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Right, deep breath. Firstly, are you ok? I hope so.

It feels very strange indeed sitting here without Leah and Fran and Beth and Ellen. I imagine that you might have been feeling a lot like I have - shaken, troubled, let down, worried for the wellbeing of people on all sides of what’s been going on, and full of questions.

  • When will England score a goal from open play?
  • How quickly can Millie Bright get her shit together?
  • Why is Lauren James sitting on the bench?
  • Where is the slick, creative play that made England’s Euro 2022 winning side so much fun to watch?
  • What cruel punishment might Denmark scorer Pernille Harder inflict on this troubled defence?
  • Who will be our heroine in these trying times?
G chats to press
Speaking after England’s 1-0 victory over Haiti, this was as far as penalty scorer Georgia Stanway could go in offering some answers:

“We can’t shy away from the fact that the team has changed a lot in a short space of time,” she said.

“I think we’re all in a good place, we’re really enjoying the team atmosphere.

“Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Ah, footballers. We laugh at Love Island stars for saying ‘it is what it is’, yet when pro footballers, who have played this game for donkey's years, can only answer questions about the match they’ve just played by trotting out meaningless statements, we nod along as if it makes a lot of sense.

To be fair, it does. Sometimes the keeper dives the wrong way, sometimes you shoot a tame, waist-height penalty and you get what’s coming to you 👀

For reals though, fair play to G for taking a dreadful spot-kick then stepping up to claim the second chance, after Kerly Théus was adjudged to have encroached when saving the first one. I’d have lost my nerve.

She looked pretty relieved. In fact, one camera caught Stanway’s reaction close up. I’d like to say the internet is in dispute about what exact words she mouths to teammate and bestie Keira Walsh during the goal celebration, but in truth it's a one-sided debate as a host of women’s football stans have taken it upon themselves to shelve reality and impose their cutesy narrative.
G gives a moving tribute
Beaming with joy, Stanway locks eyes with Walsh and says ‘for Leah’, confirming what we all suspected, which is that she did not in fact score for her country - rather, in tribute to absent bestie, injured England captain and heartthrob Leah Williamson.

Or does she? A brave few have square up to the Williamson-obsessed to point out she’s actually saying ‘fuck yeah’ with a thick Cumbrian twang.

Or it could be 'fucking hell’, which is exactly what I’d be saying if I’d just goofed a chance to give my country the lead in their most winnable game at their most winnable World Cup ever and was basking in the relief of having put my mistake right.

You can make your own mind up.

The stans, meanwhile, will not be persuaded that it was not 💖 for Leah 💖:

‘Finished me off’
‘This is my end’

Frankly, if I scorn excessively, it’s only because I see too much of myself in these young Twitter fiends, armed with Alessia Russo icons and an endless supply of 🥹🥹🥹

Some people feel they were born to the wrong era. Perhaps you would’ve liked to have lived to see The Beatles perform live, or bear witness to the explosion of rave culture in the 90s. Personally, I thank my lucky stars that my adolescence did not coincide with the boom of the Lionesses. If my Tumblr blog circa 2011 is anything to go by, it would likely have ‘finished me off’.
Silly woso girlies
There but for the grace of God go I.

Anyway, excuse my judgement. When it comes to the defining feature of the next generation of football fans, history has shown that we can do a lot worse than the Face Holding Back Tears emoji.

I don’t think Stanway was speaking exclusively to Twitter tweens when she gave this instruction in her post-match interview.

“We just need to relax, just enjoy the process, not get too far ahead of ourselves,” she said.

“The same with the fans, just relax - we’re ok, and we’ll continue to Lioness.”

Am I relaxed about England’s weak start to the World Cup? No!

Should I know better than to freak out about it? Yes!

Am I going to spend the next section of the newsletter reassuring myself? Of course!

Reasons to do what Georgia Stanway says

G Stanway celebrates
A game was won

England’s objectives for the time being are 1) to qualify for the next round and 2) sort their feet out, so to speak. On the first count at least, it went well, especially given the strength of the Haiti team that showed up.

All a fluster in the aftermath of an underwhelming performance, I sought solace in my sport-loving uncle Phil, who reassured me that winning when you’ve played badly is the mark of a good team. Haiti had more snipes at goal than the Lionesses were expecting - but they still stopped all of them, somehow.

The minnows are thriving

Taking off my England hat, for a second. The 2023 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup is the first time that as many as 32 teams have competed. This makes it the biggest ever, but ahead of the tournament there were concerns that the broader field would result in further obscene score lines like the USA’s demoralising 13-0 stuffing of Thailand in 2019, or the Ivory Coast’s 10-0 defeat to Germany in 2015.

