England v Czech Republic preview: top professional Bronze focused on match not personal 100th cap milestone

Defender has no room for sentiment despite being on the cusp of a century of appearances for the Lionesses, writes Ruby Malone.

Images: Ruby Malone

Lucy Bronze may be set to receive her 100th cap for England against the Czech Republic tomorrow night, but the defender insists she’s fully focused on the game — not her personal milestone.

The Barcelona defender revealed she’s determined to look forward, never back while playing after being plagued by knee injuries early on in her career.

Bronze will make her landmark appearance in the friendly at Brighton’s Amex, as the Lionesses return to the stadium that brought them so much joy during the Euros for the first time since their momentous quarter-final extra-time winner over Spain.

When asked at the pre-match press conference whether she becomes reflective about her football journey at times like this, Bronze said: “No, not really! I’ve always celebrated every player who’s reached 100 or 50 or their first cap, but for me it’s just another game… that’s if I do play!”

A definitive “she’ll play” from manager Sarina Wiegman, who was sitting beside her, confirmed Bronze will feature tomorrow night but the ambitious 30-year-old maintains there’s no room for sentiment as she strives to keep pushing forward in her career.

Bronze continued: “I think it’s like any other achievement I’ve had in my career – it’s something I’ll look back on and think, ‘Oh, that was amazing’, but right now it’s just another game and whether I’ve got 100 or 101, I’ve just got to keep going.

“I was told at 20 years old that I wouldn’t play past 27 [referring to her knee injuries], and now I’m 30, so I’m not doing so bad.”

This will be the fifth meeting between England and Czech Republic, with the Lionesses unbeaten in the previous four and having won the most recent meeting 3-2 in November 2019. The Czechs failed to qualify for the World Cup, but they are an emerging force in international women’s football, drawing twice with the Netherlands and managing a goalless draw away to the USA over the past year.

The Lionesses will be coming into the game full of confidence, however, having extended their unbeaten run under Wiegman to an impressive 23 games on Friday night in a thrilling 2-1 win over the USA. It is only the third time they have beaten the World Cup holders in 19 games and it acted as a warning signal to all other nations preparing for the 2023 Women’s World Cup next year: be ready, England are not taking their foot off the gas.

In classic Wiegman-era Lionesses fashion, neither the manager, nor Bronze, seemed phased by the conversation around whether England may now be close to holding the title of best in the world.

“We still have 10 months to go and I think we are in a good place. I think we’re improving. We still have to improve to be really good at the World Cup,” insisted Wiegman.

This was followed up by Bronze’s humorous response to the mention of the unbeaten run: “I don’t even know what it is… How many?” When told it was 23, she replied: “Yeah, that’s not bad! It’s obviously fantastic that we haven’t been beaten under Sarina… Magic Sarina!”

Wiegman confirmed that Georgia Stanway is currently the only player in camp with a question mark over her fitness for the match tomorrow. Additionally, the Bayern Munich midfielder was absent from the training session at the Lensbury this morning. The boss didn’t seem too concerned, however, saying that Stanway is still recovering from their match against the USA on Friday and just needs a little more time.

Wiegman also put the recent rumours surrounding her new contract to bed, saying that she is happy with the one she has, which runs until 2025. She confirmed that although talks have taken place, nothing new has been agreed yet. “I feel very valued and we’re all very happy,” she said.

Follow Ruby on Twitter @RubyGMalone

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