Top scorer of this Euro, Beth Mead is undoubtedly the revelation of the competition. At 27, the English bundle of nerves takes pleasure in torturing his opponents on his right side, using an almost limitless source of motivation: frustration. If the Euro had not been postponed for a year, she might have attended the Wembley final from her living room in Yorkshire. But fate (and Sarina Wiegman) got it right.
on 07/31/2022 at 6:00 p.m.
This season, Beth Mead shattered a record that was over 60 years old. In 1960-1961, Jimmy Greaves had scored thirteen goals under the tunic of the Three Lions, a record for a season with the English selection. In 2021-22, Mead scored 20 goals for the Lionesses, in eighteen appearances. And still counting. At the Euro, the top scorer of the tournament is only a small achievement from breaking another record, that of the number of goals scored during the same edition of the European championship, men and women combined. She now points to six pawns, to which must be added four caviars, for the moment tied with Alexandra Popp, whom she will find in the final. His decisive goals added to his energetic but meaningless celebrations have earned him the darling of the English public, who have replaced his traditional “It’s Coming Home” by “Your defense is terrified, Beth Mead on fire!” Na, na, na, na…” Author of a goal and two assists in the 4-0 victory against Sweden last Tuesday, which qualified England for their final at Wembley, Mead is the first to take the hands of her teammates to sing the famous “Sweet Caroline” , taken up massively by the spectators present. Obviously, at the end of the meeting, it is she who leaves the field with the trophy for player of the match, for the second time in the Euro.
“I hate myself for feeling this, but I found myself sitting at home having negative thoughts about certain players, wanting them to play badly so people would realize it was a mistake not to took me. » Beth Mead
A Euro that could have been played without it
“What a night and what an incredible atmosphere coming from the fans. I am very proud to be English and to be part of this team.” , she smiled at the microphone of UEFA after the meeting. The 27-year-old winger stole the show from Ellen White, the one who should have been the star of the Lionesses, had it not been for her outburst during this competition. Besides scoring, Mead does it well. To her credit, she has a lob with her right foot, a slalom which she concludes with her left foot, a volley with her left too, a chained hook with a goal… with her left and a directed control with her right foot before scoring with the same foot. The Arsenal striker would almost forget her preferred foot: the right. A state of grace that earned her praise from Ellen White herself, not jealous of her teammate’s success: “We are so lucky to have her on this team. We wrap it in cotton. What she brings to the team is incredible: the goals, the assists, her energy. » Her club and selection teammate, Leah Williamson, does not want “don’t praise it too much” but admits that she was ” unbelievable ” : “If you have a player who scores that much, you give her the ball and you hope she does the job. This is an advantage for us. »
— UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 (@WEURO2022) July 26, 2022
If Mead explodes today, the paths to his glory were hitherto paved with pitfalls. The main interested party herself recognizes that if the Covid-19 had not forced the organization of the Euro to postpone the competition for a year, she would certainly not have been part of the selection. “I was not well last summer” she recently told the Telegram. Williamson describes it as “a sensitive person” , “but who knows what she wants” . Victim of a bad right knee injury in 2019, she struggled to regain her level and in the summer of 2021, the sentence fell: Beth Mead was excluded from the Tokyo Olympics by coach Hege Riise, who was then using her as a lateral. A decision that she had very badly experienced. “I hate myself for feeling this, but I found myself sitting at home having negative thoughts about certain players, wanting them to play badly so people would realize it was a mistake not to took meshe detailed. Nobody told me what I needed to improve or why others were chosen for the Olympics and not me. The only feedback I got was that I was too aggressive in the way I played, and I couldn’t figure it out. I’ve always played like that. »
“When Beth was 13 or 14, she scored a hat-trick against us in six or seven minutes” Mick Mulhern, ex-Sunderland Ladies coach
Meado the Rabid
The one who is nicknamed “Meado the Enraged” (Angry Meado in VO) from the other side of the Channel is indeed known for her rough playing. Born in rural Yorkshire, in the north of England, she was pushed into football by her mother, who was looking for an outlet for this bundle of nerves. “She will be the only girl here. And (the boys) are tough enough, will that be okay? » had warned the coach, the first day on his arrival. “When (my mum) came back an hour later he basically told her I was even tougher than most boys” , she told the site of the English Federation. His ability to manhandle the male, mixed and then female defenses allowed him to join the training center of the local club Middlesbrough. “When Beth was 13 or 14, she scored a hat-trick against us in six or seven minutes” remembers Mick Mulhern in the columns of Guardianex-coach of the Sunderland Ladies to whom Meado made miseries in the junior championship. “As soon as she was 16, I met her with her father to engage her in Sunderland, he continues, in a hurry to have Beth Mead with her rather than against him. She was a real goalscorer, with both feet, from anywhere. » The Yorkshire serial-scorer therefore joined the Women’s Super League 2 in 2011, equivalent to the Women’s Championship, where she scored 23 goals in 23 games during her first season at her new club. Then 30 pawns in 28 games the following season, then 15 during the 2014 season (the season being played until 2016 over a calendar year, from March to October), where the Black Cats go back to the first division.
