Women’s Euro: England crowned at home

English football fans have been waiting for their first title since Bobby Charlton’s gang got their hands on the 1966 World Cup. Deliverance did not come from the men’s team as they had imagined, beaten a while ago. year at home in the final of the Euro by Italy, but women’s football. Sunday July 31 in London, the “Three Lionesses” won their first European championship, which they organized, by defeating Germany in the final, at the end of the extension (victory 2-1).

The English have long been on par with a Germany already accustomed to European honors – eight times titled at the Euro – but deprived, a few minutes before kick-off, of its captain and top scorer, Alexandra Popp, executioner of the France team in the previous round and victim of “muscular problems” during warm-up. Sarina Wiegman’s players had to wait for the hour mark to find the opening thanks to Ella Toone, at the conclusion of a counter-attack with a subtle lob on the German goalkeeper (1-0, 62nd). Before falling back too much and then conceding the equalizer by Lina Magull, cutting off a low center from Tabea Wassmuth (1-1, 79th).

87,000 spectators

Extra time, and a possible penalty shootout, would decide the winner. The meeting definitely tipped over to the English side when Chloe Kelly took advantage of a mess at the reception of a corner to place a sharp close (2-1, 111th), capsizing the mythical enclosure of Wembley and its over 87,000 spectators. Either the record for a European championship match, men and women combined. “It’s the moment of my life that I’m most proud of. (…) I won’t sleep all week, confided the English captain Leah Williamson after the final, at the microphone of the BBC. What this tournament will leave is above all the change in society. That’s all we’ve done together bringing people to the games, but what this team will leave behind are winners and that’s just the beginning of the journey. »

Three years after the World Cup organized in France, which had already concretized the upward trajectory of women in football, and despite the slowdown in this progress due, since 2020, to the Covid-19 pandemic, the English Euro ends on an undeniable popular success. With nearly 575,000 cumulative supporters present in English stadiums in July, the influx of this Euro pulverizes the best mark for the women’s continental competition, which was achieved five years ago in the Netherlands with half as many spectators. . “Your success goes far beyond the trophy you so well deserved. You have all set an example that will inspire girls and women today and for generations to come,” said in a press release Queen Elizabeth II, who now only speaks on very rare occasions.

At the national level, this success also validates the choice as coach of the Dutchwoman Sarina Wiegman, undefeated since taking office in September 2021, she who had led the Netherlands to the European title in 2017 and to the final of the World Cup 2019. One year from the next World Cup and two years from the Paris Olympics, this title also crowns a country that has returned to the map of women’s football in Europe in recent years, thanks to a major reform decided in 2017 by the English Federation and aimed at professionalizing its championship.



Euro 2022: how England became a stronghold of women’s football

Whatever the outcome of the first semi-final between England and Sweden, this Tuesday July 26 (9 p.m.) in Sheffield (United Kingdom), the Women’s Football Euro organized this year on English lawns will mark certainly a victory for the host country. From its first matches spent to crush Norway (8-0) or Northern Ireland (5-0), until a possible final in the mythical enclosure of Wembley (90,000 seats), Sunday July 31, the “Lionesses” have always sold out at this European Championship.

A sign that in the country where modern football was born, supporters only ask to live to the rhythm of the round ball, whether it is led on the field by a man or a woman. Never deprived of emotion by the first, in club as in selection, where the players had reached the final of the last men’s Euro a year ago, the fans have long been chomping at the bit when it comes to women’s football.

The fault, in part, of the Football Association (FA), the English football federation, which prohibited women from practicing this sport considered dangerous for their health, from the 1920s until the 1970s. And despite a first Women’s Euro at low resonance organized on English soil in the summer of 2005, the discipline is left in the lurch by the institutions, which regard it above all as an adjustment variable when concluding budgets. Already alerted by the good results of its selection at the 2015 World Cup, finished in third place, the federation changes foot when the award of Euro 2021 looms (finally postponed to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic) , which she will pocket.

Major reform of the national championship

A major reform was launched five years ago, “which mainly concerns the development of Women’s Super League (WSL), the English national championship, notes sports economist Luc Arrondel, a specialist in women’s football. A championship had been present since the 1990s and had become a little more structured in a semi-professional way from 2011, but it was disputed in the summer period, therefore with very little visibility. » The 2017 growth plan begins the process of professionalisation: independent governance of women’s football is established at the FA and the twelve clubs which are granted a professional license must pay their players at least sixteen hours a week and acquire of a women’s section for their training centre.

