41 min: A warning for England. Daly switches off and lets Dunst rush past her on the right. The winger zips a cross in towards Billa, but it is Bright again who heads clear under pressure. She is such a steady presence at the back.
39 min: Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass. It’s a possession power play from England, who hold onto the ball brilliantly, before Hemp switches to the right and is released by a diagional ball from Bright. She takes a feather-toed touch and wriggles into the box before just overunning the ball as she tries to clip it back in towards White.
36 min: England are very much in control but while they only have a goal’s advantage, they can’t afford to be too gung-ho as they search for a second. Bronze and Daly are pushing up really high, a tactic that can overwhelm the opposition but also requires the central midfielders to cover quickly if there is a transition.
35 min: The crowd shout “shoot” when Bronze collects a Kirby pass on the right hand side of the box with time to get her head up. But the full-back tries to find Hemp with a low cross instead, but Wenninger does enough to stab the ball away.
33 min: Walsh shows she has incredible vision, swivelling away from her marker in midfield and weighting a low pass towards White, that the England centre-forward doesn’t quite read.
32 min: This is so, so true. Mourinho probably shuddered as he watched it go in.
31 min: Mead drifts an inswinging cross towards White at the back post, but Austria’s captain, Schnaderbeck, uses all her nous to usher White away from the ball with her shoulder. Good defending.
29 min: Naschenweng curls an inswinging corner into a packed England six-yard box. You couldn’t swing a cat there and Earps has no chance of collecting the ball with all those bodies around. Thankfully, Bronze leaps highest in the crowd and heads clear from under the bar.
27 min: Ellen White will think she should have opened her Euros account! Kirby scurries up the left and waits for Hemp to zip inside her. She times her pass perfectly to release Hemp. The Man City combination works perfectly, with Hemp finding White, unmarked, in the middle of the penalty area, but the England No 9 glances a header wide when she really should have hit he target. Lovely play from England though. They’re moving through the gears now.
25 min: Bright is pinging some lovely accurate passes towards Bronze on the right and Hemp on the left. Bronze takes one down beautifully but can’t click with Mead as she tries to wriggle into the box on the right.
23 min: England are in complete control now and pinning Austria back into their own half.
19 min: That goal will help settle any anxiety in the England ranks. There have been a few moments when England have rushed the final pass when in good positions but they had been starting to turn the screw and got their reward. Bright wins a header after a Hemp corner and with England players sniffing in the six yard box, Zinsberger rushes off her line and dives on the loose ball. Good goalkeeping.
… then England score, but only just! Kirby, I think, lofts the ball over the Austria defence towards Mead, who controls the ball on her chest brilliantly before dinking the ball over Zinsberger. The ball bounces towards the line and over it by the space of a couple of centimetres as an Austria defender slams the ball up and on to the bar. There’s a quick VAR check but the goalline technology says “yes!” England are off to a fine start.
15 min: Mead picks out Stanway with a clever square pass. The England midfielder drives towards the box and drops a shoulder once, shapes to shoot, but drops her shoulder a second time and then can’t find a teammate with her low cross but …
13 min: Hanshaw reminds Bronze that she can’t go wandering forwards for too long. The Austria left-back races past her teammate on the overlap and fires a cross into the near post that Bright deals with authoritatively.
12 min: Hemp is everywhere suddenly. Bronze whips an inviting cross in from the right, that skips up off the turf as Hemp rushes on to it. It’s such a hard header to control though and the ball bounces up and off her head and over. England are starting to dominate.
11 min: Bright drills a lovely diagonal ball in behind for Hemp to run on to. The winger reaches the ball before it goes out of play and gets her head up. She curls a ball in towards her Man City teammate Ellen White but it is slightly behind her and she can’t get any power on it. Better from England though.
9 min: Austria are having a decent attacking spell here. they’re pinning England back. The hosts are yet to get going really. Hanshaw tries to dribble up the left for Austria but she is crowded out by Mead and England pick up possession.
7 min: “How does one end up with the surname England,” asks Zach Neeley. “The only other example I can think of is Cecile de France but at least there it means ‘of France’ which for someone from Belgium I can see how that got there.” There are loads of Englands in, um, England Zach but I guess it can be confusing for journalists and readers alike when Beth England is busy. Austria attack on the left and win a throw-in after a no-nonsense clearance from Bright.
