Tournament disappointment is something England football fans have gotten used to in recent times.
The 2010 World Cup, the 2014 World Cup, the Euro Under 21s - the list could go on and on.
This summer, however, something remarkable has happened. Semi-finalists? We have all heard that right.
The England Ladies team has been a breath of fresh air at the Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Their quarter-final win, against the host nation, has made everyone stand up and take notice. It signifies that great strides are being made with English female football. Prior to this tournament an English women’s team had never before won a knockout game. Now they have won two.
Women's game has made big improvements
Mark Sampson’s side have also become the first England team to reach a World Cup semi-final since Bobby Robson’s team at Italia '90. With this success the country has become more interested in the women’s game than ever before.
The age-old argument about women’s football not proving to be as popular as the mens game has been founded in technical ability. By and large the quality hasn’t been up there and people didn’t find it entertaining to watch.
Granted the skill level still isn’t as good but this World Cup has shown that there has been a massive improvement. Maren Mjelde’s free-kick against Germany, for Norway, was an example of sheer quality. Regardless of whom you had put in goal that one was always going in.
Jodie Taylor’s opening goal for England, against Canada, was another example of how the skill level has risen. It originated from a Canadian mistake, granted, but too many times we have seen players, across both genders, lose their composure and belt the ball high and wide. Then there was Lucy Bronze’s strike in the quarter-final. An absolute belter.
With the exception of England’s opening game, against France, the Lionesses have played some entertaining stuff on their way to the semis.
It hasn’t been consistent, not many teams are, but some of their attacking play has been a real pleasure to watch. After the men’s Under-21 team struggled to link two passes with one another, at the European Championship, it’s refreshing to see an England team that can pose a threat at goal.
Women's World Cup has put the fun back into football
Another aspect that the audiences have found refreshing is that it is 100% football. Not 50% football, 10% insults, 15% diving and 25% play-acting. Speaking as an avid viewer of Premier League, Champions League, and other top-level football, it’s strange to see players stay on their feet and not trying to get opposition players sent off.
By far in a way the best part about Sampson’s team, however, is that they are the personification of the feel good factor.
They just radiate fun, camaraderie and enjoyment, which is what football is all about. They have gone about every aspect of this tournament with a smile on their face and at no point has it looked like a chore. The sense of joy that they have shown throughout each step of this tournament, coupled with success, has reinvigorated a lot of fans of the national team. Finally we have something to shout about through the summer.
Regardless of whether or not England beat Japan in the semi-final this tournament can already be considered a huge success. Great strides have been made and the Lionesses have proved to be an inspiration for male and female footballers all over.
They’ve also managed to connect with the public by being talented and down to earth sportswomen.
These girls have put a smile back on English football. Let’s give them the backing they deserve for pulling this off.