SYDNEY (AP) — The tests keep coming for England at the Women’s World Cup and the Lionesses keep roaring.
Alessia Russo fired England into the semifinals with a second-half goal to beat Colombia 2-1 on Saturday in a game that showcased the resolve of Sarina Wiegman’s team and set up a clash with co-host Australia.
“We always find a way through,” said Russo, whose goal completed a come-from-behind win after Leicy Santos had given Colombia a first-half lead. “One of the strongest things about this team is we never give up.”
England advanced to the last four for the third consecutive Women’s World Cup, despite going into the tournament with a host of key players out injured.
Kiera Walsh was then sidelined after hurting her knee in the second game of the group stage and Lauren James is serving a two-game suspension for stepping on Nigeria defender Michelle Alozie in the round of 16.
Yet England keep coming up with answers.
“We’ve had lots of challenges, and we’ve got through these challenges,” Wiegman said. “It showed the resilience of the team.”
Without star player James, England’s route to the semifinals was made all the more complicated by Santos’ strike in the 44th.
England also had to contend with a partisan crowd of 75,784 at Stadium Australia that was hugely in favor of Colombia and then there was the physical approach of its opponent as the Lionesses were left bruised by a number heavy challenges.
Yet the composure of England’s players under intense pressure was never more evident than when going a goal down.
The Lionesses produced arguably their most composed play as they controlled possession and probed Colombia’s half before Lauren Hemp seized on a mistake by goalkeeper Catalina Perez to poke the ball over the line in the seventh minute of first-half stoppage time.
“Everyone knows their task and you try to stick to the task and keep your emotions in control. It’s easy to say, but that’s what you practice every day,” Wiegman said. “That’s one of the strengths of this team that we do stay calm. So we conceded a goal and you don’t see any panic. We just try to speed up the game even more and create chances and score goals. So far I think we have done that really well.”
Wiegman is a step closer to her second consecutive Women’s World Cup final after her Netherlands team was runner-up to the United States in 2019.
England lost in the semifinals in 2015 and 2019, going out to Japan and the United States, respectively.
Wiegman led the Lionesses to victory in the European Championship last year, having won that competition with Netherlands in 2017.
In leading the Lionesses to success last year, she became only the second England coach, male or female, to win an elite international tournament. Alf Ramsey’s men’s team won the World Cup in 1966.
If she were to win the World Cup she would become England’s most successful coach of all time.
With many of the favorites, including America, Germany, France and Japan, already eliminated, the Lionesses will be increasingly confident they can win a first Women’s World Cup.
Colombia, meanwhile, exits having made history by securing a place in the quarterfinals for the first time. It was the last remaining team from the Americas in the tournament.
“We have peace of mind,” Colombia coach Nelson Abadia said. “Not satisfied, but peace because of our very good performance in the World Cup. We proved how Colombian football has evolved.”
Colombia looked capable of going even further after Santos’ goal gave it an unexpected lead.
Taking the ball on the right of the box, she shaped to cross, but her effort instead flew directly toward goal, catching out England keeper Mary Earps and dipping under the bar.
It sparked an eruption of noise, while Colombia’s substitutes ran to join in the celebrations with Santos and the rest of the players.
If going behind for the first time in the tournament came as a shock to England, it didn’t show.
They evened the score after the mistake from Perez.
The keeper should have easily gathered the ball when Russo mis-controlled in the box, but let it slip out of her grasp and Hemp pounced.
Russo’s winner came after England had dominated the second half without managing to open up Colombia’s defense.
Georgia Stanway collected the ball around 40 yards (meters) from goal and slipped a pass to the striker, who held off a challenge from Daniela Arias before firing low into the far corner from a tight angle.
England will play Australia in Sydney on Wednesday, when the Stadium Australia crowd will be against the Lionesses once again.
Wiegman, who is from Netherlands, might need a crash course in the rivalry between the nations.
“I just think it’s going to be really big, but now I’ve had a couple of questions about it so it’s probably going to be bigger than I imagine now,” she said.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
More AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup
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