Lucy Bronze may not be the Golden Boot winner at this Women’s World Cup, but she is England’s highest-profile player. While her teammate Ellen White is currently tied with USWNT star Megan Rapino with five goals (along with Alex Morgan and Australia’s Sam Kerr), Bronze is the one who manager Phil Neville has called “the best player in the world.”
The 27-year-old Bronze will be tasked with slowing Rapinoe and Morgan in the World Cup semifinals in the Parc Olympique Lyonnais on Tuesday (3 p.m. EST, Fox). However, she was very close to representing another country entirely on the international stage.
According to the BBC, the daughter of a Portuguese father and English mother considered suiting up for Portugal up until 2013. She had grown frustrated with a lack of opportunities with England as a 16-year-old, so she fielded a call from Portugal national team coach Monica Jorge.
“Monica Jorge had contacted my parents via Facebook after it was mentioned during an England youth game on TV that I was half-Portuguese,” she said. “She realized it was a long shot, and I wanted to play for England, but she said that if there was any chance of playing for Portugal, they would more than welcome me into the squad and develop me.”
She helped lead England to the European U-19 Championship in 2009, but wasn’t breaking onto the senior team. She told her parents Diane and Joaquim that if she still was on the outside looking in at age 22, she would switch allegiance to Portugal.
“I’m just as Portuguese as I am English and it wouldn’t have felt like a disservice to England,” she said.
After a manager change, she found her chance, starting for England in the 2015 World Cup. That resulted in the nation’s best finish (third) in a World Cup, which could be surpassed this Tuesday with a victory over the United States.
She’s been with the nation ever since.
Lucy Bronze Upbringing & Background
Bronze was born Oct. 28, 1991 in Berwick-upon-Tweed, a northern England town on the North Sea and the border with Scotland. According to France 24, she played with boys until mixed clubs were no longer allowed during her teenage years.
“Up until I was 12, I was the only girl playing with a group of boys,” she told The Guardian. “I had to beg my mum to let me wear shorts to school so I could play football at lunch.” But for teenagers, mixed teams weren’t possible. Lucy couldn’t play with the boys anymore. “The coach told me I was too good to stop, and begged my mum to go find me a girls’ team, because one day I was going to play for England.”
She eventually attended and graduated from The Duchess’s Community High School in Northumberland. Her club experience with Sunderland Women’s Football Club from 2002-09, including a captaincy later in her tenure, helped earn a scholarship from North Carolina.
She scored three goals over 24 caps her freshman season before returning to Sunderland and the national team. She saw freshman All-American honors, as well. This led to stints with Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City before her current success with Olympique Lyonnais.
Now, she will be tasked with slowing Rapinoe and/or Morgan in the World Cup semifinals. Her current manager Phil Neville more than thinks she’s up to the task.
“I do believe she’s the best player in the world,” Neville told USA Today. “She’s unique in everything she does. Her athleticism, her ability to defend (one on one). She’s fearless in everything that she does. And her ability to step up on the big occasion.
“Even though she plays fullback and sometimes in midfield, the qualities that she possesses and has shown and has proven, to me, makes her one of the most outstanding players of the world,” he continued. “Even though she plays at fullback and sometimes doesn’t score goals, even though she did the other night, I still think that needs recognizing.”
Unlike France’s Wendie Renard, Bronze is able to combine athleticism with physicality to match with Rapinoe and Morgan. She will need to prove this in the biggest-ever game in England women’s football history