EURO 2017: What Next For The Lionesses?

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Thursday saw England, the highest ranked side remaining in Euros 2017, bow out to the technically dominant host nation, the Netherlands, in a rather lacklustre 3-0 defeat. With another semi-final defeat in a major tournament, what is next in line for the Lionesses?

The first thing after being knocked out of a tournament is to reflect on their performances and see what went wrong. After the early discovery of Jodie Taylor, who scored a hat trick in England’s 6-0 victory, becoming the first Englishwoman to do so in a major footballing tournament, England seemed determined to get the ball to her no matter what the costs. Once opponents realised this, and started to shut her down, England looked lost and without options. This couldn’t be further from the truth as their squad is stocked with up and coming talent including Frank Kirby, Jordan Knobbs, Lucy Bronze and Tony Duggan. With all of this skill in the midfield it was surprising that England continued to try to put the long ball through to Taylor. Whilst they looked most dangerous when they decided to build pressure from the hallway line, the few times they worked the ball forward through Bronze or when they got it wide to Knobbs who can place a cross into the box to perfection, England looked like the real deal.

On the other hand, the Netherlands varied their attacks throughout and were pressuring England on both wings with the incredible pace they have and in the box their height came into play, which ultimately got them the win. England didn’t deserve to lose 3-0, but they did deserve to lose.

Following £14 million of investment into women’s football in the UK this seasons alone, a figure far above and beyond any other European side, Mark Sampson (the England Coach) was under considerable pressure to win a first major tournament for England after they reached the semi-finals in the world cup just two years ago. With their exit, he has admitted that he “came up short” which has called into question whether he is the right person to prepare the team for the upcoming world cup. This fact hasn’t escaped him as he commented “At the moment there’s probably doubt in everyone’s mind about what they are going to do next” but he is ready to do the job if given the chance adding, “I made some mistakes, for sure. I’ll go away and reflect. I’ll look at it all and then do a better job next time.”

Sampson isn’t the only one who’s future with England looks uncertain, several of the player’s performances have been questioned and with such talent on the bench and on the squad list, no player can take their place in the starting 11 for granted.

However it’s not all doom and gloom for the squad. As has already been mentioned, this Euros has revealed the talent and depth of the England side and they have shown real resilience and flair. Let’s not forget the impressive 6-0 win over Scotland which started their campaign. They followed this up with victories against Spain and Portugal to top their group, outscoring their opponents 10-1. They then went on to defeat France, who were one of the favourites to win overall. This was the first ever time in a competitive match that England had managed such a feat, which will give them a huge boost going forward knowing that they can beat old demons. It seemed the only thing that was going to defeat this England side was an in form, clinical Dutch side who had the benefit of a record breaking 27,000 crowd on their side. Let’s also not forget that Jodie Taylor is still very much the favourite to win the golden boot, having collected 5 goals throughout the tournament, with the most anyone else has managed being just 2.

The Lionesses will now start their preparations for their World Cup qualifying campaign which kicks off in September against Russia. The talent is there, they just need to readjust their game plan and keep their heads up. Euros 2017 has shown that any team has a chance, Denmark defeated Germany who had won the last 6 editions of the tournament and debutants Austria went all the way to the semi-finals despite the odds being stacked against them. Anything could happen and there’s no reason why England couldn’t go all the way.

This squad has the strength to learn from their defeat to the Netherlands (and the tournament as a whole) and I’m sure they will be back and be able to produce the results when the time is needed, a skill that maybe the men’s side could take note of.

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