Defender Lucy Bronze admitted England “are not happy” with their World Cup performances so far but vowed the Lionesses will step up in Saturday’s quarter-final against Colombia.
The European champions crushed China 6-1 in their third group-stage contest, but that match remains an outlier in a tournament that has otherwise seen them score just one other goal from open play.
That winning strike came against Denmark from Lauren James, who will miss the Lionesses’ last-eight encounter while she serves at minimum a one-game suspension after she was sent off in Monday night’s last-16 victory over Nigeria.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) August 8, 2023
“We can give more,” vowed Bronze. “We’re a fantastic team with highly-talented players, but the important thing is we got through to the next round.
“There’s no point in playing our best performances in the first games, we might as well save them for the quarter-finals or further than that.
“We’ve built on every game, we’ve taken something from every game, whether that was the Haiti game that was physical, the Denmark game when we lost our key player in Keira [Walsh], the China game we changed the formation completely, [Monday] we had a red card.
“Everything that has been thrown at us, we’ve dealt with and moved forward.
“I don’t see many other teams who’ve had that adversity and if they had, I don’t think they’ve managed to overcome the way we have. At the same time, we are not happy with our performances.”
The 2023 tournament, expanded to 32 teams for the first time, has already provided host of dramatic and often surprising results.
Double defending champions the United States were denied a shot at an history-making ‘three-peat’ after they were eliminated in the last 16 following a penalty shoot-out with Sweden, who are set to play Japan on Friday in one of the most anticipated quarter-final clashes.
That followed a group stage that saw three top-10 sides in Canada, Brazil and Germany ousted and nations far lower down FIFA’s world rankings advance, results that have largely been celebrated as evidence of progress in the women’s game and setting up the most unpredictable finals in the competition’s 32-year history.
World number four England, who have never reached a World Cup final, have so far managed to survive in the face of adversity.
Before kick-off against Nigeria, the name on everyone’s lips was Walsh, who was carried off the pitch on a stretcher in England’s second group-stage contest with what many feared was a tournament-ending injury, but made a stunning return on Monday night.
Yet 120 minutes later, when Walsh began to feel a cramp and was replaced by Manchester United skipper Katie Zelem, it was clear James would be the player in the headlines after she was shown a straight red for stepping on the back of Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie, forcing her team-mates to doggedly battle through extra-time short-handed.
The incident resulted in an automatic one-game suspension for James, though, there is a good chance the 21-year-old’s punishment could be extended to three games, which would include the World Cup final on August 20.
The decision to extend the ban will come from FIFA’s disciplinary committee, who could make the decision after the Colombia contest.
Chelsea forward James, who has since apologised on Twitter, had already contributed three goals and three assists in the group stage so she will be sorely missed for the Lionesses.
“All we can do is go back to training and make sure we are focused on the job at hand. The most important thing is that we’re coming out of games with wins,” Bronze added.
“I think I said that after the Haiti game, and some people thought that was not probably what they wanted. However, we’re the ones who are still in the competition and there’s many top teams who are going home because they haven’t been able to get that point or been able to see the games out in the penalty shoot-out and we have.
“We’ve shown that side of our team that we know what it takes to win.”