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England to win at home, or Germany to be the surprise spoiler?

After more than three weeks of intense competition, it all comes down to this. England will be hosting Germany at Wembley for the 2022 Euro final (Watch LIVE, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+) and one team will lift the trophy.

England and Germany came into this tournament on different ends of the spectrum — England were considered favourites, a team that has been on the rise since Sarina Wiegman took charge last year, while Germany were suspected to be a team of former glory on a backslide. Well, England proved everyone right and Germany proved everyone wrong.

Both sides have been sensational, with England outscoring their opponents thus far 20-1 and Germany 13-1. So, who is going to win the 2022 Women’s Euro? And how are they going to win it? We turned to ESPN writers Kathleen McNamee, Tom Hamilton, Sophie Lawson and Julien Laurens, who have been covering the tournament in England, to get their predictions.

How much does home field impact the final? Will hosts England have more pressure or more momentum?

McNamee: We saw in the opening game that England did let the pressure get to them slightly on the big stage of Old Trafford. Since then, they’ve arguably found their feet far more but a Euro final is a different kettle of fish so I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes them a while to settle into the game.

I do think the home crowd makes a difference, especially in those tougher moments. When England went down against Spain, it was the crowd that really rallied them on. I have been critical of how much England have celebrated and let themselves enjoy the moment in early parts of the competition, but it also doesn’t seem to have affected how they play, so maybe this is a team who have found a way to balance it all. If they can harness their nerves and the crowd energy in the right way, they will have an advantage over Germany.

Hamilton: Leah Williamson has frequently said “pressure is a privilege” throughout this tournament, and that mantra will be tested come Sunday. England as a team have been talking throughout about writing their own spot in history, and that thought, along with inspiring the country, has been a driving force behind this campaign.

But Sunday will offer the firmest test yet of the strength of this group’s conviction in the messages they have been conveying throughout. Home advantage will be huge come Sunday. Some teams may find it intimidating and stage-fright inducing, but you feel this England team — who played in front of a packed Old Trafford in their opener against Austria — will use it as an advantage. The England support will far outweigh those supporting Germany and you feel that will manifest into motivation rather than a burden.

Lawson: I would say that England have handled the crowds well at this tournament and, once they get over the initial wobbles at Old Trafford, have leaned into the atmosphere the supporters have begun to cultivate following each win. It’s also worth noting that this is a team that has the benefit of having played at Wembley in the last year, so the home pressure shouldn’t really be any more than it has been.

For me, the 90,000-odd fans at Wembley on Sunday, wholly expected to be a partisan bunch, will end up being the cliched 12th player for the Lionesses and could end up being the biggest hurdle for the Germans. For England, the pressure will come from the very fact it’s a final, which is uncharted territory for the players even if they have been building up a real head of steam.

Laurens: When you know that only three of the last eleven winners of a big competition (either Euros or World Cup) have done it on home soil (Netherlands in 2017, Germany in 2001, USA in 1999), you could be led to think that there is no such thing of a home advantage. You would be wrong.

You don’t always win it because you are organising it but being the hosts, having your home support, being in your home country, having your family near you is massive. And when you usually get to the final of “your” tournament, you win it! England will only feel positive pressure going into this final. They have great confidence and momentum. The whole country will be behind them and all they will think about is finally bring football home. It is a unique chance and they are ready for it.

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Key player for Germany?

McNamee: It is hard to look past what captain Alex Popp has done for Germany — and herself — in this tournament. It is remarkable that this is only her first Euro tournament and we are incredibly fortunate to get to see her on this stage. She has overcome some of the toughest injuries in the game, but you wouldn’t know it when you watch her play.

Of Germany’s 13 goals in the tournament so far, she has scored six and is tied with Beth Mead for the Golden Boot. Those six goals come from just 17 shots while the entire Germany squad has seven goals from 75 shots. The fact she has scored 46% of their goals in this tournament is ridiculous and also means she will be a prime target for England to try and mark out of the game. However, she has seen a lot of success with Svenja Huth crossing the ball into her, and if they can make that partnership click then it could be Germany’s year (once again).

