England have faced and overcome every challenge thrown at them in the Women’s World Cup so far, but their toughest test is yet to come in the semi-finals. After defeating Colombia in the quarter-finals with a score of 2-1, the Lionesses have set up a showdown with co-hosts Australia, just two games away from glory.
In their quarter-final match against Colombia, England had to come from behind and become the first team in the knockout stages of the tournament to win after conceding first. They played in front of a crowd of 75,784 fans, with the majority supporting Colombia. Prior to that, England had beaten Nigeria in a penalty shootout in the last 16 and had to deal with the absence of top-scorer Lauren James due to suspension, as well as missing midfielder Keira Walsh due to injury.
Despite these setbacks, England has shown a hardened resilience and a relentless will to win. Now they face a fresh challenge against co-hosts Australia, who have exceeded expectations and will be supported by a passionate home crowd. Australia has embraced the pressure and used it to their advantage, defeating Olympic champions Canada and European giants France to reach the semi-finals.
Australia’s support for the tournament has been immense, with free-to-air viewing figures soaring and other sports events rescheduling to avoid conflicts with the Matildas’ matches. Sydney city center has been filled with fan festivals and large outdoor screens, as the nation prepares to embrace this football battle against England, following their intense rivalry in the Ashes cricket series this summer.
Not only are the Matildas the highest-ranked team that England has faced so far, but they are also the only team to have defeated the Lionesses under manager Sarina Wiegman’s leadership, ending a 30-match unbeaten run in April. Australia’s superstar player, Sam Kerr, has been recovering from injury but showed her potential with a strong performance against France in the quarter-finals.
Despite criticism of England’s performances during the tournament, they have consistently reached the semi-finals in the last five major tournaments, proving that they are always contenders for the biggest prizes. The Lionesses have shown adaptability, with Wiegman introducing a rarely seen formation featuring a back three after losing midfielder Keira Walsh against China. They have also displayed immense defensive skills and the ability to respond swiftly to setbacks, as seen in the quarter-final match against Colombia.
As goalkeeper Mary Earps stated, “the best is yet to come” from England. With their history of success in semi-finals, the Lionesses are determined to overcome any obstacles that come their way. They are hoping that their best form will arrive just in time for this latest semi-final challenge against Australia.