Why captain Leah Williamson is England’s Paolo Maldini
England’s Leah Williamson won the ball more often than any other player at Euro 2022 despite not making a single tackle, according to UEFA’s official statistics.
The Lionesses captain had 56 ball recoveries to her name and zero tackles. The next-most successful ball winner was Lucy Bronze with 51 recoveries, followed by Germany’s Marina Hegering with 46.
Williamson’s performances were reminiscent of Paolo Maldini, with the Italian great having famously said: “If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake”.
Williamson led England to four clean sheets out of six – the best defensive record in the tournament – only conceding against Spain and Germany during extra-time victories in the quarter-final and the final, respectively.
Such is the quiet competence of her work, Arsenal’s Williamson largely went under the radar at Euro 2022, with central defensive partner Millie Bright winning more of the plaudits.
Sarina Wiegman clearly has enormous faith in her captain, however, as Williamson was the only outfield player to have stayed on the pitch for every minute of England’s run.
Williamson was a vital cog in the England machine offensively as well as defensively.
The Lionesses enjoyed the second-highest share of possession behind Spain (57 per cent), with Williamson contributing to their style of play under Wiegman.
The 25-year-old – who started her career as a midfielder and only switched to central defence shortly before her England debut – completed 472 passes in six matches, over 100 more than any other player at the tournament.
Mead leads array of attacking options
Just as Williamson and Bright shone for England in defence, the likes of Beth Mead, Alessia Russo and Fran Kirby excelled in attack.
The Lionesses were comfortably the highest scorers at the tournament with 22 goals, ahead of Germany on 14.
Nine different players got their names on the scoresheet – also a tournament high.
Among them was Golden Boot winner Mead, who had six goals from six shots on target at Euro 2022. She was tied with Germany’s Alexandra Popp, who missed the final through injury, but won the award courtesy of providing more assists (five to none).
Team-mate Alessia Russo – scorer of an audacious backheel in the semi-final against Sweden – managed four goals in six substitute appearances.
Apart from Mead and Russo, England’s goal tally included two apiece for Kirby, Georgia Stanway and Ellen White, and one each for Chloe Kelly, Lauren Hemp, Ella Toone and Lucy Bronze.
Mead was also a creative force, providing five assists to go with her six goals. Her total of 11 goal involvements was almost twice as many as anyone else – Popp was next with six, followed by Russo and Kirby on five.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Get the FourFourTwo Newsletter
The best features, fun and footballing quizzes, straight to your inbox every week.