England Women Profile
Consistently one of the world's top teams, England's women are still struggling to make the leap from genuine contenders to trophy winners.
England's national women's soccer team, known affectionately as the Lionesses, have been among the best in the world in recent years. They have consistently been in the top 14 according to the FIFA World Rankings, having been formed roughly half a century ago.
England were runners-up at UEFA Euro 1984 and UEFA Euro 2009. They also finished third at the 2015 FIFA World Cup and fourth at the 2019 World Cup.
Among the great players to have donned the famous Three Lions have been Fara Williams, Kelly Smith, Hope Powell, Eniola Aluko, Lucy Bronze and, recently, Nikita Parris.
Formation and early years
England's 1966 men's FIFA World Cup triumph sparked a surge of interest in the game from women and England played women's soccer informally for some years. In 1972, the Football Association (FA) lifted its 50-year ban on women playing in English Football League grounds. This was three years after the formation of the Women's Football Association (WFA).
England's first official international was a 3-2 away win over Scotland. Sylvia Gore was the scorer of England women's first international goal.
Martin Reagan took over as manager in 1979 and England Women enjoyed success under his watch. At the inaugural European Competition for Women's Football in 1984, England reached the final by beating Denmark 3-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals.
In the final, England came up against Sweden in a two-legged tie. They lost the away leg 1-0 due to Pia Sundhage's goal. In the home leg, Linda Curl's goal gave England a 1-0 victory. The tie went to penalties and Theresa Wiseman saved Helen Johansson's spot-kick. However, Curl and Lorraine Hanson saw their efforts saved by Elisabeth Leidinge and Sweden won the shootout 4-3.
England made the semi-finals in 1987, but were beaten again by Sweden, this time 3-2 on aggregate. In 1991, they lost to Germany in the Euro quarter-finals and failed to qualify for the inaugural Women's World Cup. Reagan was subsequently sacked.
The Hope Powell years
The FA took control of the English women's national team from the WFA in 1993 and Ted Copeland led England to the semi-finals of UEFA Euro 1995 and the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup that year.
In June 1998, Hope Powell became the first full-time head coach of the England Women's National Team, replacing Copeland, who had coached her in the past. Powell enjoyed 15 years in charge of the team.
England did not make it past the group stages at UEFA Euro 2001 or Euro 2005 and were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the 2007 Women's World Cup.
However, 2009 proved to be a landmark year for the Lionesses as central contracts were implemented in order to prevent players from having to fit training in while working other jobs full-time. England went on to make the final of UEFA Euro 2009, beating hosts Finland and the Netherlands en route to the final, where Powell's side lost 6-2 to defending champions Germany.
England lost to France on penalties in the 2011 World Cup quarter-finals and crashed out of Euro 2013 in the group stages, with Powell subsequently leaving her position in August 2013. After a brief spell under caretaker Brent Hills, England entered a new era under Welshman Mark Sampson.
England under Mark Sampson
England got off to a bright start under Sampson as they won all ten matches in Group Six of qualifying for the 2015 FIFA World Cup. At the tournament finals in Canada, they lost their opening match to France, but then beat Mexico and Colombia, thus qualifying for the round-of-16.
A 2-1 win over Norway in their first knockout match set up a meeting with hosts Canada, which England also won 2-1. England Women thus qualified for the semi-finals for the first time in their history. It was the first time in 25 years that an England side, men's or women's, had made the last four of a World Cup tournament.
An own goal from Laura Bassett handed Japan a 2-1 win in the semi-finals, but England managed to beat Germany 1-0 in the third place play-off, in turn claiming their first win over their fierce rivals.
England made the semi-finals of Euro 2017, but were humbled in a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands.
Sampson was sacked in September 2017, citing evidence of "inappropriate and unacceptable" behaviour during his time at Bristol Academy.
Sampson had also been accused of racism by England star Eniola Aluko. She claimed he made racist comments about her family ahead of a November 2014 clash with Germany.
"We were in the hotel. Everybody was excited. It was a big game. On the wall, there was a list of the family and friends who were coming to watch us and I just happened to be next to Mark. He asked me if I had anyone who would be there and I said I had family coming over from Nigeria. 'Oh,' he said. 'Nigeria? Make sure they don't bring Ebola with them,'" Aluko was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
"I remember laughing but in a very nervous way. I went back to my room and I was really upset. It might have been easier to take if it was about me alone. Lots of things had been said about me over those two years but this was about my family. I called my mum and she was absolutely disgusted." Drew Spence was also reportedly on the receiving end of racist remarks from Sampson.
In October 2017, barrister Katharine Newton found that Sampson had "on two separate occasions made ill-judged attempts at humour, which, as a matter of law, were discriminatory on the grounds of race" but added that she did not conclude that Sampson was a racist.
The Phil Neville era
Neville led England to second place at the 2018 SheBelieves Cup, finishing behind the USA. He also steered England to the World Cup semi-finals and victory in the 2019 SheBelieves Cup.
England were poor in their defence of the SheBelieves Cup and Neville announced in April 2020 that he would step aside as manager.
England's biggest rivals
England's fiercest rivalry is with Germany when it comes to women's soccer, though it is not quite on the same level as the men's national team.