England’s women are through to their third consecutive major tournament semi-final but must wait for the outcome of Friday’s huge World Cup showdown between France and the United States to discover who their next opponents will be.
Phil Neville’s team secured their place in the last four with a 3-0 quarter-final win over Norway in Le Havre on Thursday, with Jill Scott, Ellen White and the outstanding Lucy Bronze getting their goals.
They were knocked out of the 2015 World Cup and Euro 2017 in the semi-finals, meaning the motivation is all the greater as they look towards their next game in Lyon on Tuesday.
“It’s really exciting for us. We want to go one better,” said the midfielder Fran Kirby after Thursday’s victory as England’s women kept alive their dream of winning a first major title.
“We can’t now focus on the fact we’ve been to two semi-finals. We need to make sure that we get to that final and hopefully we can come away with a gold medal.”
England finished third at the 2015 World Cup after losing 2-1 to Japan in the semi-finals. At Euro 2017, it was hosts and eventual winners the Netherlands who comprehensively beat them in the last four.
Neville’s side suggested against Norway that they are good enough to go all the way this time, not least thanks to the performance of right-back Bronze, who drew praise from all quarters afterwards.
“It’s exciting to have her in our team, and when she’s scoring goals like that you just have to kind of bow down to her a little bit,” said Kirby of Bronze, whose second-half strike was one of the goals of the tournament.
England were looking forward to a rest day on Friday before beginning their preparations for the semi-final in Lyon. Midfield stalwart Scott said following the clash between the hosts and the holders in Paris would be on the agenda.
“I am sure we’ll be watching it,” said the Manchester City player, who was bullish when asked about the prospect of coming up against one of the two pre-tournament favourites.
“We need to make sure nothing changes. It’s a semi-final, but we just need to stick to what we’ve been doing,” said the 32-year-old.
– ‘Huge’ –
There will be a full house at the Parc des Princes for Friday evening’s clash between the French and the United States, which will kick off at 1900 GMT with temperatures expected to remain close to 30 degrees centigrade as France sweats in a heatwave.
“Playing against the United States is just huge,” acknowledged the France coach, Corinne Diacre, on the eve of the game.
The USA, who will have 10,000 of their own fans in the stands, have come to France aiming to win the World Cup for the fourth time.
If they do win the tournament, a war of words between the players and US President Donald Trump is likely to intensify after co-captain Megan Rapinoe urged her teammates to join her intended boycott of any White House visit.
Trump this week accused Rapinoe of “disrespect” after a video emerged of her, in an interview with football magazine Eight by Eight, using very strong language to say she would not attend a reception at the White House.
Trump said on Wednesday he would invite Jill Ellis’s squad “win or lose” in France.
Rapinoe refused to back down from the comments when she gave a news conference on Thursday.
“I don’t think that I would go and I would encourage my teammates to think about giving that platform or having that co-opted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way and doesn’t fight for the same things we fight for,” she said.
The remaining quarter-finals will be played on Saturday, with Italy taking on the Netherlands before Germany face Sweden.