Largely the product of players from the FA Women’s Premier League, and now the FA Women’s Super League, the England Women’s National Football Team has established a strong international resume in recent years, and has now qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup five times since the tournament’s inception nearly three decades ago in 1991.
Although the England women’s national team has successfully qualified for the World Cup for five out of the eight total tournaments, they have not demonstrated much success within the tournaments themselves. In fact, the England national team has been eliminated in the first round of the knockout stage in each World Cup except for one; the team placed third in the most recent tournament in 2015.
This section of the WordPress site is intended to give insight into the England women’s national team’s history of performance in the World Cups to date and to provide information on England’s most iconic World Cup figures.
In 1995, the English women’s national team made its World Cup tournament debut in Sweden. A total of 12 teams qualified for the tournament, who were placed into 3 groups of 4; England was placed in Group B along with Norway, Canada, and Nigeria. At this point in time, women’s football was not a professional sport in Britain, and consequently, the team’s players were forced to take time off of their day jobs in order to compete in the tournament (England Memories).
In the round robin stage, England won its first match in a nail-biting 3-2 victory against Canada. England jumped out to an early 3-0 lead but had to fight ferociously to fend off a surging Canada in the second half, who rallied to score two goals in the closing minutes of the match (FIFA Archive).
England then fell scoreless to Norway in a 2-0 loss for its second match of the tournament. Although this seems like a crushing defeat, this game was a statement that England could compete with the top national teams; Norway — the eventual World Cup champions — scored a jaw-dropping 17 goals (8 against Nigeria and 7 against Canada), and simultaneously allowed zero goals throughout the entire group stage (FIFA Archive).
Fortunately, the team bounced back with another 3-2 victory against Nigeria to advance past the group stage to the knockout stage of the tournament. In the knockout stage, however, England was dominated by Germany, losing in a 3-0 blowout defeat (FIFA Archive).
For the 1995 World Cup, the standout players on the England women’s national team were Debbie Bampton, the team’s captain, and Pauline Cope, the team’s goalkeeper. The manager for the 1995 England women’s team was Ted Copeland. Copeland led the women’s team to their first ever World Cup, and their first ever quarterfinal appearance.
Having waited a full 12 years since their previous appearance, the England women’s national team finally qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup again in 2007. With the expansion of the tournament, 16 teams participated in the tournament in 4 groups of 4. England was placed in Group A alongside the likes of Germany, Japan, and Argentina. For this World Cup, the England national team — 21 players in total — was largely constructed from the FA Women’s Premier League, including 9 players from the Arsenal squad alone (FIFA Archive).
The first match of the tournament for England was a thriller, ending in a frustrating 2-2 draw against Japan. Following a scoreless first half, Japan took the first lead early in the second half. In just a span of two minutes, however, English football legend Kelly Smith scored two goals to put England on top. With victory all but secured, Japan narrowly escaped defeat with a goal in the 5th minute of extra time (FIFA Archive).
In the second match of the tournament, England drew its second consecutive draw in a scoreless effort against Germany. Around this time, Germany’s national women’s team was among the best teams in the world, and they would go on to win the 2007 World Cup, signifying once again that the English national team could compete with the world’s elite.
In a win or go home finale to the group stage, England decisively commanded a victory to advance to the knockout stage with a 6-1 thwart of Argentina. Unfortunately, after a 12-year wait for a shot at redemption, they faced the same result. England was eliminated in the first game of the knockout stage with a 3-0 loss to the United States (FIFA Archive).
Among the standout players of the 2007 World Cup was midfielder Kelly Smith, whose four total goals propelled her to a spot on the World Cup All-Star roster. The manager of the 2007 English national team was Hope Powell, who was a player for the Three Lionesses during their 1995 World Cup run (England Memories).
For the first time in back to back tournaments, the England women’s national team qualified for the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany, making their third tournament appearance overall. Although there was a discussion on expanding the tournament to 24 teams for the 2011 World Cup, the FIFA Executive Committee decided to forego the tournament’s expansion, keeping the total number of teams at 16 (Associated Press). England was selected to participate in Group B against Japan, Mexico, and New Zealand. The 2011 World Cup was a demonstration of how dominant English women’s football had become. Unlike previous tournaments, 4 of the 21 players on the English squad played professionally for clubs in the United States; it was evident that English women’s football was approaching an elite status, spreading its influence to other corners of the world.
The first match of the tournament for the Three Lionesses was a 1-1 draw against Mexico. After Fara Williams scored a goal in the 21st minute, Mexico quickly retaliated, and the two teams were locked in a scoreless battle for the remainder of the match (FIFA Archive).
For the rest of the group stage, England dominated the competition. With a 2-1 victory over New Zealand and a 2-0 shutout of Japan, England easily cruised to its third appearance in the knockout stage — ready to pursue a shot at redemption once again (FIFA Archive).
Much to the team’s disappointment and frustration, however, England was eliminated in the first round of the knockout stage for the third straight time.