The vast majority of clubs rely on the facilities of their men’s section, which most often play in the Premier League, the English first division, although the women have their own stadium. “We have two assistants, a mental coach (…), two physiotherapists, a masseur, a doctor. The staffs are a little wider (just in France) and then, in terms of infrastructure, we are in a huge center. We have three gyms, an indoor synthetic pitch. It’s England, what! », recently enthused French international Kenza Dali, today at Everton after moving to Londoners West Ham, quoted by Agence France-Presse.

The reform also concerned the very form of the championship, where the number of clubs relegated to the lower level at the end of the season was reduced. “The WSL is more closed, which has brought more stability for the clubs and strengthened their competitiveness”, notes Luc Arrondel, especially, he specifies, that “The players of the English national team receive a significant income to remain playing in the English championship” and that foreign players have had more difficulty settling in the United Kingdom since Brexit, thus favoring the emergence of young English talent.

Growing attendance, flooding sponsors

While the level of play has logically progressed, crowds have followed in the stadiums, filled on average with a few thousand supporters before the start of the health crisis. A push that prompted the influx of sponsors and the arrival for three years of broadcasters such as the Sky Sports channel and the BBC, for the record sum of 8.1 million euros since the start of the 2021 school year, three times higher than the rights television stations of the French first division. “Contrary to what is usually practiced, this media coverage and these cash inflows are the consequence of an almost political reform of English football”, emphasizes Luc Arrondel.

With the European Championship, English football intends to strengthen its self-sufficiency for the coming seasons. Our objective is twofold: to organize a record tournament and leave a tangible legacy to develop women’s football.”advanced ahead of the event Sue Campbell, director of women’s football at the English federation, in remarks taken up by the British daily The Guardian. The Euro, like every major competition, could in particular promote an additional jump in vocations, and would make it possible to retain the public across the Channel for good. The condition for the progress of English women’s football to be reflected next season at club level on the European scene, still in difficulty on their side against their French, Spanish or German neighbors.



England still largely dominate women’s rugby

There was, however, this beautiful moment of euphoria. This test planted with authority from the fourth minute, and the Bleues opened the scoring by affirming their ambition of the day: to win in Bayonne, Saturday April 30, their sixth grand slam in the Six Nations Tournament, the first since 2018. And above all to beat these English women posting nine consecutive victories against the XV of France.

→ ANALYSIS. Rugby: the women’s XV of France comes out of the shadows

But the joy was short-lived. Because the steamroller of the XV of the Rose started, flattening all the hopes, the desires to do well. Strong in their power and also taking advantage of the weaknesses of the Blues in conquest, the English confiscated the leather to accompany it behind the goal line. Three attempts thus chained together, an inexorable wave, sweeping away everything in its path. A minimalist but terribly effective rugby. And against which the Blues have not found a solution.

The excellence of an English championship renovated in 2017

“The fact of the game is our lack of balls”, could comment Thomas Darracq, the sports manager of the France team. In fact, too often penalized or countered on the keys (8 ball losses, a huge waste), the Blue could hardly express themselves. Hence the “frustration” what Annick Hayraud mentioned after the defeat, emphasizing: “We will have to find solutions. » It is therefore the English who have enriched their record, offering themselves their tenth grand slam in the Six Nations Tournament, and their 19th consecutive victory in the competition.

However, this unchallenged domination owes nothing to chance. England has been betting big on the development of women’s rugby since 2017. In September of that year, the Rugby Football Union (RFU, the English rugby federation) professionalized the national championship of its players, renamed “Premier 15s”. The competition goes from eight to ten teams, franchises mostly from the women’s sections of the big clubs (Saracens, Harlequins, Wasps, etc.). The authority devotes nearly 3 million euros over three years to its championship, and thus hopes to cause a boom in female licenses in clubs. The objective is to reach 50,000 licensees in 2021.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, thwarts this momentum for a time. In 2020, the championship loses its official sponsor (a famous brand of crisps), and the budget is revised downwards. But the RFU does not spare its efforts so that the adaptation is only cyclical. A new partner, the insurance giant Allianz, is on board for the following season, and the RFU takes the opportunity to increase the salary cap that clubs can devote to women’s salaries this year (from €70,000 to €140,000).

A doubling of licensees

The sum can obviously make you smile in comparison with the 6 million euros available to the male Premiership clubs. But it testifies to the desire for progress of a women’s championship whose players are now semi-professional, combining rugby and part-time work (half the week). A situation that does not concern 28 of the players of the national team, benefiting from special contracts allowing them to devote themselves 100% to rugby.

The Premier 15s suddenly displays quality matches, which is starting to interest broadcasters. The BBC broadcasts one match a day on its digital platform, and pay-TV BT Sport broadcasts the semi-finals and the final of the championship (mid-May). So many assets that are attracting more and more young English women. The RFU did not reach its objective of 50,000 licensees, but it nevertheless doubled its workforce to 40,000 licensees (26,000 in France).

