Football Features

Six ways the England Women’s national team made history at World Cup 2019

By Chris Smith

Published: 15:55, 3 July 2019

England’s hopes of winning a first-ever Women’s World Cup were ended as holders USA dumped them out with a thrilling 2-1 semi-final win. 

After all the talk of overcoming their illustrious opponents, the Lionesses were undone by some tight VAR calls, individual errors and a sip of tea from the irrepressible Alex Morgan.

Still, England came closer than they ever have done before to reaching that first Women’s World Cup final and, in the process, have torn up the nation’s history books along the way. Heads can certainly be held high and the future is filled with promise.

Here are six ways the England women’s national team made history at France 2019, most of it good, some of it bad.

1. Viewing figures

BBC viewing figures for England’s semi-final loss against USA hit new heights for the women’s game, with a peak of around 11.7m people tuning in to see the final stages of coverage.

That eclipses the 6.5m people who viewed the all-English men’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at the start of June. Combined with the 4.8m Youtube viewers, the total amounts to a figure around 400,000 below England’s midweek World Cup defeat.

Tuesday night’s semi-final is, thus far, is the most-watched Television broadcast in the UK during 2019.

An average of 10.3m people tuned in for the entire match, which doesn’t include those watching via the BBC’s iPlayer service. The number of those who viewed online is, according to the Times, thought to be around 750,000.

2. Prowess

Ellen White is now a national goalscoring icon.

The 30-year-old has six goals in five games at the World Cup so far. No England player for the women’s team has scored as many at a single World Cup. Only Three Lions strikers Gary Lineker and Harry Kane equal it. With Saturday’s third-place playoff still to come, who knows where her total will end.

Just like Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat and Gazza’s tears, White’s celebration will become a part of English football folklore for years to come.

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3. On a roll

We’re not done with White just yet. Her remarkable goalscoring in France means she is the first English player in history to score in five consecutive Fifa World Cup appearances, male or female. Every time England needed her, the newly-signed Manchester City forward stepped up.

Furthermore, White is only the third player in World Cup history to score in three consecutive knockout games, after Carli Lloyd (2015) and Abby Wambach (2011). Quite illustrious company.

4. Penalty horror

Time to put a dampener on things for a moment.

Wednesday, July 3 marked a year to the day that England’s men finally ended their penalty shootout misery by seeing off Colombia in Russia 2018’s round-of-16.

Tuesday, July 2 was not so kind on the England women’s team. With just mere minutes to go, White was felled in the box by Becky Sauerbrunn and, eventually, VAR awarded a penalty. England had their route back in.

With Nikita Parris having already missed two penalties at this tournament, up stepped captain Steph Houghton to take the burden. However, her tame effort was easily saved by USA ‘keeper Alyssa Naeher and England crashed out.

That was the Lionesses’ fourth penalty of France 2019, and their third miss. According to GracenoteSports, never before has a team been so unsuccessful from the spot in any World Cup tournament.

5. Solidarity

Heading into the semi-final, England had conceded just one goal during the 2019 World Cup, all the way back in their opening game against Scotland.

By the time Christen Press’ opening goal went in on Tuesday, it finally ended England’s national record run of 381 minutes without conceding at the tournament.

It really couldn’t have happened at a worse time than in a semi-final, but highlighted just how much of a brilliant defensive unit England are starting to become.

6. Seeing red

There isn’t really a great time for a red card, is there? Your team could be steamrolling the opposition 6-0 but getting yourself sent off still means your teammates will have to do without you in their next match.

That said, there isn’t a much worse time to get sent off than in the dying embers of a World Cup semi-final when your team are chasing an equaliser.

Unfortunately, a rash, over-the-ball challenge from Bright on Morgan made sure exactly that happened. That was the first red card any senior England team has been shown at a World Cup since that Wayne Rooney dismissal against Portugal in 2006, while it is the first-ever occasion we have seen a member of the women’s team dismissed.

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