Australia, England primed for blockbuster Women’s World Cup clash

Australia fifa women's world cup

Australia players celebrate after winning the Women’s World Cup quarterfinal football match between Australia and France in Brisbane, Australia, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Tertius Pickard)

Australia and England clash in the Women’s World Cup semifinals on Wednesday in Sydney in the latest installment of a long-standing sporting rivalry between the countries.

Co-hosts Australia have the nation behind them for the first World Cup semifinal in their history and Stadium Australia will be heaving with an anticipated crowd of about 80,000.

Their heart-stopping penalty shootout win over France in the quarterfinals on Saturday was one of the most-viewed television sporting events in Australia in almost two decades.

But England is the European champions and will be favorites to reach the final of the World Cup for the first time, even if they must face down a hostile crowd.

It was put to England’s Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman that she probably did not fully appreciate the enormity of a match between Australia and England.

“It’s going be really big,” she said, with Spain or Sweden awaiting the winner.

“But now I’ve had a couple of questions about that so it’s probably going to be bigger than I imagined now.

“I’ll talk to my players and staff and see what that rivalry is.”

The storied sporting rivalry between Australia and England has already witnessed several episodes this year.

Australia won both the men’s and women’s Ashes cricket series. Australia’s netball team then rubbed salt in English wounds by beating them in the recent World Cup final.

England football captain Millie Bright understands how much it means to fans of both countries.

“I don’t think you can’t look forward to that game,” she told reporters after England came back from a goal down to defeat Colombia 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

“This is the biggest tournament in the women’s game to date so what a game to be a part of.”

She added: “We’re not just coming here to compete, we’re coming here to get the job done and we’ve shown that in our mentality and character in every single game.”

Team-mate Lauren Hemp, who scored the equalizer against Colombia, said: “Australia, bring it on.

“It’s going to be a packed stadium with so many Australian fans, but we know if we play at our best we are unstoppable.”

England will again be without the banned Lauren James, but they did not miss her in a convincing performance against Colombia in front of a crowd roaring on the South Americans.

Perfectly primed

Alessia Russo England Fifa Women's World Cup

England’s forward #23 Alessia Russo celebrates scoring her team’s second goal during the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women’s World Cup quarterfinal football match between Colombia and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney on August 12, 2023. (Photo by Izhar KHAN / AFP)

England may be ranked six places above the Matildas in the FIFA rankings but the home side is riding on a wave of excitement and acclaim.

They have used the support to lift them in difficult moments and will be banking on more of the same at the imposing Stadium Australia.

They also go into the game after defeating England 2-0 away in an April friendly, ending the Lionesses’ proud 30-match unbeaten run.

Australia also has striker and skipper Sam Kerr back in the frame after a calf injury.

Coach Tony Gustavsson’s biggest decision will be whether to start the prolific Chelsea forward.

He has named an unchanged side in their last three games, but Kerr played 65 minutes against France and it looks increasingly likely she will play a full part.

“What’s good is that we have continuity in what we’re doing,” said Gustavsson.

“We have a clear playing style, so we don’t really need to train to be tactically prepared.

“It’s more about making sure we’re mentally and physically prepared for the semi-final. These players are on a mission.”

Vice-captain Steph Catley said they were “just primed for this moment”.

“We’ve got a perfect little balance of a core group that understand the gravity of the situations and a small group of younger players who might not understand the gravity, which is kind of bliss,” she told reporters.

“You’ve got their confidence and their flair, and then we’ve got mature (players) bringing an understanding to moments like that.”

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