So of course, the picture is not yet idyllic with most clubs “lose money again”, recently acknowledged Sue Day, the financial director of the RFU. Emphasizing that it was about betting on “long-term development”, with the 2025 Women’s World Cup in sight, which England should host. Can the XV of the Rose thus maintain its lead over the other nations? Next element of response to the 2022 World Cup (from October 8 to November 12 in New Zealand), where France will find England in its pool (with South Africa and Fiji). Les Bleues know that there is still a lot of work to compete.


The difficult road to professionalism

If France can at least resist the English machine, this 2022 Tournament has once again revealed how much other nations are struggling to exist. The English have crushed Scotland (57-5), Italy (74-0), Wales (58-5) and Ireland (69-0). In these countries, the professional structure of women’s rugby remains at half mast. In December 2021, around 60 current and former Irish players wrote to the government asking “significant change”. The Italians also remain 100% amateurs, when around thirty Scottish players benefit from assistance, but very partial. Only Wales are starting to follow the path set by France and England by professionalizing twelve of their players full-time this year, but without guarantee for next season.



Euro 2021: England has an appointment with Italy for its first final

England reach the final of “their” Euro against Italy. Deprived of a trophy for half a century, the English dismissed courageous Danes (2-1 after extra time) on Wednesday July 7 in the semifinals in London, capsizing Wembley stadium before facing the Italians on Sunday.

In a very intense match, a questionable penalty transformed into two stages by captain Harry Kane (104th) freed the English, who had been pushed to extra time after a splendid free kick from Mikkel Damsgaard (30th) and an equalizer against his Danish captain Simon Kjaer’s camp (39th).

→ ANALYSIS. At Euro 2021, already a great story for the Danes

Fifty-five years after the English triumph at the World Cup in 1966, the “Three Lions” will play their first Euro final after years of famine and disillusionment.

A remarkable journey in this Euro

“I am so proud of the players. It was an incredible evening, the supporters were incredible all evening “, welcomed England coach Gareth Southgate. Italy “Has really been a very high level team for two years now. (…) It’s a team that plays with a lot of energy and style, it’s difficult to score against them ”, he noted.

→ READ. Euro 2021: Italy arrives in the final by beating Spain

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who attended the meeting, highlighted the “Fantastic performance from Gareth Southgate’s team”, who played “With all his heart”, adding on Twitter: “Now the final. Let’s take her home. “ Same satisfaction from the supporters, who celebrated this success by the dozen in the streets of London and Manchester in particular, and in one of the British newspapers, several of whom made a play on words with Final (“Final”) and Finally (” finally “).

This qualification for the final rewards an almost perfect course in this tournament organized in eleven cities of eleven countries, which they will have practically played at home, with the exception of a quarter-final in Rome against Ukraine (4-0 ). It now remains to finish in style on Sunday, at 9 p.m. against Italy.



Rugby: despite the defeat against England, nothing is lost for the XV of France

Disappointed after the short defeat of his men after a dubious last minute test on which he refused to expand, French captain Charles Ollivon preferred to see the glass half full. “There is obviously a little disappointment, we fail at three points but we still have our destiny in our hands, we are continuing our progress, we are still in the game to win the Tournament,” did he declare.

“A great match” according to Fabien Galthié

Everything is said in a few sentences by the captain who underlines the lack of control at the end of the game of his Blues, who had led this “crunch”, nickname of the historic confrontation in France and England, during most of the 80 minutes. “The team delivered a great game. It’s a thing. Then there is this denouement. You have to digest it, abounds his boss Fabien Galthié. It is played at the end. Overall, there is something to be proud of with the players. “

If they manage to snatch two victories – increased to six points in case of success thanks to four tries – in the two matches still on the program against the Welsh on Saturday March 20 and against Scotland on a date not yet fixed (the match had canceled following the health situation of the Blues), Fabien Galthié’s players can still win this Tournament. Ten years after their last victory in the exercise in 2010. At the time, this success had introduced a place in the final of the World Cup 2011.

Solidarity at all levels

“Use the frustration of this game to prepare for the next one against the Welsh. ” This was the speech of the coach in the locker room at the end of the meeting during which the Blues still showed some flaws. Their cute sins, a few balloons falling out of their hands at the wrong time and a bit of indiscipline leading to penalties, are still there, but less and less present. The progression of these points under the Galthié era is evident.

Likewise, a major chapter in rugby, cohesion and solidarity in groupings have never been lacking. The full-backs have always found the energy to give the decisive helping hand to their forwards who had so much missed under the previous terms. Against the English, art was almost there, but the manner never failed. Even if the accounts are not good at the end of the Tournament, this lesson will have to be learned for the future and the 2023 World Cup organized in France.



