England’s march to Euro 2022 glory broke new ground for Sarina Wiegman’s team, but you can expect to see many more of the tournament’s big-name stars in regular Women’s Super League action next season.
Only three of the 18 players used by Wiegman will be plying their trade outside England in 2022/23 – Lucy Bronze at Barcelona, Rachel Daly at Houston Dash and Georgia Stanway at Bayern Munich.
Here we look at the WSL talent who shone this summer and those who will hoping to have a similar impact for their respective clubs when the new campaign kicks off on September 10.
Leah Williamson (England and Arsenal)
The Lionesses will have a matter of weeks to revel in their Euro triumph, with the new WSL season due to kick off in six weeks’ time and two key World Cup qualifiers to come before it does. Captain Williamson, instrumental to England’s success, was swift to insist that victory over Germany at Wembley should only be regarded as the start of a process rather than the end.
The defender’s leadership was the lynchpin of England’s conquest, guiding her side to glory while only conceding twice all tournament. There were 95 goals scored across 31 games at Euro 2022 – an average of 3.06 per game – but England were only breached two times during 600 minutes of football.
Mary Earps (England and Man Utd)
Phenomenal handling combined with some wonderful shot-stopping made Mary Earps one of England’s stars at Euro 2022. She was named in UEFA’s Team of the Tournament after another fine display in the final, thwarting two particularly dangerous openings from Lea Schuller and Lina Magull.
She also kept her calm during a goalmouth scramble in the first period, with Williamson clearing off the line. She was a rock at the back for the Lionesses, before leading mischievous post-match celebrations at Wiegman’s concluding press conference – evidence of the goalkeeper’s uncompromising personality.
Millie Bright (England and Chelsea)
England not only scored a tournament-high number of goals (22) – the most ever at a women’s Euros – but importantly also conceded the least. Much of this had to do with the impressiveness of captain Williamson, and centre-back partner Millie Bright.
The Chelsea defender anchored England’s backline while playing every minute at the tournament, providing stability and assurance throughout. Aerially she was dominant and also demonstrated a composed ability to play out from the back.
Ellen White (England and Man City)
The Lionesses’ record goalscorer moved to within one of Wayne Rooney’s tally of 53 for his country with her double in the 8-0 group-stage victory over Norway. She did not find the back of the net in the knockout stages but will hope to match and then overtake the former Manchester United striker in World Cup qualifying later this year.
Having made her international debut in 2010, White has been the face of England’s transformation over the past decade. She led the line admirably throughout the tournament and her importance to the team was highlighted in all six of Wiegman’s starting selections – despite considerable talent waiting in the wings.
Beth Mead (England and Arsenal)
Beth Mead became the fifth English player to win the Golden Boot at a major tournament, the second at successive women’s Euros following Jodie Taylor in 2017, with Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Harry Kane achieving the feat for the men’s side.
Mead averaged a goal or an assist every 40.9 minutes, with injured France striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto (47) and Lionesses super-sub Alessia Russo (53) her nearest rivals among players who played the equivalent of at least one full
game. The Arsenal winger claimed the prestigious prize ahead of Germany’s Alexandra Popp, who also registered six strikes, but was eclipsed by Mead’s assists tally.
Fifty players were responsible for lay-ons, Mead again leading the way with five, while Fran Kirby, Keira Walsh and Kosovare Asllani all registered three assists apiece.
Keira Walsh (England and Man City)
Keira Walsh’s command of the pitch against Germany was staggering, something she demonstrated all tournament. During the final, the 25-year-old won the midfield battle single-handedly against a side who made it to the final thanks to their dominance in the middle third of the pitch.
With almost no space to operate in, during a European final in front of nearly 90,000 people, to pick the pass of the match for Ella Toone’s opener was inspired. It is difficult to recall such a complete individual performance all tournament. Walsh was the connection between defence and attack, perfectly balancing the need to disrupt play out of possession, while instigating forward momentum when the Lionesses regained the ball – most likely via a Walsh tackle.
Alessia Russo (England and Man Utd)
The competition’s most impactful ‘super-sub’. Alessia Russo scored four times from the substitutes’ bench and had the third-best goals to minutes ratio of any player to compete at Euro 2022. Her backheel against Sweden is a moment that will be recalled by fans and replayed by pundits for many years to come.
Russo also outfoxed the Northern Ireland defence twice, as well as contributing to the demolition of Norway. Her performances epitomised England’s projection of confidence and control at their first major tournament win – another success story with all the hallmarks of a future Lionesses star.
Hanna Bennison (Sweden and Everton)
The teenager had only been on the pitch for 12 short minutes when the ball landed at her feet on the edge of the box against Switzerland, with the scores locked at 1-1. “I guess I thought ‘shoot’,” she recalled. The outcome was one of the best strikes of the tournament and the game’s deciding goal as Sweden topped Group C.
Midfielder Bennison joined Everton a year ago and will be hoping to add many more to the one WSL strike she managed for Brian Sorensen’s side last term. At only 19, she has the potential to make a big impact on the league as her experience grows.
Stina Blackstenius (Sweden and Arsenal)
Stina Blackstenius led the charge for Sweden as they reached the final four of Euro 2022, eventually succumbing to England. The forward scored once, in a 5-0 thrashing of Portugal, and was a thorn in the side of the Lionesses at the semi-final stage.
It took a particularly astute performance from Earps to deny multiple Blackstenius efforts, including a fingertip save in the second period as the Arsenal striker went closest to reducing the deficit for Sweden. The Gunners contributed a tournament-high 11 WSL players.
Eve Perisset (France and Chelsea)
France’s saviour against the Dutch in the quarter-finals, defender Perisset stepped up to despatch the decider in extra-time to give Les Bleus the edge over the then-reigning champions. The former Lyon and Bordeaux right-back was signed by Emma Hayes prior to the tournament commencing and netted a dramatic 102nd-minute penalty winner to secure a semi-final spot.
WSL title holders Chelsea provided the tournament with nine players, the same as Manchester City, while Manchester United supplied eight.
Manuela Zinsberger (Austria and Arsenal)
Following a record-breaking opening game at Old Trafford, where England edged past Austria 1-0, goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger was captured mouthing some choice words to her Arsenal team-mate Mead, who netted the only goal of a cagey tie. They were in jest, but it was actually against Austria that the Lionesses struggled most, thanks to several interventions from the 26-year-old.
Domestically, Zinsberger ended the WSL campaign with the highest number of clean sheets (13 in 20 starts), and the second-highest save percentage (80 per cent) in the league last term. She will be equally as important next season if the Gunners want to dislodge Chelsea’s grip on the WSL title.
Julie Blakstad (Norway and Man City)
Julie Blakstad was on target during Norway’s Euro 2022 opener against Northern Ireland, netting in a 4-1 victory. The 20-year-old only took 10 minutes to make her mark at St Mary’s Stadium, with further strikes from Frida Maanum, Caroline Graham Hansen and Chelsea’s Guro Reiten.
Her passing accuracy ranked particularly high among the tournament’s midfield contingent – 84 per cent – but had her competition cut unfortunately short as Norway failed to make it beyond the group stage.
Watch the stars of England’s Euro 2022 triumph play in the Women’s Super League live on Sky Sports during the 2022/23 season; the new campaign gets under way on September 10.
England captain Williamson will lead her Arsenal side into an opening weekend clash at Manchester City in front of the Sky cameras on September 11.
That match comes a day after the season’s curtain-raiser between Tottenham and Manchester United at 12.30pm on September 10, also live on Sky Sports.