England’s semi-final exit against the USA was heartbreaking, but there’s plenty of hope that the Lionesses will learn from this experience and build for the future. With record-breaking viewing audiences for the Women’s World Cup, and plans to transform women’s football in the UK, it’s expected that England’s campaign is just the start of something magical.
Whilst England’s women’s football team have had a proven track record over the past few years, few people would have imagined the way in which the Lionesses captured the public’s imagination.
With stunning performances from star strikers like Ellen White and the tactical knowhow of their manager, Phil Neville, England managed to be one of the most dynamic teams in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Although many people will still be ruing Steph Houghton’s penalty miss, there’s a real sense of expectation that the Lionesses will go on to much greater things from here.
What went wrong in England’s match against USA?
England’s 2-1 defeat by the USA in the semi-final wasn’t hugely surprising. The USA went into the 2019 Women’s World Cup as the title-holders, and they are widely expected to pick up the trophy for a second successive time. Despite this, there was real hope in the England camp that the Lionesses could cause an upset.
When it was revealed that the USA’s star player, Megan Rapinoe, was out of the side with a hamstring injury, it gave England fans a greater sense of optimism. But as soon as the match kicked off, the Americans’ dominance quickly became apparent. England simply looked outpaced as Christen Press scored in the tenth minute, and it also became evident that Phil Neville’s 4-4-2 formation was sitting too far back.
Whilst Ellen White was once again in spectacular form as a centre forward and grabbed an excellent goal in the nineteenth minute, as the match developed it became evident that she was receiving little in the way of support.
The USA defender Crystal Dunn kept Nikita Parris very quiet, and Parris was unable to link up with Lucy Bronze on the right flank in the same way that they successfully managed in their 3-0 quarter final trouncing of Norway.
Whilst Rachel Daly showed flashes of skill on the left wing, she suffered from an inconsistent game against a much more experienced USA team. Similarly, England looked outclassed in the midfield, and defenders like Millie Bright were guilty of giving the ball away far too many times in threatening positions.
In the second half, Phil Neville reverted back to his favoured 4-3-3 formation, and it gave England plenty more dynamism. This led to Ellen White’s cruelly disallowed goal and the penalty that Steph Houghton squandered. But ultimately, it was too late and England’s fans had to suffer the sight of the USA’s notorious ‘game management’ as the clock wound down and the Lionesses experienced yet another semi-final exit.
Positive points from England’s Women’s World Cup campaign
Despite the deep disappointment of England’s exit from the Women’s World Cup, there are still many reasons to be hopeful. Firstly, it’s important to remember that England still have a third place Women’s World Cup match to play on Saturday. This sees them facing a Swedish team who were narrowly beaten by the Netherlands.
As long as England’s defence can keep Sweden’s star forwards like Stina Blackstenius and Sofia Jakobsson under control, there’s hope that they should be able to get some kind of consolation prize.
The third-place match in a World Cup is usually a fairly soulless affair, but it should at least give England’s fans to see some of the team’s star players in action once more. In particular, it gives Ellen White a decent chance to try and pick up the Golden Boot.
White is currently on six goals which is joint level with the USA’s Alex Morgan, and one ahead of Megan Rapinoe. Whilst there is a good chance that both of these American players could hit the Netherlands hard in the World Cup final, few would deny the fact that Ellen White is one of the surprise stories of the summer.
Although many people were surprised to see White appearing as a centre forward ahead of Jodie Taylor, White instantly showed that she was a goal-scoring machine. White had previously played less of a straightforward striker role, but Phil Neville has recognised the sheer hunger that the 30-year old star has for scoring goals.
Similarly, the Women’s World Cup turned many other members of England’s squad into household names. Lucy Bronze quickly revealed that she is the greatest right-back in women’s football and that she is capable of creating something out of nothing. Whilst the captain, Steph Houghton, will be haunted by her penalty miss, she had a great tournament and showed that she can command a solid England defence.
Above all, it’s the fact that England managed to claim their third-successive semi-final appearance in a major footballing tournament that should be commended. Whilst teams like France and Germany have seen their fortunes rise and fall, England’s consistency should give them plenty of hope for the future.
What can we expect from Team GB in the 2020 Olympics?
England’s win over Norway means that many of their players will be making an appearance in next year’s Olympic Games. The 2020 Olympics will take place in Tokyo in July and August, and Team GB will be expected to do well.
This is especially so as the side will benefit from including some of Scotland’s top players. In particular, it’s the Arsenal star Kim Little who could add some serious firepower to the midfield, whereas the 20-year old Erin Cuthbert could bolster the team’s attack.
Wales could also provide the Team GB with plenty of talent. Jess Fishlock has been in fine form for Seattle Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League recently, whilst the likes of Sophie Ingle and Loren Dykes could also make an appearance. Plus don’t forget that Northern Ireland’s Rachel Furness could be a valuable addition to the Team GB midfield.
In the 2012 Olympics, Great Britain lost their quarter-final match against Canada 0-2. This was followed up by a no-show at the 2016 Olympics that was due to lack of agreement between the four home nations. But thanks to the Lionesses’ courageous achievements in this summer’s Women’s World Cup, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could give Team GB a great chance to claim the gold medal ahead of the current champions, Germany.
Expect big changes in women’s league football
With over 11.7 million people in the United Kingdom watching the semi-final between England and USA, it’s clear that there’s a huge amount of enthusiasm for women’s football. As a result, there is real hope that the women’s football leagues will start to receive a much greater amount of support.
This is especially so as the Premier League has made moves to take over the Women’s Super League from the FA. Whilst no timeframe has been agreed, there was a successful recent meeting between the league’s clubs to see how the plan could be implemented.
The takeover could still be a few seasons away, but it would help to significantly boost the profile women’s football in England. With attendances still struggling to hit 1,000, there have been renewed calls to strike sponsorship and broadcasting deals to attract greater numbers to the game.
Recently we have seen Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur’s teams being promoted to the top tier of women’s football, and there are now 13 Premier League-affiliated sides in the first division.
The recent £10 million sponsorship deal with Barclays has helped provide extra cash for promoting women’s football, and there is talk that many matches in the 2019/20 WSL season could take place in Premier League grounds.
Many of the stars of England’s Women’s World Cup squad currently play abroad. Both Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze play for Lyon, Toni Duggan plays for Barcelona, whilst Rachel Daly plays for Houston Dash. But with renewed efforts to improve the game in England, it’s hoped that we’ll be able to see more of our Lionesses much closer to home.