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England

Exclusive: Lucy Bronze discusses Lyon move; Lionesses and Champions League triumph

The Boot Room caught up with the Champions League winning full-back.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

At the age of 26, Lucy Bronze has already enjoyed a hugely impressive career, both domestically and internationally.

She has played for the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City in England before moving abroad to join Lyon who are regarded as one of the best clubs in the women’s game.

It would have been tough to leave her home country, but opportunities such as this one doesn’t arrive often and the full-back grabbed it.

In an exclusive interview with The Boot Room, she discussed the reasons behind that very move.

“To play in the best team in Europe, with the best players in the world, in the hope they could help me improve as a player. Of course, I wanted to win the Champions League too, but I really wanted to challenge myself to improve as a player.”

Although the women’s game in England is improving due to the performances of the national team and the implementation of the Women’s Super League, there are better opportunities to be taken abroad.

Toni Duggan has moved to Barcelona, Eni Aluko has joined Juventus while Jodie Taylor and Rachel Daly both play in the United States.

It is still rare for players from the national team to move abroad, but Bronze and the players listed above have set an exciting precedent.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Lyon have established themselves as one of the leading clubs in Women’s football and were very keen to sign Bronze from Manchester City.

In the statement that announced her signing, they described the 26-year-old as ‘without doubt, the best full-back in the world’. This is high praise and underlines how highly she is thought of across Europe.

“I think I’m a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. But my physicality and mentality are probably what give me an edge because I’d run through a brick wall to win.”

Bronze is humble when discussing that comment and her strengths as a full-back, but a player doesn’t get to the position that she is in without having natural talent.

Her winning mentality and reading of the game give her an advantage, but she is also effective in both halves of the pitch, as shown by her goal record.

She isn’t a clinical scorer, but she contributes in the final third and that provides an extra dimension to a team that she is playing in.

Throughout the interview, her modesty and humility shine through. Despite her success as a player, Bronze keeps her feet on the ground and acknowledges the role of others in her career.

During her time in England, she won the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year on two occasions, while she has recently become the first English player to be named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year.

“Of course, it’s nice to get recognition, especially as a defender it’s always a lot harder. I’m just very fortunate to get to play with so many great players around me who make me look good.”

Her decision to leave England to join Lyon wasn’t a huge surprise as it wasn’t the first example of Bronze leaving the country for career development reasons.

The England international spent some time at the University of North Carolina and she became the first British player to win the NCAA Cup. It was a short period, but an important one for her career.

“Although my stay was short, I learnt a lot.

“I played with so many American players who went on to win World Cups and Olympics, and they all had a crazy mentality that I’d never seen before and I was at an age when I was like a sponge taking everything in.”

Over the course of her time as a professional, Bronze’s desire to learn and better herself is a clear trend. As mentioned above, there are some that consider her as the best full-back in the world and there is genuine reason to believe that is the case.

There have been a number of people that have played a role in the 26-year-old’s career and development as a player.

However, one person stands out above the rest as a key influence on the right-back and that is former Arsenal defender Alex Scott, Bronze’s predecessor in the England set-up.

“I think there are loads of people I could mention, my family especially. But when I think about my England career and getting in at right back, surprisingly enough it was actually Alex Scott, who at the time was my rival for the right back spot at England.

(Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

“She’s the one teammate that helped support me become the player and person I am today.  

“She always pushed me to do more, always had my back, wanted the best for me and still does now, but I don’t know any of player who would support their direct competition the way Alex did for me. 

“It’s something I will always be grateful for.”

It wouldn’t have been easy for Bronze to step up and replace Scott in the England team, but the advice and guidance from the player she was replacing will certainly have made the transition simpler.

As her career continues, she will be hoping to contribute as much to the national side as Scott who made 140 appearances for the Lionesses.

The team on the pitch have made huge strides recently as they attempt to challenge for major honours and emerge as one of the best sides in the world. They came so close to a World Cup final in 2015 and they will be wanting to go even further at the next tournament.

Bronze has played a key role in the growth of the team both on and off the pitch. She believes the Lionesses have a bright future ahead of them.

“I think we have developed such a good squad, we have so many great players.

“We don’t have any superstars who we have to rely on to win us a game, everyone plays their part.

“Every year we have improved as individuals and as a team, and have so many more good young players coming through all the time.”

Although the appointment of Phil Neville was not well received, the Lionesses performed well in the She Believes Cup and made it to the final before losing to the USA due to an own goal.

The team proved that they could challenge the very best teams in the world and Bronze believes that the gap is closing between the USA and England.

“I’d like to think so, I don’t think we are there yet, we aren’t quite ready to be the best in the world but it’s something we are working towards and something I think we all believe we can reach.”

