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Home Sports England set up blockbuster showdown against Australia at Women’s World Cup

England set up blockbuster showdown against Australia at Women’s World Cup

by nytime
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England 2 Colombia 1

This engrossing sporting summer of 2023 is set for another tantalising instalment of the England-Australia rivalry as the co-hosts of the Women’s World Cup will go head-to-head with the Lionesses this week.

After the gripping men’s and women’s Ashes series and last weekend’s Netball World Cup final – all of which ultimately ended with the Australians holding the trophies – comes a Sydney semi-final between the two sides on Wednesday.

The Matildas are in their nation’s first World Cup semi-final and Sarina Wiegman’s side booked their spot in what promises to be a historic contest on Wednesday by coming from behind to beat the tournament’s surprise package Colombia.

Wiegman said after that she will need to consult with her team to appreciate fully the nature of England’s historic rivalry with Australia, saying: “It’s going to be really big but now I’ve had a couple of questions about that so it’s probably going to be bigger than I thought it was. I will speak to my players and staff to see what that rivalry is.

“We have had such a warm welcome here and really enjoyed our time in Australia. I actually really like the people here but that doesn’t mean there’s no rivalry so we will see on Wednesday.

“We know it’s [going to be] an away game. Let’s try to turn it around as inspiration for us. We try to focus on our task, what we want to do and how we want to play. Of course we want to play our game and everyone has a task in and out of possession. That’s what we talk about – football. [This quarter-final] was like a home game for Colombia. We expect a similar crowd for Australia. That is incredible. We’re really looking forward to it.”

The two sides will meet at Stadium Australia in Sydney, the same venue for this quarter-final and, incidentally, where England’s men beat Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final.

The Lionesses’ strike duo Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo both got on the scoresheet to turn a tense last-eight tie on its head, after Leicy Santos had deceived Mary Earps with what appeared to be an attempted cross that looped over the Manchester United keeper and into the net.

Slight defensive slips from the South Americans, ranked 25th in the world and backed by an intimidating crowd, played a part in both England goals, with goalkeeper Catalina Perez fumbling the ball on the stroke of half-time to allow Hemp to stab in a crucial leveller, before a fired-up Russo capitalised on a loose ball to lash home a fine finish to win the contest. It was the new Arsenal signing’s second goal of the tournament and her delight was clear for all to see.

It sent the European champions through to their third consecutive World Cup semi-final and they will now attempt to reach their first global final. In 2015 Laura Bassett’s last-gasp own-goal led to a heart-breaking loss to Japan and in 2019 they endured a dramatic 2-1 defeat by the United States when former captain Steph Houghton’s late penalty was saved.

High drama can be expected again on Wednesday, with the nation of Australia gripped with football fever following their win on spot-kicks over France.

England’s squad availability for the semi-final was boosted by the fact that all three of their players who were one booking away from a suspension – Hemp, Lucy Bronze and Georgia Stanway – all came through the quarter-final without a further yellow. With those disciplinary slates wiped clean ahead of the semi-finals, none of them will be suspended. The Lionesses are still without Lauren James as she serves the second of her two-match ban for her red card from the last-16 win over Nigeria, but the Chelsea youngster now knows she can have a chance to feature in this tournament again, either in the final or in the third-place play-off.

Wiegman praised the discipline of her players in not picking up any yellow cards, adding: “They did a tremendous job. You have to be aggressive, you’re playing a football game, you have to play duels to win. In one moment you can pick up a yellow card. But they were controlled and they were aggressive but didn’t go over the edge. That’s well done. So I’m happy that they did that because we have the players available for the next match and they now have lost their cards.”

England’s back three of Alex Greenwood, captain Millie Bright and Jess Carter all produced immense performances of grit, dogged determination and courageous defending to help the team get over the line, and Hemp and Russo were both much improved on their displays against Nigeria.

England's Alex Greenwood, right, and England's Millie Bright, left, comfort Colombia's Jorelyn Carabali

Jess Carter, Millie Bright and Alex Greenwood were magnificent and try to console Jorelyn Carabali at the final whistle – AP Photo/Mark Baker

Nonetheless, Wiegman was asked whether her side have yet to produce their best football at this World Cup and replied: “Yes, some people say they are not at the level. I think you are underestimating the level of our opponents. The Nigeria game was so incredibly competitive. Today we have been challenged again. There are moments in your career when sometimes you are not at your best but you can still perform at a high level as a team, work hard, do your tasks and find a way to win.”

That is what England are doing: finding a way to win. However, Australia are the only team to have beaten England in Wiegman’s two-year tenure, having got the better of them in a friendly in Brentford in April. Their next meeting is simply not to be missed.

Match details and marks

England (3-5-2)  Earps 6; Carter 8, Bright 8, Greenwood 8; Bronze 7, Stanway 7, Walsh 6, Toone 5, Daly 6; Russo 7 (Kelly 6, 84), Hemp 8 (England 6, 90+3).
Subs not used  Charles, Nobbs, Hampton (gk), Wubben-Moy, Morgan, Coombs, Zelem, Roebuck (gk), Robinson.

Colombia (4-2-3-1)  Perez 5 (Giraldo 6, 68); C Arias 6 (Guzman 6, 10), Carabali 6, D Arias 6, Vanegas 6; Opsina 7 (Chacon 6, 78), Bedoya 6; Usme 7, Santos 7, Caicedo 7; Ramirez 7.
Subs not used  Montoya, Reyes, Restrepo, Sepulveda (gk), Baron, Guzman, Andrade, Ramos, Caracas, Bahr.

Referee  Katja Koroleva (United States).

Attendance 75,784.

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