England manager says team is 'excited' ahead of Euro 2022 opening clash with Austria

ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott reports on England's prospects in the Women's Euro 2022 tournament as pressure mounts on the Lionesses to perform

England manager Sarina Wiegman says her team are "excited" as they prepare to open the Euro 2022 tournament with their match against Austria in front of a sellout crowd at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

With England, the host nation, among the favourites for the title, there is plenty of excitement and nerves surrounding their involvement.

And the Lionesses will be hoping to get off to a good start ahead of next Monday’s clash against Norway at Brighton and then their meeting with Northern Ireland at Southampton the following Friday.

Sarina Wiegman during a press conference at Old Trafford. Credit: PA

The side have shone under manager Sarina Wiegman’s attacking philosophy, winning 12 and drawing two of her 14 matches in charge.

Speaking to reporters, Wiegman said: "It would be really strange if we would not be excited."

"But what we are talking about is train well, play well, play as a team and play the best game we can and that in general what we talk about all the time."

This isn’t the first time England has hosted the Euros, with the last coming in 2005, when all games were hosted in Lancashire and Cheshire and the final was held at Ewood Park, which has a third of Wembley’s capacity.

Games will be hosted across the country this time around, with far more seats sold out already.

Former England captain Faye White says this year’s tournament doesn’t compare to 2005 and believes the legacy Euro 2022 could leave is “huge.”

'This is going to be the best European tournament ever'

"I don’t think you can compare them really, it’s miles apart," she told ITV News.

"I think the FA were sensible in basing it in one area at that time, obviously this tournament shows that games are spread right across the country.

"And even from four or five years ago when the FA knew they were going to have this and pick the stadiums, it’s almost grown again since then to the level of Old Trafford is sold out, Brighton is sold out, Southampton is sold out, Wembley is already sold out for the final."

For that to all happen in 17 years didn't seem "possible" she added.

"The legacy this will leave just hosting this on this scale is going to be huge," she said.

"This is going to be the best European tournament ever."

So, can England go all the way?

The hosts head into the tournament as one of the favourites and hunting what would be a first piece of major silverware in their history.

An image of Ellen White, the Lionesses' 50-goal record scorer, projected onto the White Cliffs of Dover. Credit: PA

England have twice been Euros runners-up, in 1984 and 2009, while their best World Cup finish was third in Canada in 2015.

That was the first in a sequence of successive runs to semi-finals at their last three major tournaments – at both Euro 2017 and the 2019 World Cup in France they lost in the last four to the teams that went on to lift the trophy, the Netherlands and the United States respectively.

England’s captain in each of those three campaigns, Manchester City’s Steph Houghton, has missed out on selection this time after Achilles surgery; Arsenal’s Leah Williamson was confirmed as skipper for this tournament in April.

Who are the other contenders?

Among the sides joining England as being tipped as potential winners this summer are 1984 champions and world number two-ranked Sweden, who beat the Lionesses to come third at the 2019 World Cup and were subsequently runners-up at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Spain's Alexia Putellas will likely be one of the tournament's star performers. Credit: PA

Germany are eight-time Euros champions, and Spain, with current Ballon d’Or holder Alexia Putellas in their ranks, are highly regarded.

It will be interesting to see how Norway fare with the fit-again Ada Hegerberg, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2018 and helped Lyon beat Putellas’ Barcelona in the Champions League final in May, back in the fold five years after stepping away from the national team.

Are any of the other home nations playing?

As well as Austria and Norway, England’s group features a Northern Ireland outfit breaking new ground, with the team making its major tournament debut.

Kenny Shiels’ side secured their place with a play-off victory over Ukraine last year and, at 47th, are the lowest-ranked nation at the finals.

They open their historic campaign by facing Norway at St Mary’s on Thursday.