England vs Germany: The key battles that will define the Euro 2022 final at Wembley
It has all come down to this. The Euro 2022 final is almost upon us as we find out who will lift the trophy - England or Germany?
The two sides face off in this Sunday's final as a modern, forward-thinking tournament comes to a close. Record-breaking crowds have been backed up by thrilling games.
• Pick your England line-up for the Euro 2022 final with Germany
Ninety-two goals have been scored in 30 matches, a trend which has raised the profile of women's sport on the continent. Even Premier League managers such as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have marvelled at the quality on show in England this summer.
One of the biggest victories in terms of this tournament's popularity has been the way the players have risen to household name status, particularly among Sarina Wiegman's England squad in this home tournament.
And let's not forget there is glory on the line too. England are looking to win their first major tournament in front of 90,000 supporters at Wembley, while Germany are looking to win a record-extending ninth version of this competition.
So with one more tactical battle between the two best sides in the tournament still to come, here's where this Sunday's final between England and Germany can be won and lost.
The battle in the sky - Bright vs Popp
"The Alex Popp vs Millie Bright battle - oh my word. It's going to be carnage."
Former England international Sue Smith has whacked the nail on the head. England's best chance of winning against Germany on Sunday will come down to how quiet they can keep star player Alexandra Popp.
A lot of what Germany do well goes through Popp. The 31-year-old is her country's fox in the box, with six goals from seven shots on target with tournament, while she is the experienced head among a very young group of players and leads Germany's press very well too.
Popp single-handedly hauled Die Nationalelf into the final with two very similar, yet also different goals. The first, some quick thinking to smash home a low cross at the back post. The second, a well-timed leap to nod a high cross for the winning goal. Both first-time finishes, yet both show her vast array of talent, especially against a solid France backline consisting of Wendie Renard and Griedfe Mbock Bathy.
The Germany captain has history against England at Wembley too - scoring a top-class header against the Lionesses at the Home of Football in 2019. Steph Houghton was the defender Popp beat in the air on that occasion - England will do well to learn from that experience.
"Watching her score both goals against France, especially the header, our centre-halves have to have the biggest games of their lives to handle her," former England centre-back and captain Faye White told Sky Sports. "The way she attacked the ball and got in front of those defenders, nothing was going to stop her. She was like a steam train."
Yet England have the perfect antidote in Bright, who is in the top five defenders for winning aerial duels in the tournament so far. The Chelsea defender has been the Lionesses' rock at the back - but she will have a major test in Popp, who has won 10 balls in the air so far in this tournament.
"Bright has been my player of the tournament so far for England," Smith told Sky Sports. What she has done on a consistent basis has been superb.
"Popp pretty much won everything against France - she beat Renard in the air, Mbock in the air, but Millie is the strongest player I've ever played with or against. She's a brick wall and that battle between those two, I can't wait to see how that is."
But do not rule out the importance that England captain Leah Williamson needs to have against Popp. The Lionesses skipper has won the ball off opponents 46 times - a tournament high - but has not made a single tackle in the entire competition.
If Bright is drawn into an aerial battle with Popp, then Williamson will be on hand to clean up in Wiegman's defence. The Bright-Williamson combination has been so fruitful for England in terms of defensive astuteness - but they will need to be at the top of their game at Wembley against a top-class opponent.
The Flankers - who has the better width?
England have multiple avenues of attack - but a lot of their positive play in this tournament has come from the wings.
The right-wing has been a particular avenue for creativity in this tournament. Beth Mead - who has six goals from six shots on target this tournament - and Lucy Bronze have been phenomenal for the Lionesses on that side of the pitch, while the option to bring Lauren Hemp from the left and onto the opposite wing has brought some crucial moments - the last-gasp quarter-final equaliser against Spain being one.
As a result, England's wingers are among the top of the charts for chances created in this tournament. Mead is joint-top of that list with 14 - while Hemp is one behind on 13.
But Germany have options too out wide. In fact, they match the Lionesses' output in this department.
Winger Klara Buhl sits alongside Mead at the top of the chances created chart - but the Germany player's statistics are even more impressive given she missed the semi-final win over France due to contracting coronavirus.
In her place, Svenja Huth stepped up to the mark by putting on two assists for Popp's goals down the right-hand side. Only Fran Kirby has created more big chances in this tournament than Huth, who also has the best Expected Assists ratio in the tournament. To put it in simpler terms, the quality of Huth's deliveries and passes match the frequency.
