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Former England star Sue Smith: ‘We struggled to find our scores in newspapers, now it’s huge’

Former England star Sue Smith: ‘We struggled to find our scores in newspapers, now it’s huge’

A record 6.9 million people tuned into BBC One on Sunday as Sue Smith described the Lionesses’ chaotic 3-0 victory over Cameroon in the last-16 of the Women’s World Cup. It was something of a watershed moment for the game. getty 3 Alex Greenwood celebrates with the England squad after her strike in Valenciennes Not…


A record 6.9 million people tuned into BBC One on Sunday as Sue Smith described the Lionesses’ chaotic 3-0 victory over Cameroon in the last-16 of the Women’s World Cup.

It was something of a watershed moment for the game.

Alex Greenwood celebrates with the England squad after her strike in Valenciennes

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Alex Greenwood celebrates with the England squad after her strike in Valenciennes

Not only was it the most-watched women’s football match ever in England, the spectacle was inescapable whichever way you looked, grabbing the back page of every newspaper and headlining news bulletins.

Perhaps for the first time in this country, women’s football became a genuine part of popular culture, and momentum will only grow ahead of tonight’s quarter-final against Norway.

It represents a far cry from Smith’s first major tournament with the Lionesses: 18 years ago in 2001.

Speaking at a William Hill World Cup event, the co-commentator told talkSPORT:“I remember the first tournament I went to, it was the Euros in Germany. I’d phone my mum to ask how everything was going back home.

“She would look through all the papers and find a tiny article, with just the score and the scorers. Nothing on the game. You had to really search to find any coverage.

“You look at now and how huge it is. Not only on the T.V, it’s on the radio, in the newspapers. A lot of people that have maybe never been interested before are taking interest.”

There is still work to do, cultural barriers to overcome, and the occasional bigot to convince.

Sue Smith spoke exclusively to talkSPORT

William Hill
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Sue Smith spoke exclusively to talkSPORT

But women’s football is getting there faster than ever. Going back even further, only 10,400 female players competed in 1993, compared to 147,000 now, according to the latest FA figures.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that more than one million girls play kickabout football, and Smith hopes the Lionesses can inspire more youngsters to get involved properly.

“If they can continue to be successful as well, that would be massive for the game. You hope that would encourage more youngsters to take up football, whether it’s boys or girls, and ultimately just keep growing the game,” Smith added.

The Lionesses face Norway for a place in the semi-finals

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The Lionesses face Norway for a place in the semi-finals

“That’s what we all want. The girls are focussed on winning the tournament, but we as outsiders want the game to keep growing. They’re all very good role models at the moment and it’s just great that it continues to go in the right direction.”

Before England can entertain any ideas of World Cup glory, they must overcome a serious test in Le Havre on Thursday night.

And Smith expects the Lionesses to rise to the occasion and show the country what they’re capable of.


Listen to Norway vs England live on talkSPORT, 8pm kick-off


“I don’t think we’ve peaked,” she added.

“I think this is an opportunity for England to peak and show how good they are. If we perform at the level we’re capable of, I see us beating Norway.

“Then it’s a massive test against either France or USA in the semis.”

England Women are 7/1 with William Hill to win the Women’s World Cup

A record 6.9 million people tuned into BBC One on Sunday as Sue Smith described the Lionesses’ chaotic 3-0 victory over Cameroon in the last-16 of the Women’s World Cup.
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