Millie Bright column: Silencing the sceptics, facing Alex Morgan and injury update


Chelsea and England defender Millie Bright will be writing columns for the BBC Sport website as the national team attempts to win this summer’s World Cup in France.

It was incredible to hear that a record 6.1m people watched our opening game against Scotland on the BBC. It makes you wonder what level it could reach in the latter stages.

It’s also the perfect response to those who still criticise women’s football, but I’d like to add my own thoughts too.

I think some people need to change their mindsets, and part of this comes from using men’s football as a reference point, which is perhaps understandable.

Women’s football will always be different from men’s football, but that doesn’t mean you cannot still appreciate it. OK, so it might be a bit slower than the men’s game, but then League Two football is slower than the Champions League, and it doesn’t stop people turning out to see their local teams.

Highlights: England 2-1 Scotland

Forget that it’s women’s football, and just appreciate the talent on show, whether that’s Nikita Parris nutmegging an opponent, Dutch winger Lieke Martens pulling off a textbook Cruyff turn against New Zealand or United States striker Alex Morgan ruthlessly scoring five goals against Thailand.

In many ways, women’s football is still in its infancy. The game is still growing and investment is starting to roll into the game. Why do you think that is? Because it’s a great product. Sponsors don’t make those commercial decisions if they don’t think there’s anything in it for them.

Look at the backing we get from men’s teams, or the likes of David Beckham, who is one of our biggest supporters, or the largest ever TV audience there has been for a women’s game in the United Kingdom.

Are all these people wrong about women’s football? Of course not.

Sceptics need to appreciate the game for what it is and how we play football. Once you do that, people start to change their mindsets. I’ve had so many people tell me, ‘Wow, the women’s game is really good to watch.’ And I reply, ‘Well, yeah, we are professionals!’

People just need to be open-minded enough to accept the game for what it is. If you don’t want to see it then you’re never going to appreciate it which is fine, it’s your choice. But we appreciate not being slated in the meantime.

Shoulder injury won’t stop my World Cup journey

Millie Bright (centre) was replaced by Abbie Mcmanus during England’s win over Scotland

It wasn’t part of my plan to be substituted with a shoulder injury in the win against Scotland but it’s going to take a lot more than that to halt my World Cup journey.

The shoulder is fine now and I took part in training on Wednesday and Thursday, so I’m fit and ready to take on Argentina in our second group game on Friday, if selected.

Although I had it in a sling after the game, it was just to take the weight off it and keep things settled. Had the game been deeper in the tournament I think I would have stayed on the pitch.

We just didn’t want to take any silly risks so early on and I just let the medical team make their call. I put all my trust in their hands because they know what’s best for me.

It was funny how it came about, after I collided with my Chelsea team-mate Erin Cuthbert. Normally if we were involved in an altercation you’d expect her to come off second-best, but I couldn’t get my arm out in time to stop the fall, so it was quite a tumble.

Erin messaged me after the game, bless her. I think she was worried about me, so she just asked if I was OK, congratulated us for the win and wished us well for the upcoming games. It was really nice of her to do that.

Despite being rivals on the pitch for that game, there are no hard feelings. What goes on the pitch stays on the pitch and the most important thing is we got the win in a tough first game.

I’d relish playing Alex Morgan again

USA women score 13 in 92 minutes, men have scored 12 in 16 years

Despite one glaring exception, the tightness of games at this World Cup shows that standards are improving all the time.

Argentina, who we face on Friday, earned their first World Cup point against Japan and the way they reacted after the game showed how much it meant to them.

Drawing with the 2011 champions and 2015 runners-up was a huge result. They should be very proud of themselves and it proves how intelligent teams are becoming, so we are seeing more tactical battles rather than end to end games.

Of course, United States beating Thailand 13-0 in their first group game was slightly different. It showed how ruthless they were, but even though we could play them in the semi-finals, the scoreline didn’t strike fear into me or anything.

Part of that was their opponents, but we are aiming to be just as good as the US, and we drew 2-2 with them in the SheBelieves Cup in March and it would be exciting to play them again.

Alex Morgan scored five goals against Thailand, but I’ve played against her before and would relish the challenge of facing her again. I love playing against a striker who keeps you on your toes and I learned a little bit more about her watching the other night. Analysis of opponents is something I like doing.

My playing background also helps a bit on that front. Even though I now play at centre-back for England and Chelsea, I actually started my career and made my senior England debut in 2016 as a forward.

When I was at Doncaster Rovers Belles, I used to play up front or as a number 10, but when I joined Chelsea in 2015, I was more a midfielder, and over the last few years, I’ve moved into the back four. I think Jamie Carragher was similar, he started his early career as a forward at Everton, then played midfield and eventually ended up being one of Liverpool’s best defenders.

If you’re a defender, having been a striker, it helps because you’re always thinking what a striker would do. Will they peel off your back shoulder or do they prefer a touch and finish?

It comes down to reading your opponent and every striker is different, but the higher the level, the harder it is to score.

That’s why I didn’t mind the US being so ruthless against Thailand. You should always want to showcase how good you are on the world’s biggest stage.

Millie Bright was talking to BBC Sport’s Alistair Magowan.

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