Chloe Kelly and Nikita Parris have backed their England team-mates to recover from the gut-wrenching disappointment of missing out on a chance of featuring at the Olympic Games in 2024.

The Lionesses lifted the Euro 2022 trophy and reached the final of the Women's World Cup a year later, but there was no fairytale ending to their Women's Nations League story.

Sarina Wiegman's European champions hammered Scotland 6-0 in their last fixture in Group A1 this month, but the Netherlands' 4-0 win over Belgium saw them top the standings.

Had Olympic qualification been determined by World Cup placings, Team GB would have qualified thanks to their nominated representative England making the final, losing 1-0 to Spain.

However, the new Nations League competition dictates who will travel to Paris next year and Germany, Spain and the Netherlands will now battle for two of three spots alongside hosts France.

Manchester City star Kelly, speaking at the launch of the first ever Panini Barclays Women's Super League sticker collection at the National Football Museum, said: "I think it is the way we bounce back from those losses, I think we can learn a lot from the whole duration of that Nations League.

"Being more consistent throughout the tournament because we left it to the last two games and we cut ourselves short.

"We are a great side and it is about getting some rest now, recovering and going again."

While there will be no Olympic dream for Wiegman and her England players, another European Championship campaign will follow in Switzerland in 2025.

Owing to the difficult task of qualifying for the Games, Parris echoed Kelly's message as she insisted the Lionesses will come back stronger.

Parris added: "It was a disappointment, fine margins, especially when in the Nations League, top teams are playing against each other.

"You do want that competition and it's such a hard route to go to the Olympics for the European sides, but for sure the girls will be super disappointed about the results and not going to the Olympics in 2024.

"The bounce back will be very quick, however. The focus will then go to the Euros and I'm sure everyone is raring and ready to go for the next games."

Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis acknowledged the Lionesses' "failure" but assured Wiegman will use the experience as a learning curve.

Brown-Finnis said: "It's an unusual one, not qualifying for the Olympics, it comes off the back of a Covid-postponed European Championships.

"Obviously we went on and won that one on home soil, so it's a congested fixture period and I'm not making excuses for the failure because all those players desperately wanted to be at the Olympics.

"It's what every national team in women's football aspires to do, to play in their continental championships, the World Cup and the Olympics, one year off and repeat.

"So it's a failure, absolutely, but it didn't happen on the last day against Scotland, it happened in the previous games.

"They'll come back, they'll have the summer off, which I think will definitely be a benefit, and Sarina Weigman, she'll learn from it, she'll learn what her players need.

"She's only two years into her tenure and what a success… she has been unbelievable, so I hope she sticks around for a long time and brings more success to the Lionesses."

Mary Earps has nothing to apologise for after her error against the Netherlands contributed to England's early exit from the Women's Nations League, says former Lionesses goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis.

England entered December's international window battling the Netherlands to top Group A1, needing to do so to keep Team GB's chances of reaching the 2024 Olympic Games alive.

Though the Lionesses beat the Oranje 3-2 on December 1, that result failed to put them in control of their own destiny, with a visibly upset Earps saying she had "let the team down" after allowing Lineth Beerensteyn's shot to squirm in at her near post.

Though England routed Scotland 6-0 in their final group game, that result was not enough as the Netherlands beat Belgium 4-0 with Damaris Egurrola scoring two stoppage-time goals.

That meant they edged out Sarina Wiegman's team by a single goal on the goal difference tiebreaker, preserving their own hopes of participating in Paris.

Though Earps' error eventually proved costly, Brown-Finnis says her performances throughout England's triumphant Euro 2022 campaign – as well as their run to this year's World Cup final – more than make up for it. 

Speaking at the launch of the first ever Panini Barclays Women's Super League sticker collection at the National Football Museum, Brown-Finnis said: "I think she'll learn from that. 

"You have an emotional reaction after the game and it's hard to keep that under wraps, whether that's good or whether that's a negative emotional reaction or an angry reaction.

"I think she'll learn that she was not to blame. She knows she made a mistake and she owned that mistake and she wanted to outwardly acknowledge that.

"I understand the sentiment behind [Earps apologising], but the amount of credit she has in the bank for her performances in the World Cup and the European Championships, since she's had that number one shirt on her back…

"She is the world's best goalkeeper. She's England's number one and she has nothing to be sorry for."

Earps enjoyed a stellar campaign as England finished as World Cup runners-up in August, winning the Golden Glove and saving a penalty in their 1-0 final defeat to Spain.

She won the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year award earlier this month, seeing off competition from cricketer Stuart Broad and golf star Rory McIlroy.

