Williamson: ‘Euros success can open doors’

Arsenal defender casts an eye on the future as England reach semi-finals

Friday, 22nd July — By Catherine Etoe

Leah Williamson - credit Catherine_Etoe

Arsenal’s Leah Williamson captained the England team that fought back to beat Spain in a dramatic quarter-final on Wednesday night. PHOTO: CATHERINE ETOE

ENGLAND are on their way to the semi-finals of Euro 2022 – and Leah Williamson hopes their progress will “open doors” for girls across the country.

Speaking to the press ahead of the dramatic extra-time victory over Spain on Wednesday night, the Arsenal defender talked of the past, while casting an eye on the future.

“With every good game that we play and every step we take in a tournament like this, it correlates with the interest and the opportunities, I hope, for younger girls around the country,” she said. “We want to open the doors for them.

“When we were younger, the senior team didn’t have this much exposure and it wasn’t as easily accessible as it is now, so I hope our journey inspires them.”

England’s own journey looked over until a late goal from 22-year-old substitute Ella Toone cancelled out Esther Gonzalez’s opener for Spain before a 96th-minute wonderstrike from Georgia Stanway won the tie for the hosts.

The nail-biting 2-1 victory was watched by a peak of 7.6 million viewers on the BBC, with a quarter-final record 28,994 fans there to cheer the teams on at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.

“The fans here were so behind us, it was an incredible experience,” said head coach Sarina Wiegman afterwards.

As she readied herself for Austria’s battle with world No 5 Germany in Brentford last night (Thursday), Arsenal’s Manuela Zinsberger was equally enthusiastic about the fans.

“The atmosphere has been incredible,” she told the Tribune. “We had the opening game [at Old Trafford] which was unbelievable, like it made me speechless!

“But all the other games as well, it’s been a great atmosphere and it’s so good to see how Uefa and the English federation has pushed women’s football in England.

“I’m so happy about it, I hope we can take all the growth and I hope it is going to be even bigger at the end of the tournament.”

Regardless of the outcome against Germany, Women’s Super League golden glove winner Zinsberger and Arsenal defender Laura Wienroither have both played their part for Austria.

Meanwhile, two other Gunners will hope to enter the quarter-final fray in the coming days.

Striker Stina Blackstenius has already netted for Sweden in this tournament, firing home in a 5-0 win over Portugal. Her team are set to go head to head with Belgium tonight (Friday) in Leigh.

And all-time WSL top scorer Vivianne Miedema has recovered from Covid and should run out for the Netherlands against France in Rotherham tomorrow (Saturday).

Bramall Lane will also be the destination for England on Tuesday as they prepare for a semi-final match-up with either Sweden or Belgium.

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