They took the hearts of the people in 2015 when desire, skill and fortitude saw England’s Lionesses push their way to a 3rd placed finish at the World Cup in Canada.
Though valiantly edged out by Japan in the final-four, they nonetheless gave the world a reminder that England’s footballers CAN perform on the big stage.
Mark Sampson was recognised at the Sports Personality of the Year award for his coaching the group of ladies, while bumper contracts abroad were offered to Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze.
Now, two years ago, it is time to go over again. Without the threat of Canada, the USA, or Brazil, could this be England’s biggest chance at bringing a trophy home?
Admittedly bereft of the experience of Rachel Yankey and Eni Aluko will hurt the squad. Although Karen Carney, Jill Scott and Karen Bardsley are included, the onus will be on captain Steph Houghton of Manchester City and hitwoman Toni Duggan, who recently signed for Barcelona, to seize the initiative in their second international tournament.
Duggan in particular had a net-busting season with the City Ladies before her move to Spain. The 25 year old scored 4 goals in 8 games over the WSL season and will be hoping to increase her total for England, which currently stands at 15. She netted one in Canada, but will need to justify why Barcelona – on a steep uprising in ladies football – saw fit to take her from northern England.
At the Euro’s, England have been placed alongside Scotland, Spain and Portugal and could potentially face France in the next round. Hardly easy but they should navigate the groups unless anything drastic occurs.
England are currently 8/1 odds to win the entire competition, but do face the threat of Germany from afar. Given that the Germans possess a blight on English footballing history that has been around since ’66, they can be seen as the biggest competition.
There is a little more pressure on the ladies to perform here, after their exploits in Canada. Whether they can match the standard of the third placed achievement – which ironically ended with a play-off victory over Germany – remains to be seen. Nonetheless, there is optimism here.