England’s “historic” day disappointing

icon engwomen25 November ~ England Women lost 3-0 on Sunday against European champions Germany in a friendly that was part of preparations for the Women’s World Cup, to be played in Canada next June, for which both teams have qualified. England have never beaten Germany, a record that now stretches to 20 meetings. The FA billed the game as “historic”, the first time that the ladies’ national team have played at the new Wembley. There had been a great deal of coverage in the national press in the days leading up to the game, with an understandable degree of hype.

It would be tempting to suggest that the occasion got to the England players, but whether this was true or not, Germany deserved the win.

England had slightly more possession, but the visitors were stronger in all departments. Almuth Schult wasn’t at all tested in the German goal, whereas the finishing for Germany was clinical, especially the two goals taken by Célia Šašić. Germany were more organised and closed the ball down with speed and aggression at every opportunity, stifling any English creativity. Their win was comfortable and even by half-time, already 3-0 up, a formality.

The attendance for the game was 45,619, a bigger turnout than the men’s friendly against Norway back in September. The previous highest crowd for England Women had been 29,092 at the Etihad Stadium for a Euro 2005 victory over Finland. The sizeable ticket sales had been another reason for the media attention for this fixture, demonstrating that there is a market for the ladies’ game; even though tickets were realistically priced at £15 for adults and only £1 for children, the size of the crowd reflected increasing interest.

However, one of the biggest post-match talking points was why so many, who had bought tickets, failed to turn up. Over 55,000 tickets had been sold prior to kick-off. The FA had capped sales because of planned engineering work on the London Underground, resulting in the closure of two Tube lines that served Wembley. The weather was especially grim – it rained heavily throughout the day – and this, allied with the public transport problems, presumably put many off. But a figure of almost 10,000 no-shows was still surprising, with some pundits suggesting that support for the ladies’ national team was just as fickle as it is for the men’s.

To make matters worse, those fans that did attend faced further transport problems after the game. The only remaining open Tube line for Wembley closed due to flooding and then a signal failure forced the closure of Wembley Central station, leaving thousands stranded. After all the pre-match hype, it was a frustrating end to what had been a damp squib of a day. But at least the occasion reminded us that there are three things that England are still good at – bad weather, public transport chaos and losing to Germany. Andy Ollerenshaw

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