England captain Leah Williamson said the Lionesses must embrace the expectation of a nation as they prepare to kick off Euro 2022 in front a record crowd for a women’s European Championship match against Austria on Wednesday.
Old Trafford is sold out for the tournament opener with hopes high that Sarina Wiegman’s side can deliver England’s first major tournament win in the women’s game.
Williamson admitted it recently has been a strange feeling to see her face plastered across advertising boards throughout the country in weeks as a publicity campaign has pushed ticket sales for the tournament over half a million.
But the Arsenal defender accepted that scrutiny comes with the role of being England skipper at a time of interest in the women’s game.
“Pressure is a privilege, it’s something we are emracing,” said Williamson at England’s pre-match press conference on Tuesday. “It’s part of the job but doesn’t mean we won’t enjoy it at the same time.
“We’re not robots, there are going to be nerves. We are aware of the expectation, but within the camp it is all about the excitement and enjoying it.”
All three of England’s group games are sold out, as is the final at Wembley on July 31.
“It’s something we have to embrace,” Williamson added.
“We’re loving the fact there will be 70,000 there tomorrow. We intend to use it as much as possible.”
England have fallen short at the semi-final stage in each of the last three major tournaments, but will have the experience of a Euro winner on their side in coach Sarina Wiegman, who led the Netherlands to victory on home soil in 2017.
Wiegman believes her squad has the experience necessary at both international level and in big games for their clubs to handle the pressure over the next few weeks.
“As a coach experience will always be helpful,” Wiegman said on passing on what she learned from the scrutiny of a home tournament five years ago.
“I want to share experience with the players, but in this group we have experience of many games at the highest level.
“Everything now is more. It’s bigger, the level is higher, but the players also had more experience in this higher environment.”
Wiegman has a clean bill of health to choose from with England’s all-time top goalscorer Ellen White available after a case of Covid-19, while Lucy Bronze has recovered from illness.