Kelly Smith column: Why Beth Mead can win Euro 2022 Golden Boot

Kelly Smith column graphic

Former Arsenal striker Kelly Smith made 117 appearances for England and is the second-highest scorer in the Lionesses’ history. She won five league titles, five FA Cups and the Women’s Champions League during her 23-year club career. She also played in six major tournaments and represented Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics.

Beth Mead has put herself right in the forefront of the Golden Boot race at Euro 2022 with five goals so far for England, with a quarter-final to come against Spain.

She has been absolutely sensational and she’s at the peak of her career. It’s the best I’ve seen her play, ever. Her performances for Arsenal justified her England selection and she has just carried it on.

She seems relaxed in this tournament. The devastating news she received last summer about not being in the Olympic squad really hurt her and made her angry. She has said herself she was playing angry at Arsenal this season to prove people wrong.

Mead used that hurt and pain to her advantage and improved mentally. She’s bounced back and put herself up there as one of the leading players for England. I’m really impressed with how she dealt with it. I’m not sure there are many other players who would have done that in the way she has.

It’s driven her on mentally and now she is probably one of the first names on the teamsheet. Having experienced that heartache has made her more focused and driven.

The way she plays for club and country really suits her. Mead is a high-pressing player. At Arsenal they like to win the ball high up the pitch and it is the same with England. She understands what is being asked of her.

A lot of England’s play is about getting the ball to Lauren Hemp and Mead on the wings. They are two of the best players in the world in their positions right now. That is one of the reasons why England are doing so well.

Also a goal creator, Mead is a dream to play with because of the quality of her delivery. Her crossing technique is really good. She really whips it around to get in behind the defenders.

Mead has it all and I’m hoping she keeps playing because it’s good for her confidence. England are fortunate to have strength in depth on the bench but it could hinder Mead in terms of not having as many minutes.

But she is not too fussed about individual awards – she would love to win the Golden Boot but she cares more about the team doing well and that cohesiveness. Ultimately, she will want to be playing at Wembley and winning the trophy.

Beth Mead celebrates scoring against Northern Ireland
Beth Mead scored in all of England’s group games, including the winner against Austria and a hat-trick against Norway

Competition from White, Popp and Geyoro

White is an outsider for the Golden Boot because she already has two goals in the bag. When you have her in your side, there is always a threat and a chance she can pop up with a goal.

We love chasing Golden Boots as strikers. It is probably in the back of your mind going into the tournament. It is a selfish part of your game – you want to be recognised for scoring goals and being up there in the Golden Boot race.

But a team player like White will just want to win games. If she doesn’t score it won’t bother her as long as the team get through that quarter-final.

However, it must be a joy to play in that England front three because everyone is so good. We haven’t seen that for a few years in terms of having the finished product. You can see Hemp, White and Mead love playing with each other.

The Golden Boot winner is likely to come from a team who reach the final or at least the semi-finals. Mead and Grace Geyoro from France could have a few games to build up their goal tally.

A graphic showing the top scorers at Euro 2022: Beth Mead (five), Grace Geyoro (three), Alexandra Popp (three), Alessia Russo (three), Filippa Angeldahl (two), Romee Leuchter (two), Ellen White (two).

Germany’s Alexandra Popp is among the contenders because of how well her team are playing and she already has three goals. It’s her first Euros so she has that bit between her teeth having missed out with injury in previous tournaments.

England’s Alessia Russo has also put herself in contention after she scored two goals against Northern Ireland and one against Norway off the bench. She is making an impact and has been clinical.

If both England and Germany keep winning we could see Mead, White and Popp all going for the Golden Boot. I think those three and Geyoro are best placed to win it.

Kelly Smith was talking to BBC Sport’s Emma Sanders.

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