Speaking alongside Brown-Finnis, Earps' England team-mate Chloe Kelly said: "Mary's unbelievable, a great personality, a great girl and unbelievable on the pitch.

"She's achieving great things at the minute, and it's all due to her hard work, her determination. Credit to her."

Manchester United forward Nikita Parris, who plays alongside Earps for both club and country, added: "She's massively important. 

"Great team-mate, great player. She's had an unbelievable couple of years and she deserves all the awards she's up for. 

"Don't forget BBC Sports Personality – that's a massive achievement, something that in England, we all love to watch. I really wish her the best."

Chloe Kelly believes the record attendances in the Women's Super League (WSL) this season are down to the standard of football that is being played.

The attendance record for a single WSL game has been beaten twice this season, while the average number of spectators inside the grounds are also growing across the division.

Kelly Simmons, the FA director of the women's professional game, pointed to England Women's victory at Euro 2022 as the key reason for the rise in attendances.

Manchester City Women's Kelly, who scored the winning goal in the final of Euro 2022 against Germany, credited the increase in standard as spearheading the rise of women's football.

Speaking at the launch of the first ever Panini Barclays Women's Super League sticker collection at the National Football Museum, Kelly said: "[It is] definitely the football that the girls are playing.

"I think every club this season has shown exactly what they're about and I think to hit record attendance just shows the work that we're doing on the pitch but away from the pitch as well.

"I think we're showing great personalities and we want as many people to come and watch us and it's about what we do on the pitch that brings them to the stadiums."

Manchester United Women's Nikita Parris was also part of the Euro 2022 success, and she agrees with Kelly that the level of play is the main attraction for fans.

Parris highlighted the recent 4-1 victory for Arsenal Women over Chelsea Women, which broke the record for attendance at a WSL match with its crowd of 59,042, as an example of the high calibre of play.

When asked what she thought the key reason for the increased attendance was, Parris replied: "I think ultimately the standard of quality in the game.

"You've seen the game against Arsenal and Chelsea, a great spectacle, quality on both sides and goals. Goals bring spectators, goals bring games and the more goals you score in the game definitely the more exciting it is."

Rachel Brown-Finnis, now a pundit after a long playing career, is delighted with the growth in the women's game and is hoping its rapid rise continues, explaining: "Where the women's game is now, it's unprecedented.

"We're successful, we've won the European Championships, we've got to the final of the World Cup, we're seeing crowds that we've never ever seen before.

"People want to attend domestic games, people clearly want to attend Lionesses' matches which is why most of them are hosted at Wembley, and sell-out Wembley's. That's on an upward trajectory, that I don't see anything really dipping that."

England forward Chloe Kelly says women should never let anyone tell them they can't succeed, after Joey Barton sparked controversy with comments about female pundits working in football.

Speaking at the launch of the first ever Panini Barclays Women's Super League sticker collection at the National Football Museum, former Lionesses goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis joined Kelly to call for women to ignore Barton's 'clickbait' criticism.

Former Manchester City and Newcastle United midfielder Barton made headlines recently over a series of negative social media posts about women working in the men's game.

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Barton said women "shouldn't be talking with any kind of authority in the men's game", calling women's football a "different" sport and describing the decision to employ female pundits and commentators as "tokenism".

Chelsea Women's manager Emma Hayes and former Arsenal defender Alex Scott have both hit out at Barton's comments in recent days, and Kelly – the scorer of England's winning goal in the Euro 2022 final against Germany – has now joined them.

"We've broken down barriers throughout our careers, every woman involved in sport, especially in football," Kelly said. 

"We've broken down barriers to get where we are today, and we keep breaking down those barriers and not letting people tell us we can't. As you can see today, women can achieve great things.

"I definitely like to prove people wrong. I think every female has done just that along the way, proving people wrong. 

"I think we're showing exactly what we're capable of and every woman working in football is showing that they're able to do so."

Brown-Finnis, who has worked as a pundit on men's and women's football since retiring in 2015, suggested Barton's comments were primarily intended to cause outrage, rather than representing his honest views.

"It's one voice on social media that reaches a lot of people's ears and unfortunately, that's the nature of social media," she said of Barton's posts.

"We as women in football, whether it be women's football or men's football, we hear these voices on a regular basis. I think you can choose to listen to them or you can choose to not listen to them. 

"I understand that platform is for anybody to have their say. He's entitled to his view, if that is a true view, but in my opinion it's more of a clickbait exercise."

Former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis has described online racist abuse aimed at Chelsea's Lauren James as "disgusting", calling for action to be taken against the perpetrators.

Speaking at the launch of the first ever Panini Barclays Women's Super League sticker collection at the National Football Museum, Brown-Finnis was joined by current Lionesses forward Chloe Kelly, who pledged to support her international team-mate after she was abused on social media.

