ENGLAND continued to make history last night as they stormed into their first ever World Cup semi-final with a 2-1 victory over tournament hosts Canada.
They will now face reigning champions Japan, who edged past Australia with a 1-0 win thanks to a late goal from Mana Iwabuchi.
The Lionesses made the perfect start to the match with two goals in the space of just three minutes from Jodie Taylor and Lucy Bronze who steered England into a comfortable lead. Melissa Tancredi squandered a fantastic opportunity to put the hosts ahead early on – but a mistake from Canadian defender Lauren Sesselmann allowed Taylor to capitalise and put England on the scoresheet on the 11th minute against the run of play.
The nightmare then continued for the hosts three minutes later, when England won a free-kick deep in Canadian territory. Fara Williams picked out right-back Lucy Bronze at the far post who managed to direct her header over Canadian keeper Erin McLeod off the underside of the crossbar and bag her second goal of the tournament.
Katie Chapman almost scored a third when her header clipped the top of the crossbar from another set-play piece, but before long the Lionesses found themselves pinned back against a rallying Canada.
It was then Canada’s turn to capitalise on a defending blunder at the other end when England’s goalkeeper Karen Bardsley spilled Ashley’ Lawrence’s cross, allowing Sinclair, Canada’s record goal scorer, Sinclair to tap in from close range.
Bardsley, who has had an inconsistent tournament so far, ended the game five minutes after the break when she went off the field with an eye problem, thought to be an allergic reaction.
In somewhat of a scrappy and disjointed second period, England’s replacement goalkeeper Siobahn Chamberlain came on to make her tournament debut. A combination of solid defending from England and poor finishing from Canada, however, meant the Arsenal goalkeeper didn’t have to make a save until the 87th minute, when she was tested by Belanger.
With Canada pressing for an equaliser, England managed to spearhead an attack through the on-form Taylor, who forced keeper MacLeod to tip her curling shot wide of the post after Karen Carney stole possession.
With both sides showing tired legs on the pitch, there was not much left in the tank for Canada, who had Sophie Schmidt firing over from long range, whilst striker Sinclair saw her header go wide of the post at the end of normal time. The hosts had little more to give and England saw the game out comfortably to secure a semi-final place and spark jubilant celebrations in front of 54, 027 fans.
Although England’s victory over Canada may not have lived up to their previous performance against Norway, the Lionesses’ win marks the first time an England side – men or women – have made it into a World Cup semi-final since 1990, when Gary Lineker scored two late penalties to secure victory over Cameroon to reach the last four of Italia ’90.
After the final whistle, England manager Mark Sampson was quick to praise his team, commending his side’s “incredible character, resilience and togetherness.”
“These players have shown a desire I’ve never seen from an England team before,” he continued.
Indeed, Mark Sampson and his side will have a lot of preparation to do if they want to see off Japan in Edmonton on Wednesday. The current World Cup holders, who have won all of their five matches in the competition, are sure to be the most technical and clinical team that England will have faced yet and Sampson knows this.
“Japan will be a huge challenge but I will pick a team to give us a chance of reaching the final. We can be a very difficult opponent,” the Welshman said.
Photo credit: BBC