5 min: Williamson overplays at the back and Austria pick up possession and win a corner. Bright clears and England break to huge cheers. The ball is worked up to Hemp but her first touch is heavy and Austria snuff out the danger.
3 min: “This is the best atmosphere of any women’s match I have known,” says Rachel Brown-Finnis on co-comms. That’s some statement, but the noise is backing it up. Stanway has a little burst up the right wing but as she tries to compose herself to curl in a cross, she is put under pressure and knocks the ball behind for a goal-kick.
2 min: Hemp takes her first touch and is immediately bundled over midway into the Austria half. Hemp whips it into the back post but it’s an easy take for Arsenal goalkeeper Zinsberger.
1 min: The radio-controlled rainbow car does its job perfectly by delivering the ball to the referee, Marta Huerta Da Aza of Spain. Both teams take the knee to great applause. There’s no room for racism or discrimination of any sort. The referee blows her whistle very hard indeed and we’re under way at Old Trafford. Austria, in black, take the kick-off. They’re shooting from right to left on my screen, with England in ice white, going the other way.
It’s anthem time. Austria’s players belt out theirs, Land der Berge, Land am Strome. It’s a slow number, and sounds a little like God Save The Queen to my ears. Then it’s England’s turn. The capacity crowd give it plenty – as do the players – who look absolutely psyched.
The teams emerge from the tunnel into the mist and din of Old Trafford. What a noise! goosebumps stuff. England captain Leah Williamson shows no signs of emotion, though, as she leads out her Lionesses. Austria’s captain, Viki Schnaderbeck gives a little smirk, though. She’s loving this.
Ok, so my pictures were on delay because there are already fireworks popping off left, right and centre and flags of each nation being spun around by hundred of local kids. There’s a fair bit of smoke hanging around from all the pyro, too. It looks and sounds like the Istanbul derby. This is a proper atmosphere!
The pitch is being prepared for the opening ceremony now so it’s a chance for operatives to show off their logistical skills and how good they are at carrying things quickly. I mean, it’s only nine minutes to kick off so they’re going to have move fast.
Old Trafford is absolutely buzzing. The noise is incessant and must be giving the England players who are warming up out there a huge lift.
Good vibes are very important and we’ve just seen a little video of the Austria players singing and dancing joyfully out there on the Old Trafford pitch when they first turned up. That should have helped to settle a few nerves.
England manager Sarina Wiegman has been speaking again. She is asked about how this England team compares to the Netherlands one she managed to victory at the 2017 Euros. Her answer sounds a bit Shane Meadows.
This is England. It’s a different situation from when I managed Netherlands. There has been five years’ development. Now we’re ready to go.
On Fran Kirby, who a few months ago was struggling with fatigue, she says:
She has just built up and recovered well. We took it day by day and she feels really well and she has started in some of the friendly matches and feels really good and I hope she can show that tonight.”
There is plenty of creative talent in this England team tonight. Fran Kirby is a brilliantly inventive passer and may push further forwards to feed Ellen White from a No 10 position. And then there’s Lauren Hemp, who is a throwback dribbler for me. She’s so good on the ball and plays with her head up all the time. Expect her to cut in from the left and make her mark.
She’s also good at handling pressure.
The BBC coverage has just started and they have managed to get Natalie Portman on board to give a rousing monologue about the tournament. That’s proper A-list content. Of course, she is the driving force behind Angel City FC.
Sarina Wiegman doesn’t give much away when she talks. It probably frustrates journalists but it is great for keeping a lid on hype and protecting her players from the pressure. Here’s what she had to say about the England team she has picked for this opener:
We have a team of 23 players, this is the XI that starts, but we need everyone on matchday and all the other days. It’s about finding balance and it’s really good that everyone in the squad is fit and raring to play.
Austria starting XI: Zinsberger; Wienroither, Wenninger, Schnaderbeck, Hanshaw; Puntigam; Dunst, Zadrazil, Feiersingeer, Naschenweng; Billa. Subs: Kresche, Pal, Goergieva, Degen, Schasching, Schiechtl, Kirchberger, Höbinger, Eder, Hickelsberger-Füller, Makas, Enzinger
Austria’s line-up includes two of Williamson’s Arsenal teammates in goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger and defender Laura Wienroither.
England starting XI: Earps; Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Daly; Stanway,
Walsh; Kirby, Mead, Hemp; White. Subs: Hampton, Roebuck, Carter,
England, Greenwood, Kelly, Parris, Russo, Scott, Stokes, Toone,
Sarina Wiegman makes two changes, with right-back Lucy Bronze, who missed the 4-0 friendly win over Switzerland last week due to illness, coming back into the starting XI along with record scorer Ellen White as Alex Greenwood and Alessia Russo drop to the bench.
