Mead hoping for more moments of magic
Beth Mead scored stunning winner against Brazil in SheBelieves Cup
Hoping to be key part of England’s squad at France 2019
Mead: “We want to inspire the next generation”
Back in August 2014, an England No9 received the ball on the half-turn around 30 yards from goal, tapped the ball impudently through an opponent's legs and rifled a shot past a despairing goalkeeper.
Fast-forward to February 2019 and the same player controls the ball on the right-wing around ten yards from the by-line just outside the opponent’s penalty area, takes a touch and slams a venomous drive past yet another helpless goalkeeper from a seemingly impossible angle.
The architect of these two moments of magic? Beth Mead.
A lot has happened in Mead’s life in the almost five years between those two goals for her country, but one thing remains the same: She is capable of producing something from nothing.
The most recent stunner came for the senior Lionesses against Brazil at the SheBelieves Cup, while the goal that announced her to the world was against Mexico at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014.
“Scoring for your country is something special,” Mead told FIFA.com. “Also, [the goal against Brazil] was a shot not a cross, just so everyone’s clear!”
Now a well-established regular at Women’s Super League titans Arsenal, having moved from Sunderland two years ago, she has broken into the senior England set-up and played a role on the road to the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.
Mead in France 2019 qualifying
* Made competitive debut against Wales
* Played four times
* Scored twice (against Kazakhstan)
One of the key factors in her becoming an integral player at Arsenal, and an important part of the senior England set-up, has undoubtedly been her change to a wider role. Indeed, the literal position on the pitch when she scored her goals against Mexico in 2014 (central) and against Brazil this week (out wide) highlight the switch.
“I’d played No9 all my career until I came to Arsenal,” Mead said. “I was a bit annoyed that I wasn’t playing No9, because I thought that was my best position. But now I really enjoy playing on the wing. I can get involved, run at people, bring other people into play.
“Maybe if I’d done it earlier I could’ve had my chance at England earlier.”
No matter, Mead has her chance now and she has taken it with both hands, not just with her fantastic strike against Brazil, but with her efforts in helping the Lionesses reach France.
She is now clearly trusted by manager Phil Neville – with whom Mead has “a good relationship and understanding” – and he has plenty of food for thought when it comes to attacking options. Mead notes the competition for places keeps her on her toes.
“There aren’t many players who can say they’ve got a definite place in the squad right now,” Mead said. “I just don’t want to settle myself because I think that’s the worst thing you can do as a footballer.”
If she were to be in Neville’s 23, Mead understands the responsibility of being a role model to thousands of English youngsters, but she hopes the Lionesses will revel in the pressure.
“We want to inspire the next generation to push on, know there is a career in football and you can be professional. As a kid I didn’t think like that, because at that time there was no professionalism in the women’s game. But now, you’re looking at young kids, watching us play in the World Cup…
“It just makes you feel a bit warm inside that you’re having that effect on a completely different generation. I feel like we owe it to people to make them proud, feel the effort that we’re putting in, and the passion that we have for this country to do well.”
The England forward will no doubt be hoping that youngsters across England will be trying to recreate another stunning strike from her collection, if she gets on the scoresheet in France.