England marched into the last four of the 2019 Women’s World Cup with an emphatic victory over Norway, an outstanding performance high for their tournament so far.
Capped by an exquisite Lucy Bronze strike to put the result beyond doubt, the Lionesses have now made their way to their second successive semi-finals. Under coach Phil Neville, this England side have a real chance of surpassing their best ever result in the competition, when they achieved third place in the 2015 tournament in Canada.
There’s just one small stumbling block in getting to the final on July 7: the United States of America.
The three-time World Cup winners are intent on retaining the trophy they won four years ago north of the border, a feat only accomplished once before after Germany managed to do so in 2003 and 2007.
The USA, under the stewardship of Jill Ellis, progressed through the initial group stage with honours, recording a massive +18 goal difference mainly through their opening 13-0 win over Thailand. A narrow 2-1 win against Spain in the Last 16 ultimately presented a Quarter-Final tie with hosts France, a game that the US could only see out in extra time with the same scoreline.
They now find themselves odds on to go on and win the tournament for the fourth time, while England find themselves priced at around 4/1. Not only likely buoyed by the backing and resting on prestige as the most successful nation in the tournament’s history, the USA enjoy a strong record over the Lionesses.
They have lost just one game to England in six meetings, the only blot on their almost pristine page in 2017. It’s historically not been the most prolific fixture for goals scored, with four of the last five games finishing 1-0. The biggest margin of victory came in the first World Cup encounter in 2007, with all-time top scorer Abby Wambach getting on the scoresheet for the States in a 3-0 thrashing in the Quarter-Finals in Tianjin, China, to send England packing.
This upcoming fixture at the Groupama Stadium has now been given extra spice, with Neville and the FA incensed by two ‘undercover’ US officials being spotted at the England team’s hotel in Lyon ahead of the clash.
The USA’s defence was all in regards to preparation, with the squad looking towards that Final date in the same city, at the same stadium. The debate about under-hand tactics will surely fuel both sides when they take to the pitch on July 2, with a resurgent England hoping to eradicate their woeful record against their peerless opponents.
England will try and go one better than their most recent game against the US - a 2-2 draw in March that worked in the Lionesses’ favour to enable them to go on and collect the SheBelieves Cup for the first time.