[image via getty]
The 2022 UEFA Women’s Euros were a massive success, as home nation England brought football home with the help of three familiar names. They weren’t the only Gunners representing their countries in the tournament however – let’s take a closer look at how the 10 Arsenal stars got on at the Euros this summer.
Two players have left the club since the beginning of the tournament – Simone Boye and Nikita Parris, joining Hammarby and Manchester United respectively. Boye was used as a rotation player for Denmark, starting one group match and coming off the bench for the other two with the Scandinavian side not progressing to the knockouts. Nikita Parris was part of Sarina Wiegman’s inspirational title-winning squad but featured just twice off the bench with little impact. Still, she can say she is a European Championship winner.
Lia Walti captained Switzerland and shared the pitch with right back Noelle Maritz. Despite playing through a foot injury, Walti really stood out in each of her group matches. She bossed the midfield as she so often does for Arsenal, and against the Netherlands, her importance was highlighted. At 83 minutes and with the score at 1-1 against the 2017 European champions, Walti was subbed off. Fast forward to full-time and the score line reads 4-1 to the Dutch, who scored 3 goals in the final 10 minutes of the game. Switzerland looked lost without Walti and the momentum shift after she left the pitch was very apparent. Let’s hope her injury isn’t too serious, as she is one of our most important players.
Meanwhile, Noelle Maritz continued her quiet consistency from her club to her country with a series of solid defensive displays. One of the lesser-known Arsenal regulars, Maritz is extremely reliable and rarely gets caught out at the back. Switzerland put in good performances against all their opponents, but their group was not an easy one, featuring the aforementioned Netherlands, semi- finalists Sweden, and Portugal. Still, Arsenal’s Swiss players more than held their own and had a tournament they should be proud of.
Frida Maanum and Norway, on the other hand, had a tournament to forget. Many saw them as real threats heading into the summer, with standout players such as Caroline Graham Hansen, Ada Hegerberg, Guro Reiten and Arsenal’s midfield youngster Frida Maanum. Her campaign started well, netting a goal against Northern Ireland in a comfortable 4-1 win. The high would soon come crashing down though, with an 8-0 demolition by England and a crucial decider going the way of Austria. Hopefully the 23-year-old’s confidence isn’t knocked, and she can carry on her good domestic form into her second season in red and white.
In fact, Austria really impressed me this tournament, making it out of a difficult group and into the quarter finals where they were beaten by finalists Germany in a close match. Young Arsenal right back Laura Wienroither and first choice goalkeeper Manu Zinsberger were regular names on the Austria team sheet. Wienroither put in a brilliant performance against England in the opening match of the Euros, keeping an extremely talented Lauren Hemp quiet and frustrated throughout the duration of the match. Both her and Zinsberger were influential in Austria’s two clean sheets and helped their nation towards a respectable three goals conceded in their matches against the two eventual finalists.
It was an unfortunately uneventful campaign for Vivianne Miedema. The pressure was on the Netherlands as the holders, but they didn’t enter the tournament as one of the top favourites. Still, they got off to a decent start, drawing with Sweden in a very entertaining encounter. Former Gooner Jill Roord got the goal, but Miedema made the goal. She took the game by the scruff of the neck to salvage a point for her country, something she’s done countless times for Arsenal.
Following this game, Miedema tested positive for COVID-19 and didn’t feature in the rest of the group stage. Rushed back into the starting line-up against France for their quarter final clash, it was evident she wasn’t sharp enough to make much of an impact and an extra-time winner sealed the match for the French.
One of the favourites going into the tournament were Sweden, ranked number 2 in FIFA’s Women’s World Rankings at the time. Stina Blackstenius joined Arsenal in January following an exceptional flurry of performances at the Olympics, scoring 5 goals in as many matches and leaving Tokyo with a silver medal. This was a quieter campaign for Blackstenius, scoring just one goal as Sweden made it all the way to the semi-finals. That goal came in a 5-0 victory over Portugal, but she looked dangerous in her other appearances, making lots of good runs and working the defence well. In fact, she had three goals ruled out for marginal offsides in the tournament – with a bit more luck on her side, this could have been a standout campaign for Blackstenius.
It was England’s Lionesses, though, that really impressed and helped the home nation finally bring football home. Lotte Wubben-Moy was a part of Wiegman’s squad but wasn’t brought off the bench in any of England’s seven wins in the tournament. Following the Euros triumph, the Lionesses sent an open letter to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, urging the government to ensure all girls have access to football at schools, and it was later revealed that this was Wubben-Moy’s idea – our Lotte.
Arsenal through and through, Leah Williamson captained a star-studded England side to their first ever major trophy. Not bad for a 25-year-old, but more impressive were her performances at the heart of the defence. Without making a single tackle, Williamson ended the campaign with more ball recoveries than anybody else with 56. As Paolo Maldini once said, “If I have to make a tackle, I’ve already made a mistake”. Leah Williamson demonstrated to the world why she is the perfect modern-day centre back, looking sharp and comfortable on the ball and leading by true example. Millie Bright may have made more noise alongside her, but Williamson’s often unnoticed importance was a big factor in England’s sheer dominance throughout the tournament.
And finally, the unrivalled star of the Euros: Beth Mead. Top scorer. Top assister. Player of the
Tournament. In fact, she couldn’t really have played much better. Opening the scoring with a
sumptuous volley over the head of teammate Zinsberger, it was her second of three against Norway that impressed me the most. Mead’s lightning quick feet lead to a mazy run in the box before she produced a calm left footed finish into the bottom corner. Not quite goal of the tournament, but it was good. Very good. In a team full and a tournament of big names, Beth Mead played everybody else off the park and has entered herself into the Ballon d’Or conversation. A good start to the season back home in North London and you shouldn’t rule it out…