(Football news) The Lionesses will attempt to reach their third European Championships final when they face Sweden at Bramall Lane. Despite being pre-tournament favourites, England Women have never won a European Championship trophy while Sweden secured the title in 1984. The Lionesses have been rampant in the competition so far, defeating Norway 8-0 in the Group Stage and coming from behind to win against Spain in extra time. However, Sweden are more than a formidable opponent, ranked only behind the USA and are the top ranked team in the competition. They defeated Belgium in injury time to progress into the semi finals.
Despite the home advantage and being the pre-tournament favourites, England could quite possibly be the underdogs in this match. The two sides have faced each other 26 times with England only winning three, having been beaten 15 times. Only Germany (21) have defeated the Lionesses more often. In the European Championships, England and Sweden have met seven times with the Lionesses winning only once, which was in the second leg of the inaugural final (1-0). However, Sweden ended up winning the game on penalties to lift the trophy. The 32,000 capacity Bramall Lane is expected to be sold out for this blockbuster fixture and around 5,000 fans are expected to be in attendance at the free fan park in Trafalgar Square in London.
With regards to team selection, England are the only side that have named the same starting XI for four matches and manager Sarina Wiegman may adopt the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” thinking this time around. However, keeping in mind Sweden’s ability, Weigman could bring Alessia Russo in the side for Ellen White, who is one goal away from matching Wayne Rooney’s 53 goal record tally for England. The Manchester United forward (Alessia Russo) has scored three goals in the tournament so far and provided an invaluable assist for club team-mate Ella Toone's equaliser against Spain. Full-back Alex Greenwood could also feature in the starting lineup after Rachel Daly struggled against Spain.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference, England boss Sarina Wiegman said “The England team is ready to play their best game tomorrow against Sweden, and hopefully we inspire the nation. I hope the fans are going to bring us lots of energy again. We'll do that ourselves, but it was really an extra thing, an extra dimension, what we got in our last games, and that's really exciting. We hope we're going to make them proud again." When asked about the team’s last four exits, Weigman said “I think it's necessary to be in the now. I do think you always have to learn from your experience and take out the things that you can take, to become better and learn. But it's no use now to talk about that all the time, because it's now, it is now. So why should we talk about that all the time?"
When asked about England’s chances of winning Sunday’s final, Wiegman said “We first have to play a semi-final and that's the only thing that counts. Again, we're in the now, all the focus is on our game tomorrow against Sweden, and that's the only thing we talk about – how we want to play, how we collaborate as a team, how we can try to exploit their weaknesses, take out their strengths and use our own strengths. That's the only thing we're talking about." England Women are yet to win a major trophy and last reached a final of the European Championship in 2009. As for Sweden, they are six positions ahead in the rankings and Peter Gerhardsson's team reached the finals of the Tokyo Olympics last year and also defeated England 2-1 to finish third in the World Cup.
Wiegman said: "I think it's going to be a very tight game. We know they've performed really well over the last years, they've always performed really well in the women's game, they are No 2 in the FIFA ranking. It's going to be a difficult game, I think totally different to what we had against Spain, because they have a different style of play. But we're prepared. We had a little setback, of course that's part of the game too, conceding a goal, but we stayed calm, we stayed trying to play our game and then the result came. I think we're really strong and we can handle some setbacks. I think going through that and being that successful…really helped the team and really showed our resilience and it's a big step in our development."