‘Elite’ Lucy Bronze deserves Euros success after glittering career and England heartbreak

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·4-min read
‘Elite’ Lucy Bronze deserves Euros success after glittering career and England heartbreak
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No one has a divine right to win anything, but if there’s one England player who at least deserves the chance to play for an international trophy, then it’s Lucy Bronze.

Her career is littered with honours. She’s won pretty much everything: league titles, Champions Leagues, top individual accolades — and she’s done it with different clubs in different countries.

Think of the players she’s done that alongside, the people she’s learned from, the cultures she’s been exposed to, different ways of doing things, different ways of training. All those experiences have turned her into an elite athlete and it feels like this is the final piece of the jigsaw.

There’s a core of England players who have been on this journey for a long time, the likes of Ellen White, Jill Scott, Fran Kirby, Millie Bright, and you feel like they deserve something for the way they’ve pushed the game forward.

But Lucy is the only player that would start tonight, in England’s fourth straight major tournament semi-final, that also did so in the first, that 2015 World Cup semi-final loss to Japan.

Lucy Bronze has been a stalwart of the England side and deserves the chance to win a major trophy (The FA via Getty Images)
Lucy Bronze has been a stalwart of the England side and deserves the chance to win a major trophy (The FA via Getty Images)

She was talking last weekend about the defeat to the USA at the same stage four years later and how hard it hit her. She’d just had an incredible season, winning the treble with Lyon and she felt like it was her time.

I can see why that was such a huge disappointment but, as with life, things don’t always happen the way you think they should and setbacks like that can be the making of you, they can motivate you to a different level.

There might be a moment in the game tonight where she just grabs it by the scruff of the neck because she wants it that much.

You’ve seen that kind of tunnel vision with Lucy throughout the tournament. Where some of the younger players are, rightly so, just loving every second and riding the wave, she looks so pragmatic, composed and focused. That comes with the experience of overcoming those disappointments. You’re cut from a different cloth, you’re a different animal.

When you’ve achieved what she’s achieved and kept the company she’s kept, along with the grounding of a strong, supportive family, you see why she’s like that and it’s such a huge strength for England.

Speaking of near-misses and disappointments, though, Sweden have had plenty of those themselves.

In Pictures | Women’s Euro 2022 (Quarter-Final): England vs Spain

England’s Lauren Hemp and teammates celebrate after the match (REUTERS)
England’s Lauren Hemp and teammates celebrate after the match (REUTERS)
England manager Sarina Wiegman celebrates after the match (REUTERS)
England manager Sarina Wiegman celebrates after the match (REUTERS)
England’s Ella Toone scores their first goal past Spain’s Sandra Panos (REUTERS)
England’s Ella Toone scores their first goal past Spain’s Sandra Panos (REUTERS)
England’s Ella Toone celebrates scoring their first goal (REUTERS)
England’s Ella Toone celebrates scoring their first goal (REUTERS)
Georgia Stanway of England celebrates with teammate Lauren Hemp after scoring their team’s second goal (The FA via Getty Images)
Georgia Stanway of England celebrates with teammate Lauren Hemp after scoring their team’s second goal (The FA via Getty Images)
Spain’s Sandra Panos in action with England’s Alex Greenwood and Mary Earps (REUTERS)
Spain’s Sandra Panos in action with England’s Alex Greenwood and Mary Earps (REUTERS)
Players of England huddle following the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Quarter Final match (The FA via Getty Images)
Players of England huddle following the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Quarter Final match (The FA via Getty Images)
England’s Georgia Stanway celebrates scoring their second goal with Lauren Hemp (REUTERS)
England’s Georgia Stanway celebrates scoring their second goal with Lauren Hemp (REUTERS)
Leah Williamson of England is challenged by Patri Guijarro of Spain (Getty Images)
Leah Williamson of England is challenged by Patri Guijarro of Spain (Getty Images)
Sarina Wiegman celebrates with Alessia Russo and Millie Bright of England after their sides victory (Getty Images)
Sarina Wiegman celebrates with Alessia Russo and Millie Bright of England after their sides victory (Getty Images)
Spain’s Marta Cardona in action with England’s Mary Earps (REUTERS)
Spain’s Marta Cardona in action with England’s Mary Earps (REUTERS)

They’ve reached the semi-finals of two of the last three World Cups, won silver at each of the past two Olympic Games and lost three finals and four semi-finals at the Euros since they won the first edition in 1984.

There’s a spine to this team — Hedvig Lindahl, Magdalena Eriksson, Caroline Seger (who we were surprised didn’t come back in against Belgium) and Kosovare Asllani — who have played together for a long, long time.

Jonas Eidevall, Arsenal’s Swedish manager, was on our BBC punditry team for the quarter-final against Belgium on Friday and he said that it’s almost a last-chance saloon for this group of players. The relief when they finally grabbed that late winner was palpable.

Sweden made really hard work of it, it was almost tough to watch at times. They created so many opportunities but were up against a Belgian team which had nothing to lose and defended for their lives.

England will be a totally different prospect, but then all of Sweden’s games have felt a little bit different. With all three of the other semi-finalists, we’ve seen an identity and a style emerge and I’m not sure we’ve seen the real Sweden yet.

That said, people might have watched the Belgium game and now presume that England will cruise this. But Sweden are the highest ranked team in the tournament, No2 in the world behind the USA, and you only have to remember how Spain upped their game after a pretty average group stage.

I’m not sure we’ve seen the real Sweden yet during this competition... they’ve got huge threats

They’ve got huge threats, with the likes of Arsenal’s Stina Blackstenius and Fridilina Rolfo, who hasn’t been at her best so far in this tournament, but you wonder whether we might see some slight tactical tweaks in her positioning and a different level from her tonight.

Then again, she’ll be up against Lucy, who will give nothing up easily.

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