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Women’s Football World Cup set for semi-final clashes in Lyon

AFP | USA's Megan Rapinoe and England's Lucy Bronze

Three European sides feature in the final four as the Women’s Football World Cup moves to Lyon for both semi-finals: England meets the USA on Tuesday in what could well have been a final while Sweden seeks revenge over The Netherlands on Wednesday.

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Tuesday, July 2

England-USA, Lyon, 9pm

Of the two semi-finals, the England-USA match-up is surely the most tantalising. The two nations have met only once before in a World Cup – in 2007, when the United States eliminated England in a 3-0 quarter-final blowout. But 12 years on, the gap between the two squads has narrowed. The Three Lionesses have made enormous progress in recent years, to the point of counting among the favourites for this World Cup in France. Semi-finalists four years ago before a 2-1 ouster at the hands of Japan, England is looking to power through to the final this time. From the start of this competition, the English have made good on their offensive talent, with five wins to their credit, including two 3-0 victories over Cameroon and Norway.

Playing the defending champion USA is a whole different story, but England held their own during the pair’s most recent meeting. Back in March, at the SheBelieves Cup, England managed a 2-2 tie with the Americans before going on to win the tournament.

USA coach Jill Ellis’s squad, meanwhile, showed during their Round of 16 win against Spain and again in the quarter-final against hosts France that they can be caught off balance and betrayed defensive weaknesses apt to be exploited by their European counterparts on Tuesday. The duel is poised to be very interesting to watch on offense. On the one hand, Americans Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe have scored five goals each in this World Cup. On the other, England’s Ellen White has also netted five. Lucy Bronze, the English defender who plies her trade locally for French powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais (OL), will be looking for success in front of her fans at her home away from home. But OL alumni Morgan and Rapinoe, too, are no strangers to winning football in Lyon.

Wednesday, July 3

Netherlands-Sweden, 9pm, Lyon

Reigning European champions, the Dutch, will play their first-ever World Cup semi-final on Wednesday after beating Italy for the privilege. After making their first World Cup appearance in 2015, The Netherlands have gone from strength to strength. Now eighth in FIFA’s rankings, they must get past ninth-placed Sweden for a coveted place in Sunday’s final.

The Scandinavians, for their part, are veterans of this sort of meeting; Sweden made the World Cup semis in 1991 and 2011 and the finals in 2003. After a dip in form in recent years, the Swedes are looking to rekindle past glory. On that score, they are off to a good start, after upsetting favourites Germany in the quarters. But two years ago, at Euro 2017, it was the Dutch that got the better of Sweden in the quarterfinals in a 2-0 victory on the way to winning that tournament.

Wednesday’s game looks set to be wide open. On the attack, The Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema has scored three times in this World Cup while Kosovare Asllani and Stina Blackstenius, with two goals each so far, are the Swedish scoring threats to keep a particularly close eye on.

This article has been adapted from the original in French.

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