James was subjected to racist comments online after appearing to stamp on Lia Walti's foot during Chelsea's 4-1 Women's Super League defeat against Arsenal last week.

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes subsequently said James was "not in a good place" and claimed "racial profiling" by people working in football was partly to blame for the abuse.  

Brown-Finnis, who won 82 caps for England between 1997 and 2013 before moving into punditry, believes more must be done to hold those who post online abuse to account.

"Of course, it's not coming from within. People can say what they want on social media and there seems to be little ownership of comments, there seems to be no action taken against people who put what they want on social media," she said.

"It's awful, it's hurtful, it's not representative of what the majority of people think of women, of athletes, of people of colour, of any sort of minority group, and it's disgusting. 

"It's something that I would not want my children to see, would want to relate to, would want any part of, so with the fact that it's highlighted, hopefully something can be done about it."

James was also racially abused online while playing for Manchester United in 2021, while a recent FIFA study revealed one in five players at this year's Women's World Cup were subjected to "discriminatory, abusive or threatening messaging" during the tournament.

Kelly – who played alongside James in Australia and New Zealand as Sarina Wiegman's team finished as runners-up to Spain – said the forward's team-mates would now rally around her.

"I haven't seen anything about it, but it's really disappointing to hear," Kelly said of the abuse James has received.

"She's a great young talent, a great young English talent who is doing so well at the minute, but of course, there's so much negativity. I think it's always disappointing with such a talent like LJ. 

"Hopefully she's able to block that out and move forward. Everyone around her will definitely support her in this time because she's an unbelievable player and deserves a lot of support."

James was on target as Chelsea returned to winning ways in the Women's Super League on Sunday, netting the opener in a 3-0 victory over Bristol City.

England ran out India captain Harmanpreet Kaur in bizarre circumstances on the opening day of their one-off women’s Test – but they could not stop the hosts piling up 410 for seven in Mumbai.

It was India’s first Test match on home soil since 2014 but they settled in to their task after choosing to bat, with Satheeth Shubha (69), Jemima Rodrigues (68), Yastika Bhatia (66) and Deepti Sharma (60no) all making half-centuries.

Kaur thought she had also reached the landmark for the first time but was surprised to find herself given out for 49 after raising her bat to acknowledge the applause of her team-mates.

She had prodded a delivery to cover and scampered through for what she believed to be her fiftieth run after Danni Wyatt’s return throw hit the stumps and ricocheted away from wicketkeeper Amy Jones.

The TV umpire subsequently reviewed the replays and found Kaur, who had been in no pressure whatsoever to make her ground, had accidentally lodged her bat just in front of the crease line and was short by an inch as the bails were lifted.

It may not have been lost on England that the bowler at the time was Charlie Dean, victim of a controversial ‘Mankad’ run out at the non-striker’s end under Kaur’s captaincy at Lord’s in 2022.

England may already find victory a tough ask with India’s highest ever home total and healthy run rate of 4.36 carving out a strong position.

This summer’s women’s Ashes series included a five-day Test, allowing enough time for the game to reach its natural conclusion, but the reversion to the conventional, unloved four days means a draw may be the best realistic result for Heather Knight’s tourists.

England had started the day well, Lauren Bell bowling Smriti Mandhana via an inside edge and Kate Cross cleaning up Shafali Verma inside the first nine overs. Bell returned to dismiss Rodrigues’ impressive knock by attacking the stumps again and finished with figures of two for 64.

Sophie Ecclestone, the world’s number one white-ball spinner, struggled to assert herself as she mustered one for 85 in 22 overs and there was one wicket apiece for Dean and Nat Sciver-Brunt, who landed a late blow to remove Sneh Rana in the closing minutes.

England forward Lauren James will miss the Women’s Nations League double-header against Belgium because of concussion.

The Lionesses play the first of their two-parter at Leicester on Friday but the Chelsea player will not be involved as she goes through the relevant protocols after suffering a head injury.

Lotte Wubben-Moy trained on Thursday and could be involved in the squad at the King Power Stadium.

“We have 25 players, but they are not all fit,” boss Sarina Wiegman said. “Unfortunately, Lauren James is not ready, she won’t be ready for Tuesday also.

“Nothing to worry about, she picked up a concussion and she knows we have to be careful of the protocols that we always do, so that is just too short to be ready for the two games.

“Lotte is on the pitch and we will assess her today, everyone else is good.”

Belgium currently top Group A1 of the Women’s Nations League with four points from their opening two games while England suffered a last-gasp defeat against the Netherlands in September.

That loss places an importance on the two games against the Belgians and Wiegman, who celebrated her 54th birthday on Thursday, wants a response.