So that means Leah Williamson will likely be deployed in defence once again rather than midfield.
It sounds like the mood is boisterous and a bit mid-90s at the northern office of Football Beyond Borders.
“Reading the latest edition of the Squires cartoon and now seeing the photo of the trophy on your blog makes me wonder which will be harder: winning the tournament, or hoisting the actual silverware,” writes Peter Oh. “Where would you grab it? Where is the centre of gravity? How would you pass it to the next person without it slipping out of your grasp and spiralling onto someone’s toes?”
This is clearly the reason England employed Sarina Wiegman as manager. Her experience of having lifted the Euros trophy was clearly every bit as important as her tactical acumen and ability to motivate.
And if you haven’t had a look at the Squires cartoon, here you go. It’s good, as always.
The fans continue to stream towards Old Trafford and England and Austria fans are mixing to pose for photos on the way. But who will be happier at 9.45pm?
The match only kicks off at 8pm, so you still have time to listen to the first-ever Women’s Football Weekly podcast, in which Faye Carruthers is joined by Suzanne Wrack, Robyn Cowen and Jonathan Liew to preview the groups of Euro 2022, including which big teams might find themselves in trouble and the dark horses who could cause an upset.
If England do start with a high intensity pressing game, Austria will need Sarah Zadrazil to excel. The midfielder was picked out as their star player in our team guide by Andreas Hagenaueer, who writes that Zadrazil is “a key midfielder for Champions League quarter-finalists Bayern Munich who is very composed on the ball and her excellent decision making stands out all the time. She was also the first female footballer to sign a commercial deal with Red Bull.”
Now, this is good. This evening the matchball will be brought on to the pitch by a radio-controlled VW camper van (you may have to correct me on the exact model) decked out in Pride colours. There was a similar car at Euro 2020 from what I can remember. I wonder who gets to control it? I’m guessing it’s not the referee.
Old Trafford is ready. England are ready. Austria are ready. Euro 2022 is go! Well, it will be in a couple of hours’ time. In the meantime, I’ll keep you up to speed with all the buildup and then I’ll bring you minute-by-minute coverage of the tournament opener itself, which kicks off at 8pm BST.
So, how is this one going to go? England were so impressive in their warmup matches that it is hard to see the hosts coming unstuck here. They beat Belgium 3-0, European champions Netherlands 5-1 in their own backyard and then Switzerland 4-0. They will also have the vocal backing of a sell-out crowd of 73,000 fans in Manchester.
Here’s Louise Taylor’s overview of England’s chances from our team guide:
As Euro 2022 hosts England qualified automatically but there should be few doubts about their playing credentials. After reaching the semi-finals of the last three major tournaments under Mark Sampson and Phil Neville, the Lionesses appear to have hit new heights, taking their game to a different level under the guidance of the former Netherlands manager Sarina Wiegman. As the former England forward and Guardian columnist Karen Carney says: “There’s something different about this team now. They’ve got a little bit of class. This is such a promising period for England. The manager really is top drawer.”
The injury to Spain captain and Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas has made some bookmakers bring England in to almost joint-favourites to win the tournament alongside Spain and it feels like the only thing that could derail England in Group A is the weight of expectation. Thankfully, they have a cool manager who has been there and won this before in Wiegman, and a level-headed captain in Leah Williamson. “We’re not robots. There are going to be nerves,” said Williamson. “We’re aware of the expectation but from within the camp it’s about enjoying it.” There is still a little uncertainty about the position Williamson will play in. A central defender for Arsenal, she has been used in midfield by Wiegman to help give it a more solid base and the thinking is that she will start there this evening.
Austria had a strong qualification campaign, drawing at home with France and conceding only three goals. They’re a versatile team and would love to repeat their feat of reaching the semi-finals again, as they did in 2017, when they were the Euros’ surprise package. Defender Carina Wenninger, who was part of that squad, says: “We have an even better team now than then.” They won two and lost one of their three warmup matches, to Denmark, who are pretty handy themselves and were runners-up in 2017.
The team news is still a little way off being announced so why not shoot me an email or send me a tweet in the meantime with your predictions for this match, the tournament in general, or just to say hello.
My prediction: England 3-0 Austria