.