Sunday People

STARS & GRIPES Bronze still haunted by USA triumph

- By Neil Moxley By Beth Lindop

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”


(Midfielder, right)

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,

 ?? ?? WINNING RUN: Lucy Bronze (right), and England training in Queensland
WINNING RUN: Lucy Bronze (right), and England training in Queensland

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