Sarina Wiegman, England’s manager, said “the world will change” for her players after the Lionesses won Euro 2022 with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Germany on Sunday at a sold-out Wembley Stadium.
Chloe Kelly prodded home the winner in the 110th minute in front of a record crowd of 87,192 for any match in the history of the European Championships, giving England women their first major tournament victory.
“The world will change, we know that,” said Wiegman, whose post-match press conference was interrupted by the England squad singing “football’s coming home!”.
“We change society and that’s what we want, that’s so much more than football.
“Winning is what we are here for, our job is to do as good as possible, but through football, you can make changes in society and that’s what we are here for.”
Kelly only just made Wiegman’s squad after fighting back from an anterior cruciate ligament tear to be fit in time for the tournament and made herself a national hero by being in the right place to pounce when Germany failed to clear a corner.
The Manchester City winger tore off her shirt in celebration in scenes reminiscent of Brandi Chastain’s famous reaction to scoring the winning penalty at the 1999 World Cup for the USA.
“This is what dreams are made of, as a young girl watching women’s football,” said Kelly, who broke off a post-match interview to join in a chorus of “Sweet Caroline” with the crowd and her teammates.
“Thank you for everyone who played a part in my rehab. I always believed I’d be here, but to be here and score the winner, wow. These girls are amazing.”
England looked set for victory in the 90 minutes when substitute Ella Toone’s sublime chip over Merle Frohms put the hosts in front.
Germany showed remarkable resilience to bounce back as Lina Magull levelled 11 minutes from time.
But 56 years on from England’s last major tournament win in either the men’s or women’s game, they were not to be denied a major tournament success.
Queen Elizabeth II led the tributes to the Lionesses, calling them “an inspiration for girls and women today, and for future generations”.
Fortune did not favour Germany, who lost captain and top goalscorer Alexandra Popp to a muscle injury in the warm-up.
German boss Martina Voss-Tecklenburg was also furious that a penalty was not awarded in the first half for a handball by England captain Leah Williamson.
But England will feel their time for some luck was due as 12 months on from the Three Lions’ defeat on penalties to Italy in the Euro 2020 men’s final, the nation’s women went one better.
“I can’t stop crying. We talk and we talk and we’ve finally done it,” said Williamson.
“It’s the proudest moment of my life. I’m taking in every single second because I’ll want to relive this for a long time.”
Under Wiegman, England are unbeaten in 20 games but were pushed to the limit by the eight-time winners despite missing the massive presence of Popp, who had scored six goals in five games en route to the final.
Strength in depth has been one of the key features of England’s success under Wiegman and the Dutch coach turned to Alessia Russo and Toone to change the game as they did in the quarter-final win over Spain.
The changes worked to perfection once more as Toone timed her run through the heart of the German defence to latch onto Keira Walsh’s through ball, showing great composure to coolly lift the ball over Frohms.
Lesser sides than the eight-time champions would have been broken, but Germany immediately pushed forward in search of an equaliser.
The excellent Magull smashed a shot off the post and Popp’s replacement Lea Schueller should have converted the rebound rather than rolling the ball into the arms of the grateful Mary Earps.
Voss-Tecklenburg’s side were not to be denied, though, and fittingly it was Magull who sent the game to extra-time as the Bayern Munich midfielder slotted Tabea Wassmuth’s cross into the roof of the net.
Both sides felt the pace of a physical encounter in the extra 30 minutes.
England just had enough left in the tank to finally get the job done as Germany failed to deal with the second ball from a corner and Kelly’s telescopic right leg flicked the ball home.
“Enjoy the free rounds of pints and dinners for the rest of your life from all of England,” Chastain tweeted to Kelly.
After decades of disappointment, a major tournament trophy has come home for England fans.