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Hiya guys,

Hope all's well with you, and if it's not, well — here is a splendid slice of women's football to brighten your day ⚽️

It's been a bit of a weird week in the footeh. A ten-goal thriller as-good-as condemned Bristol City to relegation, while it took Aston Villa just twenty minutes to surrender their place in the Continental Cup final away at holders Arsenal, before the United States 'keeper Alyssa Naeher went from zero to hero in their Gold Cup semi-final slip 'n' slide against Canada.

But the biggest news is that Sarina Wiegman's Lionesses have discovered who they will fight for a place at the 2025 European Championship. Some are calling it the 'group of death, others are saying it's 'competitive'. You can make up your own mind....

Lots of love 😘

One More Chance to Party

Help! England's defence of the European Championship is over before it's even begun! The qualifiers are about to kick off and England have been drawn against France and Sweden, who both finished in the top four at Euro 2022. These two were losing semi-finalists, though, while England won the damn thing, so it's going to be fine. Right?

If I trust Sarina, and I trust Sarina, it will probably be ok..... maybe.

“It's a tough draw but it is a really exciting draw,” the Lionesses manager said. "Now we just have to show up and perform.

"For the fans and for football, it is really good because it will be so competitive.”
Well, Sarina, I don't know if I am a fan of football. Today, I feel like the fan of an England team who don't let me down twice in one calendar year... surely?

It's tough. I remember thinking it was a bit of fun when Brazil got a late equaliser against England in the Finalissima, just months after 31/7. We can't always have it easy. There'd be no enjoyment in the simple path to victory.

This is what I learnt through the 16 obscene and painful years of Leeds United competing in the second and third divisions which consumed my childhood, robbing me of any early, precious memories of winning something. I used to say 'boo-hoo' when fans of Manchester United missed out on just another trophy, knowing as I then did, beyond all doubt, that in my lifetime I would never enjoy anything like that ONCE.

Then Marcelo Bielsa led the Whites to the Championship trophy, and to promotion to the Premier League, which seemed to teach that winning demands years of suffering and injustice, that trophies don't happen without the endurance of years of shitness.
But then Bielsa's team remained (briefly) extraordinary in the top flight, and Wiegman came along, and the pair's magic suggested to me that glory is as straight-forward as following a team who are really good. By their successes, my position as one of football's eternal losers shifted and I'm suddenly like... 🥺 Please? Just one more chance to party?

I never cared for the Nations League, and I can live without the Olympics, but what if England don't get the chance to prove they're still the champions of Europe?

If you'd asked me a year ago, that was unthinkable, but that was before Lucy Bronze's lung-busting endeavour wasn't enough to save the day at Stadium Australia or in the dying minutes of their Nations League Group A decider.

England's recent habit for falling perilously short has me all twitchy. What if I was wrong all along, maybe I am destined to only ever throw my support behind teams that are truly rotten and terrible? As my therapist likes to tell me, it does not take much to trigger a return to the patterns of thinking which governed our behaviour in childhood.

One dramatic late goal by someone I've never heard of called Damaris Egurrola and I"m straight back to feeling like I'll never know the joy of winning a trophy again.

So now that all hope of seeing the Lionesses triumph is officially over, it's time to fall back on my old ways of enjoying football, before I knew what it felt like to win.
It's the little things in life.

That's right, we're getting another round of Katie McCabe vs Chloe Kelly, and this time — it's international. If England thought their life was hard, the Republic of Ireland have also been drawn in Group A3 for the Euro qualifiers, meaning their hopes of competing at another major tournament (after doing it for the first time at the World Cup last summer) depend on beating teams ranked third (England), fourth (France) and fifth (Sweden) in the world by FIFA.

No matter who it was against, there was likely to be some succulent Katie McCabe aggression, but the woman seems to have a particular vendetta against England's Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp — she's got the YouTube compilation to prove it.

So, here's the bright side. England might not be European Champions forever but at least we'll have a brutal Wembley showdown.

Things I dig this week

Coming Up

  • Thursday — Continental Cup
    • It's a big game at the Joie Stadium as Manchester City take on WSL title rivals Chelsea for a place in the Continental Cup final against Arsenal.
    • Kick off 7.15pm. Stream on BBC iPlayer or the BBC Sport website.
  • Friday — Copa 71
    • The documentary film, produced by tennis legend Serena Williams, which tells the tale of the unofficial women's World Cup hosted by Mexico in 1971 is released on March 8.
    • It looks really good!
  • The FA Cup quarter-finals
    • Saturday — Liverpool host Leicester (12noon) and Brighton and Hove Albion host Manchester United (5.15pm)
    • Sunday — Everton host Chelsea (1pm) before Spurs host Manchester City (3pm)
  • Sunday Division One North
    • Leeds United Women are at home to Hull City.
    • It's all been a bit wet in lately, so Whites manager Simon Wood hopes he can bring supporters back after postponements: “The fans are massive to us. The atmosphere that we can create at Garforth, it surges us on” .
  • Monday morning — Gold Cup final
    • Brazil will play the USA, with kick off set for 4.15am GMT 💀

More at The Square Ball

A photograph of Sarah Danby playing for Leeds United Women against some team in red

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by Flora Snelson

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31/7 logotype in purple and orange