England 1-1 Brazil
England win 4-2 on penalties
by Nathan Edwards at Wembley Stadium for Impetus (7/4/23)
Above: England lift the Finalissima trophy after their penalty shoot-out win over Brazil at Wembley last night. Photo: Lionesses.
Chloe Kelly scored the crucial penalty to win the inaugural Women’s Finalissima after Andressa Alves punished Mary Earps’ mistake to cancel out Ella Toone’s first-half goal.
In the depths of added time, Mary Earps failed to deal with a bobbling cross spilling the ball into Andressa to prod Brazil level.
It set up the penalty shootout after Toone put England ahead, in what was a dominant opening 45 minutes. Lucy Bronze and Georgia Stanway carved open the Brazil defence and set up the Manchester United forward to sweep England ahead.
The England goal scorer would be the first to miss in the shootout, seeing her tame effort thwarted by Leticia.
Earps would replicate her counterpart’s feat by saving the next, and Arsenal defender Rafaelle cannoned her strike off the crossbar, allowing Kelly to secure victory for England.
Brazil offered little throughout the opening period, but with England only holding a slim advantage, the Selecao came out of the second half testing a Lionesses defence who were without Millie Bright.
On multiple occasions, Earps would be called into action, with a combination of herself and the crossbar denying Geyse, and Andressa missing an earlier opportunity to level by hitting her strike straight into Earps.
Kelly’s penalty ensured that England remained unbeaten under Sarina Wiegman, a spell that spans 30 games and includes three trophies, the Euros, Arnold Clarke Cup, and Finalissima.
With Australia the only remaining confirmed game for the Lionesses ahead of the World Cup, the Finalissima provided to be a great warmup for Wiegman and her squad, which has changed a lot since their Euros victory.
England’s coach said, “It was a very exciting night in the end, with of course an incredible crowd, and pitch – this environment we’ll never take for granted.
“I think the first half we played really well. We had a lot of possession, created lots of chances, scored an incredible goal, and we hoped to score a little more than one.
“The second half they went back to 4-4-2, put a very high press and then we were struggling, to get out of their press, to keep the ball in possession, so then they became dangerous, and at the end, we conceded a goal, which can happen.
“I think the team did really well by just showing resilience – so that was done, we were moving forward, we had to do a job and take the penalties as good as possible, or stop it as good as possible, and that’s what we did.”
The 11 players named yesterday consisted of only six starters from their Euros victory. Toone arrived in that game as a substitute and went on to open England’s scoring. Eight months on Toone opened the scoring in the Finalissima this time after becoming a crucial player in Sarina Wiegman’s plans.
For Toone and co they were vital players off the bench for the Lionesses, with Wiegman refusing to budge from an 11 that took England to glory.
But with injuries and players calling an end to their playing careers, such as Ellen White, it offered spaces for others to grab, which Alessia Russo has done.
A key part of the Lionesses’ success from the bench in last summer’s campaign, who has now stepped into a main role.
The England forward was starved of chances last night, but put in a selfless performance. From forcing Rafaelle to give away an early corner, to displaying strong holdup play to relieve England’s backline when Brazil built themselves back into the game, it was a performance that will please Wiegman.
Although, Russo faces a tough challenge from WSL’s second top goal scorer, Rachel Daly, who came on to produce another tireless performance.
One position that Wiegman refused to tinker with since the summer was her centre-back partnership of Millie Bright and Leah Williamson.
But with the injury to the commanding Bright, an opportunity rose for the multiple centre-backs in the squad. Alex Greenwood, who was another player to get promoted as a starter since the summer, moved centrally, with Jess Carter being handed the task of left back.
During the first half, the switch seemed seamless, with Brazil unable to threaten but as the second half got underway the Selecao were able to carve open chances, especially down their right-hand side.
Including Brazil’s equaliser, where a cross squirmed out of Earps’ hands to set up Andressa’s late equaliser, this was despite Wiegman opting for experience off the bench to try and manage the game.
The experience they went for was, with Euro starter Daly, and Euro winner Kelly to replace Russo and Lauren James, but the squad is packed with young talent that will excite the during the World Cup.
With James being a key decision for Wiegman to make. The squad has three wingers that are all playing important roles at club level, and transferring that to the international stage.
James was a constant danger, dropping deep on occasions and also running in behind, with the offside flag the only reason she didn’t score today.
She swapped flanks with Lauren Hemp throughout the game and offered the same attacking output until her substitution.
As for Hemp, her goals in the WSL have dried up after an impressive season last year, but she has been relied on by her coach during the Euros and in this final, which the 22-year-old has repaid.
The final winger is the match winner, Kelly continues to deliver in the big moments, a crucial trait to have in a player when heading to a knockout tournament.
It might mean that Wiegman sees her as the perfect substitute to bring on and change the dynamic. The England coach said, “She (Kelly) captured that moment and she kept true in the penalty shootout.
“It was a nice moment for the team, but also a very nice moment for her.”
There is little time for England to experiment now, and with a blend of youthfulness and experience within the squad, England will hope to continue their unbeaten run throughout the World Cup.
Teams: ENGLAND (4-3-3): Earps, Bronze, Williamson, Greenwood, Carter, Stanway, Walsh, Toone, James, Russo, Hemp. Substitutes used: Kelly (for James 74′), Daly (for Russo 74′), Robinson (for Hemp 88′).
Scorer: Toone 23′.
BRAZIL (5-3-2): Izidoro Lima da Silva, da Costa Silva, Leal Costa, Sousa Feitoza, Carvalho Souza, Dias de Britto, Alvas Borges, Bertolucci Paixão, Ferraz, Zaneratto João, da Silva Ferreira. Substitutes used: Alves da Silva (for Leal Costa 45′), Leal da Silva (for Zaneratto João 45′), Francelino da Silva (for Bertolucci Paixão 69′), Nunes da Silva (for da Costa Silva 87′), Palermo Licen (for Alves Borges 87′).
Scorer: Alves da Silva 90+3′.
Referee: Stéphanie Frappart (FRA).