Bronze almost chose Portugal not England

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Right-back Lucy Bronze has scored five senior international goals for England
Portugal v England, Group D, Women’s Euro 207
Date: Thursday, 27 July Kick-off: 19:45 BST Venue: Tilburg
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and online, plus live text commentary on the BBC Sport website. Live television coverage on Channel 4

England’s Lucy Bronze has revealed how close she came to playing for Portugal, as the teams prepare to meet in their final group game at Euro 2017.

The 25-year-old, widely regarded as one of the world’s best full-backs, has a Portuguese father and was contacted aged 16 by Portugal’s then manager.

She considered switching allegiance until her England debut in 2013.

“It was getting close to a point where I just wanted to play international football,” said Bronze.

She had grown frustrated with a lack of chances under then England coach Hope Powell.

“[Portugal coach] Monica Jorge had contacted my parents via Facebook after it was mentioned during an England youth game on TV that I was half-Portuguese,” she said.

“She realised it was a long shot, and I wanted to play for England, but she said that if there was any chance of playing for Portugal, they would more than welcome me into the squad and develop me.”

England face Portugal in Tilburg on Thursday (19:45 BST) needing only a draw to guarantee progression and a position as group winners.

‘It wouldn’t have felt like a disservice to England’

Lucy Bronze was named PFA Women’s Player of the Year for 2017

Bronze helped England win the European Under-19 Championship in 2009, but could not force her way into the senior team under Powell.

She says an England debut “didn’t look like it was on the horizon” when she was 21, and adds she told her mum she may have to consider switching to Portugal if she got to “22 or 23 and it doesn’t look like it’s happening”.

“I’m just as Portuguese as I am English and it wouldn’t have felt like a disservice to England,” said the Manchester City defender.

Bronze was given her debut by Powell in a pre-Euro 2013 friendly against then world champions Japan.

But she did not play a single minute in that year’s European Championship, as England went out in the group stage having won a solitary point.

She said: “I was only at Euro 2013 because Hope said, ‘we’ve got three players injured so you’re the next one in’. It didn’t really feel like I was in the squad.

“Then the manager changed, caretaker boss Brent Hills played me and so did Mark Sampson.”

Bronze has since become a key figure for the Lionesses, and made vital contributions as they finished third at the World Cup two years ago.

After scoring a brilliant winner against Norway in the second round, she then headed home in the quarter-final triumph over hosts Canada.

Euro 2017 highlights: England 2-0 Spain

She has also impressed at Euro 2017, even playing a key role in overturning a penalty awarded to Spain by reciting the rules to the referee.

“It would have been a shame if she’d opted for Portugal,” said Sampson. “Lucy is an outstanding footballer, and she has really grown in the last three and a half years in particular.

“She’s a fighter, a winner, and she’s definitely going to be around for a long time in an England jersey to not just help us win matches but trophies too.”

Should Bronze play for the first time against Portugal, who are making their European Championship debut as the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, she will face former Liverpool team-mate Amanda da Costa, who had the option to play for Portugal or the United States.

“We used to joke that we would both play for Portugal together if we didn’t get a chance with the US or England,” Bronze said.

As it is, Bronze will have no split loyalty on Thursday – but will her father?

Asked if he would be supporting Portugal or England, Bronze replied: “England. He supports who he’s told to.”

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