And….breathe. Okay, so the Lionesses made that game perhaps a little nervy for a 30 minute period than it needed to be, but we should all note three wins, a clean sheet and top of the group is as good as it gets. And whilst Ellen White was busy banging in the goals and securing player of the match at one end there was another performance that has provided England fans with probably their moment of the tournament so far.
“You know what was funny, I made the save and then turned around as we were setting up for the corner immediately after and that big massive screen was in my eyeline. I thought right is that player in the right position, is that player in the right position, and then I half saw it and was like, Woah, that’s pretty cool.I feel really proud of that one and I don’t say that very often!”
TOP BIN SAVE!! TOP OF THE GROUP!! COME ONNNN ENGLAND… gbenggbenggbeng
Sometimes you just have to realise how lucky you are that you get to work with someone like this every day!! @klbardsley doing what she does best! BIG SAVES.. Huge win v Japan #Last16 #Lionesses gbeng pic.twitter.com/fr5PebDkvX
— Carly Telford (@carlytelford1) June 19, 2019
Karen Bardsley is undeniably one of the best goalkeepers in the world, she is also undeniably one of the most humble, honest and genuine players to have a natter with.
Most keepers that made that save, anywhere, in any game, would not only watch it back on the big screen, they’d create a whatsapp group with their mates to discuss it, record the TV highlights show, and then retweet it annually for the rest of their life on Twitter.
What a beautiful bit of goalkeeping. The sort of thing that it’s hard to actually over-embellish, fingertips onto the bar with the ball knuckling toward the top corner from 30 yards.
But that wasn’t her only big moment within the game, the save she made to stop Yuika Sugasawa late on was actually on paper a better save, at such a crucial point. In case you missed it, let’s set the scene. The Lionesses are 1-0 up but are sitting deeper and deeper inviting the Japanese on, suddenly everything opens up and Sugasawa is racing clear of the defence… You know what? Bardsley tells this story better…
“Statistically it probably was [a better save than the first], she was coming straight down the middle of the goal, it opened up, I started to go one way and I thought I better get long! Everyone was taking the piss out of me saying ‘Ohh your bunion saved that, you better not chew your toenails!!! It was just nice that we kept a clean sheet, because I hate it when we concede.”
When you make a save of that quality it’s almost irrelevant what part of your body it comes off.
Can’t wait to see Karen Bardsley be asked after the game whether the goal needs to be smaller… What a performance she’s had. Another brilliant save.#JAPENG #LIONESSES
— 90min (@90min_Football) June 19, 2019
Toenails, tail bones, armpit or the most beautiful bunion you’ve ever seen, wherever it strikes, denying an attacker eight yards out when you are the last line of defence is special. It’s not just special for an individual though, the confidence and lift it gives the rest of the team knowing that even if a player goes through on goal your keeper is going to fly out and block their effort gives everyone an extra lift.
As Bardsley rightly pointed out, no keeper likes conceding, but there’s such a collective spirit about the Lionesses side that you feel like they all feel everything together. Conceding or scoring, defending or attacking.
Real obviously recognises real, and Bardsley got a chance to enjoy some brilliant football at the other end as well, watching Ellen White go through on goal apparently is just as special for her teammates as it is for the fans in the crowd.
“[When she goes through on goal] I’m buzzing, I’ve got my celebration ready! My favourite thing was the last game when Ellen scored against Scotland she bent it round the keeper but outside the line of the post, she pretty much did the same thing again, it’s just class.”
It’s not worth delving too much into the debate around goalkeepers within the women’s game. I think the argument that the goalkeeping standards are poor is an incredibly lazy one. It removes context and incredibly disrespectfully reduces female keepers to players that could never reach a level worthy of praise.
We then start getting into weird discussions about making goals smaller etc. NO, STOP, STOP, STOP, not getting into it.
If you can guarantee that if keepers were given the best possible levels of coaching, years of development, meaningful and carefully planned bespoke player evolution from youth level that standards won’t improve, then fair enough. Hand on heart, we all know that absolutely isn’t the case and is absolute rubbish.
Bardsley’s actionson Wednesday night unavoidably screamed louder than some of the thoughtless words we’ve seen since the tournament began. Like many others at the FIFA Women’s World Cup so far, her confidence and ability after years of hard work and coaching isn’t going to undone because of a few thoughtless tweeters.
Another couple of performances of the kind she displayed against Japan, and she’ll be a very strong favourite for team of the tournament.