World Cup semi-final: England fans celebrate Lionesses scoring against Australia
England are through to the Women’s World Cup final for the first time after a stunning 3-1 semi-final win over Australia in Sydney set up an all-European title decider against Spain on Sunday.
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. And manager Sarina Wiegman is well aware of the 57 years of hurt that the nation has endured and is backing her side to end that on Sunday morning.
“I know it’s there,” said Wiegman of the shadow of 1966. “When we started working, September 2021, I felt that the country was so desperate to win a final in a tournament. Everyone was saying that and the players too. I thought: ‘It’s very real’. What do we have to do to win, and how can we win? To get results, stop talking about the result because we know what we want. I heard again: 1966. Everyone’s talking about 1966. So let’s be at our best on Sunday and try be successful.”
Meanwhile, the FA have confirmed that a plan is already in place for a statue of the England team at Wembley Stadium, while the governing body also said they would “100 per cent” reject any approach from the USA for the Lionesses manager.
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
Show latest update
Lauren James ‘will be ready’ for World Cup final, says Chelsea manager Emma Hayes
Lauren James will be ready to play for England in Sunday’s World Cup final if she is selected by Sarina Wiegman, according to her club manager Emma Hayes.
James is available to face Spain in England’s first ever Women’s World Cup final after serving a two-match ban for stamping on Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie in the last-16.
The Lionesses defeated Colombia and Australia in their last two matches without James, who was England’s breakout star in the group stages.
Chelsea boss Hayes says she has spoken to the 21-year-old forward throughout the tournament and backed James to be in the frame for selection.
Jamie Braidwood18 August 2023 14:29
Fifa president says ‘women have the power’ to achieve equality in football
Fifa president Gianni Infantino said it is women who “have the power to change” football and achieve equality in the game.
It has already been a record-breaking Women’s World Cup, with the tournament in Australia and New Zealand setting its highest-ever attendance figures of over two million people as well as drawing booming TV audiences around the globe. The Fifa president also said the World Cup has generated over $570m (£447m) in revenues and has “broke even” financially ahead of Sunday’s final between England and Spain.
There remains a huge discrepancy in prize money between the men’s and women’s World Cups, however. Despite a 10-fold increase from the last Women’s World Cup in 2019, the record prize money of $152m (£126m) announced by Fifa before the tournament remains some way short of the reported $440m (£365m) prize money on offer to teams at last year’s men’s finals in Qatar.
While Infantino said Fifa remains on track to achieve equal pay between the men’s and women’s World Cup at the 2026 and 2027 tournaments, the Fifa president urged media and sponsors to step to help bridge the gap and said women “have the power to convince men” that equity in football can be reached.
Jamie Braidwood18 August 2023 13:44
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 Braidwood18 August 2023 12:59
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 Braidwood18 August 2023 12:29
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.
Full story from Jamie Braidwood in Sydney:
Luke Baker18 August 2023 12:25
Sarina Wiegman: ‘Stop talking about the result — we know what we want’
When it gets to this stage before a big game, even someone as experienced as Sarina Wiegman finds she can’t take her mind off it. Or, rather, she doesn’t want to take her mind off it, which is precisely why she’s so experienced.
“No, and I don’t want to relax,” she smiles.
“It’s Spain,” Wiegman says of her thoughts before taking on Sunday’s opponents. “Everything now is Spain. When you’re so close, well, I have that feeling a little bit anyway, but when you go to the next game, you’re only thinking ‘OK, what’s next? What can we get in front of us? What challenges can we expect? How are we going to prepare the team?
“I just want to get ready.”
Wiegman has ensured England have never been more ready. The national team are on the brink of bringing a decade-long project to glorious completion and winning a first ever Women’s World Cup because of her crucial influence. The 53-year-old from The Hague can now be classed as the best manager in the game. While the key elements of that story are tactics, patience, strategy and the will – as well as investment from the FA – to hire a manager this good, there is also something acutely personal.
Read Miguel Delaney’s in-depth piece on the Lionesses’s iconic manager
Luke Baker18 August 2023 12:10
Will Lauren James play in the Women’s World Cup final?
Lauren James could return to play in the World Cup final after her England teammates earned their spot in Sunday’s Sydney showpiece with a 3-1 win over hosts Australia.
James was handed a two-game ban by Fifa after being sent off during the last-16 win over Nigeria for a stamp on defender Michelle Alozie during the knockout game, which England won via a penalty shootout.
The Chelsea star sat out both England’s 2-1 win over Colombia in the quarter-finals and the semi-final victory over Australia, where Ella Toone’s first-half piledriver, Lauren Hemp’s second-half finish and Alessia Russo’s late strike knocked out the hosts to set up a final with Spain.
Jamie Braidwood18 August 2023 11:59
England’s deadly duo have already provided the answer to the Lauren James debate
Lauren Hemp didn’t need to look; she already had the picture in her head. After 86 minutes of being everywhere for England, Hemp found another burst to turn away from Katrina Gorry and ease into the space, gliding to the left to create room on the right. As Australia backed off, Hemp opened up the angle and reversed the ball back to Alessia Russo – her target all along. Then came the finish, low, controlled, a clinical way to round off a ruthless performance on a gutsy night. Cool, calm and collected, it booked England’s place in the World Cup final and summed up how they beat Australia.
“Incredible finish, incredible pass,” Sarina Wiegman said. For the second match in a row, her front two were both on the scoresheet, Hemp and Russo on target in the semi-finals, just as they were in the quarter-finals, just as Wiegman had planned. Except, of course, that no one would have planned for this, in a tournament where rarely anything has gone to script for England and they have been forced to adapt. The Lionesses came into the World Cup with seven forwards and they will likely start Sunday’s final with only two in attacking positions; Hemp and Russo stand as their unlikely combination.
Jamie Braidwood18 August 2023 11:14
England’s rivalry with Spain is missing just one vital ingredient – sun loungers
It is a disappointment that women’s football has come of age in very slightly more enlightened times.
For most people, what will happen on Sunday in Sydney is just a sporting contest, a shot at immortality. It’s noble enough. Admirable even. But it is nevertheless a statement of fact that had this been going on, say, 20 years ago, it would have been a fine opportunity to analyse the degree to which the proud nations of England and Spain absolutely hate one another.
It is only really the luck of the footballing draw that means your average Englishman has spent the last half-century or so getting angry about the Battle of Trafalgar, the Second World War and the Falklands, while scarcely troubling at all the rich seam of historical grievance with the Spanish. And it seems a shame that this is unlikely to change.
There has, in relatively modern times, only been one opportunity for the tabloid newspapers to evoke the Spanish Armada, and that was 27 years ago during Euro ’96. What a waste. But if you look closely enough, you’ll see that Anglo-Spanish resentment has been simmering nicely for quite some time.
Jamie Braidwood18 August 2023 10:31
This World Cup means so much more for women than who wins and who loses
Record attendances, standout goalkeeping performances, and penalty-taking fire-power to eclipse any strike by a man in last season’s Premier League.
Not bad for a bunch of girls, is it?
The 2023 Women’s World Cup has certainly been pulling in the fans. One of the home teams, Australia, has twice played in front of crowds exceeding 75,000 in Sydney, and that was only limited by the capacity of the stadium.
Well over 500,000 have attended fan zones in host cities to watch the games on big screens, and, after only two rounds of the tournament, attendance numbers had already exceeded the total attendance of the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
The football world governing body, FIFA, has been trying to grow women’s football at pace, and it seems to be working.
Gemma Abbott on the importance of this World Cup:
Jamie Braidwood18 August 2023 09:42