Arsenal duo Leah Williamson and Rafaelle Souza's summer to remember: EURO and Copa Femenina champions

Arsenal stars Rafaelle and Williamson both captained their nations to continental cups this summer with Brazil and England respectively, returning to Arsenal on a high with much more to come.

By Ken Browne

It was a summer of love for self-confessed 'hopeless romantic' Leah Williamson who captained England to their first ever major trophy at the Women's football Euro 2022.

And the Lionesses' defender wasn't the only Arsenal player celebrating a major career milestone: Team captain Raffaelle Souza also led Brazil to Copa America glory.

A first half penalty from Debinha was enough to see the Canarinho lift the cup in the final on 30 July against hosts Colombia.

While Leah Williamson and the Lionesses beat Germany 2-1 after extra-time a day later in Wembley Stadium, London, sparking wild celebrations as the football mad country triumphed in its major trophy since the men's team won the World Cup in 1966.

With the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia/New Zealand coming up followed closely by the Paris 2024 Olympics, both of these Arsenal superstars have fans dreaming of even brighter days ahead.

Williamson and Raffaelle key to nation's success

Captains of their respective national teams, both are fundamental to the way their teams play.

At centre-back Leah Williamson bossed a defence that had four clean sheets in six matches at Women's Euro 2022 - the best defensive record in the tournament.

Raffaelle - who can play in both defence and midfield - went one better by helping Brazil to a perfect defensive record; they didn't concede a single goal in the entire Copa America tournament.

In England the win on home soil led to the kind of celebrations, coverage, and raised profile for the women's game that players and staff could only have dreamed of before the tournament.

"The only thing that's sunk in is that we've done something a little bit crazy because everybody sort of knows who we are," the England captain told Sky Sports after the win, explaining how the arrival of coach Sarina Wiegman was a game-changer.

"Sarina's changed things in terms of how we didn't chase the end goal, we chased the day-to-day, which does make a difference," Williamson said.

"When you get to these games, it's just another step on the journey, which she made a reality for us but also the belief that we were going to do something good."

For Raffaelle's Brazil perhaps their win didn't cause quite as big a sensation as their fourth title in-a-row happened in a different country, but there's no doubt that Brazil are on an upward trajectory and are up there as contenders for the upcoming big ones in 2023/24.

Stars like Copa de America tournament top scorers Adriana and Debinha (Five goals in six matches each), along with Raffaelle are building on the foundations laid by Olympic legends like Marta and Formiga. 

Raffaelle, who grew up playing barefoot against the boys in Bahia in the north of Brazil, still has a lot more to give at 31 years of age.

What's next for Williamson and Raffaelle?

First up is a brand new season supercharged with energy and expectation at Arsenal.

The Gunners finished a single point behind Chelsea in last season's thrill-ride of an end to the Super League title race and will hope to go one better this term.

Raffaelle was brought in during the January transfer window at the beginning of 2022 along with Sweden's Tokyo 2020 Olympics  star Stine Blackstenius and Austrian defender Laura Wienroither.

Over the summer they've brought in another Swedish talent in Lina Hurtig and goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese but perhaps more importantly have held on to WSL and Netherlands record goalscorer Vivianne Miedema, who was reportedly in demand from both Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.

Arsenal have a team that could challenge for both the domestic title and the prestigious Champions League in a project showing good progress under coach Jonas Eidevall.

It's a team that is not lacking in leadership with both the England and Brazil captains on the pitch fresh from continental success.

They'll both aim at club titles this season with big things on the horizon in the international game too.

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