After Phil Neville successfully guided England to a 2nd place finish in this years SheBelieves Cup, I take a look at how The Lionesses have restored the nations pride on the international stage.
Since the women’s Euro’s in 2013, The Lionesses have made substantial progress on a global level. In just 6 short years, they’ve gone from being ranked 11th in the world to 3rd, they’ve claimed their first medals at a world cup, (after finishing 3rd behind Japan and winners USA), two 3rd place medals in the SheBelieves Cup, and only conceded one goal on route to the semi-finals of last year’s European competition in the Netherlands. During the same tournament, former Arsenal striker Jodie Taylor claimed the golden boot, having scored an impressive 5 goals in 3 games for England.
England’s international success can be chalked down to the endless success experienced within the domestic game. A comparison can be made against Spain’s world conquering squad of 2008, 2010 and 2012, who’s squad was heavily dominated by champions Barcelona. Players like Pique, Xavi, Iniesta, Casillas and Puyol were playing with each other week by week, meaning that when it came to play on a national level they knew their team mates inside out.
The same can be said of The Lionesses, who’s team has been heavily influenced by Arsenal and Manchester City over the past decade. In recent years it was the London side who provided then manager Hope Powell with a host of talent, after recruiting players like Rachel Yankee, Alex Scott, Faye White and Kelly Smith, who later became England Women’s all-time top goal scorer. The same players helped Arsenal become the most decorated side in domestic football, winning an incredible 27 trophies since 2006. Striker Toni Duggan also became only the second English player to be signed by Catalan giants Barcelona, joining legend Gary Lineker on Barca’s books.
Nick Cushing has 14 English players on his books at Manchester City, with skipper Steph Houghton also captaining the national side since January 2014. The likes of Demi Stokes, Nikita Paris, Jill Scott and Izzy Christiansen have become the backbone of The Lionesses side, whilst keeper Karen Bardsley has been first choice shot stopper for an impressive 7 years. The sky blues have won 5 trophies in the past 7 years and made it all the way to the semi-finals in last season’s Champions League.
Throughout this entire time, England’s ladies have had to fight tooth and nail to receive funding for their sport, with the FA ‘generously’ awarding an additional £3.7m to the cause after their 3rd place finish at the 2015 world cup. To put that into perspective, that works out at 10 and a half weeks wages for Manchester United’s new signing – Alexis Sanchez. On the 9th of January 2018 they released plans to invest a further £50m into the women’s game over the next 6 years, but with women expected to meet a ‘minimum’ level of financial investment to stay as registered WSL1 clubs, it’s unclear to see how this money will be made available to them.
During the same period, England’s men have fallen from 13th to 16th in the international rankings and have failed to bring home a single piece of silverware. In 2014, they exited the World Cup in Brazil without making it out of the group stage & two years later in 2016, they were knocked out of the Euro’s having reached the last 16 after a less than impressive display.
The Lionesses aren’t only flying the flag for women’s football, they’re showing the world just how good England’s football teams can be. Most football fans will tell you of the pain they’ve felt watching the men’s side over the past 20 years, with each international competition being met with cries of ‘this is our year’. After developing players like Beckham, Owen, Lampard & Ferdinand, England really should have performed better on the domestic stage. Now, the likes of Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze, Jordan Nobbs and ‘mini Messi’ Fran Kirby have given The Lionesses a strong chance of winning next year’s World Cup. Rumours are also circulating that England are due to host the 2022 Women’s Euro’s, so for the first time since 1966, The Three Lions could be lifting an international trophy of home soil.
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