England’s day of destiny awaits: Lionesses leave their hotel in Sydney as they head to stadium in team bus for historic World Cup final against Spain with millions of fans Down Under and back home preparing to roar them to victory
- England will take on Spain today in Sydney for the Women’s World Cup Final
- Sarina Wiegman’s team have been trying to impress the boss ahead of the game
England’s Lionesses have left their hotel as the final countdown before their historic World Cup final begins.
The players were seen stepping out of the Intercontinental in Sydney in their light blue tracksuits ahead of this morning’s clash with Spain – England’s first World Cup final since 1966.
Supporters young and old gathered outside the hotel and cheered as their heroes boarded a maroon-coloured bus, branded with ‘The Final’ in gold lettering, to take them to Stadium Australia.
The bus was given a police escort for its journey through the city, which should take around half an hour.
Earlier in the day, Sarina Wiegman’s team were spotted out on a walkabout in the Sydney sun – a tradition many teams enjoy before a big game.
Stars including Alessia Russo, Ella Toone and Lauren James – back amongst the squad following her suspension for a red card against Nigeria – looked relaxed as they strolled around the city.
The players were pictured holding bottles of water and squash to stay hydrated in the hot weather.
Meanwhile, England fans are already out in force around the UK and Australia this morning, getting set to cheer on the team as they bid for glory.
Lauren James – who was sent off in the last game – gets set to make a return for today’s final
Ella Toone, who played a huge role in England’s semi final triumph, will be looking to repeat the feat against Spain later today
Alessia Russo (middle), who scored in the semi final, will be looking to do so again against Spain today
England take their final walkabout in Sydney – before the World Cup final
Sarina Wiegman has urged England to play the game of their lives today – to take their team to an historic first World Cup and sporting immortality
Lauren Hemp (right) leads the Lionesses on a walkabout in Sydney ahead of the World Cup final
Hopes are high among the England team as they prepare to take on Spain later this morning
Ella Toone and Alessia Russo look focused as they stroll around Sydney ahead of today’s final
The Lionesses held a training session yesterday ahead of what could prove to be the biggest game of their lives against Spain.
Yesterday, Sarina Wiegman put the squad through their paces as the players had the opportunity to impress the manager and find a place among the 11 destined to line out today.
England enter the match as favourites to win a first Fifa World Cup since Alf Ramsey’s men beat West Germany at Wembley Stadium in 1966.
This is the first time the English senior women’s team has reached a World Cup final, although many of the squad were part of the UEFA European Women’s Championship winning team in Wembley Stadium in July 2022.
Lioness Alessia Russo has said she cannot wait to kick off England’s World Cup final after years spent rehearsing the winning strike in her childhood garden.
Maidstone-born Russo grew up watching her brothers play for the local boys’ side in East Farleigh, where she was too young to join in but would kick a ball around on the side of the pitch.
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Soon, however, the now 24-year-old was featuring for both the girls’ and boys’ teams at Bearsted FC, which meant both weekend days were often occupied with football, while Russo’s preferred school-night activity remained playing on a strip of grass at the end of her street.
It would also not be wholly inaccurate to say Russo has already lifted a World Cup.
In primary school, the summer Arsenal signing played in an inter-school ‘Mini World Cup’ and walked away with a shock victory – while representing her side’s assigned country of South Korea.
Then there were the garden tournaments where, said Russo, ‘we had to score to stay in’.
She added: ‘As a kid, growing up to think we’re playing in a World Cup in a couple of days is a special feeling. A real ‘pinch me’ moment.’
However, while preparations on the field have been going well, in England there has been controversy as Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, will not be travelling to Sydney this weekend.
The Lionesses knocked out co-hosts Australia 3-1 in the last four, while Spain booked their spot in the showpiece by edging out Sweden 2-1.
Both teams are playing in their first final, with England having lost back-to-back semis in 2015 and 2019 and Spain having only won one World Cup match before this year.
The Lionesses are unbeaten in the tournament having topped Group D, while Spain were runners-up in Group C following a 4-0 loss to Japan.
Spain are only the second team in World Cup history to reach the final having lost a game by four or more goals, after Norway bounced back from an opening 4-0 defeat against China to finish as runners-up in 1991.
Ella Toone played a big part in the semi-final win over Australia and is likely to be a key player again today
Lauren James is back amongst the squad today having been suspended following her red card against Nigeria
England’s Katie Zelem looks relaxed as she strolls around Sunday ahead of this morning’s final
Striker Alessia Russo was seen carrying a drink as she soaked up the Sydney sun ahead of the final
Bethany England and Jess Carter look relaxed on the Lionesses’ walkabout in Sydney
Rachel Daly and captain Millie Bright look focused ahead of this morning’s historic match against Spain
Alessia Russo (right) checks her phone as she walks around Sydney ahead of the World Cup final
Regardless of the result, Europe is guaranteed to end its 16-year World Cup drought, with Germany most recently winning in 2007, while it is 20 years since the last final to feature two European nations (Germany v Sweden in 2003).
As reigning continental champions, England are seeking to emulate the aforementioned German side by completing a historic double, having already matched Sarina Wiegman’s 2019 Netherlands team by reaching the final as Euros winners.
Netherlands’ defeat against the United States in the 2019 final remains Wiegman’s solitary loss across 25 matches at major international tournaments.
That remarkable record has been built on consistency in selection.
Having started with the same 11 in every match of Euro 2022, England have used just 17 players at the World Cup so far, the joint-fewest of any team to reach the knockout stages.
Spain – in contrast – have called on all but one of their 23-strong squad, with only third-choice goalkeeper Enith Salon yet to feature.
Wiegman has also barely used her bench compared to Jorge Vilda – her Spanish counterpart – with England having made 17 substitutions to Spain’s 29.
Statistically, Spain have outperformed England in most departments at this year’s World Cup.
They have scored 17 goals to the Lionesses’ 13, having attempted considerably more shots (143 to 81), passes (4,137 to 3,605), crosses (214 to 129) and ball progressions (181 to 99) than their final opponents.
Wiegman’s side have only occasionally found the form that carried them to the Euro 2022 title – when they scored 22 goals in six matches – and have instead relied on their defensive resilience to progress.
England have conceded only three times from 64 efforts on Mary Earps’ goal, while Spain have proved more susceptible having shipped seven goals from just 36 shots faced.
Both teams will be braced for a tight battle following their most recent meeting in the Euro 2022 quarter-finals.
The Lionesses emerged as 2-1 victors on that occasion, but only after a late fightback.
Esther Gonzalez fired Spain into a deserved lead before Ella Toone equalised in the 84th minute and Georgia Stanway scored an extra-time winner.
Spain dominated for large periods, ending with 56 per cent of possession and firing 17 shots to the Lionesses’ nine.
It remains the only tournament match under Wiegman in which England saw their opponents enjoy the majority of the ball.
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