Women’s World Cup: Ellen White – England Lionesses’ success will have lasting legacy

21 August 2023 0 By Total Football News
Ellen White column

I was devastated England lost to Spain in the Women's World Cup final, but more than anything I'm so proud of the players and my former team-mates.

It was a long 45 minutes from the final whistle to the trophy lift and I was talking on television about the team, the group and manager Sarina Wiegman - what they have done for women's football in England.

They have had so many ups and downs in this tournament and faced them head-on. It shows the mentality of the group.

They should be so proud of themselves for reaching the World Cup final. Not a lot of people can say they have done that. It's obviously devastating to lose, but the nation were gripped back home.

What they have done for little girls - creating role models for them - is just incredible. Hopefully they will reflect on that in the next few weeks and can be proud of what they did and the manner in which they represented England out in Australia.

'Losing will have created extra determination'

Lucy Bronze has a strong mentality, but I can imagine this one really hurts for her.

As soon as we won the Euros, she was like: "What are we winning next?"

She has that mentality that not a lot of people have. It's what drives her, pushes her and has enabled her to achieve what she has in the game.

I am gutted for her. She made the mistake which led to Spain's winning goal, but it's not the reason we lost that game. There are so many more moments in the game that came after that.

She will have a few weeks to herself before going back to Barcelona and she's one of the hardest-working players I know and has a strong mentality.

The likes of Millie Bright, Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood and Mary Earps - it will hurt them all.

Mary had one of the best performances from a goalkeeper I have ever seen. She kept us in the game with her saves, including the penalty, and her presence.

The way she has developed over the last three or four years is incredible.

In the last World Cup she was there as third choice. In this one, she went in as first-choice goalkeeper and came out with the Golden Glove. What a development. What a mentality for her to have.

But I know this will motivate them. Walking past that trophy will have created a fire in their belly. They will want to push, be in more finals and want to win.

The 2019 World Cup semi-final defeat still annoys me! It was really hard to get over. But it did create extra determination.

'Sarina Wiegman will want more'

We have always known we had talent in our team and in England, so we should be winning things. You just need everything to come together.

You need the right players, the right staff, the right culture and the right manager at the helm - and that's what we have now. Sarina Wiegman is so competitive and she will want more. She will want to win.

What a feat for Sarina to reach back-to-back World Cup finals having also got there with the Netherlands in 2019. It's phenomenal what she's done for the game but also for English football.

I know she will want to push on and want to win. We are looking to qualify for the Olympics - that's the next thing.

We are very lucky we have her until 2025, then we'll see, but she's an incredible leader. Let's hope she sticks around a little longer!

We're not in a transition which is a good thing - there is definitely more success in this team. We have got some hugely talented players who have all experienced major tournaments now. Some have been to two tournaments and reached two finals.

'I hope my baby daughter will have an Earps shirt'

Overall, this World Cup was all about visibility for me. Morocco defender Nouhaila Benzina wearing a hijab for the first time for example means other girls can say "she looks like me".

Every player is different so you want young girls and boys to see themselves as individuals. It's very powerful. It's incredible to see these role models because I didn't have those growing up.

The passion the England players show, the professionalism and just the enjoyment they play with - for young boys and girls, and the older generation, they can feel empowered by this group.

They are England's first senior football team to reach a World Cup final since 1966. It's super powerful stuff, it really is. We would have loved for them to have gone on and won, but they have still changed the game for us.

There will be more and more young girls wanting to play football, out in the garden wearing Lauren Hemp shirts. I have a little baby daughter and for her to have such incredible role models to look up to… hopefully she can have a little Mary Earps shirt one day as well.

I'm sure what they have done will have a lasting impact on our society for years to come.

My personal message to the team is this: the whole nation are proud of you and what you have done for the game. It doesn't go unnoticed. You shouldn't be disheartened.

It's a major achievement to reach a World Cup final so don't underestimate how incredibly talented you are. You will go again, you will get to major finals and you will win a World Cup soon. The whole nation was transfixed by this tournament so just know you are inspiring so many people.

Ellen White was speaking to BBC Sport's Emma Sanders.

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