Depending on what happened on Tuesday evening, please read one of the following beginnings.

Well, what a night that was! England’s amazing Lionesses put their opponents Sweden to the sword to reach the final of this year’s Women’s Euros. They now go ahead to the final at Wembley on Sunday with a proud nation behind them, cheering them on to victory.

Well, what a night of heartbreak that was! England’s amazing Lionesses might have been defeated in their semi-final against Sweden, but they won a place in the nation’s hearts with their brave display.

Ah, the perils of writing a newspaper column in advance of events. But whatever the outcome of the match, it is fair to say that England’s performances over the tournament, and the visibility of the tournament itself, has led to a breakthrough for women’s football in this country. The last time England hosted the tournament, in 2005, you’d have barely known it was on. This time, the players are household names.

I was lucky enough to get tickets for England’s group match against Northern Ireland in Southampton. I’ve taken my daughter to see England a few times over the years, but this time it felt different. Rather than a crowd of a few thousand, the stadium was full. And rather than the often ugly atmosphere at a men’s game, the crowd was full of families, couples and children – an enjoyable rather than intimidating occasion.

It’s all a long way from where the women’s game used to be in this country. Back in 1921, the FA banned it, claiming, ‘the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged’ – a ban that was only lifted in the 1970s. In the last decade or so, the game’s popularity has exploded in this country. When my daughter wanted to start playing football, there was no girls’ team in the area. Now she plays for Salisbury in a thriving Wiltshire League.

It’s not just football where the profile of women’s sport is changing. Sunday saw the opening stage of the inaugural Tour de France Femmes, beginning in Paris and ending next week on the slopes of Le Planche Des Belles Filles. ‘I love to watch women’s cycling,’ the men’s runner’s up Tadej Pogacar said in an interview on Monday. ‘It’s more complicated than men’s cycling and more interesting.’

Will all this high-profile sport have a ripple effect on participation? A survey by Nuffield Health this week showed that national levels of exercises plunged during the pandemic. Now only 15 per cent of adults hit the recommended NHS target of 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. Hopefully, this sporting success will inspire all of us into action.