Lucy Bronze has revealed she has been playing through the pain during England’s Euro 2022 campaign due to the lingering effects of her knee issue.
While Bronze scored one goal and set up another at Bramall Lane on Tuesday as the tournament hosts secured a place in the final with a 4-0 win over Sweden, the 2020 FIFA women’s player of the year admits she does “not feel like I did a couple of years ago”.
The 30-year-old full-back, who this summer has left Manchester City and joined Barcelona, underwent knee surgery just under a year ago after playing for Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics, before returning to action in January.
And Bronze said: “It’s been difficult to come back from a knee injury which has lingered for a very long time and still is now.
“I’ve just got to play through it. There are plenty of players who are having to play through pain in their career and I’m now one of them.”
When put to her that it did not show on the pitch, Bronze said: “Everyone keeps saying that but I don’t feel like I did a couple of years ago. The Lucy Bronze of a couple of years ago was ‘the best player in the world’!
“I’m still happy to be contributing to the team, still playing good football, obviously getting an assist for Beth (Mead) and getting her up there to get the Golden Boot.”
Bronze delivered the ball to Mead when she struck the opener in the 34th minute, her sixth goal of the tournament. The roles were then reversed shortly after half-time as Bronze headed in Mead’s corner to make it 2-0.
Substitute Alessia Russo, with a fantatsic back-heel effort, and Fran Kirby added further goals as England did an emphatic job of avoiding a fourth successive semi-final exit at a major tournament.
Bronze said: “For players like myself and Ellen (White) and Fran who’ve experienced a lot of semi-final defeats, it’s nice to get over those and get over the line and finally get ourselves in the final.
“It’s certainly not job done though. I think anyone I’ve spoken to before the tournament knows I was always focused on wanting to win the final. Now we’ve every chance of doing that.
“That was a job we came here to do and now we’ve got ourselves in the best position to do that.”
Victory in Sunday’s Wembley final against either Germany or France will bring the Lionesses the first major trophy in their history.
It would also be back-to-back Euros successes for boss Sarina Wiegman, who guided her native Netherlands to glory on home soil at the 2017 edition, and subsequently oversaw them finishing as runners-up at the 2019 World Cup.
Since Wiegman took charge of England in September, the team have been unbeaten in 19 matches, winning 17, with 104 goals scored and only four conceded.
Bronze said: “She’s had a lot of input in small details she wants to change – but to be honest I think a lot of that is her assistant Arjan (Veurink) who she also brought from the Dutch team.
“I don’t think they must like us very much because we brought two of their best coaches – not just Sarina! Sarina gets the headlines but Arjan’s a tactical genius as well.
“They’re both very calm, very focused with the information they gave us and I think that shows in the way that we play.
“I think in a home Euros there’s a lot of emotion and a lot of support, we don’t want to get carried away too much and she’s one of those people that is very process-driven. She’s very excited but once the game’s done we’re onto the next game.
“We don’t get carried away with our emotion but on and off the field we still enjoy the game and still enjoy the moment at the right time.
“Obviously she’s been through the process many times before, making the finals. She probably knows better than anyone.”