It was deja vu at a leaping Wembley, as Chloe Kelly scored the winner in the inaugural Finalissima, this time in a penalty shootout. Kelly had been the hero final summer season, scoring the extra-time winner to seal victory in the Euro 2022 remaining in opposition to Germany. This time the stakes weren’t as excessive, however one other trophy was secured, and Sarina Wiegman’s unbeaten run was prolonged to 30 video games, with the Dutch supervisor but to expertise defeat together with her European champions.
A shocking crew objective completed by Ella Toone had torn aside the Copa América Femenina champions Brazil in the primary half, however Andressa Alves’s injury-time strike compelled a shootout. Goalkeeper Mary Earps would atone for her fumble conceding the objective, by stopping Tamires’ strike and watching as Brazil captain Rafaelle’s shot smashed off the bar earlier than Kelly sealed the victory in England’s first shootout since 2011.
It was one other take a look at handed, one other field ticked off and one other crowd-pleasing outcome as England continued their march in direction of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which kicks off in 105 days.
It was a powerful beginning XI from the England supervisor, who had hinted that there could be much less room for experimentation in opposition to Brazil and Australia than there had been on the Arnold Clark Cup in February. Excluding accidents, she fielded a crew very near the one that may in all probability characteristic on the World Cup in July, with Millie Bright’s absence permitting Alex Greenwood to start out alongside centre-back Leah Williamson, and Jess Carter slotting in at left-back. Meanwhile, Lauren James obtained the nod forward of Kelly to start out in place of long-term absentee Beth Mead.
Six of the XI that began the Euro 2022 remaining final yr remained. There have been six adjustments from the Brazil crew that secured an eighth Copa América Femenina the day earlier than the Lionesses’ Euros triumph. Brazil have been with out key gamers Marta, Ludmila and Debinha for the journey to England, although, whereas the Copa América prime scorer, Adriana, was a shock omission from the beginning line-up.
It is a testomony to the influence of the Euros win that Wembley was awash with followers by lunchtime for the 7.45pm kick-off. It is an excellent greater testomony that that now not feels unusual. A sold-out Wembley is the Lionesses new regular, and it’s accelerating the expansion of the sport past anybody’s wildest expectations.
Investment, help, structural change and time has constructed the success on the pitch, delivering the atmosphere in which the gamers can thrive. Brazil, in the meantime, are nonetheless ready for that lightbulb second. Their supervisor, Pia Sundhage, pointed to that previous to the match, saying it was “time that Brazil steps up” and lays the foundations for future success.
On the pitch at Wembley, it was England’s aptitude and never the Brazil crew’s that had the gang drooling. A fantastically labored crew objective in the 23rd minute was the outcome. It took 5 passes to take the ball from again to entrance, and James was key, releasing Lucy Bronze on the appropriate. The full-back performed a one-two with Georgia Stanway earlier than pulling the ball again into the center of the field for Toone to glide in.
James’s inclusion forward of an in-form Kelly was each a shock and anticipated on the identical time. The 21-year-old Chelsea ahead has been in phenomenal type, and the magic that makes her arguably probably the most technically gifted English footballer since Kelly Smith was on show in opposition to Brazil. Every time James will get on the ball, regardless of the area out there or the gamers round her, the informal ease with which she will be able to shrug off an opponent, wriggle free and supply the surprising makes her a potent weapon.
There was an indication of the brilliant England way forward for James not lengthy after the half-hour mark, with a flick on for Bronze who despatched it again to her to raise over Letícia into the roof of the web. The transfer was stunning, however James was offside and the advantageous end was consigned to the dustbin of historical past.
After the break Brazil have been a distinct beast. Beatriz Zaneratto made manner for Adriana, Lauren was swapped for Andressa and the South American aspect sprang to life, giving England’s defence its hardest take a look at thus far this yr. The Lionesses’ slick play had damaged down and Earps wanted to be at full stretch to take care of the slim lead, palming 24-year-old Barcelona ahead Geyse’s strike on to the highest of the bar.
The finish wasn’t significantly fairly, England’s aptitude ditched for a extra dogged efficiency and Wiegman’s crew have been punished. It was an uncharacteristic error from Earps that led to the equaliser, the goalkeeper fumbling a bouncing cross into the field, permitting Andressa to poke in from shut vary to drive a penalty shootout.
Earps saved from Tamires and Arsenal centre-back Rafaelle hit her spot kick off the bar for Brazil, whereas Letícia saved from Toone, however Kelly’s strike would seal the deal and maintain England’s run on the right track.