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ENEMY TERRITORY | England battles co-host Australia in FIFA World Cup semis

TOPSHOT - England's forward #23 Alessia Russo celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup quarter-final football match between Colombia and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney on August 12, 2023. (Photo by STEVE CHRISTO / AFP)

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP)–England says it is relishing playing in front of what promises to be a partisan 80,000 home crowd in its Women’s World Cup semifinal against co-host Australia on Wednesday.

The European champion had a taste of what awaits when it fought back from a goal down to beat Colombia 2-1 on Saturday during what felt like a home game for the well-supported South Americans.

The Lionesses will be back at the imposing Stadium Australia in Sydney on Wednesday with both teams attempting to win the World Cup for the first time.

Alessia Russo scored the winner in the 63rd minute against a physical Colombia and the Arsenal forward said she had enjoyed playing in front of a hostile crowd.

“That’s what the World Cup is all about — seeing top teams on the biggest stage with their fans behind them,” she said.

“We’ve had a taste of that tonight because their fans were incredible and (Australia) is another test, but one that is exciting, not only to face the hosts but to be in a semifinal.

“So yes, keeping the dream alive.”

England’s Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman praised her side’s resilience, having fallen behind in the 44th minute, before Lauren Hemp’s equalizer in first-half injury time and Russo’s winner.

They will need plenty of that character if they are to overcome an Australia side who prevailed 7-6 on penalties over France and have the weight of a nation behind them.

“That’s huge, but this was big too. It felt like an away game, but we just concentrated,” Wiegman said.

“It’s just really fantastic that we can be here and be part of it.

“We’re through to the semi-finals and we are going to stay till the end of the tournament.”

Wiegman was asked by one reporter whether she fully appreciated the long-standing sporting rivalry between her adopted country and Australia.

“I just think it’s going to be really big but I’ve now had a couple of questions about it so it’s probably going to be bigger than I imagine now,” said Wiegman, who took the Netherlands to the 2019 final, where they lost 2-0 to the United States.

“I’ll talk to my players and staff and see what that rivalry is then.”

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