From Alessia Russo’s stunning goal to continuous record-breaking moments, Euro 2022 has been one of the biggest and most exciting women’s tournaments in history. Here, Sky Sports takes a look back at the moments that defined a summer…
Much of England’s pre-tournament build-up was focused on their Euro 2022 opener at Old Trafford, where they faced Austria and were looking to begin their home Euros with a victory.
The buzz of excitement began at the ground early in the afternoon, and England made a winning start as Beth Mead’s first goal of the campaign – given after a VAR check – sealed a 1-0 win against a determined Austria.
There was also an expectation that Euro 2022 would be record-breaking for the women’s game and the very first game of the tournament proved to be just that. 68,871 fans packed out Old Trafford in what was a record attendance for a Women’s Euros match.
While the Lionesses may not have been at their free flowing best – that would come later in the tournament – the tournament was off and running immediately.
It was not just England who were in history-making form. Northern Ireland featured at their first major tournament, and acquitted themselves wonderfully. Although they did not register a point at Euro 2022, exiting at the group stages, they did come away with their first goal.
In the second half of their tournament opener, Julie Nelson nodded home from Rachel Furness’ corner, replying to Norway’s three goals in the opening period. Northern Ireland were better organised in the second half, conceding just once from Guro Reiten’s free kick and ending in a 4-1 defeat.
“It’s incredible,” Nelson told BBC Sport after the game “I didn’t think I’d be the one to score, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve scored, it’s an incredible feeling to score the first goal for Northern Ireland in a championship.”
Alexandra Popp’s journey to Euro 2022 has been well covered, having missed the two previous additions through injury. It was touch and go as to whether she would make it to the tournament, suffering an injury during last season and picking up Covid during the Germany training camp in June.
But Popp finally made her European Championships bow when she came on as a substitute against Denmark in Germany’s first group game – and her first Euros goal followed soon after.
She nodded home from a pinpoint Sydney Lohmann cross and her celebration was one of true relief at reaching a target that had evaded her for so long. It had taken her nine years to do so – incredible for a player of her calibre.
Sky Germany’s Lisa de Ruiter said: “Popp told me that coming on against Denmark and scoring the goal was the most emotional moment for her. Her first appearance at a European Championship after all the injuries and then she comes in and scores. She had tears in her eyes as she cheered. Goosebumps!”
Of course, that was nowhere near the end of her Euros journey. But more on that later…
England’s second Group A game against Norway was billed as their toughest test. They had a team packed full of winners and were set to be a real challenge as one of the tournament dark horses.
However, in a stunning evening in Brighton, the Lionesses ran riot, demolishing Norway’s chances of reaching the knockout rounds with a 8-0 victory – the biggest ever winning scoreline in Women’s Euros history.
Georgia Stanway’s penalty opened the floodgates in the 12th minute with England scoring six goals in the first half. Lauren Hemp scored soon after, with two goals each from Mead and Ellen White.
Alessia Russo scored her first goal of Euro 2022 in the second half, before Mead completing her hat-trick shortly before full-time. It was the first time any side had scored eight goals in a single Euros match in both the men’s and women’s competition, and sealed England’s status as tournament favourites.
Putellas and Katato ruled out after knee injuries
Although Euro 2022 has been a entertaining spectacle, there have been star players missing. Spain’s record goalscorer Jennifer Hermoso was ruled out ahead of the tournament through injury, leaving former Barcelona team-mate Alexia Putellas to shoulder the scoring responsibility for her country.
However, just three days ahead of Spain’s group opener against Finland, Putellas suffered an ACL injury in training, ruling her out for up to a year. It was another hammer blow for Jorge Vilda and his side, but also for the Euros as a competition – Putellas had been one of the tournament and a huge draw for spectators after winning the Ballon d’Or.
Around ten days later, France’s star striker Marie-Antionette Katoto was also ruled out for the remainder of the competition, having torn her ACL and her meniscus in her knee. She suffered the injury during France’s 2-1 win against Belgium, having scored and assisted in Les Bleues’ opening victory against Italy.
