Three key ways England’s Lionesses can unlock the German defence and WIN the Euro 2022 final on Sunday
SOMETHING might be coming home on Sunday.
We’ve got three key areas that suggest England WILL beat Germany at Wembley and win the Women’s Euros 2022.
Both sides have impressed throughout the tournament for not only the quality of their football but their resilience when they had their backs against the wall.
For England, this came in the quarter-final of the tournament when they had to come from behind to win in extra time against a technically excellent Spain side.
In Germany’s case, they came through a very difficult semi-final against an extremely talented France side.
There are a number of narratives surrounding this final including the battle for the golden boot between England’s Beth Mead and Alexandra Popp of Germany, both of whom are on six goals.
There will also, however, be a number of tactical battles for us to keep an eye on as the match unfolds.
Here are three ways England can unlock the German defence.
England’s use of wingers to create space centrally
England are a side who are extremely well coached by their Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman and from a tactical perspective, they are extremely well drilled.
There is no doubt that they will line up in their familiar 4-3-3 system as England have started every match in this tournament so far with the same lineup.
While Keira Walsh, of Manchester City, patrols the midfield as a ‘6’ at the base of the unit the rest of the midfield and the wide players have a lot of freedom in terms of their movement and positioning.
Wiegman likes her wide attackers to stay wide and play on the outside of the opposition fullbacks.
One of the real strengths of this England has been the pace, creativity and aggressive play of Lauren Hemp and Beth Mead on the wings.
They both want to receive the ball on the outside for a couple of key reasons.
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The first is that this allows them to isolate against the opposition fullback and both of them are able to attack the fullback on the inside or the outside.
Hemp and Mead are both dynamic with their movement profiles and the ability to carry the ball aggressively to the opposition but they are also creative and intelligent on the ball in terms of finding passes that slip runners from the midfield through and past the defensive line.
Against Germany, we can expect to see this continue as a method for England to create space and time in the final third.
While Ellen White, or Alessio Russo, have the ability to lead the line and occupy two central defenders on their own it is the aggressive use of the two central midfielders, typically Georgia Stanway and Fran Kirby, which combines with the positioning of the wide forwards to really break opponents down.
The battle of the controlling midfielders
While England will almost certainly line up in a 4-3-3 system there is less certainty around the way that Germany will start the match.
The German side have been more versatile with their tactical setup, at least to a point.
Under their coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg we have seen Germany switch throughout the Women’s Euros between a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 system.
The two interact and even in the 4-2-3-1 system one of the two deeper midfielders will continually look to break forward and support the attack.
The same is true for England as they look to push both advanced central midfielders up and into high areas to support the attack.
Both sides are able to push their midfielders forward into advanced areas because of the quality of their ‘6’s or holding midfielders.
For England, this will be Keira Walsh – widely regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world, while for Germany that role goes to the 20-year-old Wolfsburg midfielder Lena Oberdorf.
Oberdorf has without doubt been one of the players of the tournament this summer.
Her positional awareness and reading of the game have been nothing short of spectacular and her ability to receive the ball under pressure and break lines when passing forward has allowed the Germans to progress the ball effectively and efficiently.
The same can be said, however, of Keira Walsh and it is her ability to hold the base of the midfield that allows the likes of Stanway and Kirby to be so aggressive in the attacking phase.
There have been matches when Walsh has all but played as a one-woman midfield.
In this game, one of the key tactical battles will surround whether Oberdorf is able to exert the same control over the match as she looks to prevent Kirby and Stanway from getting on the ball in the final third.
Prior to the tournament, there were still doubts over Alexandra Popp’s fitness.
She had faced surgery in the months leading up to the tournament and there were doubts that she would be fit to play if selected.
Looking back now, the thought of this German side without the power and predatory instincts of the 31-year-old Wolfsburg striker would strike fear in German hearts.
Popp has quite simply been a sensation this summer. Yes, she has claimed six goals so far but her overall play has been more impressive than her goal-scoring prowess.
Popp is a modern forward capable of playing with physicality and finesse and proving a handful for opposition defenders.
Throughout the tournament, Popp has looked to play on the front foot with a real sense of urgency against the ball.
She has seized on opportunities to press the ball and close down the opposition goalkeeper and central defenders at every chance.
At no point have opposition sides been able to build out comfortably from the back as Popp, amongst others, have pressed quickly.
This pressing leads to the players in possession having to play longer passes from back to front as opposed to building from the back.
It will be fascinating to see if this approach is still useful against an England side with one of the most effective target forwards in the women’s game in Ellen White.
Should England be forced by the German press to be more direct in their approach then the game will turn into a battle of attrition and a physical match that the English will not hide from.
Who will come out on top at Wembley?
We have the classic German experience of the big occasion versus the hope and pressure of trying to be that England team that finally wins something.
But put very, very simply – if England’s wide forwards turn it on, if they win the midfield battle and can play through the German press there is absolutely no reason why the Lionesses won’t be celebrating come Sunday night.
If they can win all three areas, there could be two goals in it.
However, if the Germans can win just one of those three tactical battles it could be yet another tense, nervous affair for all England fans.
The new Total Football Analysis Magazine will be out on Tuesday, 2 August
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