How many people knew Sarina Wiegman, the humble hero from the Hauge, before this summer? Football fans? Some, not all. The average man or woman in the street? Probably not. The whole of England knows her name now.
She is the woman who made history. She is the woman who brought football home. She is the woman who delivered this country their first major trophy since 1966. She was the calmest woman in Wembley when the full-time whistle went.
Her England side, pegged back by Germany in the 79th minute after Ella Toone’s opener, had the momentum against them. There was no panic, Wiegman never panics.
Sarina Weigman has makes history by leading England to glory at Euro 2022 at Wembley
The England players lift the Euro 2022 trophy and end the 56 years of hurt without a final win
Throughout this tournament her substitutions have proved crucial and they did so again, with Chloe Kelly coming off the bench to win England the Euros. Kelly had not played a game under Wiegman before the start of this tournament. She missed the majority of last season with a knee injury.
Her inclusion in the 23-player squad was not a guarantee. But Wiegman knows best. Kelly came on for Beth Mead, England’s top scorer in this competition, in both the quarter-final and the final.
Her energy and workrate against Spain was crucial and when the ball dropped in front of her in the six-yard box, she was in the right place at the right time to prod home.
Wiegman only took charge of this team 10 months ago but there has been a transformation. England’s form had been poor since their semi-final exit at the 2019 World Cup.
Though they would never admit it, the FA appointed Wiegman to win this home tournament. She had been there and done it with the Netherlands. She had the experience previous managers did not.
The Dutch manager is the woman who made history and who brought football home
Throughout this tournament her substitutions have proved crucial and they did so again
What she lacked was time. The interim period under Hege Riise, between Phil Neville’s departure and Wiegman’s arrival, wasted precious time. But it did not matter. If this is what she can do in less than a year then what can she do in two, three?
Wiegman’s first games in charge were World Cup qualifiers against inferior nations. The wins were easy, but England often wasted numerous chances. ‘We need to be more ruthless,’ Wiegman would say after her side had just won 10-0. She always wants more. In this last three weeks, her players have given her everything. They trust her judgement and why wouldn’t they?
Every big call Wiegman has faced, she has got right. Naming Leah Williamson as captain and not picking Steph Houghton in her 23-player squad was a bold move.
Sarina’s tactics and decision making has been lauded as key into turning England into winners
Leah Williamson was made England captain on Wiegman’s big call to replace Steph Houghton
There was an argument that Houghton, who had served her country so well for so many years, deserved to go to this home tournament and could offer experience and guidance even if she was not playing.
But in Wiegman’s eyes she was not fit and that is what mattered. It was up to Williamson to lead and that job would have been harder with her former captain in the background.
Her decision to name the same starting XI for every game proved a masterstroke. There were question marks over playing Rachel Daly, a forward by trade, at left back in defence that contained all right-footed players.
When Daly was exposed and cut open by Spain, many thought Alex Greenwood should come in. Daly started the semi-final and had her best game of the tournament. The players that have impacted off the bench – Toone, Kelly and Alessia Russo may have done so had they started.
Her in-game decisions have been spot on. The right players introduced at the right time, delivering performances of their lives.
Chloe Kelly celebrates scoring the winning goal against Germany in the Euro 2022 Final
It is overlooked that Wiegman went through personal tragedy three weeks before this tournament started. She had to return home to the Netherlands when her sister passed away at the end of May. She took a week off to be with her family before returning to England’s camp at St George’s Park. She always puts her team first.
Wiegman is not one for the limelight. When it was suggested to her that she would become a celebrity if she won this tournament, she laughed. ‘No, I will just go back to my quiet life.’ She can try, but it may not be that easy.
Everybody knows her name now. Few people in football manage legendary status in two countries. Wiegman won the Euros on home turf with her native Holland in 2017. Yesterday she led the Lionesses to their first every trophy. The humble hero from the Hague is now an honorary English woman.
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