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England’s Lionesses on historic terrain that can raise women’s football to another level | World News

The final frontier for the Lionesses.

A day for dreams to be fulfilled – as England face their date with destiny and the prospect of becoming World Cup winners.

Fans are scattered throughout the bars of Sydney savouring the magnitude of what awaits on Sunday night against Spain.

“Whether we win or not – as a country and for the Women’s World Cup we’ve won,” one England fan told Sky News, soaking up the pre-final buildup in a bar on Saturday night.

“It’s a massive step for women’s football. But damn I want to win tomorrow. Everything I’ve dreamed of since I was a child.”

Read more:
Follow the final live

England's Lauren Hemp celebrates scoring their second goal against Australia in their semi-final
England’s Lauren Hemp celebrates scoring their second goal against Australia in their semi-final

Dreams of trophies. But contesting such a final, on such a stage as Stadium Australia, seemed just a dream for these players growing up.

“I think it will be the biggest moment in our careers,” England captain Millie Bright said. “It’s obviously a dream come true.”

So it feels for Spain players who grew up only seeing the men’s game with the limelight and investment.

“We have grown up thinking that football was something that didn’t belong to us – there were always obstacles,” Spain captain Irene Paredes said. “It was not our space, or at least that is what they made us feel.”

They know the pioneers of women’s football went generations before.

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Fans in London gather for Australia v England - BOXPARK Wembley, London, Britain - August 16, 2023 England fans celebrate after Alessia Russo scores their third goal Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra
England fans are hoping to see the Lionesses lift the World Cup trophy for the first time

These Lionesses – along with La Roja – have propelled the game to a new level.

They stand on the brink of being England’s first World Cup winners since the men in 1966.

The teams are bonded through the nation’s footballing history.

Historical challenges

But the Lionesses have had to overcome historical challenges.

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Lionesses to play ‘best game ever’?

Equal billing as footballers was denied by misogyny – with women banned from playing football in England for half a century until the 1970s.

The gender pay gap in the sport remains vast.

By Sunday night, the most successful England team of all time could be the one guided to glory by Sarina Wiegman – the first person to manage two different countries in World Cup finals after losing with her native Netherlands in 2019.

Captain Millie Bright
Captain Millie Bright

Just like at the European Championship, England have swept into the final by winning every game so far at the Women’s World Cup.

Success in Sydney would complete a double a year after lifting European silverware.

But don’t forget how close the Lionesses came to a quarter-final exit from their home tournament – just six minutes from losing.

Spain awaits

Spain stand in England's way
Spain stand in England’s way – and their form has been stunning

And to whom? Spain – the opponents awaiting in Stadium Australia.

But four of that starting line-up are not in Australia after being part of a mutiny against coach Jorge Vilda over demands for a more professional environment.

“Next question please,” he responded when asked about the revolt on the eve of the final.

Of the 15 players who withdrew from consideration for Spain only three returned to the fold for the World Cup – Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmati and Mariona Caldentey.

Back in July 2022, the Lionesses produced the equaliser against Spain through Ella Toone and went on to secure their semi-final place through Georgia Stanway in extra time.

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England fans: ‘They will bring it home’

Read more:
Where to watch England v Spain final
The stars who might bring home World Cup
King urges Lionesses to ‘roar to victory’

Both players remain part of this run to the final – although Toone’s starting spot owes much to Lauren James being suspended for the last two matches in Australia.

The return of James gives England options.

The Chelsea forward had a team-leading three goals before her last-16 stamp against Nigeria.

Since then, Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo have also made it to three goals.

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England have had to contend with disruption to selection plans caused by injury with captain Leah Williamson and striker Beth Mead lost before the tournament.

But replacement captain Bright has forged a strong three-woman defensive back-line with Alex Greenwood and Jess Carter.

New territory

They are facing a Spain packed with goal threats – even with two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas yet to make her usual devastating impact after recovering from an ACL injury.

Jennifer Hermoso, Alba Redondo and Aitana Bonmati have all notched up a trio of goals each.

But look down the Golden Boot chart and there is the formidable teen force of Salma Paralluelo who has two goals.

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - England Press Conference - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 19, 2023 England manager Sarina Wiegman during the press conference REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
Coach Sarina Wiegman

The 19-year-old winger wasn’t even in the squad at Euro 2022 – showing how Spain’s strength just keeps on growing at only their third Women’s World Cup and the furthest they have ever reached.

The Lionesses have made it to the last four at three World Cups by contrast – and that pedigree should count in their favour.

But they have never made it to a final before.

This final represents a power shift as cash and commitment to women’s football in Europe has been accelerated.

This is historic terrain that can raise women’s football to another level in England – and elevate the legendary status of the Lionesses.

