It’s the same old tale, England crashing out of yet another World Cup tournament, all the hype and excitement crushed in an instant. That sentence just doesn’t do the case of 2015 justice however, as never before had the nation seen such passion and desire by their football squad in a long while. The women’s team over this last month has truly made the country roar with pride once again.
BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce spoke of Turin ’90, the last time an England senior side (in this case the men) made a World Cup semi final during this week’s coverage. That famous night saw the nation heart broken as West Germany defeated the Three Lions on penalties. The tears of Paul Gascoigne and even more poignantly of that of the late Bobby Moore in the commentary box, personified the nation’s sadness.
This week’s semi final defeat for the Lionesses brought back a similar feeling; the nation once again had a movement to be proud of. In the end, world champions Japan prevailed 2-1 with Laura Bassett’s last minute own goal confining the Three Lions to the cruelest of losses. However, this article is no match report, but a reiteration of the achievement of our brave women in Canada.
‘Football is more than just a game’, it’s a brilliantly cliché phrase used in the sport but in all honesty it could not be more true. The Lionesses this summer have brought a nation together, made people poised till 1am in the knowledge that their country will battle to the blood for victory. Whether it be via Prince William or a plethora of celebrities, the team were flooded with support.
The scenes upon Sunday morning’s quarter final win over Canada; really did cast minds back to Italia ’90 and flash backs of Gary Lineker and David Platt’s swivel volley. Jill Scott’s passionate celebration brought comparisons to Stuart Pearce’s inspirational, screaming joy at Euro ’96. Not since those golden days has England been able to appreciate a team where being victorious means so much to them.
It is highly publicized how female players get paid so little in comparison to the lucrative figures engulfing the men’s game, but in many ways this is the root of the burning desire and passion that we have witnessed on show in Canada. Whereas sometimes you have to look at players such as Raheem Sterling, a man of great controversy, and question their priorities, the love of the ‘beautiful game’ or the corpulent wallet that comes with it?
As a result, when England were awarded a dubious penalty at 1-0 down in their semi against Japan, the whole country was behind Fara Williams. The ball was willed into the open arms of the net as much by Williams’ crisp strike as that of the fingers crossed at home. The joy of Mark Sampson’s men on the bench was tremendous viewing and alone will send more young girls to their local pitch.
Chance after chance came hammering down on Japan’s goal, whom although are world champions were looking mediocre at best. Yet with one minute to go on the clock, a swift counter attack from the Asian side saw a dangerous cross shaped into the penalty area. Knowing a Japanese striker was lurking on her back, Laura Bassett fought through the swamp of lactic acid and screaming ligaments to desperately stretch out her right leg…
Bassett did indeed get her foot to the ball but in anguish had to watch as the swirling sphere went sailing over Karen Bardsley’s head, ricocheting in off the cross bar. It confined the Lionesses to a bitter 2-1 defeat as the sheepish Japanese players celebrated their suspect win.
Never before had I personally watched an England side of any sport, gender or age level pour so much of their heart into a team effort. Players such as Steph Houghton, Ellen White and Bassett herself to name just three, were flinging their bodies in the firing line, completely selflessly for the team. Mark Sampson could not have asked any more, nor could the nation, from the 13 heroes of Edmonton.
Certainly for the following days the squad will be feeling immensely disappointed, after all their performance really did merit a place in the Vancouver final, however it is important they realize their achievement. The Three Lions completely exceeded expectations and should leave with no regrets as only the fickle finger of football fait conspired against them.
Much like that night in Turin 25 years ago, when Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle’s penalty misses broke the hearts of a team that deserved their place in the final, a country was united. Football on paper is just a game, but it is a concept that spreads happiness around the world, brings togetherness and rips away inequalities, now that is priceless. This week has proven that point fantastically.
So, whilst ultimately the record books will show a loss for England’s women, one must understand the unparalleled endeavor poured into a night where the team’s heart strings were so cruelly played by a jagged plectrum.
Kobe, Senior YJA Sports Correspondent
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