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IAN HERBERT: Unity, collectivism and a raucous Sheffield crowd took the Lionesses through to Wembley


They’d have filled stadiums twice this size had more of the high-rolling Premier League clubs only had the vision to see that this tournament could be something to savour.

Many weren’t interested. Pitches to relay. Money-spinning concert events to stage. Sheffield wasn’t complaining. The skies here were slate grey when England’s squad arrived yet lots of gathered to applaud them into the bottom.

This old place knows a bit about history — the words ‘Sheffield United 1889’ are inscribed on the essential stadium clock — and so they could hardly consider they were being presented with one other piece of it. For the primary time, England will appear in a tournament final which they may contest as equals, knowing that they’ll win, whether Germany or France lie ahead.

Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses proved they were dedicated to their country during Sweden rout

Beth Mead, Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo (pictured) and Fran Kirby all found the back of the net

Beth Mead, Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo (pictured) and Fran Kirby all found the back of the online

The Swedes are a testament to what going the additional mile to a tournament final can do for a nation’s bid to embed women’s football in its sporting culture.

It was the nation’s appearance within the 2003 World Cup final which delivered the largest TV football audience the country had ever known — male or female — and altered every little thing for them. Although a 2-1 defeat by Germany ensued. That is what Tuesday night can bring.

It helped that the Swedes later became armed with one in all the world’s most charismatic coaches, Pia Sundhage, remembered for her renditions of Bob Dylan songs before the 2016 Olympic final.

Sarina Wiegman doesn’t seem predisposed to anything of the sort with a microphone in hand, though her capability to bring a song from this group of players is indisputable.

Sarina Wiegman's stars have proved themselves to get to the final against Germany or France

Sarina Wiegman’s stars have proved themselves to get to the ultimate against Germany or France

It wasn’t just the decisive passages of mess around the half-hour mark which revealed that however the unmistakable demeanour of the players at close quarters before the sport had even began.

To be sitting here, witnessing the national anthem being belted out so enthusiastically at a high cadence, which told you it was the following generation doing the singing, was profoundly moving.

The players were aware enough, within the moment, to perceive this, too. Leah Williamson flashed a large smile as she handed the Swedish pennant to the bench.

Beth Mead, who was about to deliver something special again, summoned support from the fans down her right flank. There appears to be a pleasure in playing for England, even when the stakes are this high.

Amongst those you imagined is perhaps least more likely to summon this type of radiance was Rachel Daly, who had been so torn asunder by the Spanish that her selection on Tuesday was on the very least doubtful.

But her opening 10 minutes were quite extraordinary; a riposte to any who had questioned her as she powered down the left to deliver a 30-yard diagonal Mead couldn’t quite get to, then dragged a ball imperiously past Sofia Jakobsson.

But in some ways Tuesday night belonged to the person with the bottom profile of any these last three weeks.

The challenge for the 29-year-old Manchester United goalkeeper Mary Earps has been stepping up and finding the instinctive competitive edge after a bunch stage by which she had been barely involved.

She proved she was as much as that test in one in all England’s darker moments against Spain, when she dropped on a shot from Athenea del Castillo at a time when the forward was causing havoc.

There seems to be a pleasure playing for England even when the stakes are high

There appears to be a pleasure playing for England even when the stakes are high

Tuesday night, the sport was 22 seconds old when one other moment of enormous significance arrived, after Lucy Bronze — who doesn’t defend as she attacks — was absent as Jakobsson raced in to attain.

Earps’ reactions, extending her left leg to dam the shot along with her foot, were just the beginning.

Later got here the twisting leap to throw her left palm to divert a ball which gave the impression to be spinning into the online from Blackstenius’ knee.

It was an infinite moment, by which the reactions of those round her said most. Daly and Millie Vivid almost squeezed the life out of her. It was apparent that a Wembley final was going to be England’s.

It was the collectivism of Wiegman's side that took them through to the final on Sunday

It was the collectivism of Wiegman’s side that took them through to the ultimate on Sunday

There’s a degree of weakness on the England right flank — that much is bound. Bronze was burgled by Fridolina Rolfo, one other seriously dangerous attacking player. But when threats materialise, reinforcements show. 

Alessia Russo’s goal will live longest within the memory, after all. That back-heel is destined to grow to be trick of selection for thus lots of that next generation who sang England home.

Fran Kirby’s expertly clipped fourth was testament to Wiegman’s insistence that the Chelsea player was fundamental to the squad, despite her struggles with illness and injury.

Nevertheless it was the collectivism which took them through on this famous old stadium, where the commercial classes first gathered to look at football so a few years ago. Because the legend on the old Bramall Lane stand reads: ‘Forged in Steel.’

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