“We always want to win, and expectations are high but we have our own expectations too,” she said.

“Of course we lost the last game, we were not happy with that and we want to bounce back. What we are working on is improving our game, doing things right and playing very well against Belgium and getting a result.

“They are really competing for something in the Nations League. They are in a very different situation at the moment, they play with different shape, with different players and are in transition.

“They are very competitive, very well organised and as they showed in September they are very hard to beat.”

 

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Goalkeeper Mary Earps will get the chance to play at Leicester, where she began her youth career.

Her profile has raised exponentially on the back of the Lionesses’ success in recent years, culminating in replica goalkeeper’s shirts selling out after her World Cup exploits in the summer.

The Lionesses have always been accessible to fans but Earps thinks there is now a tipping point given their elevated status.

“Expectation of the team is obviously a huge compliment in terms of the way teams expect us to win and things like that,” the Manchester United keeper said.

“The accessibility people get to us as players is a hot topic of discussion, it’s something we as players are experiencing in a very different way in terms of the way the profile is changing.

“We love to interact with the fans, but it is becoming difficult to keep everyone happy and to interact with as many people as possible.

“We are so grateful that thousands and thousands of people want to come and meet us and talk to us but the reality is that if that is the expectation then we are always going to fall short.

“I think the emphasis on it needs to switch. We love that we can be so connected but we are subject to a lot of comments and at times it is an addition to the game we don’t need. We love it but it is becoming difficult to maintain that.”

Aitana Bonmati's similarities to Zinedine Zidane are part of the qualities that should win her the upcoming Ballon d'Or, according to former Portugal international Pauleta.

Bonmati's incredible form in the 2022-23 season helped Barcelona to a magnificent treble, recording a competition-leading 12 goal involvements as the Blaugrana claimed Champions League glory, before she also played a major role in Australia and New Zealand as her national team Spain won the Women's World Cup for the first time.

Bonmati was given the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player, and the midfielder is the favourite to collect more individual silverware in the near future having been named among the nominees to pick up the Ballon d'Or, the winner of which will be announced at a ceremony in Paris in late October.

Pauleta fully expects Bonmati to be named the 2022-23 season's best player, pointing to Zidane, the winner of the men's Ballon d'Or in 1998, as a star Bonmati shares traits with.

When asked who she thought should claim the trophy, Pauleta told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit: "I say Aitana [Bonmati] because she had an incredible season with Barcelona and Spain.

"I played against her in the Champions League. I felt something about [Zinedine] Zidane in her game. She's aggressive but with the ball, she's so sweet. She always puts the ball where it needs to be.

"The game is better when she is playing. She has this quality that makes her play beautifully."

Among the other nominees competing with Bonmati is Mary Earps, the Manchester United and England goalkeeper who won the Golden Glove at the World Cup as the tournament's best shot-stopper, saving a penalty from Bonmati's Spain team-mate Jennifer Hermoso in the final.

Prior to her heroics with the Lionesses, Earps had helped United to a strong Women's Super League campaign as well as the club's first-ever FA Cup final.

Fellow goalkeeper Patricia Morais believes Earps should become the first Ballon d'or winner from their position, saying: "I think it will be the England goalkeeper [Earps], for sure. I have no doubt that she will win.

"She's a world-class goalkeeper. She deserves it because I like her style, how she plays football and I identify myself with her."

The disgraced former president of the Spanish Football Federation [RFEF] Luis Rubiales was not worthy of representing his country, according to Sevilla vice president Jose Maria del Nido.

Rubiales was widely condemned for his behaviour as Spain celebrated their victory over England in last month's Women's World Cup final, having grabbed forward Jenni Hermoso before kissing her on the lips.

Hermoso repeatedly stated the kiss was not consensual and has since filed a criminal complaint against Rubiales, accusing him of sexual assault.

Though Rubiales initially refused to resign, the pressure eventually told as he announced his departure ahead of an interview with Piers Morgan, which aired last week.

Sevilla became one of the first clubs to demand Rubiales' resignation on August 25, and Del Nido believes the events have left a stain on the reputation of Spanish football. 

Speaking at the Thinking Football Summit, Del Nido told Stats Perform: "Instead of everyone talking about the success of being world champions, being the best in your sport at a global level, it's a complete failure that we should be talking about events that are totally unacceptable, of a person who should not represent the Spanish Football Federation. 

"Instead of paying attention to the damage that the attitude of the president of the federation has done, I would stay with the attitude that the Spanish people have had. 

"I think it is true that this hurts the reputation of Spain, but Spain is not Luis Rubiales. 

