City’s Kiera Walsh and Lauren Hemp know they could make history on Sunday night.
England’s record-breaking Euro tournament ends against Germany at sold-out Wembley, with the prospect of bringing football ‘home’ in tempting fashion.
In the round of 16, England faced two teams in Spain and Sweden who posed serious threats.
Yet in both games England adapted and overcame opposition to build on their momentum.
Walsh and hemp (shown above, either side of Lucy Bronze) started every game, and it’s no surprise the duo’s influence was evident throughout.
Walsh spent much of his childhood in a field across from his Rochdale home, coached by his father and studying the sides of the big men of the 2000s.
She thinks the hard work and research is now paying off.
“My dad definitely tried to make me grow up under the influence of Spain and I don’t know if he did or not!” she says.
“He’s just a big football fan. He always had games, a lot of them featured Barcelona and La Liga.
“When City were playing, he said ‘look how Silva and Toure are playing – look at their movements and how they check their shoulders’. The way I see the game is how I was influenced by that really.
Against Sweden, Walsh’s distinctive placidity in midfield dictated the tempo after a breathless first half hour.
His signature ability to create a cadence with precise passing quickly established a foothold from which England could press on and dominate.
“I don’t really worry about being overlooked, everyone in this team has the same value whether we score or not,” she explained, “I loved it, the whole Euro at residence.”
At Bramall Lane, livewire Hemp also shone, with Swedish full-backs languishing in 1v1 battles and running races to get behind.
Hemp has taken to the international stage with confidence, illustrating to the thousands who watch his brilliant ability on and off the ball.
She put on a show against Spanish opponents earlier in the year in the Arnold Clark Cup, but she feels she has continuously improved since then.
“I think I’ve developed tremendously, I think it’s under Sarina (Wiegman) and Arjen (Veurink), and obviously at City,” she said.
“I’ve learned a lot as a player over the past few months and it’s only helped me grow.”
Constantly changing wing and confusing defenders throughout the tournament so far, Hemp has become a key member of the Lionesses squad.
Sunday’s final will be a momentous occasion for women’s football in England, which has crept into mainstream consciousness.
Similarly to the men’s teams, the nation clung to the squad in a tournament that was shrouded in positivity and optimism.
Support reached the English camp, as messages of support poured in.
Hemp spoke of the best wishes she received with a smile: “You hear so many people wishing you well and also congratulating you, so it’s great to have that.
“Especially from people you might not necessarily hear about. For them to watch as well, just know that the eyes of the nation are watching you all.
“It’s great for women’s football because it will only grow the game when more people watch it and with packed crowds, and I know there have been so many viewers too; it’s really good for the women’s football.
Walsh echoed the feel-good factor around women’s football and its ability to capture the hearts of the nation for this summer and hopefully for years to come.
“If we can influence young boys and girls, that would be good for us,” Walsh said.
“You see how many fans are there. Not just young children, but adult women getting back into playing football.
“The focus is on us, it’s about making the fans proud and the country proud.
“It’s a really special feeling, just like a human being, you can have that influence on someone.”