Women’s World Cup: England had ‘belief’ in fightback – Sophia Dunkley

Batter Sophia Dunkley says England always believed they could revive their World Cup campaign after starting with three successive defeats.

The defending champions were on the brink of elimination, but four straight wins have got them to the semi-finals.

They meet South Africa in Christchurch on Thursday.

“We always knew we could come back and fight for it,” Dunkley told BBC Sport. “We’ve turned it around and we’re really happy with that.”

England completed their turnaround with a 100-run defeat of Bangladesh in Wellington on Sunday.

They finish third in the group and will take on South Africa in a repeat on the 2017 semi-final, which Heather Knight’s side won on the way to lifting the trophy.

“There’s a lot of belief and fight in our changing room,” added 23-year-old Dunkley.

“To have four wins going into the semis puts us in a very strong position.”

Defeat in any of their last four group games could have seen England eliminated, but after victories against India, New Zealand and Pakistan, the holders were rarely troubled by World Cup debutants Bangladesh.

Dunkley made 67 in England’s 234-6 before spinners Sophie Ecclestone and Charlie Dean took three wickets each to dismiss Bangladesh for 134.

“Having the experience of those games puts us in a really good position,” said Dunkley. “Going into next week we’re very positive and have a lot of confidence.

“It’s been a really good achievement to qualify from where we started.

“All of the girls are really proud of the fight we have shown to get back into it. To go further would be amazing to show how far we have come as a group.”

Dunkley is playing in her first World Cup, having been in attendance when England beat India in a thrilling final at Lord’s five years ago.

“I was in the stands in 2017, to be here and two games away from that is an amazing feeling,” said Dunkley.

“We know we can make history.”

Christian Eriksen said he enjoyed the “perfect” return to international football as he scored two minutes after coming on for Denmark in their 4-2 friendly defeat by the Netherlands.

Eriksen, 30, was playing for his country for the first time since his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 last June.

The midfielder, who has since joined Premier League club Brentford, produced a terrific finish into the top corner.

“I was happy the ball came to me,” said Eriksen.

“I thought it was a lovely finish and to start my international comeback like this is a perfect way.”

Eriksen could have had a second goal when he turned outside the area, but his curling strike hit a post.

Tottenham’s Steven Bergwijn did score twice for the Netherlands, with Nathan Ake and Memphis Depay also on the scoresheet, while Jannik Vestergaard netted Denmark’s first goal.

But it was Eriksen who was the centre of attention – coming on to win his 110th cap as a second-half substitute to huge cheers from the crowd at Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam, home of his former club Ajax.

Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal was among those to clap Eriksen, who applauded in return.

And just two minutes later he sent his team-mates and fans into raptures, rattling home a confident finish from Andreas Skov Olsen’s cutback.

“It has always been lovely place and today is an even more special place for me to play my first international game in this stadium,” added Eriksen, despite someone throwing a coin towards him during his post-match interview.

Denmark next face Serbia in a friendly on Tuesday (17:00 BST).

Eriksen’s perfect return

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