In her column for BBC Sport, Chelsea Ladies and England striker Eniola Aluko has rubbished the critics of the Women’s World Cup, and commented on her own experiences so far.
England will qualify for the round of 16 should they beat Colombia in Montreal, following a 0-1 loss to France and a 2-1 win over Mexico.
However, many have criticised the tournament over a number of supposed mistakes from players and officials. But, Aluko has hit back at the critics:
“When you are testing the success of a tournament, I would say that is one of the key criteria so it surprises me that there has been some criticism of the standard on show back home.
“People might look at the Women’s World Cup and compare it to the men’s tournament but to make that sort of reference is a bit uneducated really. Those people who don’t want to see women’s football for what it is have used men’s football as a reference, but when you read educated opinions about sport, you actually see that there is no need for comparison.
“My advice is: just judge the Women’s World Cup on its own merits. If what you see is of a poor standard, then that’s a different story but in this tournament, the first time it has expanded to 24 teams, we are seeing a great show.
“You want great goals? Colombian Daniela Montoya’s strike against Mexico was world-class. Inspiring stories? Look at my team-mate Fran Kirby. She scored against Mexico in her first World Cup start, four years after she quit football following the passing away of her mother.
“Overall, I think women’s football is in a great place. So I think it’s time that people just got over their opinion that the game is somehow inferior.
“If you don’t like women’s football, then my message would be: don’t watch it. I know that sounds controversial and we have a responsibility to grow the game but actually the product is very good and I think that people saying negative things about women’s football are now in the minority.”
Although the standard may supposedly differ, FIFA expects around one billion people to tune in to the Women’s World Cup. 2.4 million watched England take on France. The empty seats that are seen can be explained by football’s much less prominent position in Canada compared to Europe.
Even so, 45,000 watched Canada take on the Netherlands.
Aluko is yet to score in the tournament but has hit the bar twice, and came very close on two other occasions against Mexico following a quiet match as the isolated striker against France.
Mark Sampson’s side beat Mexico in Moncton through goals from Fran Kirby and Karen Carney, and Aluko has been quick to praise who many are calling a ‘Mini Messi’.
“I’ve spoken in previous columns about the inspirational players in our team and Fran Kirby is certainly one of them.
“I couldn’t even imagine what it felt like to lose her mum at such a young age. She seems very philosophical about it now, which is amazing for someone who is only 21, and sees her mum almost like a guardian angel.
“So for Fran to score against Mexico in her first World Cup start the day before her mum’s birthday, well it’s hard to put that sort of achievement into words. When I found out I nearly broke down in tears. Every time I think about it now, it brings me out in goosebumps.
“Everyone in the squad is so happy for Fran and I love playing alongside her on the pitch because she is very good at seeing different movements and we combine well.
“I’m just really pleased that she made a big impact on the world stage but I’m not alone in thinking that this is just the start for her in a great career.”