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Hello, Flora here, welcome and thank you for reading this 31/7! This week I have been thinking about:
  • How nice colours cost nothing
  • Jess Fishlock making it Reign
  • The power of a scowl
  • …among other things!
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We like blue shorts

This week, Nike revealed the gear England will be wearing when Leah Williamson lifts the 2023 World Cup ahead of the Lionesses’ warm-ups against Brazil and Australia.

“If you’re feeling comfortable, you’re playing well,” said former England international Sue Smith, summing up the significance on Sky Sports .
The new Lionesses home and away kits, white shirts at home, sky blue away, dark shorts everywhere
The kit features — finally! — shorts that aren’t white, meaning Sarina Wiegman’s players can take to the field without fear of bleeding in front of a crowd of tens of thousands of people and however many more are watching on telly.

To continue what is becoming a well-worn theme in this newsletter, I’m not going to party too hard about the overdue fulfilment of a basic wish. I could almost forgive the government for underinvesting in the provision of football for girls in school cuz, you know, there’s all those MP expense budgets to cover, and hundreds of thousands of pictures of a clapped old man to run through the printers.

Money ain’t easy to come by, but colours are free, and navy looks great on literally everyone — even Rishi Sunak, who I’m sure will be flying the flag this summer in support of some people who are doing ‘something’ really inspiring.

I’ll tell you what colour doesn’t wear well on everyone, though. The shade of England’s new training gear. What’s going on here? England have gone from having the drippiest warm-up shirts of all time to being dressed in a shade that’s only a hop skip and a jump away from Farrow and Ball’s Elephant's Breath.
The new Lionesses' training top. Well. At least it's Rachel Daly wearing it
Remember how comfort breeds performance? As I write this, I’m pretty sure I can hear the distant sound of Ella Toone panicking about how washed out she’ll look in front of the cameras.

My rose gold iPhone 6S didn’t last three years, but diamonds are forever.
Fran Kirby at the Euros in the all-time Lionesses pink and blue diamonds warm-up top
I miss you baby. I’ll never forget.

And that's game

My scheme to select an NWSL team to follow for the season based on who scored a goal closest to the 31st minute did not get off to a great start on Saturday.

For Washington Spirit, Ashley Hatch completed a brace in the 32nd minute. Cool! That’s not bad! She even celebrated by turning and giving a chef’s kiss to Trinity Rodman, who had laid on what the commentary team termed ‘a leading pass’ — better known to Brits as a delicate hoof forward — to set up the goal.

But Washington’s spirit only lasted until a bullet header by Abby Erceg brought Racing Louisville racing back into it straight after half time, before Spirit were totally undone by this catastrophic piece of defending. The game ended in a 2-2 tie. Boo! I’m not supporting a bunch of quitters!

Imagine my relief the next day, when Jess Fishlock scored for OL Reign right on the nose of 31 minutes.

Nice goal, too. With minimal touches, the Reign magicked the ball from Sophia Huerta in DEfence via Alana Cook to Rose Lavelle in OFFence. She shrugged off a challenge to push the ball to a Fishlock in full stride, KABOOM, she slices it into the back of the net. It’s a sweet first-time strike and she celebrates properly.

It was definitely a goal worthy of shaping my footballing destiny , but how chuffed am I about the scorer?
A tweet from OL Reign saying 'Wake up, reign fam! It's victory Sunday!' I guess that's fine
Some of my initial observations:
  • I like homonyms, but if I hear ‘Reign’, we’re either talking monarchy or drizzle.
  • The kit’s white, red and blue.
  • A bit of a hero for the Welsh national team, Jess Fishlock is one of just seven British players competing in the NWSL. And they’ve even got an English coach, for fuck’s sake. Laura Harvey, who won the triple managing Arsenal in 2011 and has supported the youth set-ups of both the English and American national teams. Kind of neat.
Venturing into the NWSL was intended in part as an escape from ‘our way of doing football’. The fates are laughing at me!
Inescapable Jess Fishlock and Laura Harvey celebrating together at OL Reign, Fishlock is up on Harvey's shoulders punching the air
Anyway, it turns out OL Reign are actually kind of French, but I’ll be getting into more of that in future newsletters when I take a closer look at Reign’s ownership, their sponsors, their kit, their breathtakingly sexy home stadium. A second glance at a map of the States wouldn’t go amiss too cuz until literally today I thought Seattle was on the East Coast :)

Reign are the only team in the NWSL who are yet to play at home this season. I’m excited to see what that looks like when they host San Diego Wave in two weekends’ time. At Gotham, the ‘home opener’ involved club owner and twice World Cup winner Carli Lloyd using a plastic torch to light a hefty flame pitchside. Wow! The Drama! So far, the NWSL is really delivering on all the pageantry I was expecting.

Every day’s a school day, so here is some of this week’s NWSL vocabulary:
  • ‘And that’s game’ — mic drop at the final whistle!
  • ‘Put up’ / ‘Serves it up’ / ‘Curls one up’ — I never want it played on the deck again.
  • ‘Kanu with the rip away, here she comes’ — why steal the ball off your opponent, when you can rip it?
  • You don’t lose five-nil, you lose ‘FIVE-ZERO’, which is somehow far more demeaning.
  • They abbreviate penalty kicks to ‘PKs’ which makes them sound much cuter than they really are. Anna Moorhouse heroically saved a late one for Orlando Pride on Sunday, only to gift Angel City the win in the TENTH minute of injury time by making a horlicks of a punch clear from a corner.
  • I haven’t worked out how to translate ‘a horlicks’ yet

I'm going to be sick

Ok, so I know that life has moved on a bit since Thursday but I’m not really over the drama of the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League quarter-final against Lyon so we’re going to talk about it.