The Three Lionesses fought valiantly against the French national team, and the game concluded in a 1-1 draw, meaning the game would be decided on a penalty kick shootout. Unfortunately, France claimed victory in penalty kicks (4-3) when captain Faye White was denied on England’s 5th shot (FIFA Archive).
The 2011 World Cup saw the rise of midfielder Jill Scott as a standout player for the English national team. Scott scored two crucial goals for the team during the tournament — one during the 2-1 victory over New Zealand, as well as England’s only goal against France. The FIFA technical report recognized Scott as one of England’s four outstanding players in the tournament, describing her as an “energetic, ball-winning midfielder who organizes the team well, works hard at both ends of the pitch, and can change her team’s angle of attack” (Technical Report).
Managing the 2011 tournament was Hope Powell once again. This would be Powell’s final World Cup coaching experience, as she faced scrutiny for controversially attributing England’s penalty kick defeat to the cowardice of those who did not volunteer to shoot penalty kicks (Gray).
For the third consecutive tournament and fourth time overall, the England women’s national team qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015. The second expansion of the tournament was successful for the 2015 World Cup, bringing the total number of teams to 24. England was placed in Group F, along with France, Colombia, and Mexico.
In a 2011 rematch, England dropped the first game to France in a 1-0 loss but bounced back with back-to-back 2-1 victories over Mexico and Colombia respectively to reach the knockout stage once again.
2015 was by far the most successful year for the English women’s national team. Following the round robin group stage, the team advanced all the way to the semifinals through stellar victories against Norway (2-1) and Canada (2-1) (FIFA Archive).
Unfortunately, the team’s championship hopes were stifled in a defeat against Japan in the semifinals, but they were able to rebound with a nail-biting 1-0 victory against Germany. The game’s only goal came from Fara Williams in the first 15 minute half of over time, and England took home an impressive third place in the tournament overall (FIFA Archive).
The standout players for England during the 2015 World Cup were Fara Williams and Steph Houghton. Following the removal of Hope Powell as head coach of the national team, Mark Sampson was appointed to lead the Three Lionesses.
Now in 2019, the England women’s national team qualified for its fourth straight World Cup — this year in France. The Three Lionesses face strong competition in the initial round-robin phase of the tournament, being placed alongside Scotland, Argentina, and Japan in Group D.
Speculations on Selection of Players for English National Team:
For the World Cup this year, each football team was mandated to provide FIFA with a preliminary squad roster of between 23 and 50 players by the 26th of April, 2019. By the 24th of May 2019, they are required to submit the final squad roster of 23 players – 20 field players, and 3 goalkeepers.
The current squad, released the 26th of April, is as follows.
There are many methods by which the squad members are chosen for the national team. First of all, they must be English citizens. Secondly, they must be in good form. Good form means a lot of things, but essentially it boils down to what the player does on the field, and if they do it well. Goals scored, stops made, assists, leadership, stamina – these things all contribute to the full package of a soccer player. As you can see, many of the players are not currently playing in England for English teams.
Many English soccer players, both men and women, leave England to play for other teams for the sake of opportunity, or their own player development. Take Lucy Bronze, who plays for a French Ligue 1 team, Lyon, who is 1st in their division. Lyon, or Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, has often been cited as the best women’s football club in the world, specifically in the 2010s, as they have won their league for 13 consecutive seasons. Additionally, not only have they won their league for 13 consecutive seasons, but also, they have won five women’s champions league titles, including a 3 in a row streak from 2015 to 2018. Bronze is a top tier footballer, in fact, a finalist for the FIFA “The Best Footballer” women’s awards. By taking her talents to Lyon, she has had the opportunity to play for undisputedly one of the best football clubs in the world, with some of the best players in the world, like Wendie Renard, another contender for the FIFA Best Footballer awards.
Lucy Bronze is not the only notable women’s player who plays outside of England. Some other great footballers include Jodie Taylor, who plays in the United States for the Seattle Reign, Rachel Daly, who also plays in the United States, for the Houston Dash, and Toni Duggan, who plays in Spain for Barcelona. All of these women have been included on our list for the top players we think will make it on the final national team roster.
To choose our players, we scoured the internet and considered the opinions of soccer experts, drew players from the current squad, and considered player stats. Most often, we consulted a list of “The 100 best female footballers in the world 2018,” which was made in collaboration by the Guardian and The Offside Rule, an all-female-fronted football podcast and website. All of our English national team player choices have a place on the top 100 list.
The 100 best list, a very well thought out, researched, and reputable list, was ultimately created and decided upon by 72 judges – soccer experts from around the world. This list of judges includes 6 judges from Africa, 11 from Asia, 34 from Europe, 14 from North and Central America, and 7 from South America. On this list of judges are former and current footballers, coaches, and journalists/broadcasters. Some of the many notable judges include Kelly Smith, former Arsenal and English legend, Joe Montemurro, current Arsenal women’s head coach, and Romain Balland, a journalist and presenter for Eurosport in France. In order to remain fair, the judges cast their votes anonymously, with a points system. They chose from a list of 500 players.
