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European champion Lionesses get England fired up about women’s soccer

The United States’ team is ranked Number 1, but England’s team looks promising for next year’s World Cup.

Rachel Daly of England's national women's soccer team celebrates with teammates at London's Trafalgar Square on Monday after winning the UEFA European Women's Championship on Sunday. The team, known as the Lionesses, beat tough teams from Sweden and Spain before defeating Germany in the final. (Harriet Lander/Getty Images)
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Watch out America, the Lionesses are coming.

The Lionesses are England’s national women’s soccer team. They won the Women’s Euro Championship this week in high style.

The Lionesses roared through the group matches and then came back in dramatic fashion on a long-distance blast in extra time to beat a strong Spanish team, 2-1, in the tournament quarterfinals. The Lionesses then stormed past traditional women’s soccer power Sweden, 4-0, in a semifinal game that featured a spectacular back-heel goal by England’s Alessia Russo.

American soccer star Abby Wambach, who scored 184 goals in international play during her career, tweeted about Russo’s goal, “I dreamt of scoring a goal like that my whole life. Never happened. Alessia Russo take a bow.”

England has taken the team to heart throughout the tournament. Crowds packed Wembley Stadium, and millions more people watched the matches on television. English soccer fans seemed to love the team’s attacking style of play.

There was even a debate in the country about whether the women’s team should be called “the Lions” like the English men’s team. The controversy seems to have settled down, however, when some commentators pointed out that lionesses (female lions) do most of the hunting and caring of the young cubs.

“Lions are the lazy ones, who lay around in the sun all day,” said Nadine Dorries, who is England’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

The Lionesses kept up their ferocious fight in the finals, beating the powerhouse German team, 2-1, on a wild and scrambling goal in the 110th minute of the overtime match.

England’s 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II sent her congratulations to the team in a statement that said, “You have all set an example that will be an inspiration for girls and women today, and for future generations.”

The Euro tournament may be a warning to the United States women’s national soccer team. European nations and professional teams are investing more money in the women’s game. The European women’s teams are getting better and could be a major challenge for the U.S. women’s team when the World Cup is played in Australia and New Zealand starting in July 2023.

The Lionesses may be like the 1999 U.S. women’s World Cup team. That team, with stars such as Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Kristine Lilly, won the World Cup that was played in the United States. But more than that, the team got American sports fans, and millions of American girls, interested in women’s soccer.

For women, World Cup soccer has a surprisingly short history

That interest undoubtedly has helped the U.S. women’s national team, which is rated Number 1 in the world and has won four World Cups as well as four Olympic gold medals.

But watch out America, the Lionesses — and the rest of Europe — are coming.