Quest For Glory: England's Lionesses Set Their Sights on World Cup Victory
Carrying the weight of a historic summer on their backs, the reigning European champions set their sights on international football's biggest challenge; World Champions -- the next chapter of history they are determined to write. Tomorrow will mark England's third consecutive World Cup semi-final appearance, as they strive to surpass their previous attempts and achieve their first World Cup Final berth against co-hosts Australia no less.
As the tournament comes to its crescendo, the Lionesses have looked like a different team from the one that was victorious on home soil at the 2022 edition of the European Championships. Notable missing names from the squad include captain Leah Williamson, golden boot winner Beth Mead and Fran Kirby, a serial winner with Chelsea; all sustaining injuries in the build-up to the World Cup. Nonetheless, these great absences have been dealt with as best as possible due to the blend of youth and experience that is within a squad with such depth, like England's - the majority of the squad having made their first senior World Cup roster but also players like Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood appearing in their third consecutive World Cup team for England.
Despite not playing their best football for the majority of the tournament so far, their levels of belief, grit, and determination have been a huge asset for the Lionesses. Their 'never say die' attitude has cultivated an environment where each player has an unbelievable amount of unwavering trust in their teammates and coach to get the job done in the end - whether that be through producing beautiful football or scraping a result together. One of the biggest strengths previously mentioned is the depth within the team because if you look beyond the 11 on the pitch, there are so many options on the bench to elevate the team; such as Chloe Kelly who is a big-moment player and came off the bench against Nigeria and eventually scored the winning penalty to send England into the quarter-finals.
In their most recent game against Colombia in the quarter-finals, England conceded before half-time but Lauren Hemp equalised in additional time with a scrappy goal that came about due to a mistake from the Colombian keeper. Alessia Russo scored the winning goal in the 63rd minute to send England through to their third consecutive semifinal with a lovely strike.
Turning attention to the semifinal matchup, it is a game that is finely on the balance and should be a fascinating watch to see who will battle it out against Spain in the final. Australia will have the home crowd advantage which will surely give them a huge boost, with the attendance set to be around 80,000; with the majority surely rooting for the Matildas. Under Sarina Wiegman's management, England have been nearly unbeatable. The only loss under Wiegman was funnily enough, against Australia in an April friendly. A goal apiece from Sam Kerr and Charlotte Grant secured a 2-0 win for Australia and broke England's 30-game match winning streak. In that game, England boasted a 4-3-3 formation, which was also introduced at the beginning of the tournament until the third group game against China where they played in a 3-4-1-2 formation and have done since; so it is plausible to believe that Sarina will adopt this formation once more but time will only tell.
Australia's biggest advantage, besides playing at home and having huge support from crowds, is their defense. The Matildas have accumulated four clean sheets and only conceded against Nigeria who beat them 3-2 in the group stage. Their counter-attacking football has been excellent and breaking into space has been often adopted by the Australian team so a key to England suppressing their front line will be stopping the supply.