England fans cheer as Lionesses beat Haiti in opening World Cup match

The side edged to a 1-0 win thanks to a Georgia Stanway penalty in Brisbane.

Helen William
Saturday 22 July 2023 16:39 BST
England fans watch the screening of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Group D match between England and Haiti, at BOXPARK Croydon. Picture date: Saturday July 22, 2023.
England fans watch the screening of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Group D match between England and Haiti, at BOXPARK Croydon. Picture date: Saturday July 22, 2023. (PA Wire)

England football fans cheered on the Lionesses to victory as they made a nervy start to their World Cup campaign.

The Lionesses, looking for back-to-back success after winning the Euros last year, edged to a 1-0 win over Haiti in their opening Group D match thanks to a Georgia Stanway penalty.

Emily Taylor, 45, from Cheshire, was among the diehard fans who travelled to Brisbane, Australia, for the opener and to soak up the “welcoming” atmosphere.

Ms Taylor, who travelled with her wife Mel, said: “I absolutely did expect this sense of community because we go to lots of games in the UK.

“It’s just such a good bunch that is so welcoming. Everyone is so friendly.

“This is what happens when the Lionesses go abroad. We take the people with us.

“We have had a lot of injuries but to see how the girls have progressed from last year going into the Euros, doing so fantastically well and getting the whole nation behind them and here we are a year later where some people do say we are the favourites, or top four or up there – you couldn’t ask for anything more exciting.”

Fans showed up in their England shirts and their faces painted in the colours of St George’s flag to watch the match on big screens back home.

Supporters watched a screening at the Kings College Fields, Ruislip, despite the gloomy start to the summer holidays with cloud, rain and wind forecast for much of the UK.

Former Love Islander Amber Gill, Lioness and McDonald’s football ambassador Beth Mead and football freestyler Harriet Pavlou watched the match at a screening in Brighton.

Mead said England had “a very nervy first game”  against a  Haitian side that  was “very good and made the game physical”,

She added: “I thought England dealt with it quite well, obviously a lot of people want more goals but the important thing is we got the goal and the win.”

The squad now turn their attention to Denmark, who are  “an organised team and have a fair bit of quality”, according to Mead.

She said: “Pernille Harder is a key player. She’s a very good forward and can score goals. I think England will have to be defensively on it to keep those players out.”

Sash Patel watched England beat Haiti on Saturday with his four-year-old daughter Maya at their home in Maidenhead.

The 42-year-old, who is a board director of the Football Supporters’ Association, told the PA news agency: “Today, she was up early, she was like, ‘I wanna watch the match’, and we were watching the other game beforehand.

“She was proper excited and put on her little kit and was jumping up and down.

“She loves that there are girls playing.

“It’s nice for me as a parent so her being inspired – that’s the key thing for me.”

The pair watched the Lionesses win the Euros last year at Wembley, with Mr Patel adding that the moment increased his daughter’s desire to become a footballer.

“She wants to be a footballer, she’s got a season ticket with me at Tottenham already,” he said.

“She comes to Spurs matches with me and she aspires to be like the Lionesses.”

The family are Indian and Mr Patel said that he tries to teach his daughter that it does not matter what your ethnic background is and that “you can still go off and play football, watch football or enjoy football”, as there is still a lack of South Asians who play the sport professionally.

For remaining matches in the Women’s World Cup, the duo plan on donning football kits, decorating and holding flags and getting together with other family members to cheer the Lionesses to victory.

Deborah Dilworth, head of women’s football at the Football Supporters Association, said planning to help England’s “awesome” fans at the tournament matches in Australia and New Zealand, started with last year’s Euro championships.

They are “proud, full of voice and want to be as passionate and inclusive as possible” and there is a “relaxed” vibe among them, Ms Dilworth said.

She added: “England’s women’s fans are awesome.

“They are a diverse group of people, a real nice mix of people from different backgrounds, different roles, and some of these supporters here are diehard fans and do a lot of work in their community.”

She said a back-to-back tournament win by the Lionesses “would be insane, and I would love to see it because the party would be unreal”.

Ms Dilworth added: “There is a general will to want women’s football to succeed – that is the passion, and it is people saying `we want better for the women’s game which makes it a magical environment.”

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