It sounds like the mood is boosterous 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 center of gravity? How would you pass it to the next person without it slipping out of your grasp and spiraling onto someone’s toes?”
This is clearly the reason England employed Sarina Wiegman as manager. Her experience of having lifted the Euros trophy was 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 podcastin 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