Karen Bardsley: The key battles that could decide Australia v England

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Looking back to the friendly match between England and Australia in April, it marked the first loss for the Lionesses under Sarina Weigman, ending a 30-game unbeaten streak. The 2-0 defeat was a result of Sam Kerr’s brilliance for the Matildas. As the two teams face each other once again in the Women’s World Cup semi-final, it wouldn’t be surprising if notes from that loss are shared among the players.

In the previous match, England played in a 4-3-3 formation with Leah Williamson leading as captain. However, midfielder Keira Walsh was effectively neutralized by the Australian defense. Since then, there have been changes in both teams. England now plays with a back three, Williamson is sidelined with an injury, and players like Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo have emerged as a formidable attacking duo. The Australians, on the other hand, have embraced the pressure of being co-hosts and have performed exceptionally well. The anticipation for the semi-final match is feverish, and in preparation for the game, let’s explore the key battles that could determine the outcome.

One of the most intriguing battles will be between Sam Kerr and Millie Bright. Both players train together at Chelsea and their clash on the field will be an exciting battle of skills. Millie Bright has found exceptional form since the initial loss against Australia, and her defensive prowess will be crucial in thwarting Kerr’s threat as arguably the world’s best striker. Kerr’s ability to create chaos and finish off chances will provide a stiff challenge for the Lionesses’ defense, making it their toughest test yet.

The battle for midfield supremacy will also be crucial in determining the outcome of the match. England’s Keira Walsh, who pulls the strings in midfield, will face competition from Australia’s industrious midfield duo of Kyra Cooney-Cross and Katrina Gorry. Walsh’s ability to manipulate opponents, dictate tempo, and break lines will be vital for England. However, Cooney-Cross and Gorry have formed a strong partnership throughout the tournament and pose a significant threat with their aggressive play. England’s midfielders will need to adapt and overcome this challenge to control the game.

In terms of individual battles, England’s Lucy Bronze will have the tough task of handling Australia’s left side, mainly Steph Catley, while also ensuring Caitlin Foord is kept at bay. Bronze’s exceptional performance against Colombia in the quarter-final will give her confidence, but Catley and Foord are formidable attackers who constantly overlap and create chances. Bronze’s ability to solve problems and create opportunities for her teammates will be crucial in nullifying their threat.

Ultimately, this game will be decided by who is most effective in transition, and the key battles discussed will be imperative in controlling those transitions. Both teams have shown their adaptability and preparedness, making the match highly unpredictable and exciting.

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