A little optimistic about winning the FIFA Women's World Cup in France next summer for Phil Neville's young ladies after a shock defeat on Sunday afternoon in Rotherham.
The New York Stadium, just a few hundred yarrds from Rotherham Central and the Northern Line service from Leeds picked up lots of fans, mostly female but lots of young familes on the way. It was billed as a sell-out between the FIFA 3rd and 9th place teams. The Swedes had won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and are coached by Peter Gerhardsson, formerly of BK Hacken men's team, my favourite team in the Swedish Allsvensken, after Pia Sundhage left the post.
The almmost full stadium was awash with noise and flags with the St George's Cross and The FA Three Lions logo, free at every seat. It was also the 100th cap for captain Steph Houghton of Manchester City. I remember her a decade ago watching her excell for Leeds United Ladies in Tadcaster, next to the John Smith brewery. Ever present for a chat was her grannie from up in Teeside. Now Steph is the highest paid player from club and country earnings and sponsorship income, but less than half of what a Man City star player in the EPL makes in ONE WEEK.
Sofia Jakobsson opened the scoring for the yellow clad Swedes with a scorcher from the edge of the box and Anna Anvegard doubled the score with a close range volley following a corner 2-0.
England were not tight enough against a determined and free flowing opponent. Beth Mead was replaced by Toni Duggan of Barcelona at half time. There must have been a half-time talking to, because the Lionesses improved after the interval but were not able to change the final score, but kept it close. Hedvig Lindahl of Chelsea, possibly the world's best, managed to keep a clean sheet.
Lucy Bronze and Isobel Christiansen play at Lyon, Duggan at Barca, Rachel Daly at Houston Dash and Chioma Ubogagu at Brisbane Roar. The FIFA Women's World Cup draw is not until December 9th when teams will know their opponents and venues for the opening rounds.
"We are not just going to turn up and win the World Cup" said Neville at full time." Sometimes life needs pain, and this was a good lesson for us":.
All teams have qualified apart from 3 from CAF in Africa and one from Oceania and a play off between Argentina and Panama. Nine cities, with the opener 7th June at Parc des Princes in Paris and the semi-finals and final in Lyon on July 7th. Le Havre, Valencinnes, Rennes, Reims,Grenoble, Nice, Montpellier
By the way, congratulations to the FA for a really nice and readable programme for the occasion.