"Spain is everything we have manifested against the behaviour of Rubiales, everything we have done to support Jenni. 

"This type of conduct cannot be accepted under any concept, and even less if it is a person who occupies a status or a position of that magnitude. 

"He is not worthy of representing the Spanish Football Federation. Spain has spoken out against this event in a very good way. 

"I will finish as I started. What we have to do is congratulate the Spanish women's team for becoming World Cup champions, which is the only thing that should be discussed."

Despite the exits of Rubiales and World Cup-winning coach Jorge Vilda – who was sacked earlier this month having been the subject of player revolts – the storm surrounding the RFEF is far from over.

A group of 81 Spanish players announced their intention to boycott international duty and 39 said they would continue to strike for further changes on Friday, with Hermoso claiming "nothing has changed" at the governing body on social media.

However, six of the players who agreed to strike reported at Spain's training camp on Tuesday, with goalkeeper Misa Rodriguez telling reporters she was not glad to join up with the squad as she arrived. 

With the relationship between women's rights and Spanish football under the microscope, Getafe completed the controversial loan signing of Manchester United's Mason Greenwood this month.

Greenwood was arrested and charged with attempted rape, assault and controlling and coercive behaviour last year, with the charges dropped in February after the withdrawal of key witnesses.

While Del Nido was not prepared to comment on Getafe's decision to sign Greenwood, he said Sevilla never considered a move for the forward.

"I read about it in the press and it was never among the options that the sporting director of Sevilla [Victor Orta] managed," Del Nido asserted.

"With it not being within the options of the sporting director of Sevilla, I don't dare to speak about a signing for another club, Getafe, for whom we have a lot of respect. 

"They have made some signings but we have never valued the option of that footballer at a sporting level, so I have nothing to say about that."

Greenwood made his Getafe debut as a substitute on Sunday as they beat Osasuna 3-2 in LaLiga.

Sarina Wiegman is an outstanding coach and could succeed Gareth Southgate as manager of the England men's national team, says former Spain captain Veronica Boquete.

With reports suggesting Southgate may depart after he leads the Three Lions to his fourth major tournament at Euro 2024, various coaches have been touted as potential successors.  

Manchester City's Pep Guardiola is a reported target for the Football Association, but Wiegman's name has also been mentioned after she led the Lionesses to Euro 2022 glory last year.

Wiegman was denied another trophy as England were beaten by Spain in last month's Women's World Cup final, but Boquete remains convinced by her work with the Lionesses.  

The 36-year-old midfielder – who captained her country at the 2015 World Cup – feels Wiegman's name should be in the conversation.

"I think this is going to arrive, there is going to be a moment where a woman will be coaching a high-level [men's] team or national team," Boquete told Stats Perform. "She has already showed that she is a fantastic coach, that she has the knowledge, that she is a leader. So why not? 

"What are they going to say? 'Oh, no, she cannot be the coach of the men's national team' – Why not? She has already proved that she is great. 

"For me, it's about capacities and knowledge and if the players want to be coached by the best. If she is the best, they should give her the chance. 

"Everyone would be supporting her because it would be something fantastic for football but also for society."

Spain's first Women's World Cup win was overshadowed by the behaviour of Spanish Football Federation [RFEF] president Luis Rubiales, who has been provisionally suspended by FIFA after grabbing Jennifer Hermoso and kissing the forward on the lips.

A group of 81 players have refused to represent La Roja if Rubiales remains in post, while head coach Jorge Vilda – who was the subject of a player revolt previously – was sacked a little over two weeks after lifting the World Cup.

Wiegman was praised for speaking out in support of Spain's players upon receiving the UEFA Women's Coach of the Year award in Monaco last week, and her comments further convinced Boquete of her leadership skills. 

"I think her speech was fantastic and it gave hope to so many people to really believe in change," she added.

"It's crazy that the coach of the team that loses the final offered her moment to those players that are in this crazy situation, to defend something in such a strong way. I already had so much respect for her on the sporting side, but obviously now also on the personal side. 

"I consider her a leader, globally, and her words were just fantastic. I think we need to say thanks so many times because it was her moment and we kind of stole it, so we really appreciate it."

Asked about the controversy engulfing women's football in Spain, Boquete claimed her nation had enough talent to win previous World Cups, only to be held back by the RFEF's poor leadership. 

"It is not easy to explain to other countries all the things that are going on behind the scenes," she said. "Everyone will say 'yeah, but you're winning, how is that possible?' 

"I say, yeah, we win because we have a lot of talent. Normally with their clubs, they have better conditioning so they develop and that's great, but can you imagine if everyone was working in the right way a long time ago? We could have been world champions 10 years ago. 

