England left-back Demi Stokes has named the most exciting Lioness players heading to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, two entertaining personalities to look out for and why workers should be treated to several mornings off work over the next fortnight (at least).
Fans were engrossed by the party atmosphere while watching England win the 2022 Women’s Euros on big screens in beer gardens, pubs and other public venues.
However, the 2023 Women’s World Cup takes place in Australia and New Zealand, time zones that are between eight and 12 hours ahead.
England open the World Cup against Haiti at 10:30am on 22 July, before playing Denmark at 9:30am on 28 July and China at midday on 1 August.
These kick-off times will remind some readers of watching England before school or work during the 2002 Men’s World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Summer holidays begin for most English schools before the World Cup kicks off but Stokes — who missed out on England’s squad after a season hampered by injury — hopes employers will let workers tune in for England games.
“I think it’ll be very different. If you look at the Euros, there were normal kick-offs, people are going to the pubs and having a bevvy,” Stokes told Squawka at the recent Pixel FC launch.
“Everyone in England loves a good drink! Hopefully, it won’t drop viewers too much. But again, there is a way to make it fun still. You can have a little breakfast watch party and get your mates over or, you know, companies, sponsorships who are on board, it’s like, ‘Alright today no work, we’re going to watch the game. We’re going to have a nice breakfast, teas and coffees’.”
How many people will watch the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
- 1.12 billion viewers watched some part of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, according to FIFA.
- Statista forecast the upcoming tournament will hit 2bn, a quarter of the global population.
- However research from the Women’s Sport Trust and Pixel shows that “while media coverage of women’s football has increased substantially compared to most male sports, it accounts for 2% of print and 6% of television football news mentions in the UK […] compared to 98% and 94% achieved by the men’s game respectively.”
After England won at Euro 2022, the Lionesses took to Trafalgar Square the next day to celebrate with fans. Lucy Bronze caught the eye with her Bret “The Hitman” Hart-style sunglasses and wasn’t the only team member wearing shades, perhaps hiding the effects of a long night. Another viral moment came as Jill Scott tried to interview the European Championship trophy while teammates celebrated around her.
Of course, Jack Grealish clips were all over social media this summer as Manchester City celebrated their Treble. So, who could be the next Bronze, Scott or Grealish if England win the World Cup?
“Probably Lucy again, or Georgia Stanway to be fair. Probably one of them two,” Stokes said.
“Lucy tends to just do mad stuff anyway and Georgia — I always say she’s a total loose cannon but in the nicest way. But if we win the World Cup, I hope all of them do so!”
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Stokes was part of the Euro 2022-winning squad but is absent for upcoming tournament, having missed a large part of Manchester City’s 2022/23 season due to injury. Meanwhile, Rachel Daly has been moved up front, meaning the left-back spot is up for grabs. Alex Greenwood, Niamh Charles and Jess Carter are all fighting for the spot, but Stokes feels head coach Sarina Wiegman will tailor her left-back selection to negate opponents’ strengths each game.
“As you’ve seen, Alex has been there [at left-back], Niamh has been there, Jess Carter’s capable of playing there. And to be honest, I don’t think [Wiegman] goes off, per se, one personnel. I think she looks at who they’re playing against, the team’s strengths, their attributes and then she might look at the players’ strengths, their attributes.
“And because it hasn’t been a position that has been, you know, cemented down, I think that’s what she will look at. I think obviously if you look at the right side, Lucy [Bronze] has cemented that position and other people. But I think Sarina will have her starting XI and she’ll have her plan, and know what she’s doing. So I think she could play anyone there to be honest.”
One position that picks itself is central midfield, where Keira Walsh produced a Player of the Match display in last summer’s Euros final.
“I keep saying I’m so excited to watch Keira play,” Stokes said when asked which player she was most excited to watch in the upcoming tournament.
Walsh became the most expensive women’s footballer ever last summer when Barcelona Femení signed her for £400,000. They would go on to win the 2022/23 Champions League and, in the process, Stokes feels Walsh added a new dimension to her game: “She just thrives off playing in tournaments. I think last year she was brilliant in the Euros but brought probably a different side to her game going to Barcelona, so I think that’s exciting.”
Yet England go into the World Cup off the back of their worst run in front of goal since April 2018, failing to score in two consecutive games, losing 2-0 to Australia and drawing 0-0 with Portugal. The latter result came in England’s send-off match, their last game on home soil before jetting off to Australia to properly begin their preparations.
While there was success in the final game before Euro 2022 for England, some fans were quick to point out the Lionesses lost 1-0 to New Zealand ahead of the 2019 World Cup but went on to reach the semi-finals. And Stokes believes there is a big difference to how a team approaches a friendly to tournament football.
Stokes said: “I think you obviously go into tournament football and a lot of them are must-win games. I think when you have a friendly, you know, you try different players, you try different roles, different tactics, so there’s a lot of things that come with it. And equally there’s a lot of new players that have come into the squad. So again, be patient with them. Be patient with the squad.
“And when you do go into tournament football you’re not going to give away all your cards, you’re not going to give away ‘Ah we’re going to do this’
“I think that it always happens and everyone always has a dip. Like look at Liverpool, who were flying at some point. At the minute, it’s Man City. Now someone else might come in, and it might be Newcastle. You just don’t know.
“Everyone has a dip and usually after a dip you elevate […] I’m excited to watch [England]. They’re a talented team, they’ve got the experience of winning and losing, winning tournaments, so yeah I’m excited to watch them.”
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Demi Stokes was speaking at the launch of Pixel FC, a collective of dedicated women’s football creators helping to close the visibility gap within women’s football.