LONDON — Sarina Wiegman and her players know, deep down, that the most significant victory has already been won. Its spoils can be measured not only by the record attendances and the record audiences that England’s run at Euro 2022 has generated, but by the heaving pubs and the ubiquitous jerseys and, on Sunday, the packed trains making their way to Wembley Stadium for the final against Germany.
It will be clear, too, a few years from now, as the England captain Leah Williamson said, when this tournament comes to be seen as a “game-changer” for women’s soccer in England, certainly, and likely across Europe, too.
The problem with elite sports, though, is that it is not quite as simple as that. The impact of Euro 2022 on the general public will not change, of course, regardless of whether England can make that one final step on Sunday and become European champion for the first time, but the way the players remember it most certainly will. It is one thing to inspire a nation in glory. It is another to do it in regret. The victory that matters to England is not the philosophical one, the conceptual one. It is the one that is achieved over 90 minutes, on a field.
It is an attainable one, too. England has swept through this tournament with such poise and such grandeur that even Wiegman admitted the group phase was “relatively easy.” Her team has only struggled once, in a fraught quarterfinal against Spain; that game brought the only goal Mary Earps has conceded, too. The host should be the favorite.
The only caveat is that Germany does not make a convincing underdog. Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side has the air of a team in the throes of transition, an older generation gradually giving way to a younger one, led by the indomitable Lena Oberdorf, but Germany’s pedigree in this tournament is impeccable: It has been crowned champion of Europe eight times, after all, and it has never lost a final it has reached. This iteration has been gathering momentum, surely and assiduously, during the tournament. It, too, knows this is the victory that matters, the one on which everything hinges.