Hamilton: I have a feeling one of my colleagues will be going for the outstanding Lena Oberdorf, so I’ll go for the obvious choice of Alex Popp. After Lea Schuller tested positive for COVID-19 after their opening win over Denmark, she’s led the line brilliantly, and is joint top-scorer along with Beth Mead. She has six in five — with the unique achievement of having scored in every round — and her duel with Millie Bright will be box office.

She’s being motivated by the hardships she’s experienced in her career — having suffered a series of knee injuries which saw her return only in March — and aged 31, and in her first Euros, you feel she’s making up for lost time. England must close down Germany’s crosses at the source, rather than letting them get past the first defender, as Popp is ruthless in and around the six-yard box.

Lawson: Whoever I say will be key will end up having a terrible game because that’s what happens when you say positive things about players. The same applies for England, so, apologies for the jinx… it’s Lena Oberdorf.

The German midfielder has been outstanding this tournament, and whilst Alex Popp, Lina Magull, Klara Bühl et al have been making Germany sing in attack, Oberdorf has been marshalling the midfield, keeping some of Europe’s most influential attackers quiet. Adept at all things defensive, Oberdorf’s very presence has been enough to throw the attacking balance against almost every team Germany have faced — Austria the rare exception — and barring any major disaster, is set to be key for her team once again on Sunday.

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Emma Hayes says she can’t wait for Lena Oberdorf and Fran Kirby to battle it out on the field in the Euro 22 final.

Laurens: Many will say Alexandra Popp and, of course, she will be on of the keys considering her form and incredible redemption in this tournament. But for me, Lena Oberdorf is the X factor for Germany. This final is going to be won in midfield and if the young Wolfsburg star, 20, can impose her power and physicality then Germany will beat England.

She is the best in the world at what she does: recovering the ball, stopping opposition attacks, hassling, chasing the ball, making the right choice with and without the ball and being aggressive. She won’t stop for the whole 90 or 120 minutes. She is relentless in how hard she works and how much she runs, presses and tackles. She also has a remarkable tactical intelligence for her age. She gets bookings quite easily (three already in this tournament) but this is also part of her game.

Key player for England?

McNamee: Alessia Russo, Fran Kirby, Millie Bright and so many others have gotten plaudits for what they’ve achieved in this tournament, but one of the more underrated players in Sarina Wiegman’s side has been Keira Walsh who has dictated play completely from the midfield. She has made sure that the balls are getting effectively down the wings to Mead and Lauren Hemp as well as tracking back constantly to put in hard defensive shifts. Against Spain, she was chasing down ball after ball and her work ethic on the pitch throughout the tournament is unquestionable.

The 25-year-old will be up against stiff competition in Germany’s young star Lena Oberdorf, but she has proven her ability time and again. Teammate Jill Scott has described her as “the best holding midfielder in the world” when it comes to “vision and intelligence” and it is hard to argue with that when you watch the way she sprays the ball around the pitch with absolute ease.

Hamilton: England are packed with game-changers, like super-sub Alessia Russo, the brilliant playmaker Fran Kirby, their two superb wingers in Lauren Hemp and Beth Mead and then their solid midfield duo in Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway. But linking it all is their captain Leah Williamson.

If England are to get through Sunday, Williamson is absolutely key. She’s done a fine job of leading the Lionesses through this tournament and had arguably her best game yet against Sweden. Having started in midfield at the beginning of Sarina Wiegman’s tenure, she’s now back in her more familiar spot at centre back alongside Bright and she’s going to be the glue player come Sunday. You see her frequently coming across to Wiegman to pick up the latest bit of intel or instruction, so she’s her manager’s eyes and ears on the field.

Lawson: Even though she’s guaranteed not to start, it’s impossible to overlook Alessia Russo as a key player here. My overall predication is that the match will be a slog for both teams — it is a final after all — and once you get over the caginess there will be a lot of midfield nothing, meaning the starters will only manage to do so much. So, not only do I think this will be a game for the subs to really come on and shine in, but I think they could be decisive and for England, there is no substitute more super than Russo and her endless panache in the box.

Yes, the ridiculous goal against Sweden has cemented her in English footballing lore, but take away that moment of obscenity and you’ve got a player who drives at defences and gets herself into advantageous positions. And that’s the type of attacker who can win you matches late in the day.

