This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
England are through to the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup. If this had happened last summer in Brazil, you wouldn't have been able to move for the Saint George's flags and belligerent patriotism flowing from every pub in the land. Unsurprisingly that didn't happen and England got knocked out in the group stages, but this year the Lionesses have a genuine chance of making it to the final.
So don't be a dick – it's time to start supporting them.
Securing a 2-1 victory over hosts Canada in the quarter-finals, the Lionesses have made history as the first England women's squad to reach this stage of the tournament. The men's side haven't made it to the last four since Italia '90, yet years of World Cup misery have established England fans as international champions in blindly supporting a failing national side. If misguided patriotism is the sole motivation for backing a team, that same patriotism should logically compel England fans to support the Lionesses in actually winning stuff.
This year's Women's World Cup has been watched by a bigger audience than ever before. Despite this, the England squad still receive a depressing lack support from football fans at home. I've been shouting about the Lionesses for months now, so I've grown accustomed to bizarrely irate dudes telling me that they refuse to watch women's football because the quality is inferior.
That excuse is total bullshit. People don't support England because they are good at football; they support England because they are England. I can say this with complete conviction due to the inalienable truth that England suck. No amount of unsubstantiated nationalism can disguise the fact that last year's World Cup was about as patriotically rousing as watching a war hero soil himself.
The delusion that dudes snub the Women's World Cup due to the standard of play is a crappy excuse for glaring misogyny. It's also entirely illogical, if they still support a mediocre men's team, purely on the basis of a shared birthplace. Logic hasn't proven to be a common attribute amongst critics of the Women's World Cup, so I tried to come up with a metaphor that might reach them on a personal level. Lads, pretending to support England for their superior football skills is like claiming to read Nuts magazine for the horoscopes. It's tragic and I know you're a liar, so how about supporting an England squad that might win something for once?
Last summer the weight of obligatory nationalism undoubtedly left many England fans wishing their mums had popped them out in Hamburg instead of Hull. This year, however, the usual stigma of sharing a birthplace with Ashley Cole is finally a cause for celebration. At last, England fans have the opportunity to support a team with a genuine chance of winning the World Cup. The Lionesses have smashed the fallacy that women's football isn't worth watching, maintaining a quality of play that last year's men's squad surely dream of. Loath though I am to shatter the delusions of every angry guy that's told me women suck at football, it's now pretty clear that they haven't watched a single match.
The Lionesses have refuted almost every myth their critics have thrown at women's football. Lucy Bronze's goal against Norway and Jodie Taylor's against Canada both prove that female players can score belters from the edge of the penalty area. Fara Williams' penalty against Colombia was a lesson in class and composure. England's set pieces demonstrate accuracy and ease, and the synergy on display throughout the tournament has established a confidence around the squad. That confidence will be carried through to the semi-final match against Japan on Wednesday.
This is a rallying cry to support the Lionesses, but as rallying cries go, it's quite an easy sell. If you want to support a national team, here's your chance to support one that might actually win.
Nationalism is not conditional on gender, and you're doing a shitty job of being English if you refuse to support a strong squad just because they're women. The Lionesses have made it impossible to decry the high standards on display at this year's Women's World Cup, so all that's left now is to get behind them. If obstinate ignorance is still more your thing though, you can join all the dudes who didn't support votes for women, educational equality or bodily autonomy. It's not as if history has left them looking like a bunch of fucking philistines, is it?