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England have once again inspired a nation at a major tournament

Over three million people watched the Lionesses reach the semi-finals of Euro 2017 and there is belief that they could win it

England v Netherlands (Channel 4 from 7pm)

REGARDLESS of the result of tomorrow’s semi-final between England and the Netherlands, it’s been a tremendous summer for women’s football.

Over three million people watched Sunday’s quarter-final between the Lionesses and France and my Twitter timeline was full of people talking about the game.

Never had I seen that before. People who had chosen to watch Love Island over the international youth tournaments were tuning in to watch the game and discussing it on social media.

People were being respectful of the players on the pitch and belittling the men; one of my favourite tweets said that Manchester City wasted £50 million on right back Kyle Walker when they already had Lucy Bronze.

When Jodie Taylor scored the decisive goal, I said that she was the most clinical striker at Arsenal and many agreed.

Usually there are sexist jokes about getting back to the kitchen or people complaining that the talent on the field is lacking.

However, there was none of that. Only support for the team and jubilation at the final whistle.

This is on the back of Arsenal’s announcement on Friday evening that they were dropping the “Ladies” from their name, a move long overdue.

Women’s football continues to take massive strides and it can be traced back to England capturing the hearts of the nation back in 2015.

But even then, in the early hours of that fateful morning when they were cruelly beaten by Japan in the semi-finals of the World Cup, not many people were awake to watch it.

I was, along with a few die-hard fans, but I sense that many didn’t care.

If this was tomorrow, if England were playing at 2am instead of 7.45pm, I honestly believe people would set their alarms to watch the game. That is a remarkable turnaround in such a short space of time.

As always, there is a long way to go. In Rupert Murdoch’s daily rag The Sun, England’s victory on Sunday was given very little space on Monday morning.

Around 150 words, if that, was dedicated to the game which is disgraceful.

We all know that had that been the men, we would have had to endure front and back page stories, along with countless think pieces and comment from a whole range of players about the importance and significance of the win.

I didn’t waste my money on purchasing a copy so don’t know what was more important than England reaching the semi-final of a major tournament but I can only assume that transfer stories and meaningless pre-season friendlies were given bigger billing.

Prior to the Scotland game last month, I spoke about this just being the beginning for the women’s game and the point still remains.

What’s been brilliant to watch is the continued support it is getting and the sweeping changes already happening off the pitch.

On it, I don’t want to jinx it but the Euros are now England’s to lose. The highest ranked team left in the tournament and the only team to play in a final, Mark Sampson’s side should be quietly confident of beating the hosts.

It will be tricky, it always is, but in Taylor they have a player who only needs one chance to score.

Losing Karen Bardsley to a broken leg is devastating but her back-ups have plenty of experience and will be calm and assured between the sticks.

England may have ridden their luck against France but that’s what you need to win a tournament.

While they have been outpassed and outplayed in their previous two games, they have shown a resilience to get the job done and seem happy to concede possession, knowing that other teams don’t have a prolific striker like they do.

Win or lose the next two games, the Lionesses have once again inspired a generation. Not only young girls, but millions of people across Britain now take the game seriously.

Rugby union’s Katy McClean spoke about how her side want to continue the summer of greatness, specifically mentioning the cricket side winning the World Cup as well as Sampson’s side.

If they can make reigning world champions want to do better, one can only imagine what they have done for people just starting their footballing journey.

And with Arsenal pushing their women’s shirts in their official store, maybe come Monday morning Nike will be printing the likes of Jill Scott and Fran Kirby on the back of the England shirts with a Euro 2017 winners badge on the sleeve.

Then who knows how far the women’s game will go by time the 2019 World Cup in France kicks off.


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