STAR PREVIEW: England Women v USA Women

England versus America. The two countries with a special relationship that sometimes couldn’t be more different, especially when it comes to languages. You know the differences – chips and French fries, taxis and cabs, lifts and elevators, and perhaps the most tenuous difference between the two, football and soccer.

Their two sides now go head to head in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup, in what is arguably the most anticipated match of the tournament. The Lionesses have drawn record ratings three times in a row on their run to the semi-finals, with 7.6 million people watching them beat Norway. In the US, 8.3 million people watched their side knock out France, this despite the game being either at noon or 3 pm.

So we know this will be a huge game, and it should hopefully be a game of high quality too – it’s the third team in the world v the first ranked and defending champions, and we could be in for a treat.

England have won each of their five matches at the tournament, and encouragingly they’ve improved a great deal with each performance. Their 3-0 victory over Norway in the quarter-finals was absolutely deserved, with an outstanding team performance giving them victory. Once again they had verve going forward, with Fran Kirby and Nikita Parris creating numerous chances, whilst they also produced their most solid defensive performance of the tournament.

Karen Bardsley made a fine save from Herlovsen when she had to but she was brilliantly protected by the defensive efforts of Lucy Bronze – perhaps the match’s best player – who was christened the best player in the world by Phil Neville. Steph Houghton, who had looked unlikely to make the game, was outstanding from start to finish and so was Mille Bright considering the virus that hit her, and Demi Stokes once again rewarded Neville’s choice to put her in for her defensive quality.

Meanwhile, there was yet another goal for Ellen White, who now has five for the tournament – the golden boot looks to be a realistic aim.

They have quality in all areas, but their defence will be tested against the tournament favourites. The USA, also unbeaten in the tournament so far, arguably have the most attacking quality in the tournament. Alex Morgan is the joint top scorer with five goals but they also have another player on five goals in the shape of Megan Rapinoe, perhaps the most famous player on the planet.

They’ve scored 22 goals in total this tournament, but a closer look reveals that 13 of them came against Thailand, and they’ve had to fight much harder in the knockouts.

It took two penalties, one of them considered very soft, for them to make it past Spain, and then they lost the shot count 20-10 against France although they were leading 2-0 beforehand, so England can take heart from those performances. However, they have nonetheless lost only one of their last 43 matches in all competitions and victory here would arguably be the crowning achievements for this Lionesses side.

There’s barely a weak spot in the USA side, but some have suggested that England should target Crystal Dunn, who has been moved to left-back during the tournament – an unnatural position for her. However, Dunn was outstanding in the quarter-finals against Eugenie Le Sommer, Kadidiatou Diani and Valerie Gauvin, so Nikita Parris will have a lot on her plate to create the same chances that she did last time.

England v USA
FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019
Stade De Lyon, France
Live on BBC 1HD from 7:30, kick-off at 8pm

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches*)
MAR 2019 SheBelieves Cup USA 2-2 England
MAR 2018 SheBelieves Cup USA 1-0 England
MAR 2017 SheBelieves Cup USA 0-1 England

This has the look of a tight game on paper, and a look at their meetings in the SheBelieves Cup would confirm that assertion. In three meetings both sides have won a game by a single goal and there has been one draw, and a similar result would not surprise here. The USA look to be the right favourites but will surely have to do it the hard way.

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