Tuesday 27 July 2021, 16:45

Bronze with gold in her sights

  • Great Britain drew 1-1 with Canada

  • Finish an impressive first in Group E

  • In-form full-back Lucy Bronze eyeing the top of the podium

After winning The Best FIFA Women’s Player award for 2020, Lucy Bronze set out her ambitions for 2021: to win the UEFA Women’s Champions League with Manchester City and play for Great Britain at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020. “I’ve never been to the Olympic Games,” she told the club’s website. “I’d love to play in the competition and win the gold medal.”

While the first of those two dreams was dashed in the quarter-finals by eventual champions Barcelona, the second is still very much intact. This Tuesday saw Team GB seal a place in the next round at Tokyo 2020 by securing a 1-1 draw with Canada that left them top of their group.

Resilient and resolute

Trailing 1-0 with just five minutes remaining, the British were in danger of allowing their opponents on the day to replace them at the top of the section. But that was before Caroline Weir’s long-range shot found the back of the net after taking a deflection off Canada’s Nichelle Prince.

“It was just a huge relief,” Bronze told FIFA.com after the match. “That was a game we didn’t deserve to lose. That’s what we all felt and when the ball finally went in, we were so relieved. We wanted to finish top of the group and we’ve got the job done.”

Canada’s goal was the first that Bronze and her team-mates had conceded at the tournament so far. “Before the game, we wanted to keep it that way but when you’re up against the best teams in the world, it’s hard to keep a clean sheet in every game,” she said. “The good thing is, we now know that if we go a goal down, we can come back. That’s the positive we can take from conceding that goal.”

The Canucks’ strike came ten minutes into the second half, when Ashley Lawrence went on a surging run down the left flank and cut the ball back past Bronze and into the path of Adriana Leon, who tucked it away at the far post. “Of course I took it badly,” smiled Bronze. “When you’re a defender, your first job is not to concede a single goal. We’ve done a lot of work on defending crosses in the box and I’m disappointed we didn’t cut that one out.”

The provider

The Manchester City star has no cause to be ashamed of her efforts in the group phase, having served up three assists in Great Britain’s opening two matches, all of them for Ellen White.

“I have a lot of freedom on the pitch and that means I can get forward a lot, which is what’s expected of me too. Things went really well in the first two matches, but I’m a defender first and foremost and my job is to stop the opposition from scoring. I get more satisfaction out of doing that than providing assists.”

Bronze and her colleagues can also be proud of the fact they have yet to pick up a yellow card in the tournament. “It goes to show that we’re always in the right position, we don’t dive in, we don’t give away stupid fouls, and that it’s difficult for our opponents to find gaps,” she said. “That was what we set out to do from the start: to be solid, tight-knit and disciplined. That’s what we’ve shown here in all our matches.”

The day’s final games revealed that the British will be facing Australia, one of the best third-placed teams, in the next round.

Speaking before their next opponents were revealed, Bronze expressed her belief that Great Britain had what it took to end the country’s wait for Olympic women’s football gold: “This team has a lot of strengths. We’ve named a different starting XI for every game, except for the keeper and me, and we’ve worked really well together, whether it’s in defence, midfield or up front.

"We’ve got so much talent in this team, both on the pitch and on the bench. It’s a different team now and I think it’s better than before.”