"We were missing a lot of chances. We just want change so that it doesn't happen again and Spain can always be at the top.

"We already had the talent before, we had amazing players that didn't win anything because the people in charge didn't help them develop. So we just want the [right] people on top, so everyone can just be focused on being the best."

Heather Knight admitted Sri Lanka served up some “humble pie” for England after a crushing defeat at Chelmsford, but has no regrets over their approach to this series.

England lost by eight wickets after they were skittled for 104 with Sri Lanka captain Chamari Athapaththu smacking 55 in quick time to secure victory for the tourists’ with 40 balls to spare.

It levels the three-match T20 series ahead of Wednesday’s decider in Derby and resulted in Knight facing questions over the decision with head coach Jon Lewis to experiment against the eighth best country in Twenty20 cricket.

Sophia Dunkley and Nat Sciver-Brunt were rested while England selected five players aged 22 or younger in Saturday’s XI, but captain Knight defended their right to rotate with the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh only a year away.

Knight said: “We want to expose people to international cricket and we were pretty clear that was the goal at the start of this series.

“No one was saying anything at Hove when we smashed 180 off 17 overs so no, I wouldn’t change a thing.

“In a busy summer, we knew there was a slight opportunity to try a few new players. You don’t get a huge amount of opportunities to do that because we haven’t got too many games before that World Cup in Bangladesh.

“It wasn’t about underestimating Sri Lanka at all. It was about what is best for us as a side moving forward and we needed to get some caps into young players to see where they are at.

“We’ve had a bad day, we’ve lost a game of cricket but there will be no big enquiry into it.

“Sri Lanka have played very well and they have given us some humble pie to be honest, but it is a good lesson for youngsters that if you are not quite on it and not able to execute your skills how you want, then you can get punished.”

After posting 186 for four in Sussex on Thursday, this batting display could not have been more chalk and cheese with England reduced to 21 for three inside the powerplay.

Knight and Amy Jones briefly rebuilt before the excellent Inoka Ranaweera accounted for them on her way to figures of two for 25.

When England were faltering on 66 for eight, an unwanted record looked on the cards but Charlie Dean hit 34 to help the hosts beyond their previous lowest T20 total of 87 – posted against Australia in 2015.

Sri Lanka seamer Udeshika Prabodhani ended Dean’s 33-run partnership with Issy Wong and yorked Dean soon after to dismiss England for 104.

Wong would go on to struggle with the ball, producing an array of no-balls in a 10-delivery opening over.

Athapaththu never blinked in the chase though, smashing Kate Cross for 21 before she added another maximum in a scintillating 26-ball fifty that helped the tourists clinch a first T20 win over England at the 10th time of asking.

“We all had a bad day at the same time unfortunately,” Knight reflected.

“I thought they bowled really well, their spinners were impressive and the lengths they bowled. Credit to them but yeah sometimes this happens in cricket.

“We’ve obviously got a very inexperienced side and a lot of people who are learning their trade, so it identifies areas where we need to get better at.

“Even before this game we identified spin as an area where we can keep getting better and with the World Cup in Bangladesh that will be something potentially on the radar out there.

“Look, quite a humbling day but it is now an opportunity for us to hone in on what we can do better moving forward.”

Sri Lanka captain Athapaththu added: “Today was really good for us, we executed the right plans and especially the spinners were really good.

“The wicket was helpful, so finally we won, that’s really good for us. For myself and my team, this is a huge moment for women’s cricket in Sri Lanka.”

England Women’s players are to receive the same match fees as the men’s team after a thrilling Ashes summer boosted their profile.

The England and Wales Cricket Board has announced payments to Heather Knight’s side are being brought into line with those made to Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and their team-mates in the wake of record crowds and increased viewing figures.

The increase will take effect immediately, starting with this week’s Vitality IT20 series against Sri Lanka.

ECB chief executive officer Richard Gould said: “This summer’s thrilling Metro Bank Women’s Ashes series demonstrated how women’s cricket is continuing to grow at pace in this country, with record attendances and TV viewing.

“Growing the women’s and girls’ game is a key priority for us and in recent years we have considerably increased investment both in building a domestic women’s structure to produce the players of the future and in increasing player rewards.

“In the years ahead, we will continue to invest ahead of revenues. We are currently considering all the recommendations made by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, but equalising match fees is one immediate step we are pleased to make now.

“We all want cricket to be the team sport of choice for female athletes and – with the investments we are making and increasingly-lucrative opportunities around the world – we are seeing cricketers become some of the highest earning female athletes in UK team sports.

“However, we know there is still much further to go as we ultimately strive for equality across the game.

“As we continue to grow women’s cricket, we will continue to focus on making considered investments that stretch far-and-wide across the women’s cricket structures, delivering a thriving, profitable and future-proofed game.”

