Women’s World Cup Semi-final – Australia vs. England
This second semi-final of the women’s World Cup see an exciting tie between co-hosts Australia and England.
Co-hosts Australia have been building well throughout the tournament. After a loss to Nigeria in the group stage, they silenced their doubters by putting in a stellar performance to beat reigning Olympic champions Canada 4-0, and then taking out Denmark in the round of 16 with a 2-0 victory.
Their most recent win was a history-breaking match for many reasons. Their quarter final victory against France not only secured their spot in a World Cup semi-final for the first time ever, but it went down to the wire in a penalty shootout consisting of 21 penalties, the most a penalty shootout has gone to in any world cup game, men’s or women’s. This never say die attitude and resilience will serve them well when coming up against England.
Not to mention, their home crowd advantage that will act as their twelfth player. The crowds have come out in force to watch the Matilda’s, filling stadiums and fan parks across the country. The Lionesses know of this advantage perhaps more than anyone else, as their own crowds helped get them over the line to become European champions at a sold-out Wembley. It will be interesting to see how they adapt to not being crowd favourites and how they use that energy in their performance.
Alongside this, the Matilda’s have superstar striker Sam Kerr, who is returning from the calf injury that kept her out for the first three games. She will be hungry to score her first goal of the home world cup and her appetite to win combined with her skill on the ball and speed is a dangerous combination.
But, the Lionesses are not a team that are easy to beat. Whilst they have struggled at times in this tournament, they are a resilient side that have found new ways to win.
Sarina Wiegman, known for her consistent starting line ups and minimal changes, has had to adapt to injuries, red cards, and general personnel struggles on the pitch. She has tried new formations and combinations across the pitch, and is beginning to reap the benefits; Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo are building a strong connection and converting chances to goals. Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly are thriving in their winger positions, making runs down the wings, getting more involved in attacking chances, but tracking back and being reliable in defence.
Obviously, they are without the young talent of Lauren James after she received a red card in the round of 16 game against Nigeria. This is a big loss to this England team, who have relied on her creativity and dribbling skills to create attacking chances.
But, there are options on the bench in an Ella Toone, who makes great runs and creates pockets of space for other players to drive into and receive balls. There is also Chloe Kelly, who has been great for England with her runs down the wing and crosses into the box.
This England team knows what it takes to win and that experience of winning a major tournament is something that can’t be overlooked. A huge part of tournament football is mentality, sticking together when things aren’t easy – and they haven’t been for England – but pushing through and trusting the process.
You can see that the players have faith in Sarina Wiegman. The team really buy into her ideas and trust her tactics, even when they are down and have conceded there is calm on the pitch, they have faith in the process and can perform in the big moments.
Can the home nation continue their fairytale run, or will the European champions get one step closer to securing the double?
Tune into BBC One on Wednesday 16th August, 11:00am BST to find out.