HANDS up if you have watched as many Women’s World Cup games as you would have done if it was the men’s equivalent.

I must admit I wasn’t that bothered about it initially. But in the last few days it has started to get interesting.

England have done very well under Phil Neville and I don’t think anyone was surprised to see them go through.

Scotland, who were at their first World Cup, had to get a result in their third game against Argentina.

At one stage I clicked on to find they were leading 3-0 and thought ‘that’s it, they’re through’.

But the next time I looked it was 3-2 and the fellow commentating said ‘Argentina have a penalty’! Then he shouted ‘it’s been saved!’, so I switched off. When I looked at the results later, I discovered they had scored after all.

I wondered what had happened. As you probably know, VAR had ruled that the penalty be retaken, which of course they scored from, ensuring Scotland did not qualify.

I think the Scottish coach was right to criticise the quality of refereeing but no-one can argue with VAR.

Interestingly, the next day it was announced that VAR will not be used to decide whether goalkeepers have stayed on their line when penalties are taken in the Premier League next season.

Having looked at the replays, no referee would have ordered a retake. I think the goalkeeper did exceptionally well.

Overall, the standard of football at the Women’s World Cup has been impressive.

My memories of women’s football go way back to the early days at the Dell and a trailblazer called Sue Lopez.

She started kicking a ball around on Southampton Common and eventually joined a group of girls who started playing matches.

Interest in the women’s game grew and grew and Sue became an international, winning 22 caps. The Southampton Ladies team appeared in ten cup finals and she was so good she became the first English woman to play in Italy as a semi-professional.

On her return she gained an FA coach’s licence and was eventually voted female coach of the year, In 2000, she was awarded an MBE for her contribution to the women’s game.

She once persuaded me to get our board of directors to agree to host an England women’s international at The Dell.

I watched it alongside the then England manager Ron Greenwood. Initially we both felt we were there because we had to be.

But as the game went on we became more and more impressed, not just with the effort but the ability of the players.

The games probably went on too long as they were not professionals. We felt 80 minutes would have been more suitable than 90. But the difference now is that the women are professionals and are so much fitter.The game is of a much higher standard as a result.

Many years ago I was asked to do some coaching in America. There were loads of youngsters there and as many girls as boys.

Afterwards I asked their parents why so many of them were keen on soccer. One mum said ‘because it’s cheap’. They didn’t have to buy helmets, shoulder pads or baseball bats etc.

The result now is the USA has the strongest side of all at the Women’s World Cup and are the favourites, along with the hosts France.

But I think England could well spring a surprise if Phil Neville can keep his team playing the way they have started. All the best to them in their last-16 match tomorrow evening.

Whether they win or lose I have to admit I’ll be watching a lot more games in the later stages. I’m sure many who haven’t bothered so far will be doing the same.