England vs USA and the rivalry that isn’t


Sophie is a London-based women’s football writer who covered last year’s World Cup finals as well as domestic WSL games regularly.

With bylines in the Guardian and Evening Standard, Sophie has also been a guest on BBC World Service and 5 Live.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve written two articles about Phil Neville’s desire for am England-USA rivalry to dominate the world stage, one took the line of, “Yeah, this is a possibility,” the other compared him to a cartoon dog.

The reaction to the first, largely from Americans, was scorn which wasn’t entirely surprising, yet the point was mostly missed.

Not quite Lyon

When the Lionesses squared off against the World Champions in Orlando last week, they had the chance to make a statement, to back up Neville’s bluster with a performance that confirmed they belonged with the world’s best.

However, England showed up with the same insipid, confused meh football that many have come to associate with the current manager. Instead of a nail-biting rematch of the World Cup semi-final, the humidity was all that was left over from last summer, the match one-sided, the USA claiming their twelfth win in eighteen matches against England.

Regardless of results, and more importantly, performance, the talk of rivalry from Neville is short-sighted, a person can’t just declare a rivalry, such things need to happen organically.

Rivalries aren’t forged just because teams play each other once a year in a friendly tournament that pits a pre-season team against a mid-season one. It’s big moments, important moments in the context of the footballing history of a nation [or club].

Even if the USA and England were one and two (as Neville seems to think they are), their meetings would bring predictions about good open matches full of intent from both, not talk of a new chapter in an enduring rivalry.


Short history

Due to the truncated nature of women’s football around the world, stemming from notable extended bans,  such as in England (50 years), Germany (15 years but was only lifted with modified rules) and Brazil (38 years), there is a lack of deep-rooted and long-standing rivalries.

Teams will come and go at the top, leaving the USA’s extended run of dominance to be the outlier and why so many see themselves as rivals to the four-time World Champions; you always shoot upwards but this is also what leaves so many perceived rivalries as one-sided and not embraced on both sides.

There is legitimate and heartfelt animosity between the USA and England and although we’d have to go back a quarter of a millennium to the start of the Revolutionary War, America’s own condensed history as an independent nation could give rise to a rivalry with England.

Yet, there is much more the feeling that America is all grown up, she’s left home and is trying to make her way in the world on her own and doesn’t need to come home to get her laundry done by the Queen and Tony Blair.

Even Alex Morgan’s tepid tea drinking celebration after scoring in the semi-final last July could only provide fodder for tabloids desperate to ignite anything in reach, a line of rhetoric to sway only the most uppity of the population on this side of the Atlantic.

Stability in the England national team, a clear style executed well and consistent performances at major tournaments that lead to repeated meetings with the USA (or any nation) could yet give rise to a new rivalry, but it is not something that can be rushed or contrived.

For now, England need to work on their own issues on the pitch as the coaching staff finds free time away from “England” to work on putting things in place for Team GB this summer.

Likewise, the USWNT need to continue to get used to new head coach, Vlatko Andonovski as he gets used to his new job as his team also prepare for the Olympics this summer.

If a rivalry is to happen then it will, but for all involved maybe a little less talk would be for the better.

USWNT on Prost Amerika


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