England v Australia: Lionesses set to roar as they attempt to reach first ever World Cup final | World News

Hot on the heels of a blockbuster Ashes series, England fans are in for another high stakes sporting clash with Australia as the Lionesses take on the Matildas in the Women’s World Cup semi-final.

The old rivalry has already been ignited in the build up to the match at Sydney’s Stadium Australia, with tickets allocated to England being snapped up by Aussie fans and a helicopter funded by the Australian Daily Telegraph spying on an England training session.

The newspaper’s stunt culminated in a piece with the title “11 Poms against a nation: Welcome to the Jungle, Lionesses”.

According to the article, manager Sarina Wiegman and co were in for a “rude shock” if they thought they could quietly prepare for the game.

England booked their place in the semi-finals alongside the host nation over the weekend following a 2-1 win against Colombia.

Australia, meanwhile, saw off France in a penalty shootout after the match remained goalless after extra time.

England coach Sarina Wiegman and the team
England coach Sarina Wiegman and the team

Read more: Five things to know ahead of England’s clash with Australia

The Lionesses will be without Lauren James who is completing her two-match ban for stamping on Michelle Alozie during the round of 16 match against Nigeria.

But captain Millie Bright says her team will “thrive” under the pressure of playing against the hosts.

“That is what we expect now – for us to thrive in those moments,” she said.

“It is a proud moment for the women’s game back home when they see what an atmosphere there is.

“It’s about turning up, showing up, performing and enjoying the game.

“It is important to adapt to the game whatever they give to us. We have faced many different challenges and we have adapted really well.”

England head coach Sarina Wiegman and goalkeeper Mary Earps (left) during the press conference at Stadium Australia, Sydney. Picture date: Friday August 11, 2023.
England head coach Sarina Wiegman

Wiegman has also said she expects the match to be “very tight and very competitive”.

However, Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson has said that while England may be favourites on paper, they don’t have the “support” his players do.

He said: “If you look at all that and you look at resources, financially, obviously they are massive favourites going into this game.

“But the one thing that we have that they don’t have is the support and belief from the fans.”

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Who are the Lionesses?

Read more on Sky News:
Family split by England-Australia loyalties
Lionesses star apologises to opponent for stamp

Rishi Sunak has sent a good luck message to the team ahead of the tie – telling The Sun newspaper the “nation’s hopes of beating the Aussies now rest on our Lionesses”.

His comments follow the Ashes series which ended in a 2-2 draw after five matches replete with epic performances, controversial dismissals and numerous rain delays.

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Can the Lionesses go all the way?

As well as the words exchanged between supporters of both sides, the FA said it was “disappointed” to hear reports of tickets specifically allocated to England fans being bought by Australians.

The additional 1,970 tickets were released at the weekend, and about 8,000 England fans were expected to be in attendance at the Australia Stadium.

The FA said it was working with FIFA to review its ticketing processes going forwards.

A unique supporter code was reportedly leaked on social media – with a number of Australian fans claiming to have purchased tickets.

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Lionesses beat Colombia 2-1.

Back in England, fans have put out flags and bunting ahead of the fixture and pubs and fan parks have prepared to welcome supporters for the 11am UK kick-off time.

According to Sky Bet at the time of writing, England were 5/4 to win in normal time, compared to 5/2 for Australia.

Women’s World Cup: England’s Lionesses through to semi-final after beating Colombia | World News

The Lionesses have secured a spot in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup after beating Colombia 2-1.

Colombia led the match with Leicy Stantos’s goal 44 minutes in after she looped a shot over Mary Earps from the right, but England’s Lauren Hemp managed to equalise just minutes before half time after a mistake from goalkeeper Catalina Perez.

But it was Alessia Russo who secured England’s winning goal 63 minutes in, lobbing the ball into the bottom left corner from inside the penalty area which gave the Lionesses the lead.

England v Colombia – follow live reaction

Shortly after, Colombia’s Perez left the pitch with an injury and was subbed for Natalia Giraldo.

Sarina Wiegman’s team will now face co-hosts Australia in the semi-finals on Wednesday 16 August, with kick off at 11am UK time.

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Lauren Hemp scored England’s first goal in the quarter-final game against Colombia

Colombia were the lowest-ranked team remaining at 25 and had never made it past the tournament’s round of 16.

But this in this tournament their team eliminated world number two side Germany with a 2-1 victory in the group stage and looked to complete another giant-killing here.

For the Lionesses, England’s Ella Toone had stepped in for the suspended Lauren James who was handed a red card for standing on the back of Michelle Alozie in the Lionesses last match against Nigeria which resulted in a 4-2 shootout win.

The tense match comes after Australia secured their spot in the semi-finals this morning following a dramatic penalty shootout with France.

Australia were 7-6 winners after the spot-kicks, which featured seven missed penalties combined.

