STARS & GRIPES Bronze still haunted by USA triumph
Coach: Sarina Wiegman
Star player: Keira Walsh (Midfielder, right)
Verdict: European champions are tipped for World Cup glory for good reason. Their calibre and depth make them a nightmare for the opposition, but injuries to key players is the caveat.
Coach: Nicolas Delépine
Star player: Melchie “Corventina”
Verdict: Ranked 53rd by FIFA, the World Cup debutants upset Chile in the inter-confederation play-off. Adaptable, fearless and gritty, they’re keen to avoid becoming the group’s whipping team.
Coach: Lars Sondergaard
Star player: Pernille
Harder (Forward, right)
Verdict: Bolstered by
Harder’s return and strong ball-playing midfielders and wingers, Denmark boast a potent attack. Their recent form is encouraging, but avoiding Euro 2022’s group-stage capitulation is key.
Coach: Shui Qingxia
Star player: Wang
Shanshan (Forward, right)
Verdict: The reigning
Asian champions are tricky and disciplined, targeting the runners-up spot. While they are not wholly convincing against elite opponents, they are more than capable of succeeding in Australia.
USA, Vietnam, Holland and Portugal
France, Jamaica, Brazil and Panama
Sweden, South Africa, Italy and Argentina
Germany, Morocco, Colombia and South Korea
LUCY BRONZE has just been shown a picture of the USA team winning the World Cup four years ago.
Asked how she felt about it, only one word springs to her mind, and that is “heartbroken”.
If the Barcelona defender seeks any motivation ahead of this week’s big kick-off, it is surely that 2-1 semi-final defeat on a dramatic night in Lyon against the eventual winners.
Skipper Steph Houghton saw a penalty saved in the final 10 minutes, and Ellen White’s stray toe invoked a VAR decision which saw another goal wiped out on a night of painful what-might-have-beens.
Bronze still wears the scars.
She said: “Funnily enough, I’ve never actually sat down and watched a World Cup final – because we always get knocked out in the semi-finals and I just don’t like to...
“Obviously I know the goals and what happened but I’ve just never been able to watch them.
“Am I still heartbroken? Yes, because we’ve been close in every World Cup I’ve ever played at.
“The difference between us and the USA on that day was a VAR decision and a penalty save – two things like that in one game. It was crazy close.
“I don’t even really think there was a difference between us. I think they had a good run of form during the tournament. It was similar to what happened to us in the Euros.
“The team that’s in form tends to have – I wouldn’t say ‘luck’ – but a slight edge.”
Bronze is heading to her third tournament. Eight years ago in Canada, she scored a stunning goal against
JACQUI OATLEY believes that England’s World Cup injury crisis will open the door for others to shine Down Under.
England kick off their World Cup without European Championshipwinning captain Leah Williamson, striker Beth Mead and midfielder Fran Kirby. But broadcaster Oatley
Norway that propelled her into the spotlight, but England bowed out to Japan in the semis.
She knows the special power of delivering a positive World Cup performance – and is sure that the Lionesses are now in a place mentally where they are ready to take a further step forwards.
The right-back said: “A lot of people say, ‘Sarina Wiegman changed England’ – but we’ve all been working on that for 10 years.
“We had to go through every milestone of the first time we beat the USA, first time we beat France, first time we beat Germany, first time we won a World Cup knockout game.
“Obviously the trophy is the be-all and end-all, but there were so many small milestones that we hit, that changed our mentality and got this team to the stage where we can beat the best in the world.
“My previous team-mates, people like Fara Williams, Kelly Smith, all those players, were part of the team that finally beat a USA or a Germany,