Germany's all-star wingers will be a concern for the Lionesses, whose full-backs are very attack minded. Bronze likes to get forward on the right, while Rachel Daly's defensive quality on the left has been questioned at times in this tournament.
England's No 3, who plays as an attacker for club side Houston Dash in the United States, struggled against Spain's Athenea del Castillo in the quarter-final - and while Daly improved against an all-star Sweden attack - the pressure will be on at Wembley for the left-back.
"There was a lot of pressure on Daly in that last game and she did really well," Smith told Sky Sports. "There were a couple of times [against Sweden] where you could see she was going to go flying out, but she slowed herself down. She went out, but it wasn't like when she went she flew out and they just skipped round her.
"It's like she learnt from that [game against Spain] and it'll be the same against Germany. You need to make sure you don't make any mistakes because they'll punish you, that's the strength of Germany."
At the heart of these two teams are two very different midfielders. In front of the two respective back fours lie England's Keira Walsh and Germany's Lena Oberdorf.
Walsh has been the unsung hero of this England team. While fellow midfielders Fran Kirby and Georgia Stanway have dominated the headlines at times, the 25-year-old has quietly gone about her business to influential effect.
The Manchester City player is quite simply England's pass master, setting the tone for attacks from deep and finding the front three, plus the advancing Stanway and Kirby in pockets of space in the opposition half.
Even though Walsh is the Lionesses' deepest midfielder, she still has some attacking influence. The 25-year-old is in the top five players for passes completed in the final third, highlighting the 'playmaker' role she has under Wiegman.
Meanwhile, Oberdorf is announcing herself at the international stage at just 20 years of age. The Germany midfielder is far more defensive than Walsh and rarely moves into attack. Instead, she regularly cuts out advances from the opposition - she ranks in second place in the tournament in the total tackles and possessions won in the middle third category.
But the young midfielder has a dilemma in this Wembley final regarding which part of England's arsenal she should prioritise. In Germany's semi-final victory over France, Oberdorf was seen helping out her full-backs by stopping France's frightening wingers.
A similar tactic against Mead and Hemp will be useful - but would she be better off cutting off pass master Walsh? Cutting off England's momentum at its source could be more influential and weaken the Lionesses' danger going forwards.
And don't forget England's Fran Kirby, who is likely to be playing in attacking midfield - so directly in front of Oberdorf - at Wembley on Sunday. The Chelsea midfielder has created five big chances in this summer's Euros, more than any other player, so she will need a lot of focus placed upon her from a German perspective.
Either way, with Oberdorf picking up more yellow cards than any other player in the tournament so far, expect the young German to be flying into challenges mercilessly on Sunday night.
This well-matched final can also be seen through the effectiveness of the two goalkeepers. Both Mary Earps and Merle Frohms have both conceded just one goal in this tournament so far - both in the latter stages of the knockout rounds.
What is interesting is that even though England have the second-highest share of possession in the tournament - 58 per cent, only Spain managed more - but Earps has been tested more in this competition compared to Frohms.
The Lionesses goalkeeper has stepped up to the mark when her country needed her most. Against Spain in the quarter-finals, Earps produced a stunning save to stop Del Castillo's high cross, which prevented England from going 2-0 down late on. Against Sweden in the semi-finals, Earps was equal to Stina Blackstenius' flick goalwards when England were 2-0 down and looking nervy.
Overall, Earps has prevented more goals (4.3 xG) in this tournament compared to Frohms (1.5 xG) - but that could be down to the fact the Lionesses goalkeeper has been tested more often than the German shot stopper.
But take nothing away from the importance Frohms has on this Germany defence. The goalkeeper put aside her first-half own goal against France in the semi-finals to make four crucial stops in the second period, with the scores locked at 1-1.
Both England and Germany have useful attacking options, but they will have to do well to get past these two goalkeepers at Wembley.
Sky Sports News and Sky Sports' digital platforms will be following every step of England's Euro 2022 journey ahead of Sunday's final.
The Sky Sports News Mobile Presentation bus will bring you all the best guests and analysis outside Wembley, with the likes of Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett offering their expert insight.
Across SkySports.com, the Sky Sports App and on social media, we'll have all the big moments covered with our previews, features, reports, analysis, plus the the Sky Sports Women's Euros podcast with Sky Sports' senior football journalist Charlotte Marsh and Sky Sports News reporter Anton Toloui.
And if you're new to the England squad, don't worry - here's our guide to meeting the Lionesses.