Our top picks for the final squad roster are as follows:
Fran Kirby – Chelsea – Forward, 37 (Not on the national team roster currently)
25-year-old Fran Kirby currently plays for Chelsea as a forward but began her career with her local team of Reading. She played for England nationally at the 2015 World Cup, as well as the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017. She has received two player of the year awards in 2017/18 from PFA and FWA.
Goal vs Bayern Munich 2017
Jordan Nobbs – Arsenal, Central Midfielder, 56
26-year-old Jordan Nobbs currently plays for Arsenal as an aggressive goal scoring central midfielder, previously playing for Sunderland. She played for England nationally at the 2015 World Cup, as well as the 2013 Cyprus Cup and the UEFA Women’s Euro 2013. She was the England Player of the Year in 2016, and won the London Football Awards Women’s player of the Year in 2018. She is the vice captain of the national team.
Goal vs Manchester City 2017
Jodie Taylor – Seattle Reign (United States), Forward, 39
32-year-old Jodie Taylor currently plays for Reign FC as a forward. She played collegiate level football at Oregon State, and since then has played for a large array of different teams, including Arsenal, and various teams throughout the US, Canada, and Australia. She played for England nationally at the 2015 World Cup, as well as the 2015 Cyprus Cup, and the Euro 2017, where she was awarded the golden boot as top goal scorer.
Hat trick in England’s record-breaking 6-0 victory in 2017 v Scotland.
Steph Houghton – Manchester City, Defender, 104
31-year-old Steph Houghton currently plays for Manchester City as a center back, although she originally played as a striker, and then midfielder. She has played for Sunderland, Leeds, and Arsenal previously, and is the current captain of the English national team, and has made over 100 national appearances for England.
Goal vs United States 2019 in the SheBelieves Cup
Nikita Parris – Manchester City, Forward, 32
25-year-old Nikita Parris currently plays for Manchester City as a forward. Before, she played for Everton. She is making her first international appearance in the 2019 World Cup.
Goal vs United States 2019 in the SheBelieves Cup
Rachel Daly – Houston Dash (United States), Forward, Defender, 21
27-year-old Rachel Daly currently plays for the Houston Dash as a forward and defender. Before this, she played for Leeds United and Lincoln Ladies, and various clubs in the US. Her first national appearance was in the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017, she also played in the 2018 SheBelieves Cup.
Goal vs Chicago Red Stars
Toni Duggan – Barcelona (Spain), Winger or Forward, 71
27-year-old Toni Duggan currently plays for Barcelona as a winger or forward, but began her career at Everton, and then Manchester City. She has been playing for the England national team since 2012.
Volley goal vs Chelsea 2014
Ellen White – Birmingham City, Forward, 80
29-year-old Ellen White currently plays for Birmingham City as a forward but began her career at Chelsea before playing for a number of other English teams. She has been playing for England nationally since 2010. She was awarded the England Women’s player of the year award in 2011 and 2018, the WSL player of the month award in March 2018, and was awarded the WSL golden boot award.
Winning goal vs US 2017 in the SheBelieves Cup
Jill Scott – Manchester City, Midfielder, 134
32-year-old Jill Scott currently plays for Manchester City as a midfielder, but began her career with Sunderland and then Everton. She has played for the England national team since 2006 with over 100 national appearances. Scott has won various football awards, including two FA player of the year awards in 2008 and 2011.
Goal vs Croatia 2013 Euro Championship Qualifier game
Millie Bright – Chelsea, Defender, 26
25-year-old Millie Bright currently plays for Chelsea but began her career at Doncaster Bells. She has played for the English national team since 2016 and was on the FA player of the year shortlist in 2017.
Quick Feet Challenge
- FIFA Women’s World Cup Archive: https://www.fifa.com/fifa-tournaments/archive/womensworldcup/index.html
- Author Unknown. “A different world — England’s women at the 1995 World Cup.” England Memories. May 28, 2015. https://englandmemories.com/2015/05/28/a-different-world-englands-women-at-the-1995-world-cup/
- Associated Press. “FIFA keeps 16 teams for Women’s World Cup, rejects attempt to increase to 24,” http://www.espn.com/espn/wire?section=soccer%20&id=3292983
- FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 Germany. Technical Report and Statistics. https://www.fifa.com/mm/document/footballdevelopment/technicalsupport/01/50/87/69/technicalreportfwwcgermany2011.pdf
- Gray, Ashley. “England women lash out at Hope Powell following coach’s cowardice comment.” Daily Mail. July 11, 2011. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2013591/England-women-Hope-Powell-following-coachs-cowardice.html
- Laverty, Rich. “The 100 Best Female Footballers in the World 2018.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 7 Dec. 2018, www.theguardian.com/football/ng-interactive/2018/dec/04/the-100-best-female-footballers-in-the-world-2018.
- FIFA.com. “The Best FIFA Football Awards™ – THE BEST FIFA WOMEN’S PLAYER.” Www.fifa.com, FIFA, 24 Sept. 2018, www.fifa.com/the-best-fifa-football-awards/best-fifa-womens-player/.
- Roster image: “England Women’s National Football Team.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England_women’s_national_football_team.