On Monday last, England checked into the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ – and they did it with a bang. The firecracker in question was provided by Lucy Bronze, who hammered a first-time strike into the top right-hand corner from 16 yards out. Such was its power and accuracy that Norway keeper Ingrid Hjelmseth could not keep it out, despite getting a hand to it.
“As soon as it left my foot I knew it was heading in the right direction, but I wasn’t sure if the keeper would get to it,” the right-back later told FIFA.com. “But I don’t think she had any chance with the way I struck it,” she added. What made the goal even more impressive is the fact that it was not just stunning but crucial, giving England a 2-1 lead over the Norwegians in their Round of 16 encounter.
It was clear that the 23-year-old was still brimming with confidence after the final whistle. When asked about her next objectives in Canada, there was only one answer: “We want the trophy, of course. We’re in the knockout stages and only have to win two more games to reach the final!”
For now England’s first priority is the next round, where they must face none other than the hosts. The full-back and her team-mates will not only have to deal with 11 Canucks on the pitch but a sell-out crowd at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium – a prospect that does not worry Bronze in the slightest. She explained that the Three Lionesses have a psychologist among their support staff who is preparing the team meticulously for such situations and has been one of the keys to their success so far.
Ready for the next challenge
“We talk through different situations,” she said. “That’s why so many of our players are a little more focused, always stay positive and pick themselves up after setbacks. We’re mentally stronger than before.” Consequently, it is no surprise that England were not thrown off course by their opening loss to France nor by falling behind to Norway in their most recent match.
All of this means the stage is set for an explosive encounter against Canada. One additional factor in the European side’s favour is that they played against a similarly impressive backdrop while preparing for this tournament by facing Germany in front of a large crowd at one of the sport’s most historic sites, London’s Wembley Stadium. Although they lost the match 3-0, it was a valuable experiences for coach Mark Sampson’s team. “It means we’ve experienced something like this once before,” confirmed Bronze.
“But unlike last time, everyone will be against us,” she quickly added. The Manchester City player considers the hosts to be a strong side yet “a beatable one". The fact remains that England intend to use their last eight match as a stepping stone to greater things, and their ultimate objective is to return to Vancouver on 5 July to contest the final.
Bronze is allowing herself to dream a little bigger after scoring such a dream goal against Norway. Although it was only the 5’9 defensive specialist’s third international strike, she can easily explain this. “Normally I prefer to pass in those situations and think, for example, ‘Toni [Duggan], you shoot now’. But my coach and team-mates are always telling me I should have a go myself every now and then, and I just thought of that.”
It was a good thought, and one that has given England and Bronze the opportunity to keep going for gold in Canada.