Bardsley, the English wall

Dealing with one-on-one situations is one of the great arts of goalkeeping. Nadine Angerer has practically perfected it, regularly exasperating almost any attacker who comes her way – but Karen Bardsley is not far behind. The England keeper kept her team in their Round of 16 encounter with Norway with a string of impressive saves.

Ada Hegerberg and Isabell Herlovsen both failed to break through England’s last line of defence despite several valiant attempts. The 30-year-old enjoyed these moments immensely, as she later explained to FIFA.com: “I love those individual battles. I’ve worked hard to improve in that area; we do it in every training session. The fact that I’m relatively tall helps too.”

At 6’0, Bardsley was not exaggerating. Although her saves ultimately enabled the Three Lionesses to progress to the next round of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™, the tallest member of the England camp refused to dwell on her decisive contribution. “It’s just instinct,” said the custodian born and raised in the USA. “I always try to make myself as big as possible.”

Nevertheless, it would be completely wrong to assume this instinct equates to little more than good luck. After all, Bardsley demonstrated these same skills at the Women’s World Cup in Germany four years ago, where she was singled out for praise by FIFA’s Technical Studies Group (TSG) for her “good positioning” and “strength in one-on-one situations”.

Looking forward to Vancouver These attributes were particularly vital against the Scandinavians. Although the significant problems encountered by England forced their 48-time international keeper to surpass herself on multiple occasions, she was not interested in claiming any recognition for her efforts. Instead, she expressed her pride in the performance of the team as a whole, who refused to give up despite falling behind and struggling to make their mark on the match. “We always stayed positive; we knew we were capable of doing it,” she said, radiating confidence.

Their determination was ultimately rewarded with a wonderful goal from Lucy Bronze, who fired the ball into the top corner from sixteen yards out to give England a 2-1 lead. “It was difficult for me to see it as it was so far away, but I saw the ball roll nicely to Lucy and watched her line up the target well. Then it flew into the top corner – just brilliant,” said the Manchester City goalkeeper, recalling a strike that could become a candidate for goal of the tournament.

Despite the joy of seeing her team score, Bardsley felt bad for her Norwegian counterpart Ingrid Hjelmseth. “She even got a hand to it; it’s always tough,” she sympathised. When asked if she would have made the save, the England keeper replied: “I don’t know. It’s always difficult to say because every situation is different. I hope so though,” she concluded with a laugh.

The next challenge for the victors of this all-European tie is a duel with Canada on Saturday in Vancouver, where England will have to overcome a wall of red-and-white noise from the Canucks’ home crowd. Bardsley is relishing the prospect. “It’ll be an absolutely amazing atmosphere,” she grinned. “They’re the hosts, so they’ll be the ones under pressure, not us. We want to capitalise on that,” the Live Your Goals Player of the Match explained.

Before that, she still had a little more time to enjoy today’s success – and that is precisely what she planned to do. “I’m looking forward to dinner tonight, then the journey to Vancouver and discovering the city,” Bardsley declared as she left.