“Australia are not just Sam Kerr,” said Sarina Wiegman in the build-up to this World Cup semi-final. Diplomatic. Sensible. But the truth is that Australia are about 92% Sam Kerr, who gave the home fans one moment of true brilliance as she tried in vain to single-handedly overcome an England side that has bloody heroes all over the pitch, mate.
England are not just Mary Earps, the best goalkeeper in women’s football bar none. England are not just Millie Bright, whose pings from centre-back create England calm and opposition chaos. England are not just Alex Greenwood, a purring Rolls Royce of a defender. England are not just Rachel Daly and Lucy Bronze, auxiliary attackers as well as last-ditch tacklers.
England are not just Keira Walsh, exuding calm and control in the centre of the park. England are not just Ella Toone, sticking one in the top corner just when you are wondering when she will announce her arrival. England are not just Lauren Hemp, whose hard work is only matched by exemplary vision and touch. England are not just Alessia Russo, whose control in tight spaces is allied with an unerring finish.
England are also the players not namechecked above, those who come off the bench and even those whose moment of stupidity threatened to derail this whole tournament.
This was an England side plagued by internal injuries and external doubts ahead of this summer but they have grown into this tournament and become 12-foot giants who absolutely deserve to be in their first World Cup final.
Kerr scored a ludicrous goal and missed two much simpler chances but she was one woman against a pride of Lionesses, who have remarkable resilience to match their quality. Shorn of four players from the Euro 2022 final a year ago, England simply found new heroes.
On this semi-final night, there was an arrowed strike into the top corner from Toone, while nobody more richly deserved a goal than Hemp, who took advantage of some abject defending from Australia to restore England’s lead after Kerr’s wonder-strike. Kerr had chances to equalise but the combination between Hemp and Russo for England’s third was sublime.
Wiegman finds solutions and England’s players embrace them. This is not the same formation that triumphed in England last summer but it was exactly the right formation for this set of players in this tournament. The WSL top scorer is a left wing-back; Manchester City winger Hemp is thriving as a second striker; Lauren James will be an impact substitute in the final just a fortnight after being hailed as England’s only real hope.
England are 90 minutes away from being world champions and there is absolutely no doubt that they deserve it. Overhyped, my arse.