It has been a difficult end to the tournament. To be honest, we can’t even really process today’s game as the USA one still feels like a punch in the gut. This sport has an amazing ability to make you both love and hate it at the same time. We guess that is why it’s addictive, riding those extreme waves of emotion.
We’ve seen the term “failure” bandied about the place. We really do not like that word. The Lionesses did not achieve what they set out to but we don’t think that you can say getting to the semi-finals of a World Cup is a failure. We are improving but so are other teams around the world (just look at Sweden and the Netherlands), making it a much more competitive field.
This is not a pat on the back. It’s definitely fair to say that there are plenty of things that have to be worked on and England will need to step up a couple of gears to reach the level they aim for. There have been obvious defensive problems for a while and that should be number one on Phil Neville’s list. The first 20 minutes in the last two matches, poor defending and not being switched on has left England chasing their tails and ultimately decided the game. In particular, left back has been a serious issue.
There seems to be a lack of concentration that appears in matches. There have been too many missed passes throughout the tournament from players of too high a quality to be making them. That needs to be solved.
We are still not sure why we switched tactics in the USA match to fit their game. That was a mistake; we should be playing our football. The link-up down the right between Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze has been one of the big positives so we don’t know why you would mess with that.
But as well as the reflection and constructive criticism, we also do have to highlight the positives. Shaky starts in both of the last two games did for England but the way the team battled back is something to be very proud of. Even when nothing was going their way, they gave it everything they had. In the end, it came down to fine margins and we are not far off.
Ellen White – need we say any more. We also think the performances of Jill Scott, Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze have to be praised.
This tournament has set the bar to a new level. We have followed the Lionesses for many years now and the progression to this point has never been clearer. And that is down mainly to the hard work of the team and staff, both current and previous. It has also been the most emotional. The interest in this squad and the sport – from the viewing figures, to the back pages & marketing campaigns, and perhaps most importantly the average person who has become hooked by the stories of these world class female athletes and role models – is unprecedented.
Over the last 18 months, England have at times played some absolutely beautiful football. Phil Neville has said all along that this style is non-negotiable. Now the big challenge, if we are going to push on in the next 24 months and win the European Championships, is to make that consistent in every single game.
There will no doubt be some changes over the next few months. New players will enter the fold. The pool of talent now isn’t just in this 23. It’s scattered across the leagues and through the international youth levels. Going to an U17 or U19 tournament now, watching kids with unbelievable potential, only serves to increase our excitement and expectation of how far England can go.
Our one thing to say to any of our followers – be you fans or journalists – keep the faith and keep following because it will be absolutely worth it. These last 7 years, following this side, that we have the utmost respect and pride for, has given us some of the best experiences of our lives. There have been tears (like now) and they take time to heal but the good times far outweigh the bad. We have a huge 2 years ahead, another step on this journey. The sport in this country is only going up and if you’re not on the ride, you will be missing out.