“It all feels like a massive blur,” Georgia Stanway said.
“I have to look back and see where I was, how it went in the net – I literally can’t remember. I remember saying to one of the girls, ‘When did we really score?’
Six minutes into extra time, Keira Walsh picks up a loose ball running around the edge of the center circle in the Spanish half and plays a simple pass to Stanway.
Bayern Munich’s new midfielder takes possession of the ball with her right foot, allowing the ball to roll over her body. Three Spanish midfielders trail in his wake as their defense retreats, occupied by the threat of runs from Alessia Russo and Lauren Hemp.
“When she was driving, I thought, ‘Pull, pull,'” Russo said.
One touch, then another, Stanway is checked… and bang! With a swing of the hips, she fires a 22-yard ball with her right foot. Spain keeper, Sandra Panos, stretches in vain as the ball flies high into the goal, undulating into the back of the net.
Stanway raises his right arm, walking away in celebration towards the fans, slapping the Three Lions badge on his chest. England’s coaching staff and substitutes in their green bibs rush to the touchline as she returns to celebrate with her team.
The 23-year-old had just put England through to the semi-finals of Euro 2022.
Stanway likes to drive forward and shoot from long range, as former Manchester City team-mate Alex Greenwood and those familiar with the Women’s Super League know.
Who wants to see Georgia Stanway’s goal again? 🙋
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) July 20, 2022
“She’s got a belt of a strike on her. As soon as the ball left her foot and she opened up, I knew it was heading for the top corner,” Greenwood said.
“What a goal. Usually you’d say to Georgia, ‘Don’t shoot from that distance’, but this time, thank goodness, she pulled it off! I’m buzzing that she made that decision and ignored everyone.
Looking at Stanway’s shot map from last season, half of his 53 efforts came out of the penalty area, but the likelihood of them entering was low (0.08xG/shot). Some of them come loose, some don’t, but when she hits the ball softly, the effort is usually a rocket.
Although she had five shots in the first 45 minutes against Northern Ireland – the most with Beth Mead, who played the full 90 minutes – in previous games against England, Stanway was more likely to partner with loose players.
“I don’t know why I fired,” Stanway said.
” I do not know what happend to me. Usually I would probably pass that ball to the winger and expect him to be put back in the box, but I just thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?
Perhaps a whisper from Greenwood, but Stanway said England opponents made the decision for him.
“No one came to see me,” she said. “I would expect a defender to come up to me and put pressure on me or challenge my decision-making, but nobody came.
“When the defender makes the decision for me, it’s easier. Honestly, I don’t know why I shot, but I’m glad I did.
For all 80 minutes of disciplined work from Spain in which they dominated England, tested them and put them under pressure, they will be disappointed to have given free rein to a force like Stanway.
“It was a very, very good goal,” said Barcelona’s Spanish midfielder Aitana Bonmati.
“They kind of caught us off guard and we were all over the place at the time, and they capitalized.”
Stanway did what Spain struggled to do the entire tournament: shoot.
Stanway and Walsh – who have once again been central to England’s success – are the beating hearts in midfield.
In Stanway’s own words, she describes herself as “the bad guy,” “likes it rough and rowdy,” and is a hard-working gamer who puts in a hell of a shift. Previously there had been concerns over her reckless tackling and too many fouls, but she was disciplined at this summer’s European Championship.
“The courage, the dirty work, getting up to the ball, putting in the tackles, making sure to challenge their decision-making and make them feel uncomfortable – that’s what we did tonight,” said the English match-winner, who was the only midfielder or striker to play the full 120 minutes.
With Spain dominating possession, Stanway and Walsh, sent off in the 116th minute, had to find the right moments to win the ball, intercept or tackle, while shuffling the pitch and staying compact.
Stanway recovered eight balls – only Williamson had more (10) – and intercepted four passes, more than anyone in the England squad. His touch card below shows his hard work in his defensive and offensive actions, especially in the upper right quadrant.
Such demands take their toll and Stanway ran to the bench to request an energy freeze after Ella Toone’s 84th-minute equalizer, for which she and Manchester United team-mate Russo deserve big credit.
When asked how his legs felt, Stanway replied, “Sore! Yes, they are quite painful. In these matches, you should just expect to run, cross the field and reach the players.
England have two extra days of recovery from their semi-final opponents – Sweden or Belgium, who play on Friday – which could be crucial in the next round.
As one might expect, Wiegman was reluctant to allow himself to be drawn to individuals thereafter; even Stanway. “Mostly, talk about that team performance – as a team we did so well,” she said.
“Yes she scored an amazing goal and yes she can (be mean and nice) but as a team how we played, came back after conceding a goal and forced to make it 2-1, which showed so much cohesion in this team.”
This England team’s unity got them through to the semi-finals, but Stanway’s thunderbolt will be invaluable in the highlights reel.
(Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)