ucy Bronze admitted she was playing in pain for England and no longer felt like the player she was two years ago, despite a decisive performance in the Championship semi-final win of Europe against Sweden.
Bronze, 30, was named the FIFA World’s Best Women’s Player in 2019 and was nominated for the Ballon d’Or during her glitz with Lyon.
The right-back underwent knee surgery last year, the fifth operation of her career, and hasn’t been so explosive since, despite joining conquering Barcelona after her contract with Manchester expired City last month.
Bronze rolled back the years in England’s 4-0 thrashing of Sweden, crossing for Beth Mead to open the scoring and doubling England’s lead with a header, as the Lionesses set up a meeting with France or Germany at Wembley on Sunday.
“It was difficult to recover from a knee injury that lasted a very long time and still does,” Bronze told Bramall Lane.
“I just gotta play it all the way [the pain]. There are a lot of players who struggle to play in their careers and now I’m one of them.
“Everyone keeps saying [I’m the same player] but I don’t feel like I did a few years ago. The Lucy Bronze of a few years ago was “the best player in the world”!
“I’m always happy to contribute to the team, to keep playing good football, to obviously get Beth some help and to get her up there to get the Golden Boot. It would be nice to be part of his little individual journey and score an important goal that kind of ended the game.
“Goals and assists are not something I consider an important part of my game,” Bronze added. “I would much prefer the likes of Beth and Ellen [White] and hemp [Lauren Hemp] enter on the score sheet. I enjoyed it though. I did not score in a Euro, it is my first European goal. I only scored in the World Cup.
Bronze is playing in his fifth major tournament and started England’s semi-final defeats at Euro 2017 and the last two World Cups.
The Lionesses showed no sign of a carryover in Sheffield, with Alessia Russo adding a third goal with a sublime backheel and Fran Kirby completing the scoring.
“For players like me, Ellen and Fran, who suffered many losses in the semi-finals, it’s good to overcome those losses and cross the finish line and finally be in the final,” Bronze said. .
“But that’s certainly not the job done. I think everyone I spoke to before the tournament knows that I always wanted to win the final. Now we have every chance to do so. It was a job we came here for and we are now in the best position to do it.
England head coach Sarina Wiegman led her native Netherlands to glory at the last Euros on home soil and is now one game away from repeating the feat.
Bronze says Wiegman’s composure and attention to detail have made the difference this summer, and describes his No2 Arjan Veurink as a “tactical genius”.
“In a Euros house, there is a lot of emotion and a lot of support, we don’t want to get too carried away and she [Wiegman] is one of those people who is very process-oriented,” Bronze said.
“Obviously she’s been through the process many times before, reaching the final. She probably knows that better than anyone.
“I think that [calmness] made the difference in the final now. I think being Dutch, she cuts to the chase. She tries not to get carried away. It’s kind of funny that almost everyone in all of Holland said they had never seen Sarina Wiegman jump like she did after the game against Spain. I think she said herself that the spanish performance [in the quarter-final] was one of the best she had ever seen.
“Overcoming this has been incredible not only for the team, but also for her as a manager and coach. Yes, it is very weighted.
“She’s had a lot of comments about the little details she wants to change. But to be honest, I think a lot of it is her assistant Arjen who she also brought in from the Dutch team. I don’t think that they must like us a lot because we brought two of their best coaches – not just Sarina!
“Sarina is in the headlines, but Arjen is also a tactical genius. They are both very calm, very focused on the information they gave us and I think it shows in the way we play.