Women’s World Cup: Boost for Lionesses as Keira Walsh returns to training – with a day to go until England face Nigeria | UK News

Keira Walsh is training with the Lionesses once again – with just one day to go until England face Nigeria in the last 16.

The midfielder – who was an integral part of the team that won the Euros last year – suffered a knee injury in a group game during the Women’s World Cup.

She was subsequently ruled out of England’s Group D fixture against China.

But in a post on X, formerly Twitter, the Lionesses declared that “all 23 players” in the squad were out for training at the Central Coast Stadium in Australia.

It remains unclear whether Walsh will make an appearance on the pitch tomorrow – or return to the tournament at all.

She was stretchered off in the first half of England’s 1-0 win over Denmark in Sydney on 28 July.

Walsh suddenly collapsed to the ground without any contact with other players in the 38th minute, and immediately called for medical assistance.

Kiera Walsh

After a lengthy delay, she left the field with her head in her hands and was replaced by Laura Coombs.

Sky Sports correspondent Anton Tolui said there was “good news for England fans” as Walsh was spotted at the training ground for the first time since the injury, which had not affected her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Women’s World Cup 2023: Which football teams are in the knockout stage?

Kiera Walsh

Walsh currently plays for Barcelona – having represented Great Britain at the Olympics – and previously played for Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers.

The Women’s World Cup has been tainted with injury for England players, with captain Leah Williamson and Beth Mead both forced to miss the tournament because of them.

Lionesses, Emma Raducanu and the Premier League: Who and what to look out for in 2023 | UK News

What chance the Lionesses dominating the sporting reviews this time next year, as they have been in the last week or so?

Every chance.

Transformational coach Sarina Wiegman has persuaded the FA to fly her Euros winners business class to the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand – and they have the ability, and crucially the mentality, to do the business again – even though the USA, above all, will strengthen the opposition.

Soccer Football - Women's Euro 2022 - England Victory Celebrations - Trafalgar Square, London, Britain - August 1, 2022 England players on stage during the celebrations REUTERS/Molly Darlington
The Lionesses celebrating their victory in London

Backheel goalscoring Euros heroine Alessia Russo could be part of another double – at club level. Both the men and women of Manchester United have that deliver-on-the-day quality that can win an FA Cup.

Forgive a boring notion, but Manchester City’s men and Chelsea’s women remain the likeliest league champions, despite strengthening challenges.

In the Scottish Premiership, Celtic’s nine-point league is too great for new Rangers coach Michael Beale to bridge.

And in Europe? Will goal machine Erling Haaland deliver a long-awaited first Champions League for Manchester City. With a problem or two dogging most of their strongest rivals, this is surely the time for boss Pep Guardiola.

In the year’s first big global event, Novak Djokovic is rightly hot favourite to win the Australian Open tennis and equal Rafael Nadal’s record 22 Grand Slam wins.

British fans have reason to hope Emma Raducanu starts a sharp climb from 80th in the world rankings, if she hits it off with new coach Sebastian Sachs and – importantly – fitness guru Jez Green.

Pic: AP
Will Emma Raducanu return to winning form? Pic: AP

The Six Nations kicks off the international rugby union year – France’s men and England’s women to win – but the autumn men’s World Cup will dominate.

New coaches for Wales and England add to the fascination, but if Ireland are ever going to win it, this is the year.

Also going for World Cup glory are England’s male and female cricketers in the 50-over and 20-over versions respectively. The men can retain the trophy they won dramatically in 2019; the women may find Australia too strong.

In this summer’s Ashes, will Australia provide a rude awakening for Ben Stokes’s new-look all-conquering swashbuckling England? Instinct says the Stokes bandwagon will roll on for a bit yet.

There are British world championship gold medals in prospect in athletics (Jake Wightman and Keely Hodgkinson on the up), gymnastics (likewise the Gadirova twins, Jessica and Jennifer) and swimming (Adam Peaty against the rest again, but can he still do it at 27? Maybe just.)

Will Lewis Hamilton be world champion again?

In F1, as ever, so much depends on the cars and the rules, but Mercedes British pair Lewis Hamilton and rising star George Russell may find World Champion Max Verstappen still too tough a nut to crack, though they should get closer than in 2022.

And two individuals to finish with – 6ft 9 Tyson Fury and 5ft 9 Rory McIlroy.

Ukrainian heavyweight Oleksandr Usyk will be a tougher test than anyone Fury boxed in 2022, but the “Gypsy King” hits as hard as he talks and should prevail again.

And back McIlroy finally to win his first major golf tournament since 2014, help Europe regain the Ryder Cup from the USA in Rome, and be a big part of sporting reviews this time next year.

Euro 2022: It’s come home! Lionesses deliver England’s first major trophy since 1966 | UK News

England are waking up as the champions of Europe after the Lionesses delivered the country’s first major trophy since 1966.

