When Sarina Wiegman met the Lionesses

Sarina Wiegman has been called the “Pep Guardiola of women’s football” – and with very good reason. As manager of the England women’s national team since September 2021, she has already led the Lionesses to victory in the EURO 2022 championship.

Now, the 53-year-old former international player has taken the England women’s football team to the final of the Women’s World Cup on Sunday 20th August.

© photographyjp / Shutterstock.com |Jeroen Meuwsen Fotografie / Shutterstock.com

The Lionesses’ resounding 3-1 victory over Australia in the semi-final on 16th August has seen them reach their first Women’s World Cup final in history. The semi-final, played in a packed stadium, was described as a classic, after England knocked out the home team.

Who is Sarina Wiegman?

Lioness manager Sarina Wiegman was born in October 1969 in The Hague, Netherlands. She started out playing football in the streets, but by the age of six, she had joined a local club, ESDO from Wassenaar, playing alongside boys.

She then joined the women’s team of HSV Celeritas and in 1986, aged only 16, she was selected for the Netherlands’ national team, making her debut on 23rd May 1987, aged 17, playing against Norway,
She joined KFC ’71 in 1987, winning the KNVB Cup later that year. In 1988, she travelled to China to play in the FIFA Women’s Invitation Tournament.

Headhunted by the United States Women’s National Soccer Team head coach, Anson Dorrance, who invited her to play for the North Carolina Tar Heel’s women’s football club; in 1989, she combined her move with studying at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Playing aside such great soccer players as Kristine Lilly, Mia Hamm and Carla Overbeck, her team became National College Athletic Association champions of 1989.

Wiegman won 104 caps playing for the Netherlands between 1987 and 2001 and captained the team. She played for Dutch club Ter Leede from 1994 to 2003.

In the Netherlands, women’s football players had to work as well as playing football. Wiegman was a physical education teacher at Segbroek College secondary school, in The Hague, throughout her career as a player.

Managerial career

Wiegman went into football management in 2006, her first club being Ter Leede, followed by a long stint at ADO Den Haag until 2014. She became assistant manager for the Netherlands national team in 2014.
After receiving her full coaching licence in 2016, she became the first woman to work as coach for a Dutch professional football team, heading the Netherlands team from 2017 to 2021.

Appointed just six months before the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017, she found team morale was low, as they had lost four out of five friendly matches. She set about not only working on the players’ football skills and playing style, but also on their confidence.

Rocketing to victory in the tournament, the team went on to win every match on home soil in front of an ecstatic crowd, beating Denmark 4-2 in the final, and achieving the first major victory for the women’s squad.
Her success with the Dutch national team was unrivalled and she was awarded the Best FIFA Women’s Coach title in 2019, before leading them to the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in 2019.

When did Sarina Wiegman become England’s head coach?

She started her role with the England women’s football team in August 2021, taking over from Phil Neville. After fulfilling her commitments with the Netherlands, she joined England as the new manager in August 2020.

When Sarina Wiegman met the Lionesses, they were a highly regarded team, but their trophy cabinet was a little light. Wiegman’s influence on the Lioness football team saw them forging to victory by becoming the first England’s women’s team to win the UEFA EURO 2022. The victory was made even sweeter because the win was on home soil.

Not only was it historic in Lioness football history, but it also earned Wiegman a place in the record books. She became the first coach to win consecutive tournaments for two different nations, after having led the Netherlands’ victory in EURO 2017.

Growth of women’s football

Sarina and the Lionesses have helped to change the general view of women’s football. Their success has had a significant influence on the whole sporting culture of the UK. Since the England women won EURO 2022 on home soil, beating old rivals Germany, the support for women’s football in Britain has positively exploded!

England women’s captain Leah Williamson believes their rise to the top should lead to greater investment in the women’s game, describing herself as a “prove it to deserve it” person. She has widely discussed the increased popularity of women’s football in media interviews.

The team has a new-found confidence and believe they can really make an impact in the sport. Surveys show the number of people in Britain who class themselves as fans has increased from 18.79 million in 2021 to 22.57 million in 2022.

Another 14 million people said they were becoming closer followers of all women’s sports, with interest in women’s gymnastics also showing a significant increase.

BBC Television’s Football Focus presenter Liam MacDevitt says women’s sport is “leading the way” with inclusivity, with the players becoming superstars. “The Lionesses are household names,” he added.

Wiegman has a close relationship with the England team, including retired national players such as Jill Scott – who joined the celebrations after England’s victory over Australia. Scott, who was commentating pitch side on the match, was seen celebrating with Rachel Daly as the two hugged each other in jubilation.

Wiegman’s approach has fostered a greater team spirit which everyone can feel, from the players to the fans. England forward Chloe Kelly said, “This is what dreams are made of,” while Leah Williamson said the legacy of the tournament was the “change in society” that had occurred as a result.

Wiegman has been described in the media as having “non-negotiable standards of behaviour”, with the coach having a “steely edge, much like Guardiola”. It is reported she doesn’t tolerate people who don’t meet her demands, either on match day, or on the training ground. While she can be tough, her coaching style has improved the England women’s team in terms of skills, tactics, morale and confidence.

We would like to wish the Lionesses success in the World Cup final this Sunday. Bring home the trophy, girls!

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