England will go head to head with holders the United States for a place in the Women’s World Cup final.
Phil Neville’s side take on the three-time world champions in Lyon on Tuesday after the US ended the hopes of hosts France with a 2-1 win.
Here, PA takes a closer look at the team standing between the Lionesses and a place in their first ever major final.
Jill Ellis has been in charge of the US since 2014, leading them to victory in the 2015 World Cup in Canada. Born in Portsmouth, the 52-year-old headed across the Atlantic as a teenager and has a long-standing association with the US set-up. She has also served as interim coach and assistant coach and led the under-21 and under-20 teams. But she came in for fierce criticism ahead of the tournament from former US goalkeeper Hope Solo, who told the BBC she is “not the leader I wish her to be” and “cracks under the pressure quite a bit”.
Striker Alex Morgan is the team’s star name, with multiple magazine appearances, an acting credit in the film Alex & Me and an appearance on the cover of the US edition of the video game FIFA 16 to go with the century of international goals. She lived up to her billing with five goals as the US opened their World Cup campaign with a 13-0 thumping of Thailand but has not found the net since. Instead Megan Rapinoe has stolen the spotlight, not just with her back-to-back braces which have taken the holders through the knockout stages, but for her row with Donald Trump. Rapinoe provoked presidential indignation after pronouncing “I’m not going to the f***ing White House” when asked ahead of the tournament if she would visit were her team to win the World Cup. Rapinoe is gay and has previously accused Trump of being “sexist” and “misogynistic” and she refuses to sing the national anthem before matches. Trump had his say on Twitter ahead of the France match, accusing her of disrespect, but Rapinoe’s clinical performance at the Parc des Princes suggested she is loving the limelight.
The US have scored 22 goals in their five games en route to the last four, but the record thrashing of Thailand accounted for more than half of those. They have looked vulnerable both in their 2-1 last-16 win over Spain, when they gifted Jennifer Hermoso a goal with an awful defensive mix-up and needed a pair of Rapinoe penalties to progress, and against France, who made them sweat with their late fightback. England will be rightly confident of creating chances against a defence whose weaknesses seldom prove costly because of the team’s attacking power. On the flip side, of course, the likes of Morgan and Rapinoe will have noted with pleasure England’s tendency to switch off at the back a times.
The two teams last met in the World Cup in 2007 when the US cruised to a 3-0 quarter-final win in China. They are rather more closely matched now, though, as illustrated by the 2-2 draw they played out in their last meeting, at the SheBelieves Cup in March. England’s goals came from Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris as they came from a goal down to lead 2-1. And it was the Lionesses who ended up winning the four-team invitational tournament.
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