Football News

Ex-England captain Faye White explains how the Lionesses have evolved ahead of Euro 2022

By Harry Edwards

Published: 10:31, 5 July 2022

For the second time, England are hosting the Women’s European Championships and former Lionesses captain Faye White is expecting a completely different experience in 2022.

Although England first hosted the Women’s Euros in 2005, it was very much focussed in the northwest of the country, and the Lionesses bowed out of the groups with one win from their three matches.

England would bounce back four years later to make it all the way to the final of Euro 2009 before being beaten by a Germany side dominating the continent, their best finish in a major tournament.

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Fast forward 13 years from that final defeat to Germany, and England are second favourites to win the Euros behind only Spain. Not just because they are hosts, but also due to Sarina Wiegman’s work building a side that is looking pretty hard to stop right now.

White, who captained England at both of the aforementioned Euros, believes the current squad have what it takes to go all the way – especially when comparing it to her sides.

“Firstly, my experience of that tournament, in 2005 we hosted it, we qualified purely because we hosted it and we didn’t get out the group and that was really where our level was. It was an experience for us,” she told Squawka.

“2009, I think very similar expectations, externally with what we would do. It was in Finland, so again crowds weren’t massive in that time – they’ve got a small population anyway. But it was certainly a well-organised and enjoyable tournament to be part of. There were good crowds but not amazing numbers like you might experience in Germany or somewhere like that.

“But no one expected us again to get out the group. That was the target, and we actually lost our first game against Italy I remember, 2-1. Casey Stoney got sent off and they scored quite late.

“But we managed to pull it back, qualified, we drew with Sweden, the first time we ever drew with them. And I actually remember in that game, because I scored the goal in that game, and I went up for another corner towards the end and the way the games were and the points were, we actually didn’t want to win.

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“If we won we wouldn’t have got the better route and I remember the assistant coach kind of almost saying ‘don’t score’ it was quite close to the end of that game and eventually we basically avoided Germany until the final.”

White also explained how England had the added determination during the tournament after unfulfilled promises. They had been told their games would be broadcast if they got far in the tournament, only for their semi-final win over Netherlands to go untelevised.

This definitely won’t be the case at Euro 2022, however, with the build-up going nationwide and coverage set to be extensive.

“Obviously that’s hopefully going to be very different now with the team and I certainly believe they’ve got the squad,” she added.

“The difference from then and now is the depth, and also the finance that goes into the England set-up all over. Obviously, we mentioned the WSL (Women’s Super League) earlier as well, but it’s very different to the budgets that the squad are working with.

“And the fact that all the players are professional now so that they concentrate on it 100% every day, trying to make themselves better at club level – that impacts on the England team as well.”

Another key difference between White’s England sides and the current team is the presence of Wiegman, a European Championship-winning manager with Netherlands who has enjoyed an unbeaten start as Lionesses boss.

In Wiegman’s 14 games so far, spanning World Cup qualifying, friendlies and the Arnold Clark Cup, England have won 12 matches with two draws, scoring 84 goals and conceding just three.

“In a way it’s harder for Sarina Wiegman to come in, assess all the players quickly, and know what she needs to get out of it,” White said.

“But the fact that, just from my experience, if a coach is kind of new and fresh, that’s the time where they get the best out of players. And also that added thing of knowing that what she’s saying works. Since Hope [Powell], I’ve always been saying we need someone that’s been there and done it to take it to the next level.

“Yes, we’ve had other coaches that have done OK but it’s just that little bit of knowing, ‘Well, hang on, [Wiegman] has taken a nation who probably we were expected to beat in my time, and it was tough, and we always had very close games.’ But they weren’t as developed as we were, yet she’s now taken them to go and win.

“So that bit is priceless really, that extra little thing in the players’ minds of actually believing every single thing that she’s going to say, ‘OK, well I might take this disappointment that I’m not playing today because she’s told me I’m going to feature’.

“Just that and maybe the tactics or just getting them all to work on that common goal, because I know we’ve seen Sarina say that quite a lot, about getting them all respecting each other and working toward the common goal.

“And you always hear it outwardly when players talk about that. Sometimes that’s not the case within the team and you can tell the dynamic within the team is not there. I think that’s the key really, that could be really special.”