Not everything went the way of England, however, as Sarina Wigman’s side had to endure some serious first-half pressure from world-class Swedes.
But Lauren Hemp’s deft turn and finish after the half-hour mark clearly calmed England’s nerves and from then on it seemed like she was the only winner.
Lucy Bronze’s header from a corner early in the second half, followed by a stunning back heel from substitute Alessia Russo, wowed 28,624 fans at Bramall Lane before Fran Kirby’s cross added luster to an already remarkable score.
Sweden, after all, is currently ranked second in the world, and England had previously only won three victories over Sweden in their entire history.
In a tournament that has already set record attendances and views, Tuesday’s game set a new attendance record for a Euro semi-final.
After losing the semi-finals at the 2019 World Cup, Euro 2017, England will now play the final against Germany or France at Wembley Stadium on 31 July.
“We have found a way. The players in the game have found a way to get out of their pressure. I’m incredibly proud of them.”
The nervousness that had been evident throughout most of the quarter-finals against Spain resurfaced in the early stages against Sweden.
England goalkeeper Mary Earps was called into action in the first minute after blocking Sofia Jakobsson’s shot after Georgia Stanway took possession of the ball in midfield.
Another smart save by Earps again kept the score just minutes later, this time playing Stina Blackstenius’ clumsy try around the post. After a corner, Sweden had a better chance as Blackstenius beat Erps on the ball this time, but her header only managed to hit the crossbar.
While England sought to dominate possession, Sweden posed a real threat on the counterattack. The attacking trio of Blackstenius, Kosovar Aslany and Fridolina Rolfo, in particular, gave the English defenders nightmares, beckoning them back and forth with alternating runs.
At the half hour mark, England barely registered a chance worth mentioning. In fact, the Lionesses’ first 30 minutes culminated in a stunning tackle by Kirby, who tracked the length of the pitch to rob Sweden of clear scoring chances.
England manager Wigman once again named the same starting line-up as in the first four games of Euro 2022, shrugging off a somewhat toothless performance throughout much of the quarter-final against Spain.
It took all of Wigman’s tactical savvy to turn the game around with substitutions, but her loyal top scorer Mead made sure that wasn’t necessary this time.
With 10 minutes left in the first half, England found a breakthrough seemingly out of nowhere. After Lauren Hemp’s cross into the box missed Ellen White’s boot by an inch, the Bronze did well, keeping the ball in play and bringing it back into the box.
Mead made one touch, turned and shot the ball into the far corner, driving the fans in Bramall Lane into a frenzy. It was a remarkable goal, possibly the best in the tournament so far, and put her in first place in the Golden Boot race with six goals.
It also equaled the most goals scored in a single European Championship, matching the score of Finland’s Inka Grings in 2009.
More importantly, however, it finally calmed England’s nerves and for the first time in the match, Wigman’s team began to dominate. Kirby and Stanway had chances, but neither could test Ruth Hedwig Lindahl against Sweden from afar.
When the whistle blew for the break, Sweden were relieved to hear it and England were only 45 minutes away from the final.
The second half began in the same way, and England immediately again put the opponent to a standstill.
It was Hemp again on the left giving Sweden all sorts of problems, with the Manchester City winger’s cross on Mid blocked by the Swedish boat. However, a strong Lucy Bronze header from the resulting corner made its way past the far post and completely controlled England in this semi-final.
Russo was England’s super substitute for the tournament, scoring three goals off the bench so far. When she entered the field before the hour mark against Sweden, her shot was immediate as a run-up and a low cross found Hemp at the far post.
But due to the gap in the gate, the winger could only transfer the blow to the crossbar.
Sweden did have a great chance to cut the gap in half, but Erps’s save, fully extended at the tip of his finger, deprived Blackstenius of a goal.
However, with just over 20 minutes left before the game, the match ended as a competition thanks to a moment of genius by Russo. After her initial shot she was supposed to score was blocked by Lindal, Russo improvised with a cheeky heel kick that took the Swedish goalkeeper by surprise as he squeezed through her legs.
It was a piece of magic that brought together the best of this England team as he began to take apart one of the best teams in the world.
Kirby soon added the icing on the cake with just over 15 minutes left in the game, and he threw the ball from range over Lindahl. The Swedish goalkeeper really should have played better, but let the ball slip out of her hands, ending a night she wished she had forgotten about.
This win continues Wigman’s outstanding personal record of never losing a game at the Euro. Everyone in England will be hoping the streak lasts one more match.