Emma Hayes believes England’s stunning success at the women’s European Championship will now see them march to the World Cup next year as one of the tournament’s favourites.
Following the heartbreak of three consecutive semi-final defeats across the Euros and World Cup tournaments, the Lionesses finally broke their duck on Sunday night after defeating Germany at Wembley to win their first major trophy.
But while the Chelsea manager was guarded in admitting England had home advantage to help them this summer, she insists that the current crop of players coming through can still shine under pressure in Australia and New Zealand next year, despite being a target as European champions.
England celebrate winning Euro 2020 on Sunday after a 2-1 victory over Germany at Wembley
I think it’s fair to say that we were very much favorites at a home tournament’, Hayes said.
‘Having home advantage certainly helps and I think crossing the globe to play in Australia, with the title of European champions adds pressure. But I do think we’ve got a fantastic group of younger players coming through that can build on the current success. So of course, as European champions, we will go in as one of the favourites.
‘Great people make great teams. I think they are relatable. Everybody can see themselves or their children in them. I think the responsibility to deliver for the nation is something that inspired them and didn’t paralyse them. Especially in the moment on Sunday night at 1-1.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes believes they can now prove a major threat at the World Cup
‘I think it was unbelievable how they dealt with the challenges of the game and the tournament.
Hayes also singled out praises for her Chelsea stars including Millie Bright and Fran Kirby who were major parts of the first team, as well as other Blues players in Jess Carter and Bethany England who were also part of the Lionesses squad.
Hayes added: ‘As far as Millie and Fran and Jess and Beth too, it’s like being a proud parent. I felt like a Mum and my kids had just won the lottery. And that was, I think, something that will live in my memory forever. And I’m so proud because people don’t really see the people behind the players and what they have to go through to get there and they’re all really special people.’
England defeated Germany in the final on Sunday, with Ella Toone’s goal just after the hour canceled out by a Lina Magull strike 11 minutes from the end.
Hayes was full of praise for Beth Mead who ended the European Championship as top scorer
However Chole Kelly struck with nine minutes remaining in extra time to enable the Lionesses to lift the European Championship trophy in front of their own fans.
There were personal success stories for England too though, with Beth Mead ending the tournament as a joint top scorer with six goals, and Hayes believes the Arsenal star will leave a lasting impact on the women’s game.
‘I think the impact that Beth Mead has had on the tournament is the legacy that she is going to leave,’ Hayes continued.
‘Golden Boot winner, top goal scorer, outstanding player is one thing, but the scores of kids and people across the country that will remember her for being an unbelievable footballer, and the legacy beyond that, for me is the real impact.’
Hayes is now optimistic that women’s football in England can continue to thrive after an ‘unbelievable’ five years of growth, and following Sunday’s sell-out at Wembley believes it will become a regular feature as the sport continues to develop.
The Wembley final was a sell-out, and Hayes thinks it can become a regular feature for the Lionesses having won the European Championship
‘Sunday is the day we’ve waited for such a long time. And for once, we are not going to have to sell the sport short, it will sell itself from here on in, thank goodness, because as I’ve said a million times over, we could have sold Wembley out three or four times. And the atmosphere, the generation of fans we will now attract to the sport will be unprecedented. And I don’t have a mystic ball. I couldn’t tell you what it will look like all I can say is I’m really excited.
‘I always think legacies are hard to predict because it will only be when we look back in five years, probably that we will see what that jump will actually be. Because if I rewind five years, and see the development and growth of the game from then to now, it’s already been unbelievable.
‘In five years’ time. I suspect that selling out Wembley will be something of a norm as opposed to you a one off.
Emma Hayes was supporting McDonald’s Fun Football which will provide free coaching sessions to one million children and recruit over 100 new women’s coaches over the next four years. Sign up to your nearest session at mcdonalds.co.uk/football
Hayes has spent time getting kids into football with free coaching sessions from McDonalds