So far, the biggest 'humiliations' we’ve seen are a 5-0 defeat by Japan of Zambia, the competition’s lowest ranked side, and Germany's 7-0 win over Morocco. Neither are great results, but worse things have happened in the Premier League.

The tournament’s other debutants - Vietnam, Haiti, Ireland, Portugal, and the Philippines - have all lost, but no one would take a second glance at the number of goals they conceded.

Why does this matter? It means that the great chasm in quality between the world’s finest teams and the ones that Ofsted would say ‘require improvement’ is getting smaller. This means that the standard of the game is improving across the globe and, as fans, we’ll get to enjoy watching more competitive football.
Mearps the bossman
Ms Mearps

Against Haiti, England’s no.1 gave a performance worthy of her FIFA Best Goalkeeper award. Two excellent saves and from up in the stands I could clearly hear her giving her shaky back line what for. I’m not saying she’s infallible but, if England are going to struggle to score goals, I’m happy knowing we’ve got the best possible person to stop them at the other end.

The best is yet to come

You can’t be sure, but it’s likely we’ve seen the worst performance England will give at this World Cup. Though it didn’t seem to ruffle Jess Carter or Lauren James, none of England’s front three have played at a World Cup before - and while the likes of Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly were the marquee names on 31/7, neither of them had ever been in the starting lineup at a major tournament before Saturday. Now they’ve got that out of the way, the only way is up.

If we take a glance at Sarina Wiegman's tournament record, you’ll find that the legendary manager led England to an edgy 1-0 victory in their opener vs Austria before going on to win the whole thing last summer. As Netherlands coach, she won by a single goal in both the openers for the 2019 World Cup and Euro 2017, when the Oranje marched on to the final and the Championship respectively. So the omens are good, if that’s your kind of thing.

Two people who, specifically, need to relax

Walking to watch England play in Brisbane on Saturday night, it wasn’t long before I could abandon Google Maps as the growing crowds of people showed me the way to the stadium. By the time I got halfway down Caxton Street, the anticipation was humming; bars, eateries and merch stores were turning a good profit; scattered chants and songs were beginning to unify.

“What are you screaming for?” a young Australian woman complained to her friend behind me as a shriek went up in the doorway of a pub. “You’re going to a game of soccer, why do you need to be drunk? How are you supposed to watch when your head’s spinning?”

“They don’t actually care about the game, they just like the tradition,” was the friend’s reply. “Seriously, celebrate the dub AFTER the game.”


Who am I to judge her judgement, having just had a solid six-paragraph bitch about the ever-increasing presence of women’s football stans on my social media feed?

But girl, you’ve got to live and let live.

I found her disapproval particularly amusing in the context of Australia’s quest for a ‘football culture’ in a saturated sports market. Here we are then, Brits have travelled across the globe to show you what 'football culture' looks like, and THIS is how you thank us??? With a sneer??

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
The Suncorp Stadium
Next, to the Suncorp. Three minutes into the game, around the time when a Haiti corner was the first sign that England might not be about to enjoy the walkover we all expected, a round of ‘IT’S COMING HOME’ began a few rows behind me, where one sozzled bloke was single-handedly sharing the glad, slurred tidings. Initially successful, his attempts to cajole others into joining in soon become tiresome.

Tire he did not, though. If the silence surrounding him could not discourage, what of the concerned backward glances? Locals who didn't judge but, not understanding, felt something like pity. The bellower was undeterred.

With requests to ‘join in you c-nts’ ignored, and bored of giving a sotto voce ‘get into ‘em’ response to his own rallying cry of ‘fuck ‘em up’, mateyboy abandoned the need to gee up the Lionesses or entertain the crowd, opting instead to please himself.


That's tradition. Granted, the descent into tribalism which has an impact in a country far, far away wasn't best suited to a women's international, but if a rambunctious Elland Road dweller can't help Australia - no one can.
England man enjoys himself

More World Cup. More!

Perhaps Georgia Stanway hasn't convinced you and you're on the hunt for another team to back.

Good news! I've written you a guide to every single team competing at this World Cup. Even better news! It's free!

You can download a copy here, or get a paper version sent to you for nothing more than the cost of the postage.

As ever, my DMs are open for all of your hot World Cup takes, Australia recommendations, banana bread recipes or reasons to relax. Just hit reply or email me at [email protected]. Big love xx
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