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Rachel Daly: England's underappreciated lioness is making her mark in retirement

Rachel Daly: England's underappreciated lioness is making her mark in retirement

video caption, Rachel Daly: England and Aston Villa striker talks about tattoos

England have relied on Rachel Daly for too long, and perhaps only now that she has retired from international football will she receive the plaudits she deserves.

Always dependable, always versatile, always available, Daly has risen to England in recent years, playing a key role in the last three major tournaments despite never being in the spotlight.

The 32-year-old Aston Villa striker finished the 2022-23 Women's Super League season by winning the Golden Boot and the Premier League Player of the Year award, but started the World Cup Final as a left-back for England.

The previous year, she started every match at Euro 2022 at left-back, having featured at right-back under former England coach Phil Neville at the 2019 World Cup.

England coach Sarina Wigman said: β€œIt has been an honor to work with her. I have never worked with a player who is so versatile, always has a smile on her face, brings energy and gives her best for the team.”

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Rachel Daly sang on stage in front of more than 7,000 people in Trafalgar Square as England won Euro 2022 on home soil.

Team-mates were returning when the news broke, and it is understood Daly informed them of her decision on Tuesday evening after talks with Wegman.

Clearly still at the top of her game, having started almost every match for Villa and captaining the WSL side on several occasions in Rachel Corsi's absence, Daly can still contribute for England.

But she dropped down the rankings after expressing her desire to play in her preferred striker position. With more young talent emerging, Daly's decision to retire is now understandable.

It is a testament to her ability that she has been able to play in so many positions at the highest level of the game on a consistent basis – but it may also have been her personal downfall.

“You don't put the best striker in the country at the back,” Villa coach Carla Ward said before last year's World Cup. “She has proven her worth and, for me, she starts.”

Last February, former England midfielder Karen Carney said Daly was an “absolute dream” for the coach.

“It's versatile. You get quality at every position, work rate at every position, reliability at every position,” Carney said.

video caption, Rachel Daley reveals her pre-match love ritual

Daly's importance to England has increased in recent years and he has had as much influence off the field as he has on it.

She dealt with the grief of losing her father ahead of Euro 2022 and was able to celebrate scoring goals for England by kissing the armband she wears in his honor for every match.

Her friendship and relationship with England 2023 World Cup captain Millie Bright proved popular with fans and the two linked up during the Covid pandemic to create videos and content for their social media account called 'A Daily Dose of Brightness'.

Daly also took center stage – one of the few times she has done so – at the celebrations in Trafalgar Square after England's European Championship win, where she grabbed the microphone and delivered an unforgettable rendition of Tina Turner's classic song River Deep – Mountain High.

Her infectious personality and willingness to put England's needs before her own have undoubtedly earned her the respect of her teammates, but her achievements for her country should not be underestimated.

“I don't have a lot of words right now. I've shed a lot of tears knowing this is coming,” Bright wrote on social media on Wednesday.

β€œI am the proudest best friend of all you have achieved in your international career. You have given your heart and soul to your country time and time again.”

Daly played 84 matches for the England national team and scored 16 goals. She competed in four major international tournaments, including the Olympics for Team Great Britain, and thus played largely out of position. This is some feat.

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