Could women’s football in England be headed for a Brandi Chastain moment of their own?
When the 1999 U.S. squad won their World Cup title, it was the second one for the Yanks but the one that catapulted the women’s squad onto the proverbial map. From Wheaties boxes to sports bra fever, the moment did for the sport what, in a sense, Tiger Woods was doing for a generation of golf.
Lucy Bronze and her England teammates might be having that moment right now, according to the country’s FA, whether England can pull a pair of upsets to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup title or not. She’s got a pair of big-stage strikes, and her nation is in the semifinals for the first time ever.
[ MORE: Get caught up with the 2015 WWC ]
England has knocked out hosts Canada and former champions Norway after finishing second in its group on goal differential to world No. 3 France. And Bronze, the 23-year-old Manchester City star and former Liverpool title winner, has been instrumental for her nation in the same season she won the PFA women’s footballer of the year award.
And with a better infrastructure of name teams that the U.S. had in 1999 — fans can quickly jump to their favored club whether Chelsea, Arsenal or whomever — could this be the jump-off for a golden age of women’s football overseas?
Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of women’s football, thinks so. From the BBC:
“It feels like the nation has fallen in love with the Lionesses,” Simmons said.
“Everyone is really proud of the England women’s team, awareness levels have never been higher surrounding the quality of women’s football and all the work that has gone into helping them get where they are now – which is competing at the very top.
“Hopefully that will translate into people getting behind those players when they play for their clubs in the Women’s Super League and the European Championship qualifiers.”
No one’s pegging the FA Women’s Cup final between Chelsea and Notts County to compete with a Premier League men’s Merseyside Derby, but it’s high time a match so important to women’s football in such a big footballing nation gets more front-page newspaper love. And with this World Cup run, coupled with six World Cuppers slated for that match, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Up next, a Wednesday date with Japan to — the nation hopes — set up a massive July 5 tilt with the winner of the U.S. and Germany. Given the relative big stage failings of the men, what would an unlikely but possible women’s title mean for its nation?