hey will be forgotten in today’s euphoria, but there were times last night when things could have turned out very differently – and on each of those occasions England had Mary Earps to thank for s be assured that they did not.
Within 30 seconds she pulled off a brilliant block from Sofia Jakobsson and then another superb save to keep Stina Blackstenius off when the score was still 0-0. Even in the second half, once England were in control and 2-0 up, the dipping fingertip they reached Blackstenius’s head to push it over the bar was so important, because at 2- 1, things could have gotten very nervous at Bramall Lane.
They were massive saves, but she was also crucial in calming the team down, especially in the opening moments when England were on the ropes. Mary is a leader and you could see her gesturing with her hands, trying to bring calm, to gain some control.
Mary was hardly tested in the group stages – there wasn’t really a stoppage or blockage that you could identify and say, ‘That was a huge moment’.
However, in possession, she is a key part of the way England play in the build-up from the back – in fact, she has the highest passing accuracy percentage of any player in the entire tournament.
If anything, that’s a testament to the quality of England’s back line, but against Spain she stepped up when they needed her, snatching that cross shot from Athenea del Castillo that would have made it 2-0 and probably had England in the lead. out. Then, last night, she was brilliant again.
Mary’s story is amazing. She’s only been England’s No. 1 since Sarina Wiegman took over less than a year ago, and at one point was effectively the fourth choice.
There are similarities to Beth Mead, in that she bounced back from adversity, from a very low point, when she was dumped by Phil Neville a few years ago, and then struggled to come back.
Mary is now 29 and she said recently that at those times she felt her international career was probably over. You dream of reaching the top of your game and, for her, it must have suddenly seemed impossible.
You have to remember that it’s even harder for the goalkeepers. There’s only ever one shirt up for grabs and opportunities are hard enough to come by if you’re #2, let alone #3 or #4. In an international setup, your chance might come in a qualifier where the team wins 8-0 and you don’t have a single save to make. It’s so hard to break in.
The Resurrection of Mary is a wonderful and inspiring story and what a wise decision by Wiegman
Then a new manager comes in, gives you the assurance that he has your back and that great things can happen, as we saw with Mary.
I spent two years at Real Madrid TV and watched as a journalist here for many more years and football can be a brutal world. Being part of a team and feeling like you might never get your chance is a really tough place to be.
Mary’s rise is a wonderful and inspiring story and what a wise decision, again on Sarina’s part, to see the quality in her.
She was so far away and yet here she is now, in the No.1 shirt, en route to a final at Wembley.