On Wednesday, a new chapter in the England-Australia rivalry will unfold. Ahead of the Women’s World Cup semifinal showdown between the two teams, anticipation is building among national media, fans, players and coaches.
An Australian newspaper printed photos from a closed-door England training session on Tuesday after spying on the team from a helicopter. The English Football Association declined comment on the Daily Telegraph’s article, and players and coaches have attempted to play down the rivalry.
“Obviously there’s a massive rivalry between Australia and England in sports all over the place,” Australia goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold said. “That will be no different tomorrow, but at the same time we have a lot of rivalries in football. It will just be another game, and we will try to focus on our game plan and not get caught up in the rivalry.”
England coach Sarina Wiegman studied up on the countries’ long-standing sports rivalries this past week, which have centered primarily on cricket, netball and rugby. The 2022 Euros-winning coach said her team is focused more on the competitiveness of the upcoming game than the history.
“With the cricket and the netball, I understand why everyone else feels like that, but for us, it’s a semifinal regardless of who you are playing it is a massive game,” England midfielder Keira Walsh said. “I wouldn’t say this is a major rivalry in football. They are a great team and it is a semifinal. Whoever you’re playing, it is going to be an intense game. So for us, [the rivalry] is one of the last things we’re thinking of.”
England and Australia have played each other six times in the past. England has won three of those games, the sides have drawn one, and Australia has defeated England twice. At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Australia eliminated England in the quarterfinals with a 4-3 win in extra time. And in April, Australia ended England’s 30-match unbeaten streak with a 2-0 victory.
This time, Australia is playing in the World Cup at home and both teams are looking to make history. Australia has already advanced further than ever before at a World Cup, while England’s best result was a third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup.
On Wednesday, the Lionesses hope to play spoiler in Sydney and move on to compete for their first World Cup trophy.
“[Home support] was massive for us at the Euros, especially in the final,” Walsh said. “There are those moments where the opposition could score and it shifts momentum sometimes when you’re playing. It gives you an extra push when you know the crowd is behind you.
“But also though, when you can quiet the crowd, it is a very nice feeling. I think for us trying to take the momentum out of the game is going to be important. … We’ll have to bring our best game, as I’ve said. They have great players. They are playing really well.”