England team rallies ahead of World Cup final: ‘We need to play the game of our lives’
England are counting down the hours until they play in their first Women’s World Cup final as Sarina Wiegman and her players prepare to face Spain for the title in Sydney on Sunday morning (kick-off 11am BST).
It’s the first time the England men’s or women’s team have reached a football World Cup final since 1966, with the nation set to come to a halt as the Lionesses look to bring the game’s biggest prize back home.
Wiegman is well aware of the 57 years of hurt that the nation has endured but said the Lionesses will feel the support of the country back home when they face Spain, while captain Millie Bright said England will need to play the “game of our lives” in Sydney.
Meanwhile, Sweden picked up their fourth Women’s World Cup bronze medal on Saturday after beating co-hosts Australia 2-0 in the third-place playoff match at Lang Park in Brisbane.
Follow all the build-up to England’s clash against Spain in the final, get all the latest Women’s World Cup odds here and find latest tips for the game itself here.
Women’s World Cup LIVE: Latest England news ahead of Sunday’s final
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Ella Toone or Lauren James? Sarina Wiegman has already made the biggest decision of England’s World Cup
“England stand on the brink of greatness. The European champions are one victory away from being the best team in the world. But this has not been an easy tournament for Sarina Wiegman and her players.
“While the Euros saw emphatic victories – the best being 8-0 vs Norway and 4-0 vs Sweden in the semi-finals – and exultant home support, England have got into gear in a slower, more controlled way in this tournament (they did beat Sunday’s opponents Spain 2-1 in extra time. in their toughest “match in 2022 excluding the final, in case anyone had forgotten, but that was a rather different Spain team).
“Sarina is characterised for her consistency, bordering on stubbornness to her critics, but in this tournament she has had to change things up: the shift to a 3-5-2 against China was an inspired throw of the dice after some pretty drab stuff against Haiti and Denmark. The England head coach has also had to do without the enormously gifted Lauren James after her red card against Nigeria, having brought her in to start against the Danes. James was the best player in the group stages for England, scoring three and assisting three.
“But in her absence, two things have occurred…”
Read Lionesses legend Kelly Smith’s latest column ahead of the World Cup final
Jamie Braidwood19 August 2023 18:58
Where to watch the Women’s World Cup final between England and Spain
Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses are through to the Women’s World Cup final after Wednesday’s thrilling 3-1 semi-final win over Australia, with goals from Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo enough to see off the Matildas in front of a highly partisan home crowd.
The European champions will face Spain at Stadium Australia in Sydney at 11am on Sunday morning (BST), their opponents extremely impressive throughout the tournament but only narrowly overcoming Sweden 2-1 in the other semi.
The big match will be broadcast on both the BBC and ITV in the UK, with the former’s coverage starting at 10am and the latter’s at 10.15am.
If you prefer to catch the final with a crowd, however, there are plenty of fan zones, pubs and bars across the country throwing open their doors early:
Jamie Braidwood19 August 2023 18:14
Infighting and rebellion: How Spain overcame themselves to reach edge of Women’s World Cup glory
With so much still unsaid around this Spain team, three statements over the last 48 hours stood out all the more, that illustrate much of the story of their Women’s World Cup run.
One was Tere Abelleira immediately after the semi-final victory over Sweden. “Now we can talk about a ferocious team spirit.” It was as the midfielder was saying this in the Eden Park mixed zone that Jenni Hermoso was striding behind and shouting: “Come on! We’re in the final of the f**king World Cup!”
That is now the most important fact of all. It was amid this mood of jubilation, however, that the abrasive Spanish federation boss Luis Rubiales came out with something that was much more open to dispute.
Read Miguel Delaney on Spain and their run to the final:
Jamie Braidwood19 August 2023 17:29
Keira Walsh backs Ella Toone to keep place for World Cup final
Keira Walsh: “I think obviously people are going to speak about that, but I think everyone has got to give Tooney credit. She has come back in and she has done an unbelievable job again.
“People probably won’t speak about it too much, but it’s not easy to come in for a quarter-final or semi-final when all the spotlight has been on the player’s place you are taking.
