April 19, 2024

A new chapter is being written in the epic rivalry between England and Australia

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SYDNEY – England’s Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman has taken a crash course on the subject EnglandAustralia sporting rivalry this week. Monday’s front page of the Australian Daily Telegraph would have helped her catch up. The headline read, “Now the Poms!”

The accompanying text detailed the history of this summer’s sporting encounters between the two nations: the clash for The Ashes in men’s and women’s cricket and the recent Netball World Cup final. In all three cases, it was Australia that took home the loot. Now the two countries will meet again on Wednesday in their Women’s World Cup In the semi-finals in Sydney, the local press and public want a clean Australian victory.

The narration can hardly be avoided. This is what happens when these two meet. The men’s Ashes’ 146-year history has fueled the rivalry. In the Monday edition of the Australian newspaper there was an article entitled ‘An old enemy. A new battle. And an admiring nation holds its breath”, which detailed the greatest sporting moments between the two teams, all under the banner of what they are calling a “sporting blood feud”.

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The stadium in which the semi-finals will be played on Wednesday is also particularly popular with English sports fans. In 2003, it was Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal at Australia Stadium that broke the Australians’ hearts in the men’s Rugby World Cup final, leading to the Sydney Morning Herald printing an apology to England the following day after failing in of what they termed “pom-bashing” in the past.”

The newspaper’s editorial said: “We are officially taking the 215-year-old chip(s) off our weary shoulders and encouraging all Australians to be kind to every person of English persuasion they come into contact with for the rest of the week … Well, at least until close of business today.” A quick glance through the annals suggests this was the last time an English sports team of any stripe played at the famous stadium seen around the world in 2000 , when Sydney hosted the Olympic Games. That was until the Lionesses played Colombia there on Saturday.

But away from the media frenzy and the rosy memories of past sporting clashes between the two countries, the Matildas and Lionesses don’t engage in that narrative. On Tuesday Matilda’s coach Tony Gustavsson and goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold faced the press. Looking at the packed press conference on the fourth floor of Stadium Australia, Gustavsson said with a smile: “I think we’re going to need a bigger room.” The game has caught the world’s attention, but the more you read about the rivalry between the two nations speaks, the clearer it becomes that this is only a subplot and not an occasion that is shaped by the rivalry narrative.

“Obviously there’s a massive rivalry between Australia and England throughout sport,” Arnold said. “It won’t be any different tomorrow, but at the same time we have a lot of rivalries in football. It will be just one more game and we will try to focus on our game plan and not get caught up in the rivalry.”

The same sounds came from the English camp. “In cricket and netball I understand why everyone else feels that way, but for us it’s a semi-final, no matter who you play against, it’s a massive game,” said the midfielder Keira Walsh said. “I wouldn’t say this is a big rivalry in football. They’re a great team and it’s a semi-final. Whoever you’re playing against, it’s going to be an intense game. For us.” [the rivalry] is one of the last things we think about.

Records show that the two teams met six times, with England winning three times, drawing once and losing twice. Team GB also met Australia in the quarter-finals of the Tokyo Olympics, with the Matildas beating a team that had nine English players in the starting XI 4-3 in extra time. England and Australia last met in Brentford in April, on a gloomy night of torrential rain when the Matildas produced a masterful counterattack to end England’s 30-game unbeaten streak with a 2-0 win.

At the men’s they have met seven times – England won four times, Australia once and two draws. Mark Schwarzer scored in their only win – a 3-1 Socceroos friendly win in February 2003. “I think the rivalry we have in cricket is definitely not the same as in football, that goes without saying” , said the former Fulham, Chelsea And Leicester City goalie told ESPN. “I think that’s mainly because England have never seen Australia at the men’s level close enough to England to create a rivalry.”

“I remember we played against England in 2003 when Sven-Göran Eriksson was in charge. He had no idea about the rivalry. And I don’t think even the English players were worried at the time. But I remember going back there one more time.” Middlesbrough After that, Gareth Southgate was disappointed not to have been selected but also devastated that we beat her because I just put so much pressure on him.”

This is by far the biggest meeting between the two countries in football. But the teams are familiar; On both sides of the divide there are clubmates and friends. Take the duel between England’s defense and strikers Sam Kerr; Millie Bright, Jess Carter and Kerr are all at Chelsea. “I think everyone knows her pretty well,” Bright said of Kerr. “She has made a name for herself on the world stage. There are other players in the team, I think we are ready to play against Australia as a team.”

The influence and power of the Women’s Super League mean that 14 of the 23 players in the Matildas’ squad have experience in England, 10 of them at WSL clubs and a further two who left recently. “There would be a few [Manchester] City, arsenal, Manchester United“, says the Australian goalkeeper Lydia Williamsfor whom you play club football Brighton & Hove Albion. “We play against them, we know their tendencies, face them week in and week out and watch them. It’s more of a chess game.”

Tuesday’s Sydney Morning Herald headlined ‘Why Kerr is the kryptonite of England’s Superwoman’, describing all of Kerr’s conceded goals Mary Earps. Everywhere you look you’ll find familiarity and an on-field history, but overwhelmingly rooted in national encounters. Arnold knows her opponents so well that she doesn’t have to do as thorough analysis as usual.

Ask the Matildas who they see as rivals and they’ll throw a blanket to some teams. “You see that in a lot of men’s competitions – especially cricket and rugby – but we had so much rivalry with other countries,” says Williams. “We played against Brazil at every other World Cup. You could say that about America, you could say that about so many countries.”

There are also their trans-Tasmanian rivals. “The biggest internal rivalry is probably New ZealandDespite it,” Tameka Yallop said. “It’s always been our way: ‘We can’t lose to them and we won’t lose to them.’ That is still a big issue for us.”

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Walsh hopes England can ‘pacify’ the Australian crowd in the semi-finals

Kiera Walsh speaks ahead of the England Women’s World Cup semi-final against Australia.

But possibly England could be added to that list after Wednesday. “I think in women’s football this could definitely be the beginning of a rivalry,” said Schwarzer. “I think as much as it’s downplayed in front of the media there, there’s a tremendous amount of pride and desperation to win. First and foremost, both want to make it to the World Cup final. Then there’s the added incentive of showing off: they play against each other, they’re on the same teams, so they know each other very well. It’s only natural.”

Shortly after England’s victory over Colombia, Wiegman was asked if she understood the history behind the England-Australia games. “I just think it’s going to be really big, but now I have a few questions about it, so it’s probably going to be bigger than I thought it would be. I’ll talk to my players and staff to find out what that rivalry is then.” She revisited it a few days later, saying, “I asked players and staff. We don’t have that rivalry like that very felt. The main thing is that there’s a lot of rivalry in rugby, cricket and netball.” We just know it’s going to be really competitive. They want to beat us and we want to beat them. That’s the main competition.”

Arnold was told on Wednesday that losing to England at this point in the tournament was “unthinkable” given the sporting histories of the two nations. She said: “To be knocked out by anyone is unthinkable. Yes, there will be a lot of England fans who would certainly love to see us get knocked out by them, but I think there are a lot of Australians who would love it if we knocked.”

At this stage of the tournament, the occasion and importance of the odds and potential heartache that depend on the outcome transcends any sporting history between the two countries. A World Cup semi-final is big enough for that. As Gustavsson said, “This game has a life of its own.”

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