— Professional Footballers’ Association (@PFA) April 24, 2016
Although she turned professional with this promotion, Meado resolved to complete her bachelor’s degree at Teesside University and eventually earned a degree in sports development. She remains today a strong advocate for female footballers who combine playing and university studies, and launched the “Beth Mead Scholarships”, bursaries allowing four promising female players to enroll in undergraduate or postgraduate courses at Teesside University. In the off-season, she agreed to return to work as a bartender at a local pub as a thank you to the owners, who had provided her with sponsorship funds in her earlier seasons. Then everything accelerated for the one who then occupied the position of number 9. In her first D1 match, at 20, she scored and obtained a penalty, allowing Sunderland to win 2-1 against Liverpool, defending champion . On July 19, 2015, her life almost turned on the wrong side. Wanting to avoid a deer crossing the road, his racing car rolls three times before ending up in the ditch. She miraculously escaped with a few bruises and scratches, then returned to the pitch two days later to smash a hat-trick against then league leaders Chelsea in a clear 4-0 win.
Voted young player of the year in 2016, she settled down at Arsenal in the winter of 2017, having scored 77 goals in 78 games for Sunderland as a centre-forward. With the arrival of Dutch superstar Vivianne Miedema six months later, the 22-year-old number 9 is sent to the right wing. Less efficient and forced to convert into a serial passer, she was selected with England in April 2018 by Phil Neville, the former star of Manchester United, with whom relations are a little strained. He accuses her of being “too relaxed” and to be only ” happy ” when she travels to Whitley Bay, a seaside resort in the northeast of England, to “eat fish and chips” .
“I tell Beth that you’ll know you’re on the right track when people stop talking about your form and expect you to always be at that level” Jonas Eidevall, Arsenal manager
The revival under Wiegman
The arrival of Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman allows him to reconnect with the Lionesses. Voted player of the year at Arsenal, Beth Mead has 14 goals and 19 assists in 40 games, restored to confidence with the arrival of Jonas Eidevall on the bench. Gunners. “I tell Beth that you’ll know you’re on the right track when people stop talking about your form and expect you to always be at that level” , commented the Swedish coach just before the Euro, he who repositioned her in a more axial position and allowed her to find her explosive game, passing in a tactic based on counterattacks. A very vertical game that the former coach of the Netherlands is also trying to establish with England, which she is responsible for leading to final victory at the Euro. Inevitably, the chemistry between the two women works. “She is very direct.comments Beth Mead about it. You could say steep for England, but it’s very Dutch. She always goes straight to the point. We needed this franchise (…). I love playing for her. » Since Sarina Wiegman has been on the English bench, the number 7 has scored 20 times in 19 games and provided 13 assists.
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) July 26, 2022
The serial scorer also admits that her non-selection for the Tokyo Olympics was a trigger for her: “It lit a fire in me. I didn’t want to feel it again. On the contrary, it gave me even more determination and concentration. I play my best football when I’m angry. » A rage that she says she managed to “to channel” but that she keeps enough in her when it comes to hitting the box, in what she calls her ” balance ” . “I know it’s only been a year, but I think I’ve matured as a playershe explains calmly today. I started to focus more on myself. I’ve played with a lot more freedom this year and it’s when I play freely that I play my best football. I don’t worry and I make better decisions. » Living her revenge in the most beautiful way, the attacker also reveals that she has “never dreamed” to experience such competition. Since then, this Euro has been renamed the “Beth Mead Revenge Tour” (Beth Mead’s revenge tour in VF, editor’s note) by English supporters. Hoping that the tour ends in apotheosis at Wembley.
by Anna Carreau
Words taken from press conferences, unless otherwise stated.