The XV of France in England to establish its reputation

As if nothing had happened, or almost. Curled up for days in their breakthrough health bubble, the Blues have returned to the field this week in Marcoussis, and it is only a question of the joy of being together, of frank camaraderie and the desire to do battle with the only opponents who are worthy, those opposite on the lawn. Forgotten the virus, erased the moods on the who, how and why the XV of France was tackled by a ferocious contamination. There is an investigation report which summarizes the case and notably exonerates the coach Fabien Galthié from all liability.

→ ANALYSIS. Rugby: Covid-19 contamination of the XV of France, the great discomfort

In the process, the language elements were well framed: make way for rugby! So to the English and to this famous “crunch” on Saturday March 13, which crunches in the teeth of all rugby fans. A very particular clash this year, with the Blues favorites for the first time in ages. It must be said that the vice-champions of the English world seem very blunt on this Six Nations Tournament, picked up at home by the Scots (6-11) and punished at the end of February by the Welsh (40-24). Two defeats in three games, pride at half mast for His Majesty’s subjects.

Brawl in front and battle of position

But beware of the wounded and vengeful English. Going to challenge them at home is never a piece of fun, and even if the stands at Twickenham will be empty, the memories of many disappointed ambitions on the French side will linger. The Blues have not won in England since the 2005 Tournament. A straw. And the tricolor gladiators of the time still remember a comeback match where they had only defended, where the scrum half Dimitri Yachvili had scored all the points for a narrow victory (18-17). .

Six Nations Tournament: Act II of the XV of France starts well

The debates on Saturday are likely to be very bitter at first. “We know that it will be an ultra-tight match, which will be played out in the fight”, provides the third line Dylan Cretin. “It’s up to us to put a lot of intensity in the collision zones”, adds his teammate Grégory Alldritt. Are the Blues well prepared for the exercise, with a preparation singularly disturbed by the Covid-19? At the end of the severe training carried out Wednesday 10, the doctor of defense of the Blues, Shaun Edwards, appeared serene: “The players really improved during the training session and at the end they looked pretty sharp.

Brawl in front, and battle of position, this is the program. The same as that offered to the Blues substitutes during the final of the Autumn Nations Cup, December 6, 2020. This surprising XV of France bis had come close to the feat, pushing the English to extra time and s ‘finally tilting at nothing (19-22). The Blues had then resisted the assaults of the strong de la Rose, but also a bombardment in order of offensive kicks. Because it is so with the game, in recent years in Europe: strategic and which falls from the clouds rather than flush with the grass for great flights.

Daring more than a game of dispossession

The Blues get along in this way professed by Fabien Galthié since his takeover of the XV of France. A rugby of dispossession, but of pressure and above all of intelligent efficiency to improve the recovery balls. Their new reputation is built on this method. “But what if they have to run after the score? “, asks Pierre Villepreux, former playing master of the Blues at the end of the 1990s. “We will have to take the game for themselves. In my opinion, this is the limit of the Blues today. Ping-pong at the foot, it already existed and it was abandoned. I see more total rugby in the Top 14 today than with these Blues. Yet they can do it and be inspiring. I am waiting for them on this. “

ANALYSIS. XV of France: Fabien Galthié, weakened coach

No doubt these Blues have a real desire, like Antoine Dupont or Matthieu Jalibert, who never balk at taking initiatives in their club. But who forge their experience before blazing without complex. This is what David Darricarrère senses, who coached the back lines of these world champion Bleuets in 2018: “This rugby of dispossession is a construction strategy, allowing to accumulate this confidence which the Blues lacked for a long time. However, something more ambitious will have to be proposed for the 2023 World Cup. They have the talent for. “ Patience, therefore. On this path, a victory on English soil would be the most beautiful effect.


Fabien Galthié “in full compliance with health rules”

For his first speech after the Covid-19 soap opera, the coach Fabien Galthié, a time pointed out, did not dwell on Thursday March 11 on the controversies concerning the lightness of the health bubble around the Blues. “As I have already said, all my actions, all our actions, were in full compliance with sanitary rules […]. The recovery was easy. We talked again between us about the Covid episode, we talked about the report. But we quickly switched to rugby. “

The coach also announced the team at work against the English. Matthieu Jalibert retains his post at the opening. Romain Ntamack, back from injury, will be on the substitute bench. First row: Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas. Second line: Romain Taofifenua, Paul Willemse. Third row: Dylan Cretin, Grégory Alldritt, Charles Ollivon (captain). Hinge: Antoine Dupont, Matthieu Jalibert. Three-quarters: Gaël Fickou, Virimi Vakatawa, Teddy Thomas. Back: Brice Dulin.