The crowds at Stamford Bridge enjoyed quite a normal Champions League tie for about an hour. Then this happened to Melanie Leupolz.
Melanie Leupolz Insta story, two photos of her with blood all over her face (and seriously, it's everywhere) and the caption, 'At least the colour of my nails are fitting'
Vampire? Anxiety nose bleed? A bid to become the scariest Mel?

While Mel L was fulfilling her namesake’s spicy destiny, Lyon’s Danielle van de Donk was living up to hers. It was a really big donk, catching Leupolz with her hand as they both challenged for the ball, but Leupolz took it well. I would totally have cried but a few hours later she was on Instagram joking about how the blood matched her nail polish.

For a while it looked like that might be the most exciting event of the night and Chelsea would simply ride out the 1-0 first-leg lead they brought home from France last week. Not so.

The Blues only had thirteen more minutes to hold on when Vanessa Gilles snuck one past Ann Katrin-Berger at the near post. AKB should have stopped it, but maybe she saw this wonderful chested pre-assist by Wendie Renard and thought, ‘go on then’. Wendie deserves some joy right now.
A gif of Wendie Renard's chest pre-assist for Lyon's goal against Chelsea
Right, fucking hell, now what was next? With the score 1-1 at 90 mins, the tie went to extra time. It was the centre-backs’ turn to let Chelsea down as the stuck-out legs of skipper Magdalena Eriksson and Kadeisha Buchanan could neither stop a cross finding Sara Däbritz nor the midfielder the net.

Advantage Lyon with eleven minutes left to play. The travelling French fans were partying like it was 1789.

Enter Lauren James. In the last minute of the tie the 2023 World Cup Golden Boot winner grabbed the ball in the box, drew Vicki Becho out toward her, clipped her own heels, then pulled THIS:
Lauren James looking at someone, anyone, who dares tell her this wasn't a penalty
If LJ looks at me like that, she’s getting my lunch money, the shirt off my back, the keys to the castle, my deepest, darkest secrets.

And all she wanted was a measly penalty. Fair fucks to referee Ivana Martincic who initially said ‘nah’. Ivana, I’m taking you into the zombie apocalypse with me.

But of course once she’d been invited to check the VAR monitor she couldn’t withstand the piercing gaze of LJ AND 15,000 Chelsea fans who’ve made an idol of the give-a-shit goalscorer.

The penalty is given, Maren Mjelde cracks it top bins, the celebrations are raucous, and Erin Cuthbert leaps off the bench waving a disposable sick bowl presumably because the moment almost got the better of her. She’s not alone.

It was the last kick of the game, so Mjelde’s penalty breeds a few more penalties and the majestic Norwegian princess has balls of steel so steps up to take the first one. And scores it. UGH.

A shit pen by Wendie Renard forced AKB to abandon her policy of mercy for the France captain, but Chelsea’s advantage was immediately lost as karma caught up with LJ, whose pen was also shit.

A long, long night in West London was almost, surely, over. With four pens apiece, it went to sudden death. Jess Carter absolutely wellied it in for Chelsea before AKB’s diving save to stop Lindsey Horan put an end to it all.
A gif of Ann Katrin-Berger going crazy dance plus knee slide after winning the shoot out
You don’t often see goalkeepers seizing their moment of glory with as much panache. But it was the only way a night like this could end. Next, Chelsea will have to shimmy past Barcelona for a place in the final.

Leeds United Women

Newly-crowned national champions Leeds United did not play well at Chorley on Sunday. One bad performance can’t hurt — their league fate is already decided anyway — but will they learn how to keep showing up before the new season, when each game counts for everything?
Sarah Danby of Leeds United Women pictured during the recent win over Southampton

Breakfast of Champions

Leeds United Women’s big Plate hangover put them under in Chorley.

Coming up

  • La finalissima! I’m no linguist but the sheer number of syllables here (five!) tells me that it must be the most final of finals! European Champions England take on South American champions Brazil at Wem-ber-ley (which becomes three syllables when you’re really excited about it). I’ll be heading down with some of my Leeds Hyde Park crew and relishing every moment of another Sarina Wiegman masterclass. Kick off 7.45pm on Thursday.
  • England are playing Australia in Brentford on Tuesday. It’s a sell out at the 11th-largest football ground in London! A mere 17,000 will have eyes on it, which is almost as silly as the stadium’s seat pattern. Kick off 7.45pm on Tuesday.
  • Leeds United Women travel to Middlesbrough for a middle-of-the-table match-up on Sunday, 2pm kick off.
  • Big ol’ Bank Holiday!

Things I'm digging this week


  • Retired referee Dermot Gallagher calling Chloe Kelly ‘um, the other player’ when analysing Katie McCabe’s ball-bop on Sky Sports’ ref watch.
  • Good news for the Championship title race, bad news for ME as Bristol City suffered a shock defeat to ninth-placed Sheffield United.
  • Woo! The Covid delay means we only have to wait THREE years for the next Euros! This week, it was announced that the 2025 tournament will take place in Switzerland, as decided by UEFA’s executive committee comprising, um, thirteen men.
Thanks for reading! Don't forget you can get in touch with me anytime at [email protected] — and if you enjoy these emails, it's a great help if you forward them to everyone you know so they can read them too. Cheers!
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