Belfast Telegraph

Why England are more hungry than USA for World Cup glory, explains Bronze


On mission: England aces Millie Bright, Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze have their sights set on reaching the World Cup final
On mission: England aces Millie Bright, Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze have their sights set on reaching the World Cup final

By Phil Medlicott

Lucy Bronze feels England have an edge over their fellow Women's World Cup semi-finalists because they are "more hungry" to reach a final.

The Lionesses face holders the United States at Lyon's Groupama Stadium tonight (8.00pm), with Euro 2017 champions Holland taking on Sweden, who were runners-up at the 2016 Olympics, at the same venue tomorrow.

England were beaten in the semis of the 2015 World Cup and the Euros two years ago.

And right-back Bronze said: "We've had back-to-back semi-finals, which is an amazing feat, but we're short of that last step and we've still got that hunger.

"You look at the four teams left. The Olympics, the World Cup, the Euros - these other three teams have reached finals.

"So we have probably got that edge, where we are a little bit more hungry for it, we are maybe more destined and want to go to a final in that respect."

Regarding the dramatic 2-1 loss to Japan in the 2015 match - England's first ever Women's World Cup semi-final - which was settled by Laura Bassett's stoppage-time own goal, Bronze said: "I think from losses and bad things, you learn more than you ever will from winning.

"And I think there's no more of a brutal way to have lost a game than the way we did in a World Cup semi-final of all things.

"So we've learned more than anybody could ever learn from any other defeat or any other game, which is probably why we are a little bit more resilient."

The US, the three-time winners who top the world rankings, have made it into the last four in France after 2-1 wins against Spain in the last-16 and hosts France in the quarter-finals.

Bronze said: "I think they're a great team - they are the World No.1, the holders of the World Cup and they will always have a great team.

"But I think teams have started knocking on the door, getting closer and closer, and that kind of spurs others on to go, 'Oh, maybe we can do that as well'.

"They're just as beatable as anybody else. Anybody could be lifting this trophy at the end."

Meanwhile, USA coach Jill Ellis doubts her passion for football would exist had she not been brought up in England.

Ellis was born in Portsmouth and supported Manchester United as a child but moved to the US with her family as a teenager.

The 52-year-old is now preparing to take on the country of her birth.

Ellis said: "I was a Pompey lass. I can't say I always supported Pompey - I've been a Man United fan since I was seven. But I have a lot of fond memories, (there were) a lot of great people and I spent a lot of summers up in Edinburgh.

"My whole British culture and growing up is still with me. I'm very grateful for that because I don't think, had I grown up in another country, the passion for football would be where it is."

Ellis did not have the opportunity to play organised football while she lived in England, however, as the women's game was still to re-establish itself in the aftermath of it being banned by the Football Association.

Those chances came after she moved to the US, and they in turn eventually led to a career in coaching. She rose through the college coaching system and into the national team set-up. She was appointed as full-time USA coach in 2014 and oversaw World Cup success the following year.

Her British life continues to influence her though, not least in citing Sir Alex Ferguson as one of her coaching inspirations. She met the former United manager once, at a Fifa event.

"I bumped into him in a hallway," said Ellis. "He was super gracious, charming, nice.

"That was a brief interaction but I've read his books and, being a young Man United fan way back in the day, I was all in."

Her opposite number, Phil Neville, spent half of his playing career under Ferguson. Ellis expects to see the Scot's influence.

She said: "Having been around Sir Alex on an internal level, as Phil was - everybody affects us, influences us. I am sure that's had the same effect."

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