Why England’s Lionesses Could Go All The Way

As England reach the World Cup semis, Gabby Logan - leading the BBC's coverage of the tournament - unpacks the secrets of their success

Women's World Cup England Semi Final

by Hattie Crisell |
Updated on

Gabby Logan, speaking on the phone from the umpteenth hotel she’s visited in France over the last month, is busy unpacking. ‘My head is spinning,’ she says.

It’s been a whirlwind of a World Cup so far, not just for reporters like Gabby – who has hosted the BBC’s coverage – and for the tireless teams, but for those of us watching at home. In the UK, primetime coverage of the event has taken the women’s sport firmly into the mainstream.

The numbers speak for themselves: England’s three-nil victory over Norway in last week's quarter-final was the most-watched women’s football match in UK TV history, with a peak of 7.6 million people tuning in. At the end of the group stage, the Women’s World Cup section of the BBC Sport website had already had 9.4 million visitors.

The Lionesses will meet the USA in Tuesday's semi-final in Lyon - a major city for women's football and for whom England star Lucy Bronze plays. ‘That will be one hell of a semi-final and will equal what they did four years ago in Canada, when they got to the semi-final and were beaten sadly in the last moments of the game by Japan,’ says Gabby. ‘They’ve drawn with the USA this year, so I think they could beat them. At this stage getting to the final wouldn’t be on a wing and a prayer – they’ve come in here as the third-ranked team [in the world] for a reason.’

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A large part of that reason is a really strong squad, she adds. Following the victory over Norway, England manager Phil Neville told reporters: 'I think we’ve seen tonight Lucy Bronze is the best player in the world, without a shadow of a doubt – with her athleticism and quality. There’s no player like her in the world. I played full-back but never to that level.'

‘Lucy Bronze is really exceptional – she’s world class,' agrees Gabby. 'She started out life wanting to be a distance runner, and you can see that background in athletics – she’s just so quick and she’s so skillful. Jill Scott has been playing for England for three World Cups now and is an unsung hero; she just does everything she’s asked to brilliantly. I think as a collective, as a team, they’ve managed to gel really well.’

Credit also goes to Phil Neville, who Gabby knows well from his pundit days. ‘What’s really key for me is that he’s the twin of a woman. He’s grown up his whole life with his sister Tracey and he knows how women work. A lot of people were quite critical when he first got the job – you know, “Why is a man managing the England women’s team?” but I think the players really love him as a manager and respect his experience as a player.’

Meanwhile, it's been a difficult time for Scotland, who qualified for the World Cup for the first time this year (an even sweeter achievement considering the men’s team haven’t qualified since 1998), but didn’t make it to the knockout stages.

‘I think Scotland will be immensely disappointed that they were 3-0 up with 20 minutes to go in their final match [against Argentina] and then they conceded three goals. They could easily have gone through,’ she says. ‘They didn’t underperform, they didn’t play badly. Hopefully the Scottish players feel like they’ve progressed and they’ll qualify for the Euros in a couple of years’ time and make another nice step forwards. They lost 6-0 to England in the Euros 2 years ago, whereas they lost 2-1 here – that says a lot about how far they’ve come.’

It's too early to say whether the Lionesses can bring the World Cup home. One thing is for sure though – with viewing figures like these, women’s football in the UK is on a winning streak.

England’s semi-final on Tuesday July 2 will be live on BBC On

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