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‘Now is the right time’ – England’s Leah Williamson hopes Lionesses can inspire next generation of players at Euro 2022


England captain Leah Williamson hopes the Lionesses can inspire young women across the country to want to play football by delivering a title-winning display at Euro 2022.

England get their European Championship campaign underway against Austria at Old Trafford on Wednesday, July 6 as they bid to reach their third major final.

The last time England reached a European Championship final was 2009 which ended in a 6-2 defeat to Germany. England also made the World Cup semi-finals in 2015 and 2019, but are yet to win a major tournament.

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Williamson, 25, says wearing the captain’s armband is “the biggest honour of my life” and hopes the current Lionesses squad can inspire future generations.

“Walking out as captain at a home Euros will be the biggest honour of my life, so I’m really excited,” she said.

“I feel like I’m ready. [With the] national team, it’s different to club football: you can’t buy winners; you have to make them. And we’re on that journey, but to be able to bring in somebody like [manager] Sarina [Wiegman] with that experience, that know-how of how to win, is almost priceless to us.

“[Women] were banned [from playing official games] for 50 years in this country [from 1921 to 1971], and I think if you look at the journey we’ve been on, now is the right time.

“We’re here for the long run and we’re building something for future generations and, hopefully, something sustainable that just keeps growing and growing.

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“I’m happy to be part of the journey now, but I’m so jealous of those little girls that are going to follow in our footsteps.”

After Austria, England take on Norway at Falmer Stadium on July 11 and Northern Ireland at St Mary’s four days later.

Williamson believes winning the tournament will be no easy task with the likes of Spain, France and 2017 champions Netherlands also considered frontrunners.

“I think it’s trickier than people think,” she said.

“Norway are the top seeds below us in the group, which obviously tees it up for a good game, and a physical game, but they’ve also got some really technical players.

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“Those Austria and Northern Ireland games: we’ve played them twice in the past year leading up to [the finals], which makes it a tasty game, because we know so much about each other.

“Who are my favourites to do well in the finals? This is the first time maybe that there’s been so many teams that anyone could place their bets on.

“Obviously, Spain, [with their] Barcelona players, their success speaks for itself. You’ve got France, who are obviously a force, but then you’ve got Germany, Sweden, Holland; all of these teams could really run away with it, so it’s going to be a tasty summer.”

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