Barely a year after being crowned European champions, England’s Lionesses will have a shot at adding the World Cup to their growing collection of silverware. Sarina Wiegman’s team defeated Australia in front of their own fans in an impassioned semi-final that saw the Lionesses take a first-half lead through Ella Toone, get pegged back by Sam Kerr before Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo restored England’s cushion to secure their first-ever World Cup final appearance.
It’s testament to the strength and depth of English football – and the coaching prowess of Wiegman – that the Lionesses have been able to make it to the final while missing several key players; captain Leah Williamson, Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead and Fran Kirby amongst those absent with injury.
After the heartbreak of defeat in the World Cup semi-finals of 2015 and 2019, the Lionesses will have a chance to go one better in the final against Spain, who are also in unchartered territory having never before contested a game of this magnitude. England, on the other hand, have played in major finals before with mixed results, as we outline below.
England 1-1 Sweden (Euro ’84)
One of the inaugural international tournaments in women’s football was the European Championships of 1984. The sport was very much in its infancy at this point, with geographical qualifiers to determine who would be redirected into the tournament’s semi-finals. England took on Scotland and both Northern and the Republic of Ireland in their qualification category, winning all six of their games and scoring a whopping 24 goals in the process.
That saw the Lionesses into the Euro ’84 last four against Central Europe winners Denmark, with Liz Deighan netting the winner in a 2-1 verdict in the first leg at Crewe’s Gresty Road. The second leg, played in the Danish town of Hjorring, was a tight encounter in which the legendary Deborah Bampton’s goal on the stroke of half-time was enough to keep the Scandinavians at bay.
The final pitted England against Sweden, and after tasting a 0-1 defeat in Gothenburg, the Lionesses levelled the tie in the second leg at Kenilworth Road thanks to Linda Curl’s strike. With no extra time to be played, the final would need to be resolved by a penalty shootout – sadly for England, it wasn’t to be as the Swedes ran out 4-3 winners from the spot.
England 2-6 Germany (Euro ’09)
It would be another 25 years before England would reach another final – this time at Euro 2009. The tournament come not have got off to a more inauspicious start for the Lionesses, who lost their opener 2-3 to Italy before finding themselves 0-2 down after 20 minutes in a must-win contest with Russia.
But three goals inside 30 minutes from Karen Carney, Eni Aluko and Kelly Smith turned the game completely on its head, with the Lionesses completing the victory before drawing with Sweden next time out to book their place in the knockout phase.
That would pit England against tournament hosts Finland in the quarter-finals, with the home nation putting in a rousing display despite going 0-2 down to goals from Aluko and Fara Williams. The Finns rallied, but another Aluko goal would secure a 3-2 victory for the Lionesses. The semi-final with the Netherlands was a taught affair that went to extra time, where Jill Scott popped up with an 116th minute winner to break Dutch hearts.
Perhaps the less said about the final the better, with Germany romping into a two-goal lead inside 20 minutes. Goals from Carney and Smith would chip away at the Germans’ dominance, but their opponents were not to be denied and it was fitting that the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year Birgit Prinz would net Germany’s sixth and final goal.
England 2-6 Germany (Euro ’22)
The Women’s Super League is getting stronger and stronger, and it felt like just a matter of time before that manifested itself on the international stage. The Euros in 2022 could not have come at a better time, with England’s position as tournament host handing them an even greater edge.
The Lionesses would end a five-decade long wait for a major trophy in fine style, trouncing Group A with three straight wins before downing Spain in the quarter-finals courtesy of Georgia Stanway’s extra-time goal. Sweden were blitzed in the semis – goals from Russo, Kirby, Mead and Lucy Bronze confirming victory, before more than 87,000 packed into Wembley Stadium for the final against Germany.
Toone put England ahead before the Germans equalised, with the action sent to a frenetic and nerve-sapping period of extra time. As the game appeared to be heading for a penalty shootout, Chloe Kelly found enough space to fire in the winning goal and secure the Lionesses’ first major trophy in style on home soil.
England 1-1 Brazil (Finalissima 2023)
The Finalissima game, inaugurated in 2023, would pit the champions of two of football’s premier continents – Europe and South America – against one another. England, as European champions, would take on Copa America winners Brazil at Wembley Stadium in front of 83,000 fans in April. That girl Toone, with an incredible habit of scoring crucial goals for the Lionesses, appeared to have won the day for England before Brazil’s Andressa stepped up with an injury-time equaliser.
With no extra time in the offing, it was straight to the joy/misery of a penalty shootout, with the two teams exchanging goals and misses until Chloe Kelly would make her decisive spot kick count and hand the Lionesses a second major trophy inside a year.