YOU cannot miss the Lionesses.
Whether you are sipping on a can of Pepsi Max, munching on a packet of chilli heatwave Doritos or strolling past an iconic landmark — Lionesses will not be ignored.
A photo of Ellen White was projected onto the cliffs of Dover, Leah Williamson’s image was blown up onto Tower Bridge and Lucy Bronze stood tall on Battersea Power station.
Walkers’ punchy paprika crisps also advertise the Euros and England are hoping to sizzle as they kick things off against Austria in front of an expected 77,000 crowd at Old Trafford tonight.
Every major event in women’s football over the past two decades has been hailed as a potential watershed, but there is extra expectation at this Euros.
Arsenal defender Williamson, 25, said: “Yeah, it’s not normal, is it? But it’s good.
“It means that the visibility is on us as a team and it means the game has been recognised as it should be so yeah it’s strange but it’s good for the game.
“I’m very proud and I’m sure when I look back at the opening game against Austria it will be a moment that I treasure forever.
“I’d just like to be on the pitch playing for England at the Euros. Tonight is about getting out on the pitch, anything else on top of that is a bonus.”
At the last World Cup in 2019 in France nobody turned a head when Phil Neville’s England players walked through Nice Old Town in the shadow of the Cathedrale Sainte Reparate.
And at a stadium that holds 35,000 people, just over 13,000 were present to give the start of England’s World Cup a slightly anticlimactic feel in their opener with Scotland.
Over-hype has sometimes been a problem from tournament organisers in women’s football.
The first ball is still to be kicked at this year’s Euros, but already records have begun tumbling.
A record 500,000 tickets have been snapped up for the 26-day tournament.
All the Lionesses’ group stage games sold out months ago and tickets are no longer available for the Wembley final, where 87,200 spectators are expected on July 31. And Williamson reckons the squad are in a good place to deal with the mounting pressure.
She added: “The home fans are the twelfth man and our manager Sarina Wiegman has experience of that and that’s something she wants us to embrace.
“That’s maybe something we’ve not been good at in the past.
“So we’re loving the fact there will be 77,000 fans tonight and most of them will be there for us.
“It’s an advantage that we’re at home so we intend to use it as much as possible and embrace that.”
The Lionesses are among the favourites, not least because head coach Wiegman is a reigning European champions, after leading her native Holland to glory in 2017. Successive semi-finals in 2017 and the 2019 World Cup suggest her England squad are well-placed to finally get their hands on a first major trophy.
Players were left in tears and said “they had failed” after they suffered semi-final heartbreak to USA at the last World Cup.
But Wiegman says her stars can use that experience to propel a charge to the final.
Wiegman, 52, who had Holland’s top job when they hosted and won the last Euros, said: “Everything is bigger this time, more expectation.
“But the England players have already had more experience in this type of environment so I can feel the difference between the two tournaments.
“As a coach you gain experience and it will always be helpful. Of course I want to share that with the players. A lot of the England team understand the expectation on them.”
England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Holland and Denmark are all being tipped for an elusive spot in the glittering final at Wembley.
The openness of this year’s tournament is a nod to the growing strength in European Women’s leagues and more top flights across the continent offering professional contracts.
Wiegman added: “The game has developed and many countries are famous for this tournament.
“I think it is really hard to predict what it will look like at the end.
“Lots of countries are in good positions.
“But we’ve seen strange things can happen at tournaments!”
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