Jodie Taylor did not make her England debut until she was 28. That was last August and she has wasted no time making up for the lost years.
Even a knee operation in April has not stopped Taylor, who marked her first World Cup start on Saturday night with the goal that set England on the way to the semi-finals for the first time.
Leading the line with strength and finesse, Taylor set the tone for a dogged and disciplined display in Vancouver that broke the resistance and hearts of their Canadian hosts, 2-1 losers.
Taylor’s 11th-minute goal was followed, three minutes later, by another from Lucy Bronze to give England a platform. Though Christine Sinclair pulled a goal back shortly before the break, England held on despite goalkeeper Karen Bardsley having to be replaced after suffering an allergic reaction that affected her vision.
After a night of celebrations the England manager, Mark Sampson, will already be studying his files on semi-final opponents Japan. The holders will present a more technical test than the strong but technically limited Canadians and further team changes are probable.
On Saturday Sampson began with the XI that finished the previous tie against Norway. This meant Taylor and Jill Scott replacing Toni Duggan and Fran Kirby, the Reading youngster whose tournament has become a roller coaster.
In front of a huge, sellout crowd, the largest and most intense Sampson and many of his team will have experienced, England began nervously and should have conceded to Melissa Tancredi after eight minutes. But then error-prone Canadian defender Lauren Sesselmann made another gaffe, miscueing a simple pass. Taylor stole the ball and raced away to finish with aplomb.
Taylor plays for Portland Thorns, the biggest female soccer team in North America. They have Germany’s Nadine Angerer in goal, and Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair, the biggest stars of respectively the American and Canadian games, in attack. That is Taylor’s pedigree, but until Sampson took over from Hope Powell she was ignored by England. This was her fifth goal in as many international starts.
Three minutes later Bronze scored her second in two matches, stealing in behind Allysha Chapman to head Fara Williams’ deep free-kick in off the bar.
Canada rallied and, though Katie Chapman hit the bar with a looping header from another set play, England were penned back. Before the sanctuary of half-time could be reached Ashley Lawrence, evading the normally tenacious Jade Moore too easily, crossed, Bardsley spilt the ball and Sinclair tapped in.
Bardsley has been inconsistent at this tournament, a mix of vital saves and errors. Nevertheless, England were discomfited when she had to go off early in the second period. After initial treatment she was taken to hospital for tests.
Siobhan Chamberlain, who has played only sporadically this year, for Arsenal or England, came on. This is her third World Cup, but her first appearance. It was quite a stage on which to make a competition debut.
However, although Canada went on to dominate possession, a combination of solid defending and poor finishing meant Chamberlain did not need to make a save until Josee Belanger tested her in the 87th minute. England subsequently saw out five minutes of added time with ease.
The last time an England team, male or female, reached a World Cup semi-final it took two late penalties by Gary Lineker to beat Cameroon and reach the last four at Italia ’90. At the time Sampson was seven years old, Taylor four and Bronze not yet born. The England women’s team, meanwhile, were sleeping in gyms and training on public pitches at Clapham Common.Reuse content