Mixed feelings for Sarina Wiegman after England beat Netherlands to reach final

The Lionesses gathered with their Dutch coach to watch their male counterparts in Euro 2024 action.

Sarina Wiegman admitted her “orange heart” hurt as England’s men beat her native Netherlands
Sarina Wiegman admitted her “orange heart” hurt as England’s men beat her native Netherlands (Damien Eagers/PA)

England women’s boss Sarina Wiegman conceded “it’s a good time to be English” even after Gareth Southgate’s men booked a trip to the Euro 2024 final at the expense of her native Netherlands.

The Lionesses, who were successful in their quest for European glory two summers ago, on Wednesday night gathered in Norwich ahead of their own Euro 2025 qualifier with the Republic of Ireland to watch their male counterparts’ final four meeting.

Wiegman was as diplomatic as a retired 104-cap Netherlands player could possibly be when asked how it felt to watch Ollie Watkins’ 90th-minute winner in Dortmund.

“You want a political answer?” she said. “No, I have to be really honest, of course wish the very, very best for Gareth and his team and so many people, of course, because we are colleagues.

“But it did hurt, a little bit. My orange heart hurt.”

Wiegman nevertheless agreed that the fact one of England’s men’s or women’s first teams has reached a major tournament final in each of the last four summers could only be a good thing, adding: “We all know that football worldwide is the biggest sport. In England it’s on a different level since I came in and worked here.

“It’s so deep in society and the people support so much and it’s incredible of course.

“I never, ever take it for granted. I think the whole country should be very proud of what, at this moment, the England men do.

England were crowned European champions in 2022
England were crowned European champions in 2022 (Danny Lawson/PA)

“It’s not easy, that’s what we’ve seen too. It’s good to be English at the moment.”

Forward Lauren Hemp agreed it was “a little weird” watching the final with a boss she pragmatically called a “neutral”, but said the Lionesses were “buzzing” after the final whistle.

Southgate is the only England men’s manager to reach two major international tournament finals, losing to Italy on penalties at the Euros three years ago.

Wiegman achieved that feat before Southgate, leading the Lionesses to their first significant silverware at their home Euros in 2022 then a first World Cup final against eventual winners Spain last summer.

The Lionesses have two group stage matches remaining in their qualification campaign for next summer’s European finals in Switzerland.

They need to finish in the top two of group A3 to book a direct ticket and avoid a more complicated autumn playoff scenario for the remaining spots, something the Republic of Ireland, who have not picked up a single point, already know awaits them.

The Lionesses sit third heading into Friday night’s meeting at Carrow Road, level on seven points with second-placed Sweden, who have a one-goal difference advantage, and both two points behind already-qualified France.

Wiegman reiterated her side “approach every game to win, so that’s not going to be any different”, pointing out winning the group is still mathematically possible.

Lauren Hemp says the Lionesses remain fully focused on their own task
Lauren Hemp says the Lionesses remain fully focused on their own task (Ian Hodgson/PA)

Norfolk-born Hemp added: “When we won the Euros that was probably the best day of my life and still is today.

“We want to do the same again next year, and that starts from qualifying now and putting us in a great position.

“It’s nice to see the men doing (well) at the moment, and it does sort of make us relive those special moments.

“We’re all excited for the weekend and for them to play as well, but at the moment our full focus is on tomorrow and getting that job done.”