How the English Women's National Football Team Is Set to Pick Up a Major Trophy Soon
Can you hear those Lionesses roar? Talk about #SquadGoals.
The England Women's National Football Team is all about overcoming setbacks and uniting to bring England to its historic bronze medal win in the 2015 FIFA World Cup in Edmonton, Canada. They call it a Cinderella story: England's women's team finished in third place after beating Germany — a first in 21 meetings, not to mention that Germany was the top-ranked team — with a penalty kick by Fara Williams sealing the women's fate as the best performance by an English team (men's or women's) since England's famous 1966 FIFA World Cup win.
It wasn't without its heartbreak, though. Who can forget Laura Bassett's own-goal in the semifinal against Japan, earlier in the tournament? When she broke down in tears on the pitch, she moved a whole nation to tears and garnered global attention and support on Twitter and elsewhere. Watching her painful moment — the worst in her illustrious career — helped unite everyone in support of the team and got everyone rooting for England's women. It also proved that big girls can cry, and just because you get emotional over something, it doesn't make you weak.
"I think we have to just first and foremost congratulate the players on an incredible tournament," England manager Mark Sampson told the BBC at the time. "I do want to state straight away Laura Bassett's name is on that score sheet, but she's epitomized this tournament. She didn't deserve that but she'll be looked upon as a hero [for her previous performances for England]. That's what people will remember."
Football has had an interesting history in England: up until 1921, the popular sport attracted tens of thousands of fans until the Football Association banned women from playing at any of its members' grounds, citing that the sport was "unsuitable for females." It wasn't until 1971 that the ban was lifted and women's football began to rise to prominence yet again in the country.
In 1989, Channel 4 began to provide regular coverage of the sport on TV. Sheila Parker, a defender who captained the team in 1972 — the same year her son was born — when England beat Scotland in their first official match, helped pioneer the sport for England's future female players. She played for over thirty years and was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003. In 1993, the FA and WFA (Women's Football Association) joined forces, with a Women's Super League launching in 2008.
In 2012, Team GB women reached the quarter-finals of the London Olympics, but after failing to advance past the group stage at the Women's EURO 2013, the team came under the control of manager Mark Sampson, where they began their steady rise, first beating Norway and then Germany in the World Cup, landing them in the top spot of all the European teams.
"We always said that we had one aim when we came here, that was to inspire and I think, hopefully, if the mums and dads have let their young girls watch the game late tonight in England I think, hopefully, we've got a lot of young girls playing football at an early age and in the next few years we have a stronger English national team," England captain Steph Houghton said during the World Cup in 2015. "That's the ultimate aim and to keep growing the game. Hopefully we've inspired the girls to do that tonight."
As for the future, it's looking bright for these Lionesses — and future female footballers in the UK. The 2015 Women's FA Cup final between Chelsea Ladies and Notts County Ladies (in which Chelsea was victorious, 1-0) was held at Wembley Stadium for the first time, drawing a record-breaking crowd of 30,710 spectators.
In 2016, England captain Steph Houghton and most-capped player Fara Williams received MBEs in the New Year's Honours List, and the English team are currently going through qualifying rounds for the UEFA Women's Euro 2017, which will take place in the Netherlands next year. The recent SSE Women's FA Cup — won by Arsenal Ladies for the 14th time — had a crowd of 32,912 strong, showing the popularity of the sport is surging.
On a grassroots level, Sport England has pledged to spend £30m on the sport by 2017, to get girls around the country involved.