BEFORE 2015, few people knew a lot about the England women’s football team. Fast forward 12 months however and the team who inspired a nation are now household names in football, gaining a reputation both on and off the field. Laura Dodds assesses one of England women’s most successful campaigns and looks ahead to 2016.

High point

The Women’s World Cup was the moment when the country started watching and getting behind the women’s team like never before. During the course of the tournament there were so many highs to choose from. Lucy Bronze’s spectacular goal to beat Norway in the round of 16 will live long in the memory, as will Jodie Taylor’s quick fire double that sent England into the semi-finals for the first time. However, this seasons high point has to be the third place play-off victory over European champions Germany to secure the bronze medal. England were dark horses from the start but came away from the tournament as the top European country, a title that bodes well for Euro 2017.

Low point

It’s difficult to pick a low point in what has been such a successful season both on and off the field for England. Laura Bassett’s own goal in the final seconds against Japan during the World Cup semi-final is an obvious one, but the reaction and support of everyone involved whether it be the players, management or the supporters watching back home was refreshing to see. For England to be matching the world champions for 90 minutes was testament to their effort and skill throughout the entire tournament, so to go out in such an unfortunate way was a major blow.

Star of the season

Lucy Bronze. It has taken a special player to keep veteran Alex Scott out of the team, but England have star quality in Lucy Bronze. The versatile defender has pace, power and an eye for goal, and has been a revelation since making her international debut in 2013. Bronze’s performances have not gone unnoticed as she recently won England player of the year at the FA Women’s football awards and has become the first female footballer ever to be shortlisted for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award.

Flop of the season

Toni Duggan. Many expected the Manchester City striker to be the star for England this year, but with no international goals in 2015 she has had a disappointing season for the national team. Domestically however she continues to be an important player for City, scoring six goals in the FA WSL which helped guide them to second in the table. Although performances for England have been poor, next year’s European qualifiers should provide plenty of opportunities for Duggan to get back into goal scoring form.

Manager rating – 9

When Hope Powell departed in 2013 many were left wondering where England’s women were headed after their early Euro 2013 exit. Mark Sampson had taken Bristol Academy to FA WSL 1 during his five year reign. He took over an England side who had begun to recover from their poor showing at the European championships, but under his management the side have progressed into one of the best teams in women’s football. His tactical mind and bold decisions regarding squad rotation in the world cup show that he’s willing to take risks, and with younger players starting to get more opportunities, the next few years could prove to be an exciting period for Sampson and England.

Emerging youngster for next season

Beth Mead. Top goal scorer in the FA WSL 1 this season with 12 goals, five more than Jess Clarke and Natalia Pablos in second place. The 20 year-old helped Sunderland finish fourth in their debut season in the FA WSL 1, and has since received her first senior England call-up. Her efforts this season were recognised at the FA Women’s football awards where she won England young player of the year, FA WSL 1 players’ player of the year and FA WSL 1 top goal scorer. After scoring a hat-trick in Sunderland’s 4-0 victory over champions Chelsea, the former Middlesbrough Centre of Excellence player has proven she has the ability and play at the top level and next year could prove to be a successful one for Mead in an England shirt.

Hopes for next season?

England are expected to qualify easily for Euro 2017, with games against Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Estonia to come next year. After such a successful 2015 there are now high expectations of this England team going into future tournaments, and come 2017 you’d expect England to be up there with Germany fighting for the European crown. With more and more young players breaking into the senior setup, it will interesting to see how Mark Sampson integrates youth and experience. Players like Beth Mead and Isobel Christiansen have already impressed at England youth level, but now is the time for them to showcase their talent at the very top.

By Laura Dodds
@lauradodds_

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