The Three -Lioness are aiming to make history as they prepare to take on the USA with a first ever women’s World Cup final squarely in their sights, as a landmark tournament moves towards a nail-biting climax.
The World Cup in France has generated record TV audiences for the women’s game and Phil Neville’s side come into Tuesday’s clash against the reigning champions in Lyon with more people than ever expected to tune in to see the Lionesses push to go one better than in the previous two editions, when they lost out in the semis.
The team head coach speaking to reporter in Sunday:
You get to these moments in life and you think grasp it with both hands, both feet and all your body and that’s what we’ve been saying to the players: don’t get to a semi-final and have any regrets,”
“I want to see smiles and I want to see freedom, and I want to see us play the way that we can.”
We want to inspire and to build a legacy.
We had a camp last year and we set out the objectives for the next 12 months, and all I wanted them to say was ‘win the World Cup’.
But they were thinking bigger than winning a World Cup, which knocked me in my stride a little bit.
England face an American side brimming with talent and on a high from two hard-fought 2-1 wins over Spain in the last 16 and against hosts France in the quarter-finals, both gained thanks to the attacking exploits of Megan Rapinoe.
The 33-year-old is one of the stories of this tournament, with her match-winning displays paired with intense media scrutiny after a spat with President Donald Trump over her stated refusal to visit the White House while he remains in charge.
Rapinoe hit two penalties to squeeze her team past the Spanish in an underwhelming team performance and then won a thrilling clash at the Parc des Princes with another brace to win what was probably the match of the tournament so far.
“Megan is someone I’ve from day one that I really admire. I remember in my first She Believes (Cup) when a ball bounced on the touchline and I went to catch the ball and her studs came right through my Apple watch,” Neville said.
“What I liked was that she didn’t even say sorry, she just got on with it, she’s a winner.
“I like the individuality both on and off the field and I think she’s a world-class footballer.”
The Lionesses beat Scotland, Argentina and Japan to top Group D with nine points. They then beat Cameroon 3-0 in a fiery encounter to progress past the round of 16, before another 3-0 win against Norway in the quarter-finals on Thursday evening.
Should Phil Neville’s side progress to the final, they will face either the Netherlands or Sweden who play against each other in the other semi-final on Wednesday night in Lyon.