The England women’s football team are set for the biggest game in their history as they take on Japan in the World Cup Semi-Final tomorrow night, the first ever in their World Cup history. In addition, they are the first English team to make it to a semi-final since 1990, so it will certainly be pressure on for Mark Sampson’s women tomorrow night at the Commonwealth Stadium Edmonton in Canada.
After a shaky start to the tournament following a 1-0 loss to France, the Lionesses have gone from strength to strength, with successive 2-1 victories over Mexico, Colombia, Norway and World Cup hosts Canada to make it to the semi-final stage. Stand out goals and performances from the likes of Jody Taylor, Lucy Bronze and captain Steph Houghton have been crucial to their success, along with coach Mark Sampson’s tactics. Sampson has been likened to Jose Mourinho by his players, with his detailed tactics and use of a rotation policy, with reserve goalkeepers Siobhan Chamberlain and Carly Telford the only players yet to be used at the tournament out of the 23-women squad.
Following the 2-1 win against Canada earlier last week, floods of support have flowed in for the Lionesses, with the likes of David Beckham and England men’s captain Wayne Rooney expressing their support:
England women doing the country proud. Huge congratulations on reaching the semi finals
— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) June 28, 2015
Like Canada however, Japan will prove a tough test. The Japanese team are the current holders of the trophy and have won every game they have played this tournament conceding just 2 goals in the process. Yet, regardless of the result tomorrow night, it will have been an incredibly successful tournament for England in every aspect. Perhaps emphasised by the poor performances by the mens side over the last 20 years, the women’s team have put England back on the map in terms of being successful on the main stage However, arguably the biggest success has been in spreading awareness and support for the Women’s game back home. Around 1.5 million people tuned in to BBC One to watch England on Saturday night, with figures expected to rise for the game tomorrow night. Steph Houghton has recognised this increased awareness, stating to the BBC how:
“English women’s football is getting bigger and bigger each year and we knew the Olympics was a massive moment for us but to go that step further, it’s a huge opportunity to try and inspire young girls to play and look at us as heroes. That’s what drives us on as well, to give them that opportunity to play international football when they are older.”
FA director of women’s football Kelly Simmons has added to these comments, stating how the women’s success has been “a tipping point”. Simmons hopes England’s success in Canada translates across the women’s game – from attendances at FA WSL matches and The SSE Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 1 August, to an increase in participation levels. Simmons added:
“Everyone is really proud of the England Women’s team, awareness levels have never been higher surrounding the quality of women’s football and all the work that has gone into helping them get where they are now – which is competing at the very top. Hopefully that will translate into people getting behind those players when they play for their clubs in the Women’s Super League and the European Championship qualifiers.”
England Women vs Japan Women will be broadcast on BBC One on Thursday 2nd July at 00:00 GMT.