The incredible story of Sarina Wiegman and her major tournament record

Sarina Wiegman has always been a trailblazer… having reached FOUR consecutive major finals, the former PE teacher stands on the precipice of World Cup glory with England

  • Sarina Wiegman has won 24 of 25 major tournament games, losing one final
  • Her unique brand of management gets the best out of players when it matters
  • WATCH: ‘It’s All Kicking Off’ – Episode 1 – Mail Sport’s brand new football show 

Sarina Wiegman is a legend.

It’s as simple as that. A legend.

Four consecutive major finals reached. Let that sink in, because before we blink it could become five, six, whatever she wants to achieve. Wiegman never has been one to look at a history book and leave it unruffled.

Of her last three finals, she has won two. On Sunday, she has a chance to win a third as her Lionesses take on Spain, both teams standing on this hallowed stage for the first time in their history. 

Of her last 25 major tournament clashes, she has won 24.  

This is the story of a former PE teacher now on the precipice of global glory. This is the story of a legend.

Sarina Wiegman has led England Women to their first-ever World Cup final and has emerged victorious from 24 of her last 25 clashes in major tournament football

The coach has electrified a nation waiting with baited breath to see if the Lionesses triumph

Wiegman’s connection with her players is an important dynamic in the unified England camp

A lifetime of formative experiences 

For as far as her football CV extends, Wiegman has been a trailblazer. 

As a six-year-old girl, a local football manager spotted her playing in the street and snapped her up for his all-boys team. At the time she would cut her hair short to try and blend in with them. 

That same six-year-old, determined to fit in with the boys, turned out to far surpass the crowd. Ten years later she was called up to play for her country. She went on to play over 100 times for the Netherlands – the first player to do so – and captained her country all while holding down her school-teaching post. 

It’s a job she retained even when she became a football manager for the first time with Ter Leede in 2006-07, who she led to the Dutch championship and KNVB Cup in her only season. 

A year later, ADO Den Haag selected her as their first women’s manager to lead them in the newly formed Eredivisie. She’d bring a league title and a couple of cups back to The Hague before the Netherlands made her their assistant manager in 2014.

In 2016 she became the first woman in the Netherlands to hold a coaching role with a men’s team as she worked with Sparta Rotterdam, who won promotion to the Eredivisie. 

England’s manager has always been a trailblazer. She worked as a PE teacher earlier in her coaching career, working towards her long-term ambitions

She wasn’t going to be there forever, though. By January 2017, after a couple of stints as their interim manager, the Netherlands finally made Wiegman their permanent boss after five losses in eight games. 

That’s when things really began to take off.  

The second time lucky with the Netherlands 

In one of her first acts as manager of the Netherlands, she made players read an article entitled ‘Thirteen things you should give up if you want to be successful’. 

Looking back, one of them in particular is intriguing: ‘give up saying yes to things that don’t support your goals.’

Wiegman had turned down the Netherlands job in 2015, but accepted it when they came calling again. In the first instance she felt she wasn’t ready. 

So often in football, individuals are told to chomp on the next big opportunity – it’s a short career, they tell you. Wiegman was always playing the long game and now she was ready to lead her country to success. 

Seven months later, the Oranje were champions of the UEFA Women’s Championship, usurping Germany after six consecutive titles (and eight out of nine). 

They won all six games on their way to the crown as attendance records and opponents fell alike. A 3-0 win over England in the semi-finals was followed by a 4-2 victory over fellow first-time finalists Denmark in Enschede. 

She won the first of her international trophies in 2017 when she won the Euros with the Netherlands courtesy of a 4-2 win over Denmark

That tournament, fuelled by excellent performances and goals from Lieke Martens and Vivienne Miedema, catapulted Wiegman’s reputation even further than it had already been, but there was still something she wanted to win.

The World Cup. 

After a rocky qualification period, the Oranje touched down in France with hopes unblemished having seen what they could achieve in the Euros. 

Here again that Wiegman proved herself to be astute as managing in tournament and knockout football. The Netherlands won every match on their way to the final, as they had in the Euros.

In particular, they proved adept at outlasting teams and grabbing late goals – seven of their 11 goals came after the 70th minute as their set-up and stamina allowed them to go deep into the competition while retaining energy.

It wasn’t to be in the final, sadly, as they lost 2-0 to the United States, who clinched their fourth crown with a 2-0 win. But Wiegman’s team had marked themselves out as superior to any side in Europe and in only their second World Cup had threatened to overthrow the establishment entirely. 

After leading her team to play stylish football and go further than they had ever gone, Wiegman was honoured with a statue in the Dutch Football Association’s garden – the only woman to have received this tribute.  

Her teams have always played with a mix of style and grit, often scoring late goals

Ending the ‘years of hurt’ with England  

In September 2021, Wiegman took over the reins of the Lionesses to much excitement and acclaim. 

Her task? To convert England into winners after years of going close. In the 2015 World Cup they had come third, in 2019 fourth. In the 2017 European Championships they had reached the semi-finals. Three last-four berths in a row but no final and no silverware. England knew they were close. 

When you read and listen to interviews with people who have worked with Wiegman, a common theme emerges. They talk of a balance between immense warmth away from the pitch and a demanding professionalism once the white line is crossed. 

‘You can sit and have a coffee with her and chat about family, but as soon as you cross that white line, you’re also a bit scared that you want to perform for her,’ former England midfielder Jill Scott told The Athletic. 

When she was informing players that they had been picked for the 2022 Euros, she gave them each a golden ticket. On the gift was written: ‘Congratulations! You’re going to the Euros!’ wrote Beth Mead for the Financial Times.  

Wiegman can be fun-loving and personable, but she is a born winner who demands the highest standards and won’t setle for less. ‘She prepares everything in the smallest detail,’ her old Netherlands assistant Foppe de Haan said. ‘The number of sprints, the number of exercises, the timing of them, everything was always according to a tight schedule.’

Jill Scott said that despite Wiegman’s warmth, ‘you’re also a bit scared’ of her due to her drive

Such diligence and people-management skills have produced stellar results. 

Following the old theme, in the Women’s Euros in 2022, England won every single match, no penalties required. They scored 14 times in the group stages without conceding and only shipped two goals in the entire tournament. 

The same fight and hunger she had eeked out of the Netherlands was evident in the final, when Chloe Kelly prodded over the line in the 110th minute to secure a 2-1 win over Germany at Wembley. 

Once again, they had proven that they could win in style by beating Sweden 4-0 in the semi-finals, but also grind out a result when the going gets tough.

This is the ultimate quality of Wiegman’s teams – a feeling that the game is never over, that an opportunity is always around the corner. 

It’s what saw them through against Colombia in the quarter-finals at this World Cup. 

Wiegman has got the best out of players like Lauren Hemp at this World Cup, overcoming challenges in the knockout rounds

Their South American opponents brought out their nasty game through substitute Ana Maria Guzman, who kept chipping away at Lauren Hemp. On the stroke of half-time the Colombians, spurred on by a boisterous crowd, took the lead, but that did not deter the Lionesses, who equalised minutes later through the relentless Hemp before Alessia Russo found the winner in the second half. 

And don’t forget how they overcame Nigeria on penalties despite losing breakout star Lauren James to a red card, or how they humbled Australia in their own back yard despite an entire host nation wishing ill on them. The Australian Daily Telegraph even flew a helicopter over their final training session before the showdown in a bid to put them off. 

Such mind games no not faze Wiegman and they will not faze her England team.

They stand now on the cusp of glory, and with the best manager in international football, anything is doable. 

Whatever happens, she is already a legend.  

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