There were euphoric scenes nationwide last night after the squad beat Germany 2-1 in extra time – with 87,000 supporters at a packed-out Wembley Stadium cheering them on, not to mention millions more at home.

And later today, thousands of fans are set to join in the celebrations at an event in Trafalgar Square, where the team will take part in a live Q&A and lift the Euro 2022 trophy.

Sarina Wiegman has described the victory as an incredible achievement – and her players couldn’t resist storming into the press conference, singing “football’s coming home” at the top of their lungs and dancing on the table.

The England manager, who has won plaudits for her composure throughout the tournament, revealed she had a beer for the first time in years during the celebrations – and plans to take a little time off before beginning preparations for next year’s World Cup.

She thanked the nation for their support, and admitted: “I will need a couple of days to realise what we have done.”

It’s been a flawless journey for the Lionesses – and not only did they score the most goals ever in this tournament, but they only conceded two.

There’s now a firm belief that England’s fairy-tale ending could transform women’s football in the years to come – sparking renewed interest in the game among fans and players alike.

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Fans roar as Lionesses win Euros

“I think these tournaments have done so much for the game but also for society and women in society in England but also across Europe and the world,” Wiegman added.

The Queen also highlighted the significance of the Lionesses’ achievement in a statement, telling the team: “Your success goes far beyond the trophy you have so deservedly earned. You have all set an example that will be an inspiration for girls and women today, and for future generations.

“It is my hope that you will be as proud of the impact you have had on your sport as you are of the result today.”

Read more:
PM, Spice Girls and Three Lions react to Euro 2022 victory
Tears, cheers and jubilation: England’s historic win in pictures

England’s win is ‘life-changing’

Sky’s Adele Robinson described the atmosphere at Wembley Stadium as electric, with one little girl spontaneously screaming: “It was amazing.”

And the girl’s father was in tears too, telling us: “I’ve been watching for the last 40 years and I’ve never seen England win a final. It means so much, it’s enormous. It’s why we wanted to make sure our daughter came and saw.”

The crowd was full of smiles and singing – with children wearing flags as capes. One teenager with “Lionesses” written on her midriff said England’s win felt “life-changing”.

One six-year-old with the England flag painted across her cheeks simply said: “Thank you, that was awesome.”

Chloe Kelly celebrates scoring England's second goal
Chloe Kelly celebrates scoring England’s second goal

A nail-biting finale

Ella Toone gave England the lead in the 62nd minute with a sublime lob after being sent through one-on-one with the German goalkeeper.

The Lionesses were unable to hold on as Germany’s Lina Magull scored a flick-on at the near post in the 79th minute.

But England prevailed in extra time as Chloe Kelly poked home from close range after Germany failed to clear a corner.

England wins

Beth Mead won the Golden Boot after finishing the tournament with six goals – 12 months after she was left out of Team GB’s Olympic squad for the Tokyo Games.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “Sometimes football puts you down but bouncing back is the best way and that is what we have done.

“I am so, so proud of this team. I love this team and I love this country.”

Euro 2022: Lionesses ready for ‘fairytale’ final against Germany, says captain Leah Williamson | UK News

Lionesses captain Leah Williamson has described Sunday’s Euro 2022 final against Germany as a “fairytale fixture” and a “day of opportunity”.

Williamson appeared alongside England coach Sarina Wiegman in a news conference ahead of the final on home soil at a sold-out Wembley Stadium.

The pair shared excitement for the match which Wiegman said will be “tough” for both teams.

“I think the pressure is on both teams and we both have very good squads. I think it will be a very tight game, it will be exciting,” Wiegman added.

Victory in Sunday’s match will see the Lionesses end England’s 56-year wait for a major tournament title, something neither senior team has done since the 1966 World Cup.

Germany have won 21 of their 27 meetings against the Lionesses, including the Euro 2009 final, but England were victorious the last time they met earlier this year.

Wiegman said England have “practiced and prepared for everything”, including penalties.

The atmosphere among the England squad was described as “calm” ahead of the big day.

‘Tomorrow is one final push’

Sarina Wiegman and Leah Williamson
Wiegman said England have ‘practiced and prepared for everything’

With 90,000 fans expected at Wembley on Sunday, Williamson emphasised the importance of interest in women’s football.

She added that it’s an “exciting thought” that the team will be playing on home soil, adding that “nobody ever has a home game without an advantage”.

Germany are looking to win the competition for a record-extending ninth time.

Speaking about the magnitude of the final, Williamson said: “This is what we all live for and this is why we all play football.”

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Lionesses train before Euro’s final

“Tomorrow is one final push to achieve what we’ve come to achieve,” she added.

When questioned about team selection, Wiegman didn’t give anything away, simply saying: “We know how strong our squad is”.

To reach the final, the Lionesses beat Spain in the quarter-finals and thrashed Sweden 4-0 at Bramall Lane in the semi-finals.