?“We’re probably going to be the best-prepared team that’s ever gone to a senior women’s World Cup, in terms of from an England point of view.”
Those are the words of Lionesses manager Phil Neville as England ready themselves for the start of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, seen as one of the contenders to lift the trophy after years of steady progress on the global stage.
As they look to go all the way this time around, take a moment to reflect on how England have previously fared…
If you take away nothing else, remember this: England have never previously failed to progress beyond the World Cup group stages, always at least reaching the knockout rounds.
1995 – Quarter Finals
Having failed to make it to the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, England took their place on the global stage for the first time when the 12-team tournament headed to Sweden.
The Lionesses were drawn into a group alongside Nigeria, fellow first time qualifiers Canada and eventual champions Norway. The Norwegians walked the group, winning their three games, scoring 17 goals in the process and not conceding, but England followed them into the knockout rounds by claiming 3-2 wins over both Canada and Nigeria.
England met Germany in the quarter finals, but that was where their first World Cup adventure ended. Germany won 3-0, with current head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg scoring the first.
Notable England Players: Marieanne Spacey, Karen Farley, Gillian Coultard, Hope Powell, Brenda Sempare, Pauline Cope, Clare Taylor
2007 – Quarter Finals
After that first foray, it was another 12 years before England made it back to the World Cup. By that time, midfielder Hope Powell had hung up her boots and had been in charge of the Lionesses for close to 10 years as the team took another leap forward.
England kicked off with a 2-2 draw against Japan and were only denied victory by a 95th minute equaliser. It was also the game that yielded Kelly Smith’s now iconic boot kissing celebration after she scored twice. That was followed by an impressive 0-0 draw against World Cup holders Germany, and a 6-1 hammering of Argentina to progress into the knockouts stages.
But, again, England bowed out at the quarter finals. This time it was the United States who beat them 3-0, with Abby Wambach and two-time World Cup winner Kristine Lilly among the goals. Germany, held by England in the group stages, went on to lift the trophy again.
Notable England Players: Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey, Mary Phillip, Faye White, Sue Smith, Katie Chapman, Rachel Brown, Rachel Unitt
2011 – Quarter Finals
England reached the final of Euro 2009 and went into the 2011 World Cup in high spirits, hoping to finally win a knockout game on the global stage. Things got off to a slow start after a draw against Mexico, but the Lionesses actually went on to top their group for the first time.
The second group game against New Zealand saw England come from behind in the second half to claim a 2-1 victory, while a famous Ellen White lob contributed to a 2-0 win over Japan, who eventually went on to win the tournament, in the third group fixture.
England then met France in the quarter finals and were on course to win after Jill Scott broke the deadlock, only to concede a late equaliser. The game remained level though extra-time and France ultimately prevailed in a penalty shootout when captain Faye White missed.
Notable England Players: Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey, Faye White, Casey Stoney, Fara Williams, Alex Scott, Ellen White, Jill Scott
2015 – Third Place
Hope Powell stepped down as England boss after a disastrous Euro 2013 and a new generation of talent came to the fore under the guidance of Mark Sampson at the World Cup in Canada two years later. And the Lionesses not only won a first ever World Cup knockout game, but two.
It was actually another slow start after the tournament began with a 1-0 defeat to France. England were then somewhat laboured in their next game against Mexico until Fran Kirby sparked the team into life to win 2-1, while there was another 2-1 win against Colombia.
With the World Cup expanded to 24 teams, 2015 was the first to feature a round of 16. England came from behind to beat Norway 2-1 in that game, won by a Lucy Bronze piledriver, while another 2-1 win after a pair of early goals was enough to beat Canada in the quarters.
A now infamous semi final saw England cruelly crash out against Japan in the last four after a freak own goal from Laura Bassett put Japan ahead in stoppage time. The Lionesses rallied, though, and claimed a bronze medal by beating Germany 1-0 in the third/fourth playoff.
Notable England Players: Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze, Fara Williams, Fran Kirby, Karen Bardsley, Laura Bassett, Karen Carney, Jodie Taylor