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BRING IT ON! — Australia, England primed for titanic duel

MILLIE Bright and England understand the importance of beating Australia in the semifinals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. | PATRICK HAMILTON/agence france-presse

SAM Kerr is tipped to play a key role when Australia battles England in the semifinals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. | PATRICK HAMILTON/agence france-presse

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia and England clash in the Women’s World Cup semifinals on Wednesday in Sydney in the latest installment of a long-standing sporting rivalry between the countries.

Co-host Australia has the nation behind it for the first World Cup semifinal in its history and Stadium Australia will be heaving with an anticipated crowd of about 80,000.

Their heart-stopping penalty shootout win over France in the quarterfinals on Saturday was one of the
most-viewed television sporting events in Australia in almost two decades.

But England is the European champion and will be favored to reach the final of the World Cup for the first time, even if it faces down a hostile crowd.

It was put to England’s Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman that she probably did not fully appreciate the enormity of a match between Australia and England.

“It’s going be really big,” she said with either Spain or Sweden facing the winner.

“But now I’ve had a couple of questions about that so it’s probably going to be bigger than I imagined now.”

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

The storied sporting rivalry between Australia and England has already witnessed several episodes this year.

Australia won both the men’s and women’s Ashes cricket series. Australia’s netball team then rubbed salt in English wounds by beating them in the recent World Cup final.

England football captain Millie Bright understands how much it means to fans of both countries.

“I don’t think you can’t look forward to that game,” she told reporters after England came back from a goal down to defeat Colombia 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

“This is the biggest tournament in the women’s game to date so what a game to be a part of.”

She added: “We’re not just coming here to compete, we’re coming here to get the job done and we’ve shown that in our mentality and character in every single game.”

Teammate Lauren Hemp, who scored the equalizer against Colombia, said: “Australia, bring it on.”

“It’s going to be a packed stadium with so many Australian fans, but we know if we play at our best we are unstoppable.”

England will again be without the banned Lauren James, but they did not miss her in a convincing performance against Colombia in front of a crowd roaring on the South Americans.

England may be ranked six places above the Matildas in the FIFA rankings but the home side are riding on a wave of excitement and acclaim.

They have used the support to lift them in difficult moments and will be banking on more of the same at the imposing Stadium Australia.

They also go into the game after defeating England 2-0 away in an April friendly, ending the Lionesses’ proud 30-match unbeaten run.

Australia also have striker and skipper Sam Kerr back in the frame after a calf injury.

Coach Tony Gustavsson’s biggest decision will be whether to start the prolific Chelsea forward.

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