Laurens: Because I think that this final will be won in midfield, England’s most important player on Sunday will be Keira Walsh. Her battle with Oberdorf is going to be absolutely amazing. Walsh is a different player than her German counterpart. She works as hard and runs as much but she makes the difference on the ball. She is not as strong as Oberdorf but she dictates the pace of the ball so well.

She is the game’s maestro and she has been on song all through the tournament, masterclass after masterclass, sending the ball from right to left and back from left to right all the time. She is the most intelligent player in this Euros and she will show it again on Sunday. You can press her, and Oberdorf will try to do it, but she can easily beat the press because she sees the game so much quicker than anybody else.

OK, so who’s winning this and why?

McNamee: While I have enjoyed watching this team, old loyalties do remain and it is hard to tip England to win this one. I think Sarina Wiegman has done what no one before has managed to do in taking this team with some of the world’s best players and making them look like a cohesive unit. There is a sense of togetherness around this England team that feels like it hasn’t been there before.

Having said that, England have looked shaky a couple of times. The Spain win proved that they do have the mentality to get back into a game but it feels like Germany have yet to be in that position. The France game was the closest they came to being challenged properly and they still looked relatively in control. If their top players are on form and they can handle England’s pace, I think they have a good shot at winning the trophy. Especially if they can press England the way Spain did, as Germany have much better attacking options than Jorge Vilda’s side and could really punish England.

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Emma Hayes shares how she thinks Germany will approach the Euro 22 final against England.

Hamilton: Germany have won seven of the last nine European Championships and are looking formidable ahead of Sunday’s clash. They also have the bragging rights over England, with 21 wins out of their 27 meetings. So history points towards Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side. But there’s something about this England team.

There’s not the same unease we’ve felt previously about the Lionesses’ chances, and it’s the positivity and fearlessness that they play with which leads you to think Sunday will be their time. They’ve been so fortunate with an injury-free campaign, have navigated the pitfalls of positive COVID-19 tests and should have a full squad to pick from come the weekend. With that in mind, I’m backing England.

Lawson: I think Germany have got this; they’ve had to grit and grind that bit more than England this summer, dealing with tougher games and losing key players to COVID. England conversely, have played well but against teams who crumbled defensively. Just as the COVID cases they’ve had haven’t impacted the starting XI, it’s all been a little too straightforward for the Lionesses, the luck always on their side this summer — although that could be why they win!

Even though a lot of this Germany team has never been in a major final before, there are players left over from the Olympic win in 2016 who have that final experience in them. For the younger players, there’s a freedom to play their way and enjoy the occasion, all with the knowledge of the footballing dynasty they come from.

More tangibly, the team have been incredibly smart so far this tournament, adapting to play their opposition, doing all they can to give themselves the midfield advantage and building from there. Whether set up to have the ball or not, there is a level of comfort in the understanding of their collective task each match as the in-game adjustments from Martina Voss-Tecklenburg have routinely been the correct ones.

Laurens: England will beat Germany because it is their turn to finally win something, after all these years of heartbreaks for men and women’s football. However, this is the best squad they have ever had, with so much talent, personality, experience and flair. Sarina Wiegman is the best manager, by far the best England have ever had. And this final is at home (which brings extra motivation) and against the old enemy Germany (more motivation is here too) and it is the first big final for this group of players (a bit more of extra motivation as well)!

Germany have been amazing so far but England have something else. Physically, they are the only team capable of competing with the Germans. They have a date with their own destiny and no one or nothing will be able to stop their march to the top on Sunday.

Predict the score! (Winner gets eternal bragging rights for being right)

McNamee: I’m so stuck between this game being a 0-0 where neither side can get a foothold or else a six-goal thriller. I’m hoping for the latter just to see Mead and Popp exchanging shots at either end of the pitch so I’m going to go with 3-2 to Germany.

Hamilton: England will come through with a 2-1 win. It’s going to be nervy, with Mary Earps needed to pull off some more spectacular saves, but the bench will see England through. Don’t be surprised if Germany score first, but for England to claw their way back into the match, and then close it out in the final 10 minutes.

Lawson: Going to be boring and say 2-1 to Germany.

Laurens: England to win 2-1 after extra time.



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Source: https://www.espn.com/soccer/uefa-womens-european-championship/story/4708315/predicting-the-euro-2022-champion-england-to-win-at-homeor-germany-to-be-the-surprise-spoiler

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