They still have a year before the World Cup is due to take place. It is being held in France and the location could prove to be an advantage for England as they will be so close to home. For Bronze, she plays her football in the country and that should put her in a good position to excel.

England are yet to qualify for the tournament as they trail Wales by one point, albeit the Lionesses have a game in hand.

Bronze and her team-mates won’t be getting carried away, but they have looked a very good team in qualifying. They have scored 20 times in six matches, while they have only conceded once.

There is a real hope within the nation that England can triumph next summer and the 26-year-old believes that it is important that the current generation win an international trophy together.

“It’s so important, we have come so close now in the past two tournaments where making the final is a must.

“We have a lot of players who will be hitting their prime come the World Cup, a lot of players who know what it takes to win trophies.

“Hopefully it all comes together at the right time. But for now, the focus is still on qualifying.”

The last year has been an excellent one for Bronze personally. She has not only earned a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world, but she then helped Lyon retain the Champions League.

It would have been a difficult decision to leave Manchester City, but it was one that paid off.

(Photo by Genya Savilov/Getty Images)

The right-back came up against her former club in the semi-finals of the competition and scored the decisive goal in the tie. She admits that it was strange to go up against her former employers.

“The first game was a very strange game for me, playing in Manchester, surrounded by English people and the pressure I put on myself to say I wanted to win the Champions League with Lyon.

“But the second game at home in Lyon was just like any other game for me, where I enjoyed every minute of it and scoring to get us to the final was like the cherry on top.”

The very best players step up when they are required and they a rarely intimidated by difficult occasions.

Bronze showed that she could thrive despite playing against her former team and was the match-winner on the day.

She may not be an attacking player, but she is capable of producing those moments like and that is one of the reasons why Lyon wanted to sign her.

Bronze has already achieved a lot at the age of 26 and is now establishing herself as one of the best players in the world. She has a big future and will be one of the most important players in England’s search for an international tournament triumph.

There have been many good moments, but the England international states that winning the Champions League and scoring a World Cup goal are two of her favourite moments.

“Winning the Champions League was huge for me, but I was disappointed in how I played in the final. So that’s something I have to put right next year.

“Still, scoring the winning goal in the World Cup against Norway is something that’ll always bring back the best memories for me, simply because I just didn’t think I was capable of scoring a goal like that ever.

“Since then I’ve seemed to have made a habit of scoring one off goals in big games.”

Lyon labelled her as the best full-back in the world and there is a genuine case to be made that she is. She has had a great career to date and there will be more standout moments in her future.

The World Cup next year is already shaping up to be a great tournament and England will be contenders if they get there.

In Bronze, England have a great player with a winning mentality and that could be important for Neville’s Lionesses.

It won’t be easy, but this is the best generation of footballers that England have had in years and it would be incredible for them to mark it with a major trophy win.

There are other great players in the squad, but Bronze could be the pick of the bunch.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

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Arsenal

Three Arsenal youngsters who could help England bring football home in 2022

The Gunners’ academy continues to develop some of the very best youngsters.

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Arsenal
Photo: Getty Images

After a successful tournament got the nation dreaming, England fell at the penultimate at the World Cup and may require Arsenal‘s help in 2022.

Gareth Southgate’s youthful squad exceeded pre-tournament expectations and suddenly Greg Dyke’s objectives for the 2022 World Cup seem within grasp – and the Three Lions now have four years to build towards glory in Qatar.

Come November 2022, when FIFA has confirmed the World Cup will commence, Southgate is likely to call upon a number of the players who starred for the Three Lions in Russia but changes to his squad are also inevitable.

“The two targets I have for the England team are – one, to at least reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and two, win the World Cup in 2022.”

– FA Chairman Greg Dyke reveals his ambitious plan in 2013.

Fortunately, English football is breaming with exciting young talent at the moment and Arsenal may hold the key to success with three of their most highly-rated prospects.

Eddie Nketiah

Bursting onto the scene in November 2017, Eddie Nketiah became an instant hit at the Emirates Stadium after netting twice against Norwich City in the Carabao Cup. Since then, the 19-year-old forward has gone on to make three Premier League appearances.

Competition for places at Arsenal is fierce, particularly following the captures of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the past 12 months, which means he may have to be patient to get his chance – but the situation is entirely different on the international stage.

In four England U21 appearances, Nketiah has scored two goals, per TransferMarkt stats, following on from eight goals in eight games at U18 level and four goals in two games for the U17 side. In just over a year, Nketiah rose to Aidy Boothroyd’s U21 ranks from the U17’s and shows no signs of stopping his rise.

(Photo by Bertrand Langlois/Getty Images)

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Becoming a regular for Arsenal in Arsene Wenger’s final season at the Emirates Stadium, Ainsley Maitland-Niles showed his versatility by catching the eye playing as a full-back. His natural position is in midfield though and this is where he could be of value to England.

