Germany secured their place in the Euro 2022 final against hosts England after beating France 2-1 in front of more than 27,000 fans in Milton Keynes.
Germany took an early lead through top scorer and captain Alexandra Popp in a hard-fought game, before France equalized just before half-time. With 15 minutes remaining, Popp gave the Germans the lead after overtaking the French defense to head in from the edge of the penalty area.
The Lionesses of England, unbeaten in 19 games under Dutch manager Sarina Wiegman, will now face their toughest test yet. Germany have long been the dominant force in European women’s football, winning eight of the 12 European Championships since their inception in 1984. They have never lost a European final.
Sunday’s match will be a repeat of the 2009 final, in which Germany beat England 6-2. A sold-out crowd is expected to watch the game at Wembley Stadium, London.
“I find no words. We are playing a crazy game. We put in everything we had,” Popp told German broadcaster ZDF. “Now we are in the final against England in front of 90,000 at Wembley. To be honest, there is nothing better. »
The host nation’s success has sparked widespread interest in women’s football. More than 11 million people watched England’s semi-final victory over Sweden on BBC One or via streaming.
The German national team’s long-standing prowess has also helped women’s football build a strong domestic following. Kantar’s research showed that 37% of Germans said they were interested in Euro 2022, compared to 28% in France and 29% in the UK.
The quarter-final against Austria attracted 9.5 million spectators in Germany, or 38% of viewers, a record for a Women’s Euro match. More than 10 million people were expected for the match against France. The previous record for a Euro match dates back to the 2017 championship: Germany against Russia, which was watched by 7.1 million people.
German sports stars are also increasingly expressing their support for the women’s national team.
After the final whistle on Wednesday evening, Oliver Kahn, former captain of the Germany men’s team and now CEO of Bayern Munich, wrote on Twitter: “What an energetic performance, you so deserved it. »
After the win against Austria, Bastian Schweinsteiger, a member of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning team, wrote: “Hats off to you, Germany women’s team! Super defense and super effective! Congratulations! »
Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, used the championship to campaign for equal pay in football. “We are in 2022. Women and men should receive the same salary. This also applies to sports, especially for national teams. Spain is ahead of us there. »
Overall viewership figures for Euro 2022 have already broken records. UEFA said this week that following England’s quarter-final win over Spain, total viewership for the tournament topped 164 million, beating the previous record from 2017.
Attendance records were broken during the group stage, with over 500,000 tickets sold before the first match, although several matches went unsold.
UEFA also expects the tournament to generate revenue of more than €60 million, almost four times the amount of Euro 2017 in the Netherlands, thanks to increased ticket sales as well than increasing the value of commercial and media rights. This is the first time the organizer has separated the commercial rights of the men’s and women’s competition.
Despite reaching the semi-final for the first time, French audiences failed to match the levels of box office success achieved when the country hosted the 2019 World Cup.
Some 5.1 million people tuned in to watch France’s quarter-final victory over the Netherlands, according to Médiamétrie, compared to 4.9 million for a previous game against Italy. In 2019, average audience figures were close to 10 million.
However, there are other signs that women’s football is gaining ground in France. The French football federation has reported a 15% increase in the number of women signing up to compete in teams ranging from amateur to professional level, reaching just under 200,000 last year. At club level, the Olympique Lyonnais women’s team have won six of the last seven Champions League titles.