The striker had lit up the French league with Paris Saint-Germain and was being tipped as a Golden Boot contender. Spain and France may be left wondering what might have been if they had some of their best players to call upon.
Let’s not also forget that Northern Ireland’s Simone Magill also suffered an ACL injury in their tournament opener against Austria.
Mead and Popp score in three group games
Both featuring in their first European Championships, Mead and Popp were two of the tournament’s standout performers, and were neck and neck right up until the final.
The pair shared the joint accolade of the first players to score in all three group games at a Women’s Euros. Mead did score more goals than the Germany captain – netting five times across three matches – while Popp scored one goal in each match. All three of her goals were scored from headers.
Speaking to German outlet Deutsche Welle, Popp said: “I don’t think that’s anything new. I’ve always been strong in that area, but I also went quite a while without scoring a goal. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t really on the radar anymore.
“That’s good for me of course, it’s my specialty. The nice thing is, if everyone focuses on my head, maybe they won’t focus on my feet.”
Belgium reach first knockout stage
The Red Flames were one of the surprise packages of Euro 2022. They were playing at just their second international tournament, having also featured at Euro 2017, and reached their first ever knockout round.
Belgium had faced England in a pre-tournament friendly at Molineux, where they matched the Lionesses for 45 minutes before conceding three times in the second half. They clearly took lessons from the encounter as they held their own in a group that included France and Italy.
And it was a stunning 1-0 win against Italy that was their crowning moment, with the two teams going head-to-head for the final knockout spot from Group D. Tine De Caigny’s second-half strike secured the victory, making history for Belgium.
The Red Flames impressed against Sweden in the quarter-finals too. They almost forced extra-time against the Covid-hit Swedes, defending resolutely until Linda Sembrant’s 92nd-minute winner. It was a heartbreaking exit for Belgium, but there was plenty to be proud of for a continually improving side.
France and Iceland’s final Group D game was an interesting occasion. A goal in the first minute, followed by another in the 12th minute of added time, saw the game end in a 1-1 draw.
France forward Melvine Malard scored in 43 seconds – the fastest goal of Euro 2022 – firing home with a low shot for the then-already qualified Les Bleues. They looked to be heading into the quarter-finals with a 100 per cent record – despite two goals ruled out by VAR – but Dany Brynjarsdottir scored from the penalty spot very late on to secure a draw for Iceland.
The goal ended France’s 16-match winning run and secured a third point of Euro 2022 for Iceland – who drew all of their games 1-1. It meant that they went through the group stages without defeat, but failed to qualify for the knockout rounds – the first unbeaten side to exit the Women’s Euros.
Norway’s disappointing group stage exit
It was an incredibly disappointing Euros for Norway. Although they were not considered among the tournament favourites, there was every expectation that the two-time winners would reach the knockout rounds.
They had amassed a squad with talent everywhere you looked. Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg was back on the international stage, with Caroline Graham Hansen, Maren Mjelde and Guro Reiten serial winners with their clubs Barcelona and Chelsea. Other WSL talent included Maria Thorisdottir, Julie Blakstad, Frida Maanum and Vilde Boe Risa.
Norway began well, beating Northern Ireland 4-1, but their real undoing was the 8-0 thrashing against England. There was criticism of manager Martin Sjogren that he failed to make any effective changes during the game, even during a first half when the Lionesses ran riot.
However, heading into the final game, they could still qualify for the knockout rounds despite suffering the heaviest ever defeat at a Women’s Euros. It was a straight shootout with Austria for the final spot, but Nicole Billa’s first-half goal saw them lose 1-0.
Norway never recovered from the England defeat, and led to Sjogren being sacked as head coach after their group stage exit.
After a largely dominant group stage, England set up a quarter-final showdown against Spain at the Amex Stadium. La Roja offered the Lionesses their toughest test so far, despite not being at their best without Hermoso and Putellas.
Although some predicted an easy enough win for England, for large parts of the game, they were second best against Spain. Esther Gonzalez saw her side ahead early in the second half – the first goal the Lionesses had conceded at Euro 2022 – but some tactical tinkering from Wiegman saw the Lionesses raw back into the game.
