Although Gareth Southgate’s men travel to Portugal in search of Nations League glory, the eyes are firmly on the women’s side as Phil Neville prepares them for the Women’s World Cup which kicks off this Friday.
France hosts this year’s tournament and England are tipped for glory. The team begin their campaign in a huge tie against close neighbours Scotland, before facing both Argentina and Japan in their remaining group games. Neville is confident the Lionesses can go all the way, with him wanting his side to ‘make the next step’ after reaching the semi-finals in both the European Championships and the World Cup.
The publicity given to the sport has steadily risen in recent years, which is a credit to both the players and the coaches that invest their time and commitment into a sport we all know and love. Women’s football was rarely taken seriously in the UK. However, after recent success reaching the latter stages of tournaments on the world stage, Phil Neville assures us the sport is no longer a tick box.
He spoke of how Gareth Southgate told him that the Lionesses should have priority over facilities at St George’s Park this week while they prepare for respective efforts at the World Cup and Nations League. “That fills me with pride,” said Neville.
Sadly, this evolution isn’t happening everywhere. The French national team recently came under criticism for casting aside the women’s team from the training ground. This was to make way for the men’s side which had to prepare for a friendly against Bolivia. Evidently, other countries aren’t following England’s example in a clear lack of progression for the women’s game.
Do preparations for a meaningless game against Bolivia match up to last minute World Cup preparations for the women? I think not…
Sadly, the women’s game still falls behind in terms of respect and equality. Putting aside the huge TV deals and sponsorships that the men’s game attracts, women players still have a right to be treated fairly and equally in their day-to-day preparations.
Recent incidents in the past haven’t helped the process. For example, the infamous ‘twerk’ incident at last year’s Ballon d’Or ceremony saw host Martin Solveig ask women’s winner Ada Hegerberg to twerk when accepting the prestigious award. The overall lack of respect for the women’s game has led to Ada boycotting this year’s World Cup to fight for equality within the sport.
Will Ada Hegerberg’s ultimate sacrifice pay-off? Only time will tell…
Phil Neville’s Lionesses go the tournament as a shining example of where the women’s game is heading. After recent glory at the SheBelieves Cup back in March, England have a great chance to not only win the tournament, but to raise the profile of the game for young women entering the sport.
The game is certainly heading in the right direction, despite certain countries slowing down the process. The tournament has seemingly arrived at the perfect time to provide coverage all over the world, particularly in the UK. BBC Sport will have live coverage of every World Cup game across TV, radio and online, whilst a staggering 720,000 tickets have been sold to see the tournament live over in France.
Clearly not a tick box anymore…