The European Champions, England, defeated the South American champions, Brazil to win the first-ever women’s Finalissima, at a sold-out Wembley Stadium tonight to further enhance the Lionesses’ claims to be one of the favorites to triumph at this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.
In a match, England dominated from the outset, Ella Toone, who opened the scoring in the UEFA Women’s Euro Final against Germany, broke the deadlock once again. In a move started by Lauren James, one of the newcomers to the side since the summer, Toone exchanged passes with Lucy Bronze who pulled the ball back to the Manchester United player to side-foot into the net.
It was the attacking midfielder’s 16th international goal in just 30 appearances for England, making her the current squad’s leading goalscorer in the absence of the injured Beth Mead. Toone also became the first-ever English footballer in history to score in two major international finals.
Brazil, coached by Pia Sundhage who won the first women’s European Championship as a player on English soil in 1984 before leading the United States to Olympic Gold at Wembley Stadium in 2012, changed the South American’s strategy in the second half, pressing England high up the pitch to make life uncomfortable for their hosts. Their best opportunity came on the hour mark as FC Barcelona striker Geyse Ferreira struck a long-range shot which England goalkeeper stretched to save at full length to earn the fortune of seeing the ball go out off the top of the crossbar.
It looked as though that would be the closest Brazil came until they launched one-last raid down the right wing, Mary Earps spilled the cross and Roma player Andressa Alves struck home from close range to take the game into a penalty shoot-out. There, it was Chloe Kelly, the player who scored the winner in the UEFA Women’s Euro final who once more scored the winning goal after Brazil missed two of their penalties.
The concept of a one-off ‘Finalissima’ between the winners of the European and South American champions was conceived in a memorandum of understanding between the respective continental governing bodies, UEFA and CONMEBOL, in February 2020.
The first men’s final was also played at Wembley Stadium last year, when Argentina defeated Italy 3-0 in front of 87,112 spectators. Tonight’s women’s final, involving the host nation, England, winners of the UEFA Women’s Euro last summer, attracted a comparable attendance of 83,132 at the 90,000-capacity stadium.
The crowd tonight at Wembley Stadium was also the fifth-highest for an official women’s football match of all time. Only the two 91,000+ attendances at Camp Nou for the women’s Champions League last season, the 90,185 who witnessed the 1999 Women’s World Cup final at the Pasadena Rose Bowl and the 87,192 who saw England win the UEFA Women’s Euro final last July have surpassed tonight’s figure. The current exponential growth in the women’s game is highlighted by the fact that four of those highest-ever crowds have been recorded within the last thirteen months.
In support of ongoing disputes between the national team players of Canada and Spain against their federations, England wore wear purple wristbands during tonight’s game to display their support for gender equality and fair treatment. In addition, the Lionesess’ captain Leah Williamson once more wore the anti-discrimination ‘One Love’ armband which the world governing body FIFA prohibited teams from wearing at last year’s men’s World Cup in Qatar. A decision has yet to be made on whether players will be permitted to wear it at this summer’s Women’s World Cup finals.
The 26-year-old Williamson, only confirmed as permanent England captain last year, has now lifted four trophies in 14 months. In addition to leading them to the UEFA Women’s Euro title last July, she has now become the first-ever England captain to lift two major international trophies, surpassing the legendary Bobby Moore who captained the men’s team to their only honor, winning the 1966 World Cup.
The win extends England’s unbelievable unbeaten run under head coach Sarina Wiegman to 30 matches since she took over the job in September 2021. 26 of those matches have ended in victories and under her they have now defeated six of the world’s top ten ranked sides, including all of the three nations above them. Such is the Lionesses’ current form and the small points difference between the top sides, it is possible that England may go into the Women’s World Cup displacing the United States in the number one position ahead of the tournament when the next rankings are released in June.