Ella Toone equalised from close range to force extra-time – but it was a stunning strike from Georgia Stanway that secured England’s path into the final four. Keira Walsh fed her former Manchester City team-mate before the midfielder unleashed an unstoppable effort from 20 yards.
Stanway later told Sky Sports News: “It was weird looking back [at the quarter-final] and thinking ‘why did I actually shoot, what caused me to do that action?’, but I’m glad I did. I can’t believe it really happened.”
Sweden hardly had the easiest tournament, despite reaching the semi-finals. They were at times hamstrung by Covid-19 absences, and Belgium offered a surprisingly tough test in the quarters.
With the game looking to be heading for an additional 30 minutes, Sweden finally breached the Belgium backline with mere seconds to play as Sembrant swept home from a set piece. Peter Gerhardsson’s side has registered 33 shots and had a goal ruled out by VAR.
While Sembrant’s goal may not be remembered for its overarching quality, it was one of the most vital winners of the tournament given its timing, scored in the 92nd minute and giving Belgium no chance to reply. It was the cruelest of blows for the Red Flames but the highest of elations for Sweden.
If you are yet to watch Alessia Russo’s stunning backheel against Sweden – where have you been? It is the leading contender for goal of the tournament.
England were already in control against Sweden when Russo netted in the 68th minute. Her initial effort had gone straight at goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, but the striker picked up the ball again. With her back to goal and defenders closing in, Russo backheeled the ball towards the goal, sending it wriggling through Lindahl’s legs.
“To be fair, I could’ve made it a lot easier for myself if I’d just scored the first one, but it fell nicely,” she told Sky Sports News after the game.
“I just thought it was the quickest route to get the ball into the back of the net without having to turn. I was fortunate enough that it went in. I didn’t really see it go in, but I just celebrated and enjoyed the moment.”
It is one of the most jaw-dropping moments of Euro 2022, with the technique proving that Russo is one of England’s most confident players, netting her fourth goal of the tournament.
Before the heartbreak of being ruled out of the final through injury, Popp was enjoying a hugely successful first European Championships in her stride.
Having shared plaudits with Mead in the group stages, she made her own history in the semi-finals.
Popp scored both goals in the victory against France, taking her overall tally to six, after also netting a freak goal against Austria in the quarters. Her press caught out goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger with her attempted kick ricocheting off Popp and into the net.
The Germany captain had scored in five successive Euros games, becoming the first player to do so in the women’s competition.
It was a nail-biting evening at Wembley. It could have been set up more perfectly than England against Germany, their old footballing foes, to finish off a superb home tournament.
A cagey first half saw two similarly matched teams go toe-to-toe with just one moment needed to break the deadlock. That came just after the hour when Ella Toone lobbed Merle Frohms to blow the proverbial roof off of Wembley Stadium.
Lina Magull’s equaliser with 11 minutes to play forced extra-time. But Chloe Kelly’s title-winning goal sealed a first major trophy for England’s women and the first in any senior team since the 1966 World Cup.
To watch them lift the Euros title in front of a record-breaking home crowd was emotional and uplifting. There were tears and elation on the pitch and in the stands, both of joy and disappointment for Germany.
The magnitude of this victory is yet to be truly felt, but it will be seismic. This Lionesses side will go down in history as winners and game changers – but they are not done yet. The World Cup is less than a year away and England will be among the favourites to win it.
Viewing figures continued to break records
Not only have attendance records been broken almost weekly, the viewing figures on the BBC have also been the mark of the most successful Euros ever.
A huge 9.3m people tuned in to watch England’s 4-0 win against Sweden at its peak, with figures for the final yet to be revealed.
It follows a huge season for women’s football in the UK across Sky Sports and the BBC with both outlets showing at least two Women’s Super League games each week between them.
This will continue for the upcoming 2022/23 season, set to begin on the weekend of September 10/11, with a number of Euros stars set to feature in what is set to be another enthralling and exciting WSL campaign.