Tens of thousands of football fans draped in England’s red and white flag erupted in joy at Wembley Stadium on Sunday – and in fan parks, homes and pubs across the country – as their team won the Women’s European Championship for the first time. Sarina Wiegman’s side beat Germany 2-1 after extra time to claim their first-ever major title in front of a record home crowd, with nearly 90,000 fans filling the London stadium, including thousands of children and families.
England’s progress in the tournament, just over a year after the men’s side lost the final on the same ground, has gripped the country, with royals, government, stars sports and singers who all sent their support. Their victory, against a country that has already beaten so many English football teams – men and women – marked England’s first major victory in a football league for 56 years, and earned a congratulatory message from the Queen Elizabeth.
“Your success goes far beyond the trophy you so deserved. You have all set an example that will inspire the girls and women of today and generations to come,” she wrote. queen. “I hope you will be as proud of the impact you have had on your sport as you are of today’s result.”
England’s 4-0 loss to Sweden in the semi-final drew a peak BBC viewership of 9.3 million, and that figure should have been surpassed in the final. Excitement around the England squad has been building since some 69,000 supporters flocked to Old Trafford to witness their maiden victory against Austria in early July.
A Royal Air Force flypast with an all-female crew took to the skies over Wembley on Sunday, as 87,192 fans packed into the stadium – the highest tally on record for either the men’s or women’s editions of the tournament. Prince William, who previously posted a short video of support with his seven-year-old daughter, presented the medals before hugging many of the players.
“Congratulations to Sarina, Leah (Williamson) and the whole team,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “Football pitches across the country will be filled like never before with girls and women inspired by your triumph.” Online videos showed hundreds of fans following the game on the big screen in the city centers of London, Birmingham and Manchester, cheering when England striker Chloe Kelly scored in the 110th minute before running off in support sports bra.
“Could we ever envision when we were girls growing up that one day we would have almost 90,000 people at Wembley supporting the women’s football team?” one fan, Emily Taylor, told Reuters ahead of the game. “Come to England”. (Writing by Kate Holton, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)
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