England coach: Bronze deserves ‘Golden Ball’

Lucy Bronze can’t hide her delight after putting England 3-0 up against Norway in their World Cup quarter-final. (AFP pic)

LE HAVRE: Lucy Bronze’s performance in England’s 3-0 World Cup quarter-final win over Norway was so impressive it had her coach, Phil Neville, renewing calls for the 27-year-old to win the Ballon d’Or.

That England ran out such comfortable winners in the in Le Havre on Thursday was largely down to the marauding right-back, who set up her team’s opener for Jill Scott before scoring the third goal in the second half.

Bronze’s goal was a stunning strike high into the net from the edge of the box following a free-kick that she had won on one of her charges forward that so terrorised the Norwegian defence.

It was the perfect way to cap a victory which takes England through to a last-four showdown against either hosts France or holders the USA.

“She’s the best player in the world, she should win the Ballon d’Or, 100%. I have no doubt about that,” said Neville, himself a former England full-back, after the game at the Stade Oceane.

“What you saw tonight was a player that was playing at the top of her game. That is her level of performance – the bigger the stage, the bigger the performance.

“She’s phenomenal. She is someone for me that doesn’t get the recognition worldwide that she deserves.”

Bronze has many attributes, but scoring goals is not usually one of them. Yet her goal on Thursday was similar to her remarkable strike to beat Norway at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

“She has just got such power, whether that’s her running, her shooting, her passing. It was an incredible finish from her and I’m very pleased for her,” said Scott, the midfielder who, like Bronze, is a native of England’s north-east.

‘Dream come true’

England – for whom Ellen White also scored, while Nikita Parris had a penalty saved – are now into the semi-finals of a third consecutive major tournament.

They do not want their run to end there, as it did in 2015 and at Euro 2017, but for Bronze it is already a “dream come true”.

The former Manchester City player moved to French giants Lyon in 2017, winning the Champions League with them in the last two years.

As she told AFP in an interview before the tournament, her dream on signing was to play for England in the World Cup in Lyon. The semi-finals and final will both be played in her adopted home city.

“I’ve had to wait two years for the dream to come true, but it’s come true now and I’m super-excited to be heading to Lyon, to home, to play in a stadium I love playing in and being in, and it’s a city that I love,” she said after being named player of the match on Thursday.

“I’ve still got a lot of things to work on. I’m always striving to be the best player that I can be,” Bronze added.

If 2015 was a breakthrough tournament for Bronze and England, the Lionesses are capturing the imagination more than ever on this run.

Record television audiences have tuned into their games in Britain, while fans at the world-famous Glastonbury music festival in England watched on big screens.

David Beckham attended the game in Le Havre along with his daughter Harper. He spoke before the game to the England players, who were also shown a video message from the decorated British Olympic rower, Katherine Grainger.

England will certainly need plenty of inspiration for the next challenge, with the USA and France fighting it out in Paris on Friday for the right to face Neville’s team.

“I think France and the USA know what we’re like. We have played them in the SheBelieves Cup. They know full well that it is going to be a brilliant game of football,” said the coach.