Sarina Wiegman has said that England are desperate to win Sunday’s Euro 2022 final against Germany to “show, again, we are the best”.
The Lionesses manager said: “We don’t talk about the rivalry between England and Germany; we want to show badly how good we are and play our best game. There’s so much eagerness in this team to win. And so much resilience.
We want, we want so badly to show again, we are the best and to play our best game. That’s what we’ve been trying to do all the time. And then hopefully, that will bring us to win. That’s basically where we’re at. And then on top of that, we talk about players but not history – it is the here and now.”
Wiegman has settled rapidly since her arrival in England after taking the Netherlands to the Tokyo Olympics last summer. She has taken to drinking tea and eating fish and chips as a part of her assimilation of English culture.
She has perhaps made more changes to her diet than she did the team. “I knew of course that over the years England had been really good already,” she said of her arrival last September. “So, it’s not like I thought I’m going to come in and change everything, because things were really good already.
The team and women’s football in England is so big and it’s had such an incredible development, so I just wanted to figure out what could I, with the technical staff, add to this team to take the next step in the development.”
A key part of that development has been instilling a calmness into the fabric of the squad and the team. To maintain her own calm, she does yoga and meditates daily.
“I just make sure I do all those things and stay calm,” she says. “We are so well prepared, that gives me calmness too. I know we have done everything in our control. It might bring us a win or maybe not, but we know we have done everything within our control to do as well as possible and that’s OK.”
The key to her calmness has been built through understanding who she is as a person. “Over the years I’ve learned – and I think this is the main thing – about myself as much as possible.
That takes time. You need confidence to make choices. I was a teacher when I was in my first job as a coach with ADO Den Haag. When I started there were so many things on the path in front of me and I had to learn more about myself.
You learn your strengths and weaknesses. Over time you get so much experience that you trust yourself and get confidence. You know you did the right thing, no matter what the response of the person in front of you is.”
In the Netherlands there is no resentment of Wiegman for having left the national team for England. Instead there is immense pride as her side go into the game against the record eight-times European champions.
There is a feeling that she more than did her time with the Netherlands, exceeding expectations by lifting a home Euros in 2017, and many are excited to see what she does with the resources of a country that is a few steps ahead in its development of women’s football.
“That’s really nice,” she says in response to being told what journalists are saying in her home country. “When I started my coaching, I didn’t even know it was possible to be a full-time coach. So now it’s just really nice. I am very aware of where we’ve come from with the women’s game and where we are now and I’m just really enjoying it. I feel very privileged today to be part of this whole journey from little kids.”
Wiegman refers the players to the memory of playing as a child and says they should play for the little girls who want to be there, said the midfielder Georgia Stanway, who has shone at the Euros.
“The biggest thing that Sarina has said was at the start: ‘Play for the little girl that wanted to be in our shoes.’ So, I’ll play for the little girl who wanted to play at the start, went to training, loved it, dreamed to be in our position.”
Stanway has been another highlight of England’s tournament, but that was not predictable. In fact, she had been told she was on the edge of plans.
“When Sarina first came into the job I don’t think I was in favour. I was still playing full-back at the time at Manchester City and I was trying to fight for a spot in England at centre mid and I was finding that balance really hard. It was probably only when I got to the Arnold Clark Cup that I could put my foot down a little bit more and say: ‘I’m here, this is what I can do’ and bring that aggression and physicality back into my game, and obviously the confidence as well.
“It wasn’t until maybe the first game at the Euros that I realised that maybe I am in favour and it was maybe my spot to lose.”