One more hurdle overcome, one more test passed, as Team England marches on at the Women’s World Cup, much like the feisty lionesses they're named after. Thanks to a winning shot by Alessia Russo, England has now entered the semifinals, triumphing over Colombia with a 2-1 scoreline, all while setting the stage for an exciting face-off with co-host Australia.
It's a daunting journey against odds, no doubt, remarked Russo after scoring the winning shot that reversed the state of play following Leicy Santos' first-half goal advantage to Colombia, “Nevertheless, our forte is that we never back down.”
Despite being faced with numerous player injuries and moving into the third consecutive Women's World Cup semifinals, England continues to break barriers. Even key figures like Kiera Walsh and Lauren James sat out due to a knee injury and a suspension respectively, yet the English seemed unstoppable.
As Coach Sarina Wiegman puts it, "The ever-present challenges have been met and overcome, testifying our team's resilience."
Filling the shoes of the stellar James, England's path to the semifinals had quite some obstacles, including Santos' 44th-minute strike, a vocal 75,784-strong crowd at Stadium Australia strongly favoring Colombia, and a confrontational Colombian play. Yet, England's poise even under extreme pressure was a sight to behold.
Even after trailing by a goal, The Lionesses’ maintained their focus, showcasing their best performance as they seized one opportunity after another in the Colombian territory, until Lauren Hemp managed to capitalize on a goalkeeper’s mistake to level the score in the final minutes of the first half.
As Wiegman agrees, “Keeping your emotions in check and sticking to our tasks is our everyday practice, and it's one of our team's strengths. We remain calm, speed up the game, create opportunities, and score goals. That’s precisely what we have done excellently so far.”
England's 2015 and 2019 losses in the semis to Japan and the U.S respectively add some bittersweet motivation for Wiegman. Having led the Netherlands to a runner-up position in the 2019 Women's World Cup and leading England to a European Championship victory last year, success at the World Cup could cement her status as England's greatest ever coach.
With top contenders like America, Germany, France, and Japan already out of the picture, the road to the Lionesses' first Women's World Cup victory appears clear.
Despite their exit, Colombia shouldn’t be overlooked, having reached the quarterfinals for the first time, a solid proof of their evolving football prowess, as noted by Colombia's coach, Nelson Abadia.
England squares off with Australia in Sydney this coming Wednesday, undeterred by the likelihood of a hostile crowd. As a native of the Netherlands, Wiegman might need a quick lesson on the deep-seated rivalry between Australia and England. Her tongue-in-cheek observation, “I anticipate it to be really big, but given the frequent questions about it, I'm prepared to face something bigger than I imagine."