The inaugural edition of the Women’s Finalissima pits UEFA Euro holders England and CONMEBOL Copa America Femenina champions Brazil against each other at Wembley Stadium on Thursday.
The fixture follows the success of the men’s Finalissima between UEFA Euro 2020 winners Italy and CONMEBOL Copa America conquerors Argentina in front of a sold-out Wembley support in June 2022.
Following highly prosperous final tournaments held in July, UEFA and CONMEBOL have decided to arrange this encounter as another noteworthy event for women’s football.
The upcoming showdown serves as a further confirmation of women’s football international appeal and quick expansion.
It’s also an opportunity for both sides to land another piece of silverware ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup that’s scheduled to take place in Australia and New Zealand later this year.
Without further ado, here’s a closer look at this historic event.
After finishing fourth in the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, England made history on home turf in 2022, lifting their first-ever European Championships title at Wembley.
Only a year after the men’s national team slumped to a grand final heartbreak against Italy, the Lionesses helped the country get over that disaster by claiming a 2-1 extra-time win over Germany in the title decider.
Sarina Wiegman’s team enjoyed an outstanding tournament, finishing top of Group A with all three wins and a +14 goal difference before overcoming Spain and Sweden in the knockout stages.
More importantly, the Lionesses refused to rest on their laurels after delivering at the Euros, as they’ve gone unbeaten in all nine internationals since lifting the trophy (W7, D2).
In addition to a brace of overwhelming victories over Austria and Luxembourg by an aggregate score of 12-0 in World Cup qualifiers, England recently finished top of their Arnold Clark Cup section.
In doing so, they thrashed Belgium, Italy and South Korea, netting 12 goals while conceding just two in return to set themselves up nicely for this clash.
Unlike England, Brazil may not take the field in high spirits despite emphatically winning the Copa America Femenina trophy for the fourth time on the spin last summer.
Pia Sundhage’s side breezed into the knockout stages as Group A winners with all four triumphs and an intimidating record of 17 goals scored and zero conceded.
After comfortably dispatching Paraguay 2-0 in the semi-finals, the Selecao pulled off a narrow 1-0 victory over Colombia in the title showpiece to lift the crown without conceding a single goal.
However, it’s been a rather torrid start to the new calendar year for Brazil despite eking out a 1-0 win over Asian powerhouse Japan in their opening game of 2023.
Canada and the United States defeated the South American champions in the two subsequent SheBelieves Cup fixtures in February, perhaps showing England the way to win the Finalissima this week.
Since none of Brazil’s nine internationals since the triumphant Copa America Femenina campaign has ended as a draw (W6, L3), and 56% of those matches seeing the winner on the day keep a clean sheet, scoring first could be the catalyst to determine this clash.
Player to Watch: Chloe Kelly
The 25-year-old Manchester City forward Chloe Kelly scored England’s extra-time winner in last summer’s Women’s Euro final against Germany.
She was also one of the Lionesses’ best-performing players at the Arnold Clark Cup earlier this year, scoring three times in two appearances to finish atop the tournament’s scoring charts.
Player to Watch: Bia Zaneratto
With Brazil’s long-serving captain ruled out with a thigh injury, all eyes will be on the 29-year-old Palmerias forward Bia Zaneratto, the country’s fourth-best all-time goalscorer.
She has tallied 37 goals in 109 international appearances. Of all players in Brazil’s current call-up, only Marta (115) has more strikes under her belt.
England W vs Brazil W Head-to-Head
England and Brazil have faced each other three times in the past five years, with a 2018 exhibition game in Nottingham marking the first-ever meeting between these two teams.
The Lionesses came out 1-0 victors before recording another tight 2-1 win in the SheBelieves Cup at the beginning of the following year.
However, the Selecao got their vengeance in October 2019, giving England a taste of their medicine by securing a 2-1 triumph in another friendly contest.
So these sides will lock horns in a competitive meeting for the first time.
England manager Wiegman won’t be able to call upon a few crucial components from the 2022 Euro squad, including Player of the Tournament Beth Mead, playmaker Fran Kirby and centre-back Millie Bright.
In addition to the three injured stars, all-time top scorer Ellen White retired soon after the tournament, so it’ll likely be to up-and-coming Chelsea starlet Alessia Russo to fill her shoes.
Despite being at the Arnold Clark Cup in February, Katie Zelem and Ebony Salmon failed to make the cut this month.
As for Brazil, due to an injury sustained by Marta last week, the country’s most famous female player now joins Debinha and Nycole Raysla in being absent from the game.
Coach Sundhage called up Duda Santos as a replacement. But another significant first-team star, Duda Sampaio, soon had to be withdrawn through injury, with Luana jumping in to replace her.
However, the team still has talented players like Geyse from Barcelona, making them a captivating team to watch.
We Say: England 2-1 Brazil
Since Wiegman assumed the role in the autumn of 2021, England have remained undefeated in all 29 matches, winning 25 and drawing four. And they have shown no signs of running out of steam.
The Lionesses have enjoyed several eye-catching results at Wembley over the past couple of years, defeating the star-studded United States 2-1 under the famous arch after their Euro 2022 triumph.
Brazil’s underwhelming results at the SheBelieves Cup in February, compounded by Marta’s absence, don’t make for good reading for the South American visitors.
Although Sundhage’s ladies still boast enough firepower to put England’s backline in danger, the Lionesses should still come out on top.
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