Almost 4 years ago at BC PLACE in Vancouver, Canada in the 2015 WWC quarter finals the 53, 000 fans urged on their Canucks to victory, but fell silent when England won 2-1 and went on to win the third place over Japan. Earlier in April that year I had taken the train 60 km south of Paris to Stade Robert-Bodin in Bondoufle to see France beat Canada 1-0 in front of a decent size 11,445 crowd,
Last Friday at Academy Stadium in Manchester across from The Etihad we were supposed to have a 7,000 capacity crowd for England Lionesses v Canada. Actually the announced attendance was only 5,650 BUT for the first time to South Stand was used and was full with flag waving fans and the famous England Band.
It was not a great performance for coach Phil Neville with a 81st minute tap in from the ancient Canadian captain 35 year old Christine Sinclair scoring her 180th national team goal with her 279th cap. She will captain her country at her 5th WWC this summer in France.
Her team matched England all over the pitch in the first half with Lucy Bronze of Lyon, the world's best full back, playing out of position in mid field until the 72nd minute. It was a good job that Karen Bardsley in goal was in great form all evening...it could have been a larger defeat.
This was the first of four ROAD TO FRANCE 2019 matches for England, and probably the most difficult. This Tuesday Engalnd take on Spain in Swindon, while next month they face Denmark in Burton on Trent and finally New Zealand at The Amex in Brighton., before opening their WWC campaign against Scotland in Nice on June 9th
Jordan Nobbs and Fran Kirby were out injured but new Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller from Denmark must have been pleased with the performance and result. He took off Allysha Chapman who was lucky not to get a 2nd yellow and get sent off late in the match. Barclays recently announced a £10 million sponsorship of womens football with the FA and last week Boots the Chemist announced a sponsorship for the 4 home countries and Republic of Ireland women.
Academy Stadium is part of The Etihad Campus a £330 million plot of land across from The Etihad, maybe a decade old wasteland in East Manchester and site of an abandoned dye works. A couple dozen pitches, accommodation, medical and training facilities and a high School Academy for local students, and much more. Amazing what unlimited millions from a tiny Middle Eastern dictatorship can bring.