The 2022 Women’s Euro was a tournament for the record books — quite literally, with record attendances and scoring records for the ultimate winner, host nation England. In between the first kick and the final whistle, a lot that happened — from once-in-a-lifetime memories to the moments that some players will be wishing they could forget.
ESPN’s Sophie Lawson, Kathleen McNamee, Tom Hamilton and Mark Ogden were in England following the tournament every step of the way, and now they reflect on the most memorable bits of Euro 2022 that fans will be reminiscing about come Euro 2025.
Alessia Russo’s back-heel heard ’round the world
Lawson: I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s going to say it, but: Alessia Russo’s back-heeled double-nutmeg ridiculous, audacious, disrespectful — whatever you want to call it goal — against Sweden. It was a moment of pure skill and lightness of touch to guide the ball on its way back into the Swedish goal, and it all but ended the career of one of the most respected goalkeepers (Hedvig Lindahl) in European women’s football.
Just as Benjamin Pavard’s air-bending goal against Argentina wrote him into the history books or how the 2014 Men’s World Cup is remembered for Robin van Persie’s “Flying Dutchman” header, “The Russo” will be the resounding memory from 2022.
Hamilton: I watched the England-Sweden match in the Trafalgar Square fan zone. It was packed, and the crowd was just hanging on every single kick. Then Alessia Russo back-heeled England’s third goal and the place burst into celebration. I was standing near a teacher from Russo’s old school — St Simon Stock in Maidstone. When Russo’s shot hit the net, half the place went wild, the other half were straining to catch a glimpse of the replay.
Michelle Tilby was in the second group and, when she saw the replay, her reaction was just incredible. She danced up and down the narrow gap between the rows of the crowd and shook as she processed what had happened. She grabbed hold of me and my colleague, shouted “Oh my god!” then she took a moment and shouted “Oh my god!” again and followed up with “Her parents are going to be so, so proud.” She’s known Russo for years and remembers the then 13-year-old who was inspired by the 2012 Olympics. After that Games, two thirds of the class wanted to be professional footballers, but it was Russo who made it.
Chloe Kelly’s Brandi Chastain moment
Hamilton: The Chloe Kelly moment in the final was incredible. That image of her running off with her top above her head had echoes of Brandi Chastain’s famous celebration from the 1999 World Cup. That image grew to represent a sea-change in women’s football stateside and the hope is the Kelly celebration will have the same impact on the other side of the Atlantic.
Kelly, herself as a QPR fan, later said she was just emulating Bobby Zamora’s celebration from the 2014 playoff final. But inspiration aside, it was one of the enduring images of this tournament.
Another point of note: just behind her as she ran off to celebrate was Jill Scott. This was her eighth major tournament and when we talk about legends, she has contributed so much to this sport. She was there back in 2009 when England lost 6-2 to Germany in the Euros final, and she was one of the first players to be awarded a central contract — worth £16,000 a year — by the FA soon after.
Scott bridges both eras — those who fought to bring the game into the spotlight, and those who have stood on their shoulders. So to see her with the winners medal around her neck on Sunday was just brilliant. She she’s a legend of the game, but she has been so key to this group. The players all talk about how she’s the one who knows when to crack a joke, when to offer advice, and when to fall back on her experience of how to cope with a particular scenario. And now she has her winners medal. No one deserves it more.
growing the game
McNamee: I wasn’t at Old Trafford for the tournament’s opening game and decided to head out and watch it in a pub with my boyfriend to try to soak in some of the atmosphere. I didn’t really know what to expect because I’ve never watched women’s sport in a pub before and I was sitting there looking at everyone around me cheering on England; it just struck me that it was so strange that I had spent so many years watching men’s games in similar settings but never women. I tended to always watch them live or at home.
It was nice to feel that buzz that you get watching a game with strangers, and hearing the cheers and groans go up around you as something happens. Even just seeing people who weren’t aware that the tournament was happening get invested and start cheering along. It was a big moment for me to feel that inclusion and see myself represented on the screen.
Ogden: I was walking away from Leigh Sports Village after Sweden’s 5-0 Group C win against Portugal and just behind me, a dad asked his young daughter if she had enjoyed her first football game. She must have been no older than 7 or 8, but she already knew how to deliver a line with perfect timing — “No, Dad, I didn’t like it,” she said. “I loved it!”
Euro 2022 was all about broadening the appeal of the women’s game and showcasing it to a wider audience and there was a win, right there, for all of those who have been fighting to attract the next generation to the game.
Electric support for powerhouses and debutantes alike
McNamee: This was my first time covering a major football tournament, and I loved those moments before each game when I got to wander among the throngs of fans and just soak in the atmosphere.
