Bronze is going for gold at World Cup

Lucy Bronze in action for England.
Lucy Bronze in action for England.

England Women’s defender Lucy Bronze has targeted a record run at the World Cup, which kicks off on Saturday.

The 23-year-old is part of head coach Mark Sampson’s squad, which is preparing for the nation’s opening game on Tuesday, against France.

England have been knocked out at the quarter-final stage in each of their three previous World Cup appearances, in 1995, 2007 and 2011.

And Bronze, from Alnwick, believes a last-four berth should be the Lionesses’ minimum aim this time around.

She said: “We want to do better than ever before and that for us is a semi-final place at least. Obviously we want to win the tournament and we will go out there to do that – every team will. That is the ultimate goal for us all. But you have to have a realistic goal to start with.

“As a player you always want to improve. If you’re not in the squad, you want to get in the squad. If you’re not in the starting eleven, you want to get into the starting eleven and this is another challenge.

“Our main goal has to be to do better than we have ever done. We’ve never gone beyond the quarters and that in itself would be a success.

“And then you’re only two games away from winning a World Cup – who knows where that momentum and confidence could take you?”

Bronze, who has earned 17 caps, has only just returned to the Three Lions fold following knee surgery earlier this year.

A lengthy lay-off forced her to miss England’s match against USA in February, the entire Cyprus Cup campaign in March and the China friendly in April, as well as the start of the FA WSL 1 season with her new club, Manchester City.

But after proving her fitness with City she was named in England’s World Cup squad and made her first international appearance for six months in Friday’s 1-0 defeat by World Cup hosts Canada.

Bronze, a former Women’s PFA Player’s Player of the Year, said: “I knew the absolute maximum I would be out for would be 12 weeks.

“There were 16 weeks until the Canada game so I knew I’d have at least four weeks under my belt before that to get up to speed, but I came back in seven weeks and thankfully never had any major setbacks.

“I was the only player in the squad not to have played an international in 2015 so to get a full game in before a World Cup was a massive thing for me.

“A match is obviously a different intensity and tempo to training, and having played the full 90 I now feel on par with everybody else in the squad. It was a massive relief and I felt great afterwards, just not about the result.”

The former Liverpool player, who was a member of the England squad that won the U19s Euros in 2009, even believes her lay-off will pay dividends over the course of the World Cup, insisting the rest has done her good.

○ All 52 matches will be shown across the BBC, with every game available to watch on the BBC Sport website, while all England fixtures will be on BBC Radio 5 live. England v France is on BBC 2 on Tuesday, kick-off 6pm BST.