England’s media has started to care about the Women’s World Cup

Guardian: “‘England are going all the way’: Sampson’s side raise the bar”

Daily Mail: “WE CAN WIN IT! History-making England women say they can rule world”

Daily Star: “Goalden girls”

Daily Express: “Sampson so full of pride in Lionesses”

The Times: “We have not been cheating, says Djokovic” (To be fair, it’s the start of Wimbledon, and they do get a brief mention on the back page.)

It’s not that British newspapers had been completely ignoring the Women’s World Cup. They’d been taking an interest, though it was the kind of cyclical, slightly-detached, novelty-value treatment that the media would normally afford to the Olympics.

We now know, though, what it takes to get England’s women’s team treated like the men, with back-page splashes, unrealistic hype and patriotic fervor: do better than the men. Specifically, be the first senior English soccer team to reach the semifinals of a major tournament since 1990. With its 2-1 win over Canada on Saturday, England will meet defending champion Japan for a place in Sunday’s final.

The coverage is great, of course – who would complain about such generous attention? But it’s instructive, when we think about how to grow the women’s game, that to be treated as something approaching equals, the women have to reach higher standards than their male counterparts.

Today’s coverage doesn’t so much reflect an enthusiasm for women’s soccer as for winning. If the Lionesses had slunk out of the tournament in an earlier round, no one would have taken much notice. Suddenly, the World Cup matters.

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