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England boss pretended to be a boy to play football and has already won Euros

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England have lived up to being favourites to win the European Championships this summer and a lot of that is to do with manager Sarina Wiegman.

The Lionesses crashed out at the semi-final stage at the last tournament in 2017, losing to the Netherlands who went on to beat Denmark to the trophy.

The Lionesses have been perfect at Euro 2022 so far

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The Lionesses have been perfect at Euro 2022 so far

Wiegman – who masterminded that 3-0 win in the last four on route to securing Dutch glory – has never lost a game in UEFA’s prestigious competition.

And she is now within two games of winning the Euros back-to-back despite only taking over as England Women’s manager last year.

The 52-year-old will hope that she can take the Lionesses one step further than their male counterparts having shared ideas with Gareth Southgate before the start of the tournament.

Asked about her conversations with Southgate, Wiegman said: “We share experiences. That is nice. I think we care about people.

Wiegman’s decisions paid off and then some

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Wiegman’s decisions paid off and then some

“Yes, we want to win and you have the best players in the country but you have to have a clear plan and communicate that at all times and also create an environment where players dare to do things.

“You make mistakes, but you learn from mistakes. We had these discussions on how to make winning teams.

“That starts with a safe environment, a clear plan and communication with players.

“It’s also about the quality of the players.”

Wiegman succeeded Phil Neville as permanent England coach in September

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Wiegman succeeded Phil Neville as permanent England coach in September


Wiegman’s comparisons with Southgate also extend back to their playing days, with both international defenders in their heydays.

Yet it was a lot more of an arduous journey for the Lioness chief, who had to pretend to be a boy to play football as a child in the Netherlands.

“When I started playing football as a six-year-old girl we weren’t allowed to play, so I played illegally,” she told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast.

Wiegman added: “I had very short hair, looked a little bit maybe like a boy, my parents were really OK and I had a twin brother, so we just started to play and everyone said that’s OK.

“It wasn’t normal then and now it’s just normal, whether you’re a boy or a girl, you can play football and that’s just great.

“It was actually crazy before, that you couldn’t, but that’s just the way it is in development I guess.”

Wiegman began her coaching career with ADO Den Haag women’s teams

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Wiegman began her coaching career with ADO Den Haag women’s teams

As a player, she was handed her international debut at just 17 years old by former Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat in his only game in charge.

Wiegman went onto to become the first Dutch female centurion with an appearance against Denmark in 2001.

After hanging up her boots two years later she juggled football coaching with a job as a PE teacher until the creation of the Women’s Eredivisie in 2007.

From there, Wiegman led ADO Den Haag but her first season in charge proved difficult as the club finished fourth out of six teams.

Sarina Wiegman profile

Full name: Sarina Wiegman-Glotzbach

Date of birth: 26 October 1969 (age 52)

Place of birth: The Hague, Netherlands

Player honours: KNVB Cup (1986–87, 2000–01), NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship (1989), Dutch championship: 2000–01, 2002–03

Manager honours: Dutch championship (2006–07), KNVB Cup (2006–07, 2011–12, 2012–13), Eredivisie (2011–12), UEFA Women’s Euros (2017)

Leonne Stentler, who played under Wiegman, told the Mail: “Her eyes can spit fire.

“If she’s mad, you will always see. Not like yelling so the whole stadium can hear but she can get mad in her own way.

“But she’s really warm, too. She’s always interested in what’s happening in your life.”

Wiegman struck a balance between the two at Den Haag quickly and her side finished second for three successive seasons before doing the double in 2012.

“That’s Sarina,” added Stentler. “She’s always trying to be better.”

Wiegman already knows how to win the Women’s Euros

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Wiegman already knows how to win the Women’s Euros

Wiegman’s constant strive for success meant it wasn’t long before she became a trailblazer as a coach as well as a player.

In 2016, the England boss became the first woman to coach with a men’s professional club in her homeland – helping Sparta Rotterdam finish seventh during her season-long spell as an assistant.

Writing in Coaches’ Voice, she said: “The players had to get used to me and I had to get used to them, too.

“As the only female coach there, I knew I had to show that I had quality. That’s what I worked on all day. Work hard, put quality into everything and deliver.

“It was a new environment for me – the first time I was working with a professional men’s team.

“At first, I was always asking myself: am I doing the right things? But I observed how Alex and his coaches worked. Figured things out.”

England wore black armbands in memory of Wiegman’s sister

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England wore black armbands in memory of Wiegman’s sister

Since succeeding Phil Neville as England gaffer, Wiegman has been relatively untroubled on the pitch with the comeback win over Spain on Wednesday stretching her unbeaten run to 18 games.

However, Wiegman has faced a series of off-field hardships in recent months, with her sister’s sad passing on the eve of the Euros.

Although she was touched by her England players’ decision to wear black armbands during the 3-0 win over Belgium last month.

Wiegman said: “They have supported me so much. The captains came to me and asked if we could wear the armbands.

“They are such good human beings, and it shows the togetherness of the team. It was a great gesture. My sister would be proud.”

England are unbeaten under Wiegman but the team aren’t getting ahead of themselves yet

AFP

England are unbeaten under Wiegman but the team aren’t getting ahead of themselves yet

Wiegman was then forced to miss the Lionesses’ final group game – a 5-0 win over Northern Ireland – after testing positive for COVID-19.

But since finishing her isolation to return against Spain, Wiegman will face a number of challenges in her pursuit to bring football home.

The most unique of which will be learning all the lyrics to Sweet Caroline!

When asked if she’d learnt the words yet, she told talkSPORT: “No, not totally… sorry! I knew the song, but I have to practice a little more.

“I’m too focused on football.”

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