Why captain Leah Williamson is England’s Paolo Maldini

The 25-year-old central defender is yet to make a tackle at Euro 2022.

By Press Association Published: 28 July 2022 - 8.38am

England’s Leah Williamson has won the ball more often than any other player at Euro 2022 despite not making a single tackle, according to UEFA’s official statistics.

Williamson has 46 ball recoveries to her name and zero tackles. The next-most successful ball winner is France’s Sakina Karchaoui with 42 recoveries, followed by Spain’s Mapi Leon with 39.

The Lionesses captain is channelling her inner Paolo Maldini, with the Italian great having famously said: “If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake”.

Williamson has led England to five clean sheets out of six, conceding a solitary goal against Spain in the quarter-final. Germany – England’s opponents in the final on Sunday – are the only side in the tournament that can match their defensive record.

(PA graphic)
(PA graphic)

Williamson ever-present

Such is the quiet competence of her work, Arsenal’s Williamson has largely gone under the radar at Euro 2022, with central defensive partner Millie Bright winning more of the plaudits.

Sarina Wiegman clearly has enormous faith in her captain, however, as Williamson is the only outfield player to have stayed on the pitch for every minute of England’s run.

(PA graphic)
(PA graphic)

Williamson is a vital cog in the England machine offensively as well as defensively.

The Lionesses have enjoyed the second-highest share of possession behind Spain (58 per cent), with Williamson contributing to their style of play under Wiegman.

The 25-year-old – who started her career as a midfielder and only switched to central defence shortly before her England debut – has completed 411 passes in five matches so far, the most of any player at the tournament.

Mead leads array of attacking options

Just as Williamson and Bright have shone for England in defence, the likes of Beth Mead, Alessia Russo and Fran Kirby are excelling in attack.

England's Alessia Russo celebrates scoring with Beth Mead
Beth Mead and Alessia Russo have scored 10 goals between them at Euro 2022 (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The Lionesses are comfortably the highest scorers at the tournament with 20 goals, ahead of Germany on 13.

Eight different players have got their names on the scoresheet – also a tournament high.

Among them is joint-top scorer Mead, who has six goals from six shots on target so far at Euro 2022. She is tied with Germany’s Alexandra Popp in the race for the Golden Boot, with team-mate Alessia Russo – scorer of an audacious backheel in the semi-final against Sweden – still in contention on four goals.

Germany’s Alexandra Popp celebrates
Alexandra Popp scored twice in Wednesday’s semi-final against France, taking her level with Mead on six goals (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Apart from Mead and Russo, England’s goal tally includes two apiece for Fran Kirby, Georgia Stanway and Ellen White, and one each for Lauren Hemp, Ella Toone and Lucy Bronze.

Mead has also been a creative force, providing five assists to go with her six goals. Her total of 11 goal involvements is almost twice as many as anyone else – Popp is next with six, followed by Russo and Kirby on five.

BT Sport Monthly Pass

Join the home of live sport for just £25 per month. Get instant access to the BT Sport app, with no contract and no BT broadband required.