Young Lionesses dancing to a winning rhythm

  • Pre-match dance helps England get into focus

  • Mo Marley’s side keeping things fun and positive at France 2018

  • They face Japan in Monday’s semi-final in Vannes

The routine of any player or team before a match is unique to the personalities and culture of that team or player. More often than not, those team bonding routines take place well out of sight of the public. However, Friday afternoon in Vannes provided something a little different.

As they inspected the Stade de la Rabine pitch ahead of their quarter-final clash against the Netherlands, England’s players - with portable speaker in hand - went into a formation at the halfway line and put on a dance routine in front of those that had arrived early for the first quarter-final of the day.

The coordinated routine, which was danced to the 2007 single “Lip Gloss” by American hip-hop artist Lil Mama, seemed to put the Young Lionesses in the right mood, as they defeated the Dutch and reached the semi-finals of a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup for the first time.

The leader of that pre-match dance, England right-back Anna Patten, revealed how the dance has become part of the team’s daily activities at France 2018. “The other day, we had time off in the evening and we thought ‘let’s put on a talent show’," she told after Friday’s win. “We all got split into groups of five and had a singing portion, a dancing portion, and a ‘whatever you want to amuse the judges’, let’s say.

“In the dancing one, my group of five came up with that dance routine and went on to win the talent show. The girls loved it so much and it’s such an uplifting song, it just gets us ready, gets us going. We like doing it before training and obviously, we like doing it before matches now.”

A strong bond

In dancing, or even singing together as they did after their 2-1 win over the Oranje, Patten and her team-mates feel they have found a formula that is helping them through this competition. “Obviously, it’s a long time in the same sort of space and around the same sort of people that stuff like that can bring joy to the team and is a good laugh,” she said. “If I’m honest, it puts us in the zone now. We have our fun before training, and then after that dance, our head switches and then it’s focused on what we need to do now to beat the next opponent.”

England’s approach to this U-20 Women’s World Cup has been to play on the front foot and without any apprehension - a sentiment that has been mentioned by coach Mo Marley and her team during their time in France. “We’re here, we’re wanting to enjoy every match, and we’re going into every game with fearlessness and wanting to prove ourselves,” Patten said. “We don’t want to be focused on ‘what if I mess up, what if I do something wrong’, so doing something like that [a dance routine] relaxes the team and puts us in a good spirit, then we just carry that on in the changing room and out on to the pitch.”

As England prepare to face Japan in Monday’s semi-final, the atmosphere of keeping things fun and positive is sure to continue in the Young Lionesses’ camp. “Every little thing we do is to go and use that and help us win,” Patten said. “Now, all the focus turns to the semi-final, and we’ll keep doing our fun, little things. We do quizzes and all of that because it’s important to keep the team in good spirits, going into matches. I think that really helps our team togetherness.”