FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Australia, England primed for blockbuster semifinal clash

Co-host Australia has the nation behind it for the first World Cup semifinal in its history and Stadium Australia will be heaving with an anticipated crowd of about 80,000.

Published : Aug 14, 2023 10:18 IST , Sydney - 4 MINS READ

FILE PHOTO: Leah Williamson of England in action.
FILE PHOTO: Leah Williamson of England in action. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

FILE PHOTO: Leah Williamson of England in action. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

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

Co-hosts Australia has the nation behind them for the first World Cup semifinal in its 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 favourite to reach the final of the World Cup for the first time, even if it 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.

ALSO READ | Wiegman is the outlier as Women’s World Cup highlights shortage of female coaches

“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.”

Teammate Lauren Hemp, who scored the equaliser 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 it did not miss her in a convincing performance against Colombia in front of a crowd roaring on the South Americans.

Perfectly primed

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.

It has used the support to lift it in difficult moments and will be banking on more of the same at the imposing Stadium Australia.

ALSO READ | Women’s World Cup 2023: Paralluelo gives Spain the advantage with pace and power

It also goes 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 its 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 semifinal. 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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