“I think tonight she was unbelievable. She tackled, she got stuck in, she took us up the pitch, she gave us a lot of security. LJ is a massive talent, but I think we have got to put some respect on Tooney’s name as well. She has been fantastic.”
Jamie Braidwood19 August 2023 16:44
Prince William blasted by Lionesses fans for missing Women’s World Cup final in Australia
The Prince of Wales is facing criticism after it was confirmed that he will not attend the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney on Sunday.
Rishi Sunak has also come under fire for not having plans to attend the historic occasion for the England team in Australia.
The Lionesses are set to compete in their historic World Cup final against Spain, after they beat Australia 3-1 in the nail-biting semi-final on Wednesday.
Prince William, who is the president of the Football Association (FA), tweeted a personal message of congratulations following the victory over Australia, describing it was a “phenomenal performance”.
Kensington Palace confirmed that he will not fly to Australia to cheer the team on in the final, and instead would watch the match on television. It is understood that the decision was made because it would involve flying across the world for a very short period of time.
Jamie Braidwood19 August 2023 15:59
World Cup final referee: Who will take charge of England vs Spain?
American referee Tori Penso will take charge of England’s match against Spain in the World Cup final.
Penso also officiated England’s victory over co-hosts Australia in the semi-finals and will therefore take charge of the Lionesses for the second match in a row.
The ground-breaking MLS referee booked both Alex Greenwood and Chloe Kelly during the semi-final, which the Lionesses 3-1 in Sydney.
Those were the only yellow cards shown during the clash although there could have been much more during the 90 minutes, with a number of heavy challenges.
Greenwood was booked for sliding in on Sam Kerr, but Keira Walsh and Jess Carter were perhaps fortunate to escape the same punishment for late fouls on the Australia captain.
Jamie Braidwood19 August 2023 15:15
Sarina Wiegman commits future to England after USA speculation
Sarina Wiegman is happy as England manager and wants to see out the remainder of her contract, despite speculation linking the Lionesses boss to the United States.
The Dutch manager has an outstanding track record and is the first head coach to reach the Women’s World Cup final with two different teams, after guiding her native Netherlands to the final in 2019. Wiegman also ended England’s 56-year wait for a major trophy when the Lionesses won the Euros last summer, with the Dutch also winning the European championships on home soil in 2017.
The FA said on Thursday that they would “100 per cent” reject any approach for Wiegman before the end of her contract, which is through to the end of the Euros in 2025, and the 53-year-old confirmed she would not consider any offers after the World Cup.
Jamie Braidwood19 August 2023 14:31
UK economy set for £185m boost over World Cup final weekend
The Lionesses battling for the Women’s World Cup trophy is expected to give a £185m boost to the UK economy as supporters flock to pubs and bars to watch the final.
Analysis by savings site Voucher Codes found that 13.7 million viewers around the UK are set to tune into the match, with around a fifth heading to their local pub, bar or restaurant to soak up the atmosphere.
Viewers could spend around £138m in supermarkets to stock up on food, drink, merchandise and decorations ahead of the 11am kick-off, according to the report which uses forecasts from GlobalData.
A spokesperson for Aldi told The Independent it expects to sell over one million packets of crisps this weekend, along with a surge in the sales of beer and Prosecco – in anticipation of a historic win for the Lionesses on Sunday.
Jamie Braidwood19 August 2023 13:44
Why are England wearing blue kits for the World Cup final?
England will go in search of a first Women’s World Cup crown when they take on Spain in the final in Sydney.
While the fixture will obviously be held on a neutral ground, Spain are Team A for the final and thus have kit precedence.
That means that Jorge Vilda’s team will play in their red home strip, with dark blue shorts and socks.
While England might be expected to then wear their traditional white shirts, the Lionesses’ home kit now includes blue shorts after lobbying from players over concerns about wearing white during their periods.
The matching shorts necessitates a change: England will wear their light blue away kit for the final, with white socks.
Jamie Braidwood19 August 2023 13:01
All 23 England players trained this morning ahead of the World Cup final.
It was England’s last session at Central Coast, where they have been based since earlier in the tournament.
(The FA via Getty Images)
Jamie Braidwood19 August 2023 12:31