It is fair to say that England’s options in the middle of the park sitting in front of the defence are extremely limited, with neither Jordan Henderson or Eric Dier doing enough to cement their spot in the position for the long-term.

Maitland-Niles could become the man England are looking for in the coming years and further first-team experience with Arsenal looks set to follow under Unai Emery, as the 20-year-old penned a new long-term deal with the Gunners last month.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Reiss Nelson

Arsenal fans have been excited about 18-year-old Reiss Nelson for a while now and saw the teenager break into the fringes of the first-team last term, as Whoscored data shows he finished the campaign with 15 appearances across all competitions.

Eight of those opportunities came as a starter, including two in the Premier League, and there is every chance Nelson could earn further action under the guidance of Unai Emery next term – especially as Alex Iwobi has not done enough to warrant continued action.

Should the Nigeria international continue to suffer with poor form, the eight-cap England U19 international could be Arsenal’s breakthrough star of the year – following in the footsteps of players like Maitland-Niles, Jack Wilshere and Hector Bellerin.

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England

Who will bring football home? England’s predicted World Cup 2022 squad

Players from Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and even Bristol City feature.

Mathew Nash

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England were desperately close to making it into the World Cup final, after defeat to Croatia in the semi-finals.

The Three Lions did however bring back some pride and promise from the long-suffering England fans.

With England also the World Under-17 and Under-20 Champions, the future is brighter than ever.

So who will be at the World Cup in 2022?

It seems impossible to guess four years in advance. Not many would have suggested the likes of Jordan Pickford, Harry Maguire or Jesse Lingard four years ago.

(Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

The squad, hopefully, will not change much and the experienced players in the squad will likely still be around.

However, for the sake of the article and debate, anyone who will be over 30 in 2022 has been ignored. That leaves Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Jordan Henderson, Fabian Delph, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck in the cold, even if some of them will likely be present.

Eric Dier also got nudged out, as his form recently has been a concern and Nick Pope has been replaced.

So who makes the XI and the overall squad of 23?

GOALKEEPERS

Jordan Pickford

The Everton stopper cemented his place as England’s new number one during the quarter-final triumph over Sweden. Highly-rated by club and country and with excellent distribution it will be no surprise if he remains England’s first-choice in 2022.

(Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Jack Butland

What a deputy. The Stoke City goalkeeper could easily be our number one. The Potters relegation will hopefully not set him back and he should push Pickford for years to come.

Angus Gunn

The son of a Scotland international has so far rejected their international calls. Recently joined Southampton for £13.5 million and will hope to cement his place as a Premier League regular.

Honourable mentions: Nick Pope, Freddie Woodman, Dean Henderson.

DEFENDERS

John Stones

Despite one lapse of concentration which cost England crucially against Croatia the Manchester City man was excellent in Russia.

If he maintains a starting place at City and his career is not derailed, then Stones will be one of the leaders in Qatar.

Harry Maguire

Became a national hero this summer. A swashbuckling defender with an eye for a goal and a great meme. Should be a multi-cap England international.

Joe Gomez

Replacing Kyle Walker as the pace-man in a back three is Liverpool’s Gomez. If he can combat his recent injury troubles he will be a certain future England player. Remember how he shackled Neymar back in November.

Jamaal Lascelles

For many people, the Newcastle captain should have been in Russia ahead of Phil Jones or Gary Cahill.

Rightly so. A brilliant leader who would slot into a back three perfectly and deserves to be in the England fold for the next four years.

(during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St. James Park on April 15, 2018 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Dael Fry

The Middlesbrough defender is one inclusion that may cause derision. But this lad is extremely talented.

A reliable defender, good with the ball at his feet and a favourite at St George’s Park. Fry will hope to emerge as an England hopeful in the years to come.

Honourable mentions: Eric Dier, Alfie Mawson, Michael Keane, Ben Wilmot.

FULL-BACKS/WING-BACKS

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Already in the England picture and shone v Belgium. Will likely play in the ¾ play-off this weekend. In four years he might be playing in the final.

Jonjoe Kenny

A tough call this but the Everton defender is like the Kieran Trippier to Alexander-Arnold’s Walker-like characteristics.

Whilst the Liverpool man has the pace and the power Kenny is more deliberate and his crossing is fantastic.

A favourite with the England youth management and the eventual successor to Seamus Coleman at Goodison Park.

Honourable mentions: Kyle Walker-Peters, Dujon Sterling, Steven Sessegnon.

Ryan Sessegnon

A shoe-in for 2022 if he remains fit and healthy. The Fulham star is perhaps England’s most exciting prospect.

He might even be considered an attacker by 2022 but for now, he would be an excellent left wing-back and will hopefully make his England bow this season.

