With a tumultuous schedule in place for FC Barcelona Femeni’s 2023-2024 season, players finding time and energy for international competition with their respective countries is both extravagant and exhausting, basking in the ruthlessness and radiance of representing one’s nation while on a strenuous set up. In the case of England’s Keira Walsh and Lucy Bronze (pictured above), who have been starting most matches for undefeated club Barcelona, both participants desire global domination for England’s Lionesses, who most recently fell to Spain in the Women’s World Cup final this summer.
Chronologically in a calendar year, after the World Cup comes the Olympics, where gold medals don’t replace a golden trophy, but who wouldn’t want to be an Olympic champion? Both tournaments come every four years, with the exception of UEFA’s European Championship held every four years holding exclusively to that region. Team rankings are always shifting and shocking, from the United States to Sweden, to Germany and newly nourished (with the help of head coach Sarina Wiegman) England.
Both Bronze and Walsh being selected for International competition saw them in Group A of the UEFA Women’s Nations League with the likes of neighboring Scotland, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Because of the limited amount of spots available for Olympic contest over a month long period, regarding European qualification, only two berths from the UEFA Women’s Nations League are permitted to continue on. Strange, as this system allows not even the smallest slip up. Since the beginning of October, fourth ranked England faced off against friends and foes alike. And in a twist of fate, such as in life, England forsook the usefulness of the underdog. Fitting for Halloween, October 31st was when eighteenth placed Belgium certainly spooked the Lionesses to a 3-2 win. With a liable loss handed to them on a silver platter, England could only route the rest of their Group A rivals and wait until all other matches concluded to complete their Olympic hopefuls puzzle.
It is also important to note that before we continue, Barcelona’s nearest and dearest Swedish national team player Fridolina Rolfö, who has been injured since September, has not been active for club or country since then, but World Cup bronze medalists and first ranked Sweden, because of this European Olympics qualification setup, is missing some key chess pieces such as our Fridolina and finished 3rd in their Nations League group, causing catastrophe and a missed Olympics opportunity as well. One simply doesn’t rule out Sweden of an international competition for no reason. Second ranked Spain’s fate is still in the balance. And third ranked USA has a different qualification system. We wish Fridolina a speedy recovery and back to shining like a star again soon.
England’s final group stage match lasted over 93 minutes, and included a score closer to double digits than to 0. Seamlessly steamrolling Scotland, England showed no stopping with a whopping score of 6-0. Yes, 6-0. Leaving it all on the pitch, that effort still wasn’t enough to place higher than the Netherlands, who took the group based off of goal differential and ran with it. Football really does come down to the wire. Because of this goal differential, the Netherlands now advance to clash with Spain, France and Germany. England fought hard and long, but the Dutch Orange Lionesses held strong. Hopefully Walsh and Bronze get time to rest and recover for club competition, but for the birthplace of the beautiful game, another Olympic opportunity will arise. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.