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England football player Lucy Bronze runs towards ball

With three Champions League titles to her name, Bronze added yet another trophy to her impressive collection when, in 2020, she became the first defender to win The Best FIFA Women’s Player Award.  

It takes a lot of skill to get to the top. As the Barcelona defender chatted us through her journey so far, she highlighted some of the things that helped her get there.  

Allowing players to experience different positions is key for development. Not only does it make them more adaptable, but they can also harness the knowledge and skills they gain and apply them to their game. Which is exactly what Bronze has done.  

“I think the best way that you learn your own position is by playing the position next to it. I learned a lot when I was playing centre-half. [It] helped me form better relationships when I’ve played with centre-halves: knowing where and when they need help and what they need from me.  

“Playing in positions that are foreign to you improves your game understanding and helps you understand the person that’s playing that position. It also gives you a different set of skills. If I play in midfield, you have to know what’s going on all around you, so you have to check your shoulder.  

“Now, when I’m playing as a full-back, I’m coming inside and need to be able to check my shoulder – because I’m practically a midfielder at that point. I’m a full-back playing in midfield for that minute or two that I’m there.”  

To be a skilful defender, it’s important to know what to do when you’re out of possession. Understanding where to ‘show’ an opponent, such as forcing them out wide away from your goal, and knowing how to delay them, can help you dictate their attacks – as Bronze explains.  

“The key things I’ve been taught as basics of defending: you’ve always got to show them one way, and you’ve got to be ready to move as the opponent could go at any time.  

“I think the worst thing you can do is go diving in. So, I have to say to some of the younger players, ‘you do know your role isn’t always to win the ball? The person behind you is probably going to be the one that wins it.’ Even sometimes, as a full-back, I might not tackle the winger, but if I can put enough pressure on them or determine where the pass is going, then the centre-half is probably going to step in and win it.  

“I think that’s something people can get mixed up with when you’re pressing or defending 1v1. You don’t always have to win it. As long as you can help your team dictate that play, the next person is probably going to win it.”  

It sounds simple and effective, and it is. Bronze believes that if your players know their own qualities and those of their opponents, they’ll be better equipped and more effective on the pitch.  

“You’ve just got to find what their weakness is and find what your strength is and match against it.  

“People always say, ‘what is the winger good at?’ but I also work out what I’m better at than them and how I can use that against them. Running is always the one I like to do because a winger has got to track you. If they don’t, then happy days, that’s even better, but yeah, I can just run them into the ground.”  

Being competitive

Understanding and trusting your players is a powerful tool. It can be the confidence boost that’s needed to let them fly. It’s something that Bronze, who has over 80 England caps to her name, appreciates.  

“I remember being at Sunderland when I was 17 in The FA Cup final against Arsenal. I was playing against Rachel Yankey. The manager wrote us a note each, and he was like, ‘you’re playing against one of the best players in England today. I know that you’re going to be fine; you’re the last person I need to tell anything to’. That reassurance, that confidence, really stuck with me. And I ended up getting man of the match in that game.  

“I think there needs to be a level of understanding. I had that with Phil Neville for England. We understood what each other were like, and it just made everything easier. I don’t think you have to be best friends. But I think it’s understanding their mentality and how they’ll react to certain situations. That’s how you can push someone.”  


Having the determination and drive to improve are key factors in becoming successful. By having that mentality and constantly challenging herself to be better, Bronze has become one of the best defenders in the world. And that’s her advice to those aspiring to play at the highest level.  

“For me, it was always about being challenged. I think just enjoy being challenged, enjoy working hard. If you’re doing something you love, if you love football, you’re going to want to do those things.  

“I absolutely love football, so when I’m working hard, doing fitness tests, doing extras or taking ice baths – it’s not a big deal to me.  

“Work hard and just keep challenging yourself to be better. There’s always a way that you can challenge yourself, and there’s always something that you can do to make yourself better.”