THE DREAM CONTINUES for England at the FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada this summer. Having won their 4th match, 2-1 over Norway,former champions from 1995 they exceeded all our expectations on Saturday.
The THREE LIONESSES flew in a FIFA supplied charter plane the 5 hours from Montreal to Vancouver on the West Coast of British Columbia...with a row of seats each !! Vancouver is a very impressive setting and I have been there 3-4 times. BC Place, home of the BC Lions (CFL), the Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS), and centrepiece of the 2010 Winter Olympic where 54,000 red clad Canucks were waiting for 32 year old Welsh born coach Mark Sampson and his inspired ladies.
Steph Houghton, the 28 year old England captain and defender. "Our aim before coming out here was to INSPIRE A NATION. Hopefully we have done that today". It was late afternoon on the West Coast but after midnight in England, where EVERY match is shown live on BBC TV and Eurosport. Unfortunately the Sunday newspapers were already printed and with Wimbledon and next weekends FI British Grand Prix, publicity is limited.
HOWEVER, they came out 'like greyhounds from the slips', with goals in the 10th and 13th minute from Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze, to shock the home fans and their Geordie coach John Herdman. I had watching France take Canada apart just south of Paris in early May, and knew that they were beatable by the tactics and team selection of 'TINKERMAN' Sampson, who is both refreshing and exciting despite his short back and sides haircut.
After the early goals settled the English and had their opponents chasing the game, we had an exciting contest. When local hero Christine Sinclair pounced on a mistake by California born keeper Karen Bardsley in the 42nd minute to reduce the arrears, it was GAME ON. A mysterious eye injury to Bardsley meant a substitution in the 49th minute by Arsenal keeper Siobhan Chamberlain, but after some squeaky defensive errors by the usually reliable defence, the team held out for the final whistle from the Uruguayan referee.
John Herdman praised his British counterpart. "Our best just wasn't good enough today. We had chances but never put them in the net and two bad mistakes hurt us." With defending champions from 2011 Japan coming up on Wednesday in Edmonton, Sampson fancies his team's chances." We can be a VERY difficult opponent." Herdman was asked whether he fancied the England job when it was last vacant.. " NO... Tomorrow I will walk along the Pacific beach with my wife and kids. I made the right choice."
I was in the Stadio delle Alpi in Turin in 1990 to watch England lose to West Germany at the ITALIA '90 World Cup,on pk's, the last time that an English national team played in a FIFA semi-final. I had also watched Brazil 1 v Scotland 0 in group C and Brazil 0 v Argentina 1 in the knock out round at the same venue. " WE CAN GO ALL THE WAY" says Sampson. It is not well know but The FA supports the ladies to the tune of £10.5 million, twice the budget of Germany and five times that of many European teams. A support staff of 19 accompanies the 23 players everywhere.
Prior to playing the world champions, 24 hours earlier on Tuesday, Germany play USA in the other semi-final at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, where I last visited at the 1976 Olympic Games....it's THAT old !!.