STEPH HOUGHTON: Spain were so clever and completely suffocated England in the final… I


STEPH HOUGHTON: Spain were so clever and completely suffocated England in the final… I know the girls will be devastated but now it’s time to capitalise on their success in the WSL

  • Lionesses impact at home is a ‘big win’ for England, despite coming second
  • England narrowly lost out in a 1-0 defeat to Spain, with goal from Olga Carmona
  • Another big moment in women’s football has grown the sport to new heights 

England might not have won the World Cup but they have definitely won at the World Cup. To see the impact at home has been incredible. People were planning their whole weekends around the final on Sunday.

To see bars packed with people watching it was huge. In Manchester, about 6,000 people were at one screening — which is pretty spectacular. 

It was nothing like this when we were in the World Cup back in 2015 and, with the success of the Euros last year, its another big moment for women’s football in this country.

Two finals in two years is crazy but, to be honest, even if we had not got to the final, this team had already captured the nation. 

It is a group of players who clearly love playing for their country. Although they did not bring the trophy back, they have grabbed a big win.

A stirring rendition of the national anthem was belted out by the players and supporters watching on both Down Under and back in Britain

A stirring rendition of the national anthem was belted out by the players and supporters watching on both Down Under and back in Britain

Spain had obviously watched England closely and carried out their game plan. They are technically accomplished, have some great players and Aitana Bonmati ran the show. 

They were really clever, managed to get in behind our wing-backs and cause us serious problems. 

They pinned us back and while it was not for the lack of trying we just could not adapt. 

I hoped Mary Earps’s penalty save would be the spark but it just did not happen.

In finals it is often the way that one side settles quicker than the other. Spain have a lot of players who have played in Champions League finals and they used that experience well, started well and never looked back. They pressed aggressively and suffocated England.

I know the girls will be devastated and I have not messaged them yet. You come in after the game, switch your phone on and all the messages you read can be a bit overwhelming.

Alessia Russo also appeared emotional as England tragically fell at the final hurdle

Alessia Russo also appeared emotional as England tragically fell at the final hurdle

England's Lucy Bronze drops to her knees in frustration during the World Cup final with Spain

England’s Lucy Bronze drops to her knees in frustration during the World Cup final with Spain

They will be upset and that is where the staff come in to try to bring a bit of perspective. They will be frustrated because we know we can beat Spain, but yesterday just was not our day. 

That said, when the players get home and see the reaction from the public and spend some time with their families, what they have achieved will sink in.

The most important part for me is the age of the group. A lot of our best players will be hitting their peak at the next tournament.

Those who did not feature so much will now have that tournament experience for next time. We will get better and we will get stronger and that is frightening. The future is bright. 

Spain's players celebrate after beating England 1-0 in Australia to win the World Cup

Spain’s players celebrate after beating England 1-0 in Australia to win the World Cup

The England team line up ahead of their historic World Cup final against Spain in Sydney

The England team line up ahead of their historic World Cup final against Spain in Sydney

Hopefully, we see the impact not just when the Women’s Super League starts in October but over the next few years.

These players are heroes and people who have not had the opportunity to be in Australia will want to see those heroes when they come home.

At City, for example, we have Alex Greenwood, Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp. We should be selling out every fixture — not just at City but across the league — because of the England effect. And not just because of England’s players. 

There are players in WSL from Sweden, from Australia, who have had great tournaments and who have shown they are the best in the world.

Hopefully, it gets to the stage where we are seeing more games at the Etihad and at Stamford Bridge, for example. 

That is the next step for women’s football. Can we be getting big crowds week-in, week-out? Interest is so high, now it can happen.

The Lionesses have been given a lifeline after goalkeeper Mary Earps saved a Spain penalty to keep them in their historic World Cup final

The Lionesses have been given a lifeline after goalkeeper Mary Earps saved a Spain penalty to keep them in their historic World Cup final

Millions of fans are tuning in across the country, including a crowd at Croydon's Boxpark

Millions of fans are tuning in across the country, including a crowd at Croydon’s Boxpark



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