Lauren Hemp: 'It is unbelievable the way women’s football has grown over the last few weeks’
Lauren Hemp believes it is ‘unbelievable the way women’s football has grown over the last few weeks’ and wants to embrace every moment of Sunday’s UEFA Women’s EUROs Final.
Hemp impressed during Tuesday night’s 4-0 victory over Sweden as the Lionesses booked a place at Wembley Stadium in what is the winger’s first major tournament for the senior England team.
The semi-final was watched by a TV audience which reached a peak of 9.3 million people, with an additional 2 million viewers streaming the match through BBC apps.
Even more are expected to tune in as hosts England face Germany and the showpiece event in front of a sold-out Wembley Stadium.
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With a capacity of more than 87,000, there is a possibility the record attendance for any men’s or women’s EUROs match could be broken, with the previous highest being the men's final in 1964 between Spain and the Soviet Union, which was played in front of 79,115 spectators at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
On playing in front of a sold-out Wembley Stadium, Hemp said: “I think it's unbelievable, the way women's football has grown, especially over the last few weeks as well. Having packed out stadiums, it's just incredible and to go out on that pitch and hear the crowd roar and then again every single time we score, it just gives us such a boost.
“It's going to be important in the final. Obviously, it's been sold out now for a while and we're so lucky to be there and that has always been the aim, and we're hoping to go that one step further this time. It's going to be an incredible occasion and I can't wait.”
She continued: “It's going to be incredible. Obviously, we've experienced that a bit at Old Trafford, so hopefully Wembley is going to be just the same and we'll embrace every moment.”
Hemp was speaking after Tuesday’s semi-final win over Sweden, which was played in front of 28,624 fans.
Attendance records have been smashed throughout EURO 2022 and the previous overall tournament attendance record for a Women’s EUROs of 240,055, which was set at in the Netherlands in 2017, has already now doubled to 487,683, with the Final still to come.
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England’s all-time record goalscorer Ellen White was among those to cry at the final whistle and Hemp confirmed the emotion continued to flow in the dressing room after the game.
She said: “I'm buzzing, over the moon, speechless. There were tears at full-time and in the changing room. It's just been electric. Everyone's so excited and to be in my first major final [for England] at my first major tournament, it's incredible.”
Despite heading into arguably the biggest match of her career, Hemp could be seen smiling during the national anthem before kick-off and appeared to be trying not to laugh.
“I don't know, I just think whenever the cameras are on me, I just giggle to myself,” Hemp explained.
“I'm obviously always focused on the game, but yeah that's my way of relaxing, just sort of being myself, the smiley person I am. So I think that comes across whenever the camera is on me.”
Hemp is part of an England starting XI which has remained unchanged for every match so far but the Lionesses’ success has been a real collective effort.
The likes of Alessia Russo, Ella Toone, Chloe Kelly and several others have made key contributions during the tournament and that strength in depth was something Hemp discussed after the win over Sweden.
She said: “Sarina is such a fantastic coach and we've got such a massive depth in the squad, where anyone can come on and produce a fantastic performance and do a job.
“That showed against Sweden with the substitutions we made as well. We were still firing and still scoring goals and everyone in the team has put in some massive performances in this tournament and I think that shows, especially tonight – four goals, four different goalscorers as well.
“It's incredible and so great to be a part of. I'm just embracing every moment and enjoying it all.”
In the quarter-final against Spain, England came from behind to score late on to take the game to extra-time, when Georgia Stanway then truck an unforgettable winner.
Then in the semi-final, Sweden started the stronger and England goalkeeper Mary Earps needed to make a number of fine stops before the Lionesses went on to record an emphatic 4-0 win.
And Hemp said: “I think it's all down to the preparation we do during the week to make sure we're the best-prepared team going into games, and hopefully teams feel threatened by us.
“We've got so much respect for the likes of Sweden, Spain and anyone that we've played. But I think we've just been the England that we want to show, and we've done that, we haven't changed anything.
“Whenever we've come up against teams that have played different styles, we've just stuck to what we do, and I think that's important and that will be important for the final as well.
“We're just going to make sure we show the country what we've shown so far and hopefully put on a show.”