A total of 110,00 people watched the drawn summer series, which saw Australia retain the Ashes in front of crowds of 19,527 at Edgbaston, 20,328 at the Kia Oval and 21,610 at Lord’s which set successive new records for a home England Women bilateral fixture, while 23,207 tickets were sold for the five days of the Trent Bridge Test.

Broadcast viewing figures of 5.3 million, in addition to 47 million video views, were double those in 2019.

England skipper Knight said: “It’s really important that we continue to drive the women’s game forward and it’s fantastic to see equal match fees for England Women and England Men.

“The direction of travel for the women’s game has always been the most important thing, creating a sustainable product that people want to watch and play and I’m sure this will make cricket an increasingly-attractive sport to girls and young women as we continue to grow the game.

“I would also like to thank the PCA and England Women’s Player Partnership for their support in representing the players and the growth of the professional game.”

The ECB currently funds 80 professional women’s domestic cricketers in addition to its 18 England Women’s centrally-contracted players.

Last year, the governing body announced a £3.5milion increase in funding for the women’s regional game to run until the end of 2024, while the salary pot per team was raised to £250,000, meaning the average salary for a women’s regional cricketer will be £25,000.

Sarina Wiegman's success with England shows female coaches are deserving of further opportunities, says former Italy boss Carolina Morace.

Wiegman led the Lionesses to their first major tournament triumph at Euro 2022 before overseeing this year's run to the World Cup final in Australia and New Zealand, where they were beaten 1-0 by Spain.

She has earned plenty of plaudits since succeeding Phil Neville in the role in 2021, only losing two of her 39 matches at the helm (30 wins, seven draws) and overseeing a positive World Cup campaign despite injuries to key players including Leah Williamson and Beth Mead.

While the 2023 World Cup featured 32 teams for the first time, Wiegman was one of just 12 female head coaches present at the tournament. 

Morace wants to see football associations judge potential bosses on their competence rather than their gender, acknowledging the dominance of men at governing bodies is an issue.

Asked about the number of promising female coaches in the game, Morace told Stats Perform: "I'll answer you one way. Sarina Weigman inherited the [England] team from Phil Neville with the same players who had unfortunately achieved nothing under Phil Neville. 

"With her, they have reached the maximum. There are good, excellent female coaches and excellent male coaches. 

"You need to have the intellectual honesty to choose based on competence, to choose coaches who have not always been sent away from men's teams and who don't know the world of women's football. It is obvious they will also fail in women's football.

"I believe there are many good coaches who must be valued. Unfortunately, it is always men who choose, for whom it takes a little bit of effort [to recruit women]."

Morace is one of few female coaches with notable experience in the men's game, having led Italian third-tier outfit Viterbese at the start of her coaching career in 1999 – albeit for just two games.

She felt a higher turnover of coaches in the men's game made players more receptive to her methods, adding: "Coaching men is easier. When you coach a men's team, you coach boys who come from an early age and played in all the youth teams and have changed a lot of coaches. 

"You find them more ready [for change] than a girl who may have had two coaches or three coaches in her career.

"Perhaps today we can say that the little girls start from the same point as the boys. Before, it wasn't like that."

While Morace does not have an issue with male coaches working in women's football, she maintains the best candidates must be given chances regardless of their gender.

"It is one thing is to coach a national team," she said. "When you arrive in the national team, you have the World Cup, the Olympics which absolutely have another value [in the women's game]. 

"But now the men who are unable to enter the men's game look to the women, but they do it after seeing the stadiums full at the World Cup, it becomes very desired by them too. 

"Competence is much more important. I coached the Italian national team, the Canadian national team. For me, it was much more important than coaching the professional men's team in the third division."

The United States fell short tactically at the Women's World Cup and must now look to their European rivals for inspiration.

That is the view of former Italy striker and head coach Carolina Morace, who believes the USA's previous dominance of the women's game owed largely to their players' physical attributes.

The four-time winners recorded their worst-ever World Cup performance in Australia and New Zealand, losing to Sweden in a last-16 penalty shoot-out after narrowly avoiding a humiliating group-stage elimination in a goalless draw with Portugal.

Vlatko Andonovski resigned as head coach in the aftermath of their exit, with the USA having failed to score in back-to-back World Cup games for the first time in the tournament's history. 

Morace, who scored over 100 goals for Italy before coaching Le Azzurre between 2000 and 2005, believes the USA paid the price for falling behind their more astute rivals.

"They dominated the scene for years because physically the players were stronger, more trained than all the others," Morace told Stats Perform. "[Now] all the teams have physically grown. 

