Alnwick’s Lucy Bronze played the full 90 minutes as England opened their World Cup in Canada with a 1-0 loss against France.
The main talking point an hour before kick-off when the team line-ups were announced was the former Duchess’s Community High School pupil and Manchester City right-back starting out of position on the left of a five-woman midfield.
The 23-year-old, who can play across the back four but was expected to be used by head coach Mark Sampson primarily as a centre-back. was picked to play the unfamiliar role to try to keep the dangerous Elodie Thomis quiet, which paid off as the French player was substituted on 72 minutes having had little impact on the game.
This came a few minutes after an England change – Fran Kirby for Alex Scott – which saw Bronze, wearing the number 12 shirt, move to a more comfortable right-back position.
While the Lionesses would have been hoping for more, the defeat shouldn’t dishearten the squad too much, coming as it did against one of the game’s top sides, ranked third in the world.
After the game, Sampson said: “I thought we managed the first half superbly. You are always vulnerable to a counter when you encourage your team to try to play the ball out of defence like we do. But the longer the half went on, there was only one team who was going to score to get back into it. That was a superb England performance.”
Nonetheless, other than in terms of defensive grit, England were pretty disappointing, as the stats proved. They had just three shots, one on target and 36 per cent possession, never really looking like they would beat the French for the first time since 1974.
England play Mexico on Saturday night then Colombia next Wednesday night. Both kick off at 9pm and will be screened live on the BBC.