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Michelle Owen looks at what went wrong for England at Euro 2017 and whether the popularity of the tournament can translate to the WSL next season.
England performed brilliantly at Euro 2017, reaching the semi-finals only to have their hearts broken by eventual winners the Netherlands, but was this a missed opportunity?
I honestly think England could have and should have won Euro 2017, they’d beaten France for the first time in 43 years and Germany were out, so what went wrong?
It wasn’t a question of fitness, I read many times that England were the fittest team in the tournament and this was evident in early rounds, chasing and harrying the opposition.
What about tactics? We can all be armchair experts but I was baffled as to why it took Mark Sampson so long to make subs in the semi-final. Clearly the long ball tactic was not working, the Netherlands defence dealt with everything in the air, rarely did England get it down, run and frighten the defence.
Fran Kirby is so good at this but was not set free to do so. Sampson did not change the tactics the whole game, if he had been braver and changed the system could they have progressed?
A few months ago I wrote a piece on Sampson selecting his squad three months early for Euro 2017, I pondered if this was a mistake or genius.
Ellen White played out of position on the left wing, she did her job diligently tracking back with gusto but she did not look comfortable stuck out on the wing. Would it not have been better to have a natural in-form winger there or in the squad as an option?
Sampson chose reputation over form, and missed out on some star performers who played brilliantly in the WSL Spring Series.
I also did not like the way there was so much talk of it being England’s “destiny” to win. I saw a couple of interviews with players saying they believe they would win.
I know it did not mean to, but it came across almost cocky and somewhat disrespectful towards the opposition. Indeed, before the tournament started Sampson said England at present are more talented than ever.
I think it is important to question why England fell just short, but also not to undermine the achievement of reaching a semi-final. There is a tendency on social media to say “oh the men never do that well”, but this is separate and the ladies achievements should not be compared to the men as a positive or negative.
Over three million people watched England lose in the semi-final, now the next challenge is to translate that interest into domestic and WSL attendances.
Fans have the chance to see European champions such as Shanice van de Sanden (Liverpool) and Sari van Veenendaal (Arsenal) playing for very little money, as well as England favourites Lucy Bronze and so many others at the top of their game.
The FA must work hard to turn those viewing figures into bums on seats as the WSL returns in September. With the right marketing and exposure I sincerely hope this can happen!
Follow Michelle on Twitter at @MichelleOwen7