I covered two of Northern Ireland’s games in Southampton and for such a small country, their support was pretty phenomenal. Despite the score line and the fact that they were losing, they completely out-sung the English fans and really marked the occasion of their first major tournament.
I also enjoyed getting lost in the Netherlands’ fan marches. I turned a corner in Leigh on my way to the stadium and was greeted by a sea of orange making its way loudly down this small estate. People were standing at their doors, mouths ajar at what was happening on what I presume was normally quite a quiet street. I understood none of the chants or songs, but I appreciated the atmosphere they brought to a rainy day up north.
The impossible-to-forget blowouts (and the humiliations on the flip side)
McNamee: Watching England demolish Norway 8-0 is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget (and the Norway players probably won’t either). It was completely unexpected heading into the game although in hindsight maybe I should have spotted the cracks sooner. There were gasps around the press box as goal after goal went in and most people even stopped typing, unsure of what to say about such a demolition.
I was sat beside a Norwegian journalist who closed his laptop after the sixth goal went in and said, “No one at home is going to want to read about this tonight.” It was incredible to watch and made all the better by the fact the England goals were entertaining. Beth Mead’s second goal in particular was great, as she danced and dived around the Norway defense like no one was there.
It was tough to see the dejection on Norway’s faces, especially the likes of Ada Hegerberg, who was making her grand return to international football, but it was definitely one of the most unexpected things I witnessed all tournament.
Lawson: Although some fans may remember Austria’s raucous postmatch celebrations in 2017, the team were back in top form this summer and, while most will remember them gate-crashing Irene Fuhrmann’s press conferences, for me it was afterward when they danced back through the side of the mixed zone in Brighton, Cher’s “Strong Enough” blaring with a couple of players slapping wet floor signs, all as Ada Hegerberg was giving a solemn interview to the Norwegian press.
For as uncomfortable or as funny as it was (depending on your perspective), it was another of our favorite moments in sport: the agony and the ecstasy. Austria overjoyed and celebrating the only way they knew how as Hegerberg put her emotions on hold to face the media, ignoring all distractions to talk honestly about the loss. See below:
Unfortunate positioning of press conference room pic.twitter.com/qU2ibGcSoV
— Sophie Lawson (@lawson_sv) July 15, 2022
Fran Kirby’s resurgence after a tough, uncertain road
Hamilton: It was incredible seeing Fran Kirby competing in these Euros, let along the whole thing. She started all six matches in these Euros, and is finally a champion with England, having come so close in the past. It’s an incredible achievement. But … putting this achievement into perspective given her past couple of years only makes it more remarkable. Just over a couple of years ago, she was contemplating retirement. She was suffering with pericarditis and just couldn’t see a way back to professional football — walking up the stairs was hard enough, let alone playing a full 90-minute match.
But she came back. Then in February she started struggling with fatigue. Countless visits to medical experts – including a trip to Barcelona – followed, and she had an oxygen tent installed into her home. It was another brutal time for her, but she made it through. On May 16 she was named on Chelsea’s bench for the FA Cup final. That she made it that far was enough for Sarina Wiegman to include her in the preliminary squad for the Euros.
Kirby convinced Wiegman over those couple of weeks that she was fit enough to take part in the championship, and she ended up starting every match. After they lifted the trophy on Sunday, the emotion finally overwhelmed her. But that she was there, competing and winning, was testament to her incredible mentality and to a wonderful person.
A move that showed England could be champions
There are so many lasting memories from this tournament. The Russo backheel, the Grace Geyoro hat-trick, the incredible atmosphere at Old Trafford for the opening game, and the record crowd at Wembley for the final. How about Kelly’s celebration after her winning goal, Lena Oberdorf’s tears despite collecting the best young player of the tournament trophy, England’s demolition of Norway and all the records, all the smiles, all the joy and all the sadness.
But if I had to pick just one moment, it would be the final 10 minutes of the quarterfinal between England and Spain.
The hosts are 1-0 down at the time, and deservedly so. Spain are playing well despite being without Alexia Putellas, though it would be a huge upset if they held on to beat England. Yet Sarina Wiegman, the Lionesses coach, borrows the most old-school tactics from the smartest Spanish manager ever, Pep Guardiola, and sends her center-back, Millie Bright, up front as a center forward.
Guardiola did it with Gerard Pique when needed in those great Barcelona sides of his; Wiegman does the same here. If it is good enough for Pep, Pique, Barcelona and Lionel Messi, it is good enough for me, Bright, Wiegman and England. And it did the trick. England leveled in the 84th minute via Ella Toone, and then went on to win in extra time with a brilliant goal by Georgia Stanway. The rest is history, but without this improvisation, England would have been eliminated.