10 July 2024

Evolution of football – Millie Bright says England criticism is part of the game

10 July 2024

England defender Millie Bright is comfortable with the increased scrutiny the side receives as she understands it is a result of growing expectations.

The Lionesses won Euro 2022 and finished runners-up at last summer’s World Cup but currently sit third in the qualifying group for next year’s tournament where they will hope to defend their title.

Third place would send them into a play-off but they can put a different complexion on things with matches against the Republic of Ireland and second-placed Sweden over the next week.

It is not a situation they are overly familiar with but Bright accepts they have to take any criticism which comes their way.

“It’s part of the game,” she said.

“The expectation from fans and outsiders out of our bubble is always going to keep growing and growing but when you are in the game you have more of an appreciation of how much harder it is to win and perform.

“It is not just us who are developing, it is every other nation and every other individual player who has taken their game to another level so we have to find another level.

“That is just the evolution of football really and being an elite performer.

“We can all come off the pitch knowing you have given your heart and soul to the performance and to being better and sometimes it doesn’t happen, sometimes there are bad performances, sometimes the opponent is better.

It is not just us who are developing, it is every other nation and every other individual player who has taken their game to another level so we have to find another level. That is just the evolution of football really and being an elite performer

“We know the expectations of fans is super-high because we have had such success they expect it every time.

“That’s fine as we expect it ourselves but the reality is that’s not always going to be the case and then we just have to adapt as a team and stick together and I think we showed that in the last camp against France (when they bounced back from losing to the French in Newcastle to win in Saint-Etienne).”

Bright said that 2-1 win on foreign soil, coming just four days after losing by the same scoreline at St James’ Park, has now set the benchmark for them.

“Football, as ever, is unpredictable and the standards are constantly rising,” she said.

“I think they (performances against France) were two games of very different performances, and we’ll be the first, as players, to say when it needs to be better.

“But as always, we push our standards and there were lots of positives to take out of that and I think we bounced back really well.

“We saw the levels that we want to get back to, and that’s the bare minimum now.”

Orlando Pride goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse, who lists Everton, Arsenal, West Ham and Bordeaux among her former clubs, has received her first call-up at the age of 29.

“I wouldn’t say I was resigned to the fact it was never going to happen. There was always a small hope it was going to happen,” she said.

“I wouldn’t say I ever completely put it off the table but it was getting smaller and smaller but I’m so happy it’s happened.”

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