England captain Steph Houghton described the #World Cup semi-final against Japan in Edmonton as the biggest game in the history of the nation’s women’s team – but has the past fortnight already altered the landscape of the sport forever?
As England’s Lionesses have made their way through the tournament in Canada, from the disappointment of the opening defeat against France to the drama of victory against the hosts in the quarter-final, the nation’s imagination has been captured.
The interest was reflected in viewing figures of 1.6 million on BBC One for a game that concluded well into the early hours – and that figure is sure to be eclipsed as Mark Sampson’s team attempt to become England’s first national football side to reach a World Cup final since 1966.
The advent of the Women’s Super League (WSL) and occasions such as England’s friendly with Germany last November proved the sport is on the move and fast. The game at Wembley sold out all 55,000 available tickets, though transport problems reduced the attendance to 45,619.
There has, however, been nothing to compare with the profile and importance of their meeting with World Cup holders Japan. It is the occasion those who have worked so hard to grow the game have waited for, with the possibility of even bigger feats ahead.