Lucy Bronze has credited her 2019 World Cup semi-final heartbreak with teaching her that “even when you’re at your best things can always go wrong”.
Reflecting on England’s 2-1 defeat by the USA in France before England’s fourth major semi-final in a row, Bronze said: “[That year] was one of my best years. Not only in an England shirt but just in general.
“Every time I was on the pitch I felt like I couldn’t do much wrong. To be on that high and to be at the top of my game, to be one of the best players in the world and have that dream of winning the World Cup … then, I was playing in France, which was the country that I was living in at the time, in the stadium that I lived right next door to, it was kind of what dreams are made of.”
Bronze sat on the grass of Lyon’s Groupama Stadium, her face stained with tears, after the final whistle. “It probably hit me a lot harder than others because I guess when you’re in the best form of your life, that’s when you just feel like this is your time,” she said.
“But I think that World Cup probably taught me more than anything else that even when you’re at your best things can always go wrong. And that’s probably why I’m a lot more cool, calm and collected now, because I’ve been at those very high heights and still being knocked down. It’s a feeling that I don’t particularly enjoy being reminded about. It’s something that I learned a lot from. It’s a huge experience and I try and share it with the girls and with the players I’m playing with.”
So far the journey to the semi‑finals of the Euros has been fairly straightforward, bar a tough quarter-final fightback against Spain. England, who face Sweden at Bramall Lane on Tuesday night, have come through the tournament relatively unscathed and that, Bronze believes, is the difference between this semi-final and the others that the Lionesses have played in.
“In previous semi-finals we’ve had other things to deal with,” said the full-back. “Whether that was players missing games through injuries or suspensions or what have you, it shook the team a little bit. I know that in all three semi-finals I’ve played in we’ve had to make changes going in that I don’t think managers would have wanted to make.
“Touch wood, at the minute everything is going the way it should. Everybody finished the game fine, I know Keira [Walsh] came off with cramp, we’ve finished with one yellow card for a small bit of time-wasting – those kinds of things seem to be going our way at this tournament, which is probably a little bit different.”
Winning a major trophy with England is the big empty box on Bronze’s career checklist, with the defender having already won all domestic honours in England and France as well as three Champions League titles with Lyon.
“A lot of people ask what my motivation is when I’m playing, because I’ve won a lot of trophies both in a team and individually,” she said. “England’s always been my biggest focus and my entire career I’ve wanted to lift a trophy for England and there’s lifting a European Championship in your home country –lifting the World Cup is probably the only thing that’s equal to that. [This Euros is] a huge opportunity, I know, to tick that box off.”