Women's World Cup 2019 - semi-finalist England: The passion of the lionesses
England coach Phil Neville gave a rare glimpse of his team's pre-season play-off after his side's 3-0 win over Norway in the quarter-finals. But this was not about running paths, pass combinations or the order of the shooters on penalties.
"Three things happened before the match," he said. First, Katherine Grainger, Britain's most successful Olympian, sent a video message telling how to win. This was responsible for a lot of goose bumps.
Then the former men's national captain David Beckham with his daughter Harper the team had courage. And last but not least, former national player Ian Wright showed up. He knew all the nicknames of the players and made jokes with them.
"Everyone was relaxed"
This episode shows how great the support of the "Lionesses," as the team is called, is in England's sports world. But it also shows how turbulent the concentration phase of the team was before this important game. "Of course you can say it's risky," Neville said, "but the players loved it, everyone was relaxed."
This impression could not have been won at the beginning of the World Cup quarter-final match in Le Havre. After only three minutes, the English had scored the first goal against Norway, Jill Scott had met after preliminary work of the outstanding Lucy this evening bronze. After that, however, the players actually started the game much more relaxed - on both sides.
40 minutes: England came back into the box over the strong right-hand side, with Nikita Parris leading the ball into contact with Ellen White, who only had to push him over the line. It was followed again by a lot of no-load, occasionally interrupted by half-baked chances on both sides - until the highlight of the evening came: After a corner shot bronze the ball from a distance under the crossbar. A dream goal.
"We were more merciless"
"She's the best player in the world, she's phenomenal," coach Neville said after the game, "she should win the Ballon d'Or." The coach, who has been coaching the team for almost one and a half years, started the song of praise to his players after the match. "They have attitude, determination and the ability to learn." The latter he had seen again this evening: "We were more merciless than in the past games."
And that was not quite true: Because the victory of the English women against weak Norwegians, in which the best - Ada Hegerberg - had remained at home, and the second best - Caroline Graham Hansen - with their dribbling had no success, could have been quite higher , But Parris missed a penalty, the second already at this World Cup (she also lost to Argentina, against Scotland she turned against). "The goalkeeper was fantastic," she later said, "I have mixed feelings."
England is now at a point that the team knows pretty well. For the third time in a row, it is in the semifinals of a major tournament: at the 2015 World Cup, it was third, at the European Championships 2017 it was eliminated against the eventual European champions Netherlands. The ambitions of the football nation are greater, after all, there is a more professional support for the national team players compared to other countries. The clubs are also investing. There should be a title at some point.
France or USA?
At the World Cup in France it will not be easier for England to reach the final - the USA or the hosts will be the next opponents. Both teams play on Friday (21 clock, live ticker SPIEGEL ONLINE) against each other. "We want to go one round," said offensive player Fran Kirby after the match: "We do not want to feel this pain again."
Neville, who, despite his successful career and many titles with Manchester United, said that this day in Le Havre is one of his "proudest moments in football", emphasized that he was hired to cross the semi-final threshold.
But Neville knows it's going to be difficult: "You have the best team in the world, on one hand," he said of the US, "They have the incredible desire for victory and the necessary self-confidence." And then there is France, which has "the support of the whole nation". In addition, "good individualists and a good organization".
Nevertheless, he let it be seen that evening, he was certainly from the finals - and convinced of the possible title win. A small challenge he could already give the potential opponents: Right behind the bank, the scouts of France and the United States had sat. "I waved for the gates," Neville said.
Norway - England 0: 3 (0: 2)
0: 1 Jill Scott (3rd)
0: 2 Ellen White (40.)
0: 3 Lucy Bronze (57.)
Norway: Hjelmseth - Wold (Hansen 85), Mjelde, Thorisdottir, Minde - Sævik (Utland, 64), Risa, Engen, Reiten (Eikeland, 74) - Graham Hansen, Herlovsen
England: Bardsley - Bronze, Houghton, Bright, Stokes - Parris (Daly, 88.), Scott, Kirby (Stanway, 74.), Duggan (Mead, 54.), White
Yellow cards: Thorisdottir / -
Special incident: Hjelmseth (Norway) receives penalty from Parris (83.)