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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Bronze: England aiming for back-to-back Euro wins

England and Barcelona defender Lucy Bronze has said the “long goal” for the Lionesses is to make history and become back-to-back European Champions.

The Lionesses begin their journey of defending their Euro 2022 title on Friday, when they host Sweden at Wembley Stadium before travelling to face the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday as qualifiers for the 2025 instalment of the tournament commence.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

It will be the first time that England begin a campaign as the reigning champions, something that adds more determination for the team, Bronze said in a news conference on Friday.

“Obviously, we want to qualify for the Euros, and that’s the goal for this campaign, but the long goal would obviously be to win the tournament,” she said.

“We go into every tournament wanting to win it, but that would be a special part of history to be a team that could potentially go back-to-back at a tournament. It’s difficult in any tournament, whether it’s the WSL [Women Super League], the Champions League, but it would be a next-level achievement to do that on an international stage.”

The Lionesses defeated Sweden 4-0 in the semifinal of Euro 2022 at Bramall Lane, where Alessia Russo scored the famous backheel goal that was nominated for the 2023 Puskas Award.

Whilst Bronze acknowledged the memories and rivalry between the sides, her focus is set on what England can do on their return to Wembley — where they lifted the Euros — for the first time this calendar year.

“Obviously, it brings back memories from the Euros. I don’t think we’ve talked about that game, but I do think there’s a nice rivalry between us and Sweden. I know when I’ve been playing, we’ve always had a good rivalry in tournaments.

“They’re a good team, a strong team but we’re very much focused on what they’re like in the here and now and the fact that we at Wembley is something we’re really excited about.

“We want to get all the fans back. We’ve got the opportunity if front of our fans against a good team so we’re very much focused on that game. Maybe the fans can feel that moment of the Euros and think about them, and hopefully, it gets them excited for what happens tomorrow.”

England were drawn into Group C1, arguably the toughest group of the tournament, with three of the four teams ranking in FIFA’s top 10. To qualify automatically for the Euros, England (ranked second) must defeat France (ranked third), Sweden (ranked sixth) and the Republic of Ireland (ranked 25th) and finish in the top two of the group.

Finishing in the bottom two places would see the reigning champions enter a playoff to qualify.

The Lionesses did not qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics in December after failing to make it out of the Nations League group stage, which acted as a qualification process.

Manager Sarina Wiegman, speaking alongside Bronze, admitted that the disappointment was tough to take but the team have had plenty of time to reset and focus on the qualifiers after playing a friendly camp in February in Marbella.

“From the moment in December that we knew we didn’t qualify, which was hard anyway with only two teams qualifying excluding France, we wanted to reset and get ready for the first game, which is now Sweden tomorrow,” she said.

“We used the camp in February to have a reset moment, get ready and focus fully on the qualifiers for the Euros. They were friendlies, but we didn’t really approach them as friendlies. They gave us the opportunity to play many players and see where we’re at as individuals but also as a team and how players relate to each other.

“Now it’s for a qualifier. It’s absolutely an opportunity for us to show again what we can do and how good we can play, and that’s really what we want to do tomorrow.”

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