"They had to improve tactically. I coached Canada for a couple of years [between 2009 and 2011]. European football does not arrive there. 

"The innovations are in Europe, so the innovations that have been in Europe have not been [happening] in America. I don't know. 

"I am referring to occupying the empty spaces rather than passing between the lines, wanting to dominate the game, starting from the goalkeeper and pressing offensively. These are things they aren't used to doing, because it's a different kind of football there.

"In Australia and New Zealand, rugby is the national sport, so innovations come from there. Football is from Europe and innovations certainly come from here. 

"Maybe they thought that on a physical level they could still make up for the gaps they may have tactically, and it wasn't like this."

The USA scored just four times from 9.14 expected goals (xG) in their four games at the tournament, with star striker Alex Morgan failing to net from 17 attempts totalling 2.96 xG.

The World Cup – eventually won by Spain following Olga Carmona's final strike against England – was defined by upsets, with Germany and Brazil suffering group-stage eliminations.

Jamaica, South Africa, Morocco and Colombia earned plaudits by reaching the knockout stages, and Morace believes a sense of unpredictability contributed to the tournament's success. 

"It was an absolutely special World Cup because teams like Germany, the United States and Brazil immediately left the competition. It is clear that this has shocked everyone," she said.

"This certainly means that, on one hand, some teams have grown a lot, but it also means that teams like the USA or Germany or Brazil had to do better. 

"It was a very, very special World Cup. In the end, however, the final was played between the two best teams. Spain and England were the two teams absolutely on a tactical level and also on a technical level. They expressed the best football. 

"I wouldn't say that from a tactical point of view this was the best World Cup ever, because we saw that many teams had little possession, especially teams like South Africa, like Nigeria.

"The big teams probably didn't expect to find teams that played a different kind of football, more physical and more vertical. Then, in the end, the World Cup was won by the team that had the most possession in the whole championship."

Victors Spain managed more build-up attacks (23) than any other team at the World Cup, ahead of runners-up England (20). Meanwhile, the Lionesses were the only side to better Spain's 92 sequences of 10 or more passes, recording 100.

Georgia Stanway believes England “absolutely need” to keep Sarina Wiegman after she guided the Lionesses to the World Cup final – insisting women’s football is not a stepping stone into the men’s game for top coaches.

Wiegman has been linked with a the vacant post as head coach of the United States – or a move into the men’s game – but the Dutch manager has said she intends to honour her contract with the Football Association.

The 53-year-old led England to the Euro title at Wembley last summer but could not mastermind victory over Spain – who won the World Cup final 1-0 on Sunday.

Wiegman had achieved the same record as Netherlands boss, winning the 2017 Euros before falling short in the 2019 World Cup final ahead of taking the reins of the Lionesses.

Such success is bound to lead to interest from elsewhere but Stanway, who returns to training at Bayern Munich next week, believes it is vital that the FA holds on to Wiegman.

“Oh, we need her, we absolutely need her,” Stanway told Sky Sports News when asked about Wiegman’s future.

“She’s done amazing in what she’s done so far, even at the Netherlands and here as well – to be a female coach and obviously paving the way for female coaches.

“I think it’s amazing and to reach four finals in the last four major tournaments. Yeah, it’s class.”

The Netherlands men’s team has been a post Wiegman has been linked with in recent days, while Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is continually touted as being in the running for vacancies in the men’s game having guided the Blues to 13 major honours.

Asked if it was a compliment or a frustration that the best managers in the women’s game could be cherry-picked by men’s clubs, Stanway added: “I think it’s a bit of both.

“I think, as female footballers, we don’t want the female game to be the stepping stone for the men’s game

“We want it to be football and we want people to enjoy the fact that we play football, we enjoy it. And likewise for coaches, they enjoy coaching us and they’re the ones that are getting us to the top.

“We’re not a stepping stone and we’re trying our best to get the women’s game on the map as much as possible and we’ll continue to break barriers and see what we can do.”

 

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Stanway swapped Manchester City for Bayern after the Euros win last summer and collected a Frauen-Bundesliga medal in her first season in Germany.

 

England captain Harry Kane has made the move this year, leaving Tottenham for Munich in recent weeks – and Stanway offered him some advice.

“I think we’ll have the same German teacher but I wish him the best of luck with the language,” she said.

“Because, well, I’ve been there for a year now and I’m waiting for that click. The German teacher keeps saying it’ll click, it’ll click and a year down the line, and I’m nowhere near this click.

“I wish him the best of luck and hopefully, I’ll be able to get down to the Allianz Arena and watch some games.

“The city is lovely. The people are lovely. The German culture is so open and so welcoming and I’m sure he will feel at home straight away.”

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