England’s Lionesses are set to play the US in the Women’s World Cup semi-final game today – and we are so here for it.
Led by captain Steph Houghton, the team have delivered win after win after win. Not every result has come easily (hats off to Scotland) – but the players’ determination has us all thinking football might finally be coming home.
Here are six reasons they might just be our favourite World Cup squad yet.
1. They’ve proven they’re a classy bunch.
Their match against Cameroon was a game filled with controversies: Nikita Parris was elbowed in the face, Toni Duggan was spat on, and let’s not even get into the VAR decision rows. But England took the moral high ground, receiving praise from their manager Phil Neville for staying professional.
“It wasn’t a World Cup game in terms of the behaviour that I want to see from footballers,” he said. “This is going out worldwide and I can’t stand here and say that I particularly enjoyed it or my players enjoyed it. At half-time they were confused about what was going on, what they should do – but they kept their concentration brilliantly.”
2. They’re fighting for visibility.
Football fans were able to tune into England’s quarter-final game against Norway at Glastonbury – and they had Georgia Stanway to thank.
The midfielder tweeted Glasto’s organisers asking for the game to be shown for festival-goers – including her brother. Organisers responded by showing the game on big screens at the festival’s popular West Holts stage.
Elsewhere, coverage is also improving. For the first time the BBC has committed to showing all Women’s World Cup matches across TV, radio or online.
But the number of matches shown live on TV is still lagging behind the men’s game – so we’ve got a way to go.
3. They’re proud feminists.
From showing support for the rewrite of the Three Lions song, to saying time and time again that women’s sport deserves equal coverage, the Lionesses are feminists through and through.
“My role models were Kevin Phillips and David Beckham,” captain Steph Houghton told PA earlier this year. “Now girls can look up to female footballers and want to aspire to be them. They can try to follow in their footsteps and even be better than us.”
4. They’re inspiring the next generation.
Girls across the country have been sharing their support for the Lionesses, like young Nevaeh, who sent the team the adorable video below.
Defender Abbie McManus spoke to COPA90 about how it feels to be a role model. ”[Women’s football] is just getting bigger and better and it’s great to have the young girls who are aspiring to be there one day,” she said.
“They have more of a pathway into an actual career now and it’s exciting to be a part of that and create somebody else’s dream.”
5. They’re open about mental health.
In this year’s World Cup squad, strikers Karen Carney and Fran Kirby have both shared their experiences of mental illness, helping to break down stigma and provide hope for fans currently struggling.
Carney told BBC’s Newsbeat that she has self-harmed in the past due to depression. “I’ve done some bad things to myself, that was probably the lowest point,” she said. “We just want to inspire people to get through dark places and come through it, because you can.”
In a UFEA documentary, Kirby shared her own experiences of depression and anxiety after the death of her mother, telling fans “it’s okay to need to talk to someone” if you’re struggling with your mental health.
“I’ve accepted now that it’s okay not to be okay,” she said. “That’s what I think I would emphasise to anyone, try to not shut yourself away, try to be open about it and don’t think people are going to judge you because you cry about something – it’s a normal part of life.”
6. They’re just good fun.
The Lionesses are the kind of women we want to be friends with. Whether they’re larking about on unicorn floats in the pool or fighting with water pistols at the beach, their official Instagram account is constantly making us smile.
How could you not want these women to win?