(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Joe Bryan

This might be the biggest swing and potential miss in the squad. The Bristol City star is wanted by a host of clubs this summer after his fantastic form at Ashton Gate.

But he is a hard-working and super-fit young man who, given the right opportunities, is easily capable of playing for his nation.

Honourable mentions: Lewis Gibson, Luke Shaw, Ben Chilwell

MIDFIELDERS

Lewis Cook

Absolutely adored by the England camp the Bournemouth man has already made his England debut. More positive in his passing than Jordan Henderson and more dynamic than Eric Dier, he is surely the future of England’s composed holding role.

Harry Winks

Set for a big break at Tottenham this season he has the potential to be an England star. If he can overcome his current injury trouble he would seem like being a shoe-in for 2022.

Phil Foden

England lacked a midfielder who could pick the locks of the Croatia defence in the semi-finals. This is the young man to do just that. The Manchester City youngster needs to break into the first-team fold but given what he has already achieved that should not be a problem.

(Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Ruben Loftus-Cheek

A lot depends on his next move, as Chelsea does not seem to be the right place for RLC to develop.

Showed in all his England performances that he is a talent to keep an eye on for the future and England will surely nurture him.

Dele Alli

May not have set the world alight in Russia, but the Tottenham star’s talent cannot be overlooked.

If he can get to the level he is capable of, then Alli is a 100-cap man with ease.

Jesse Lingard

Can he continue to prove people wrong for another four years?

Excellent at the World Cup and been in fine form for Manchester United. If he continues to progress in this way, then he should still be in the England set-up four years from now.

James Maddison

A tough choice considering the wealth of attacking midfield talent but the Leicester newbie seems the most likely to reach the levels necessary to play at a World Cup.

The £24 million talent can play a number of positions and is a special talent the Premier League will enjoy watching next term.

Honourable mentions: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ross Barkley, Jack Grealish, Kieran Dowell,

FORWARDS

Raheem Sterling

He divided opinion among some at this summer’s World Cup. But under the guidance of Pep Guardiola he will continue to improve.

Whether out wide or through the middle, England will surely stick by the attacker.

(Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Harry Kane

The nation’s current captain and front-runner for the Golden Boot award at this summer’s tournament it is hard to see how he won’t lead the line again in four years time.

If he keeps going at his current rate, Kane will surely take Wayne Rooney’s goal-scoring record for England.

Ademola Lookman

Some felt the Everton attacker was unlucky not to go this summer. After thriving on loan at RB Leipzig it seemed he might make a late lunge.

This summer is big for Lookman. He needs to decide where is best to carry on his career which could be key to a future England career.

Marcus Rashford

The Manchester United talent can surely only get better. If he can become a regular starter, wherever he happens to play his club football then the teenager will hope to secure a place in Qatar.

Honourable mentions: Dominic Solanke, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Eddie Nketiah.

Who did we miss? Can England bring football home in 2022?

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England

Three Everton players who could help England bring football home in 2022

Everton have a long list of top talents coming through that could make it into the England team.

Mathew Nash

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England are out of the World Cup following defeat against Croatia in the semi-finals last night. But the future looks bright for England. They had the second youngest team in the tournament and are the current under-20 and under-17 World Champions.

So who could help them bring football home at Qatar 2022?

When looking at Everton’s current crop, it is hard to pick just one.

Ademola Lookman is an excellent attacker, although could be on his way. Callum Connolly’s versatility makes him a manager’s dream whilst Tom Davies had a brilliant 2016-17 season, even if last term was less impressive.

But here are the three Everton players who might have a chance of heading to Qatar in four years time.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Like England’s summer hero Harry Maguire the 21-year-old came through the ranks at Sheffield United. Since joining Everton his progress has been astonishing.

He is already a hero for England. He scored the winner for England’s under-20s last summer as they won the World Cup.

With striking positions set to be up for grabs in four years time, DCL will no doubt be in the running.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Kieran Dowell

The spindly playmaker is adored in the England and Everton set-ups for his God-given natural talent.

Stormed into a loan spell at Nottingham Forest last season, which admittedly dwindled toward the end.

But with his dexterity and ability, only injury and himself could hold Dowell back from making it to Qatar.

(during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Everton at The King Power Stadium on October 29, 2017 in Leicester, England.

Jonjoe Kenny

Dowell’s best mate and England’s trusted right-back at youth level. His cross-city rival Trent Alexander-Arnold may be catching the eye but Kenny is no slouch.

An exquisite crosser of the ball and defensively sound he is the Trippier if Alexander-Arnold is the Walker of England’s future right-back choices.

Like Dowell, eligible for Ireland, so England, must ensure the Everton pair are aware of their pathway.

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