Belfast Telegraph

Lionesses filling Roo with pride

Men's skipper sends congratulations to world semi-finalists but girls are maintaining focus

By Damian Spellman

Wayne Rooney has congratulated the England Women's team after they made it to the World Cup semi-finals on Saturday night.

Men's captain Rooney and his international team-mates were a damp squib in Brazil last year, with the team failing to make it out of the group stages after defeats to Italy and Uruguay and a draw against Costa Rica.

The women began their campaign with a loss to France but have not looked back since, beating Mexico, Colombia, Norway and hosts Canada to become the first English senior team to make a World Cup semi-final since 1990.

And Rooney, a veteran of three World Cup campaigns, was among the first to congratulate the Lionesses following their 2-1 win against Canada.

"England women doing the country proud. Huge congratulations on reaching the semi-finals," he wrote on Twitter.

Former Three Lions skipper David Beckham expressed his pride at England's progress, posting a picture of the team in a huddle on Instagram with the message: "Girls, what a performance. We are so proud of what you have achieved and the passion you have shown gives us so much pride.... Our lionesses roar into the semis".

Skipper Steph Houghton has warned, however, that they will have to defy the odds once again if they are to edge past reigning champions Japan on Wednesday (midnight BST) and reach the World Cup final.

The Manchester City defender said: "We know it's going to be a massive game on Wednesday. We've got to respect them. They are world champions for a reason.

"Now it's all about recovering and focusing on trying our best to get into a final."

Houghton and her team-mates earned their crack at the holders after establishing a quick-fire two-goal lead and then defending it tigerishly as Canada, coached by Englishman John Herdman, launched a concerted fightback.

Jodie Taylor's 11th-minute strike got them off to the perfect start, and when Lucy Bronze doubled their advantage just three minutes later, they were in dreamland.

However, Canada captain Christine Sinclair reduced the deficit three minutes before the break, setting up a tense second-half during which England had to endure serious pressure to hang on to their lead.

For Casey Stoney, who came off the bench to help shore up the defence, it proved the highlight of her lengthy career to date.

The 33-year-old Arsenal defender said: "I never had any seed of doubt. I knew this team was going to win. We have 23 fantastic players here. We are stronger than we have ever been.

"I was just thankful to be on the pitch. Even if I hadn't have got on the pitch, this is a real squad effort.

"It's taken all of us to get here. I'm just so thankful and so proud of these girls for getting us over the line. It's the best feeling I've ever felt in my career. Incredible."

Despite securing a famous win, Stoney admitted England were not at their best against Canada, but paid tribute to the resilience and determination they showed to get themselves over the line.

She said: "It was a tough game. Canada fought to the wire. They gave us a tough game. For us, it probably wasn't the best performance, but we did exactly what we wanted.

"Two goals in the bag early settled a lot of nerves. We conceded a poor goal, but holding that scoreline until the last minute is credit to everyone."

The Duke of Cambridge, president of the Football Association, also offered his congratulations to England and their quarter-final opponents.

"Congratulations to both the English and Canadian teams for such a great game in the Women's World Cup quarter-finals," read a statement. "As President of the FA I'm thrilled to see the England women progress to the semi-finals for the first time. This team is making history and I can't wait to see them in action against Japan.

"I know a lot of people have been following the team's progress and I'm sure many more will now seize the chance to support this great moment for English football.

"The Lionesses are doing their country proud."

Belfast Telegraph


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