Around the world in 80 100 games

22 countries, 328 goals and 4 major tournaments – trying to unpick the last 100 Lionesses games is easier said than done. There have been some extreme highs (most of 2015) and some unfortunate lows (crying under flags numerous times is something we’d rather forget) but one thing it has done is given us some wonderfully weird and memorable moments to look back on. From having our mini-moon in Guadalajara (the Spanish one) to spending 24 hours in Moscow, from exploring the cities of Eastern Europe to venturing across the pond for some American adventures, it has been quite a ride following this team. But where to start…

Most poignant/game changing moment:

Sophie: For me, it was definitely winning the bronze medal in Canada. That semi-final loss to Japan was probably one of the most heart-breaking moments of this journey so far (I still can’t watch that game back; it hurts too much). But to see the team, and Laura Bassett in particular, return to the same stadium and pick up their first medal, against Germany no less, was a game-changer. I have never felt so proud. It is a moment to treasure; it won over many hearts and minds and propelled the sport into the limelight.

Rachel: Beating France…finally. That was special. They were our bogey team for so long and the spanner in the works in so many tournaments. It felt great to put that demon to bed. I don’t think I’ve ever cheered so loud at a game.

Most memorable game:

I think both of us would say beating the World Cup hosts Canada in 2015, on home soil in front of 54,000 Canadians was pretty special. BC Place was electric – the atmosphere was hostile but amazing. England scored those two early goals through Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze and it’s safe to say the Canadians weren’t best pleased. Then they pulled one back just before half-time that made for a very tense, feisty second period but we held on to pull off a significant win. We think we will remember the roar of that crowd forever.

Most memorable goal:

Sophie: Ellen White vs. USA in the She Believes Cup in 2017. This was THE COLDEST game we have ever been to and had England played first, we genuinely would have gone home. Despite raiding the Red Bull shop, no number of extra blankets, socks and gloves could keep the icy -13℃ wind chill at bay. In total, with the two games, we waited 174 minutes for a goal but boy was it worth it. When Lucy hit the bar, I thought it wasn’t our day but two seconds later and Ellen had bundled it into the back of the net and wheeled away in celebration. Beating the US on home soil was pretty special.

Rachel: Lucy Bronze vs Norway. Both of them.

Weirdest trip:

Sophie: Belarus. We went there in 2014 and it was quite an unusual experience. Minsk is a strange mix between the old and the new. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a game where the security outnumbered the fans. From bomb-sniffing dogs to armed soldiers, I’m surprised I didn’t feel safer. Army personnel dotted the perimeter of the stadium. What they were supposed to be protecting us from…I’m not sure! This trip did finally put my Classics degree to good use though. Who knew the ancient Greek alphabet was similar to Cyrillic letters!

Rachel: Kazakhstan, without question. We spent a night in Astana which was like a deserted Las Vegas knock-off. Huge buildings, massive statues and one of the most exaggerated bus tours I’ve ever taken – did you know people come from all over the world to Kazakhstan
for cardiac surgery? Yeah, me neither… Then we had the joyous adventure to Pavlodar where the game was played. I’m not even sure how to explain it. Lashing rain, 10 degrees and full of mosquitos. When we weren’t burrito-d in our beds avoiding bites, we were Google translating our way to an Alpine themed lodge for dinner. Yes, you read that right. That trip is certainly a chapter for the book.

Stand out memories:

Sophie: I think it was one of our first. We took a campervan over to Sweden for the 2013 European Championships. England were based in Linkoping and while the football is best forgotten, the tournament experience was right up there. Before each game, there was a fan march to the stadium, accompanied by a Swedish band on the back of a horse and cart. On one such march to the final group game, Rachel and I found ourselves on top of said cart, conducting the tunes as we proceeded to the stadium.

Rachel: We travelled to Ukraine for a European qualifier at the height of the Russia/Ukraine tensions… not ideal! However, the game was based in the beautiful Lviv, in the west of the country. The stand-out moment came when a Ukrainian fan in the crowd let off a firecracker causing not only us but the players to drop to the ground. There was a brief moment where I thought, the Russians are coming!

Closest disaster:

Ok, this was stressful! We flew to Istanbul overnight, landed at 5am and had a quick snooze before our lunch-time flight to Adana, where the game was being played. Yes, the same Adana that is 90 miles from the Syrian border; I had to check that too. While relaxing with a Starbucks in the airport, we checked the status of our next flight, only to find it was severely delayed meaning we’d miss the entire first half, making our 26-hour round-trip redundant. Thankfully, we realised just in time and managed to get back through security to buy tickets for a flight that was already boarding (a steal at €30!). The Lionesses won 4-0 , making the whole adventure worthwhile, and we made it back in time for our 21:30 flight home.

Life flashing before our eyes moment:

Thankfully we’ve not had many of these and would like to keep it that way, but one particular moment happened in Bosnia. A very friendly taxi driver picked us up from the airport and offered to take us the quickest route to our hotel. Yes please! However, this required him to remove his taxi sign off the roof as he was taking us through Serbia and it’s illegal for taxis to go that way. He gave us a very detailed and fascinating history lesson in his broken English but was so distracted pointing out bullet holes in the buildings that he almost went straight through the back of a stationary car in front of us. Our suitcases came over the back seat and into our laps. However, he didn’t seem phased at all and continued to point out where the snipers used to hide during the war. It was a definite moment where our life flashed before our eyes.

Favourite place:

Sophie: Despite my love for Vancouver, I think the most beautiful place our Lionesses’ travels has taken us is Budva, Montenegro. Set in the most idyllic setting, the pitch was surrounded by mountains with the sea nearby. England won 10-0 to cap off another fantastic trip.

Rachel: As a big music fan/musician, I have always wanted to go to Nashville. Thanks to the She Believes Cup, I’ve managed to visit twice. There is so much to do, so much music history to soak up, it feels like a second home. I would happily go a third time!

There are many more stories to tell of our journey following the Lionesses – of weird destinations, unplanned adventures and road trips, missed flights, near misses and of course the football – but you will just have to wait until we are too old to travel to read them all.

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