Euro 2017: Lucy Bronze looks ahead to Portugal test
Lucy Bronze will walk out at the Koning Willem II Stadion on Thursday with the three Lions displayed proudly on her chest, but will glance at opponents Portugal and wonder what might have been.
Bronze was always destined to be at Euro 2017 in the Netherlands, but admits it was so nearly in the dark red of Portugal – the land of her father’s birth – despite being born in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Bronze’s ambition was always to play for England but former manager Hope Powell offered little encouragement and, aged 21, the right-back started to think long and hard about her international future.
Portugal made initial contact the best part of a decade ago, and it was only Powell’s decision to draft a 21-year-old Bronze into her Euro 2013 squad that she finally nailed her colours to one mast.
Few can deny the Manchester City right-back has made the right choice as England go from strength to strength, while Portugal look set to go home early.
But the 25-year-old admits she came close to switching allegiances when England looked beyond reach.
“Monica Jorge [head of women’s football at Portugal FA] got in touch, I think there was an England junior game on TV and they mentioned I am half-Portuguese,” she said.
“So she got in touch with my parents on Facebook and said ‘we know Lucy is Portuguese, we know it is a long shot but if there was ever a chance she would want to play for Portugal we would more than welcome her into the squad and develop her’.
“She asked me when I was 16 and I did not break into the England team until I was 21. At that time it did not look on the horizon and I said if it gets to 22 or 23 then maybe.
“But I went to the Euros because of a lot of injuries. I did not feel like I was in the squad, but then the manager changed and Mark played me.
“But it was getting close to the point where I was thinking ‘I just want to play international football’ and I am just as much Portuguese as I am English so it would not have felt as disservice to England.”
This will be the first time Bronze has faced Portugal, and there is a job to do for Mark Sampson’s side – who need a point to guarantee their safe passage into the quarter-finals.
They backed up their 6-0 thrashing of Scotland with a hard-fought 2-0 win against Spain, with Fran Kirby and Jodie Taylor in the goals.
England are expected to complete a 100 per cent record in Group D with another handsome win, but Portugal, who boast Bronze’s former Liverpool teammate Amanda Da Costa, will not be taken lightly in Tilburg, despite being the lowest ranked side in Group D.
“She [Amanda] was in the same situation as me, she was American with Portuguese parents and we used to speak and joke about it together and say let’s go and play for Portugal together if we don’t get a chance with USA or England,” Bronze said.
“It would be nice to swap shirts at the end of the game but it is just another game at the end of the day.”
VIDEO: Lucy Bronze Interview
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