England’s Lionesses say they are ‘semi-final ready’ as they prepare to take on defending champions USA tonight in the Women’s World Cup.
Thousands of fans have been wishing the team good luck with Raheem Sterling leading the wave of support, pleading with them to ‘keep the dream alive.’
The Lionesses have taken to social media over the last 24 hours with a series of motivational posts as they continue their preparations for their bid to make the final of tournament for the first time.
The match is live on BBC1, and the record 7.6million who tuned in for the quarter-final against Norway is expected to be smashed as people watch at home or pack out pubs and bars across the country.
England and Manchester City star Sterling uploaded a short video on social media this morning and told them: ‘I just want to wish the Lionesses a massive good luck. Everyone is behind you.
‘You’ve been doing fantastic so far and you’re doing the country proud. Just keep going, keep believing and keep the dream alive.’
Victory would make them the first England team since 1966 to reach the final of a World Cup, and it would smash their semi final hoodoo having been beaten at the same stage of the 2015 tournament and Euro 2017.
England Goalkeeper Carly Telford posted an image of her in training with the caption: ‘SEMI FINAL READY’ and striker Beth Mead wrote: ‘Today is the day…SEMI FINAL DAY! Let’s go team!’
Forward Fran Kirby posted an image of her ahead of their semi final in 2015 and her today. She wrote: ‘2015 semi-final ready VS 2019 semi-final ready’
Goalkeeper Carly Telford posted an image of her in training with the caption: ‘SEMI FINAL READY’
Strike Beth Mead wrote: ‘Today is the day…SEMI FINAL DAY! Let’s go team!’
Forward Fran Kirby posted an image of her ahead of their semi final in 2015 and her today. She wrote: ‘2015 semi-final ready VS 2019 semi-final ready’
Raheem Sterling has wished England good luck ahead of their Women’s World Cup semi-final in a short video on social media
Midfielder Lucy Staniforth and Karen Carney have both posted motivational messages on social media ahead of tonight’s game
Midfielder Jill Scott uploaded an image of her as a youngster, wit the words: ‘Who’s excited for the semi final tomorrow! Little Jill is’ and striker Nikita Paris wrote in a social media post yesterday: ‘Massive game tomorrow! Ready to put everything on the line.’
Striker Toni Duggan posted an image of her with her mother, with the caption: ‘There she is.. My little diamond of a Mum..being my best fan like always.’
Ex England goalkeeper Peter Shilton was one of the many getting behind the team on social media, and wrote: ‘Come on Lionesses you can do this! Good luck for tonight.’
Ray Clemence, former Liverpool and England goalkeeper wrote: ‘Good luck to the Lionesses today’ and Olympic gold medal winning hockey player Samantha Quek said: ‘Let’s go Lionesses!’
Lionesses Nikita Parris and Jill Scott took to social media ahead of tonight’s match. Jill uploaded an image of her as a youngster, withe words: ‘Who’s excited for the semi final tomorrow! Little Jill is’
Goalkeeper Mary Earps posted this image of her out and about in Lyon with Danish footbaaller Pernille Harder
This image shows Jill Scott with the caption: ‘A lioness and her cubs’
Striker Nikita Paris wrote in a social media post yesterday: ‘Massive game tomorrow! Ready to put everything on the line’
Striker Toni Duggan posted an image of her with her mother, with the caption: ‘There she is.. My little diamond of a Mum..being my best fan like always
Former England cricket capatin Michael Vaughan said: ‘The school run done with my 9 yr old daughter and 13 yr old lad talking all the way to school about whether England can beat the USA tonight…This World Cup has grabbed a brand new aqudience … Now WIN it @Lionesses.’
Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt tweeted: ‘Proudly flying the St George’s cross above @foreignoffice today in support of our semi-final heroines – behind you all the way.
‘We’ll put our friendly relations with the US on hold for 90 minutes.’
Fan Marie O’Brien tweeted today: ‘Massive shout out to the Lionesses. Good luck today ladies the whole country is behind you, so proud to be female and English. Now don’t let the yanks turn up at the end and steal all the glory’.
Patricia Dooley wrote: ‘Putting beer in the fridge so it’s ice cold ready for tonight’s match. Nerves are kicking in already… come on you Lionesses!’.
USA fans are already threatening to outnumber England supporters at this evening’s game, which kicks off at 8pm.
Ticket sales suggested that the majority inside the Groupama Stadium for the evening kick-off would be waving the Star Spangled Banner.
England’s Lionesses celebrate after winning the quarter-final against Norway and now face favourites USA tonight in the biggest game for years
A host of former footballers and sports stars have wished the team good luck
A national police source in Paris said: ‘There certainly seems to be a lot more American supporters around than English ones
‘They are very vocal and enthusiastic, but also extremely well behaved. Very few of them drink alcohol. They are certainly not the kind of football supporters we are used to!’
In extraordinary scenes yesterday England’s security staff threw out a suspected spy from their training ground in Lyon – just 24 hours after two members of the USA’s backroom staff were discovered in England’s hotel.
England’s manager Phil Neville has declared that his players cannot contemplate anything other than victory tonight.
But his team will have to beat the favourites, led by star winger Megan Rapinoe, who has scored five goals while also urging her USA teammates to ‘think hard’ about associating themselves with Donald Trump if they win and are invited to the White House.
England’s security staff threw out a suspected spy from their training ground in Lyon yesterday
Harper Beckham waves alongside her father David in Le Havre with the stadium in Lyon set to be packed for tonight’s 8pm kick-off
Back home, England fans celebrate after watching the quarter-final at Glastonbury
Social media is full of excited – and nervous – football fans willing on England to beat the US. BBC host Dan Walker and Tory MP Mims Davies also showed their support
The Lionesses will be in the final of the competition for the first time if they can get past the defending champions at Lyon’s Groupama Stadium.
As winger Nikita Parris insisted it was ridiculous to suggest the Americans, reigning world champions, might be tougher than England and full back Lucy Bronze said Neville’s players were more ‘destined’ to reach a final than ever, the manager said he senses a breakthrough moment. ‘We’re at that moment now where it’s so close and we’ve spoken long and hard about this,’ Neville said.
‘I want my players to realise that we are so close and we have to deliver. We have to.
‘There is no upside to defeat. Losing in a semi-final would mean nothing to me. Every single meeting, every single training session, every five-a-side we’ve had, we’ve spoken about winning. Winning is the most important thing. It’s about winning — that’s the mentality we’ve brought in.’
Tension is already building ahead of tonight’s semi-final match with millions set to watch the game
The 42-year-old said that his career at Manchester United as a player and coach had taught him how one trophy can build a belief that brings many more.
‘I won the league (against) Middlesbrough and I wore my medal for the next two or three days,’ he said, recalling Sir Alex Ferguson’s team’s 3-0 win in May 1996 which secured them the title.
‘I thought, “I want this again and the best want it again and again”.’
Neville has still not heard from his old mentor Ferguson, who — as a Scot — would be unlikely to offer any support for an England team, even in circumstances such as these.
Meanwhile, US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher rejected Neville’s suggestion on Sunday that her team organisers had breached etiquette by scouting the England team’s hotel in Lyon as a possible World Cup final base, even while the Lionesses were staying in the resort.
‘That has nothing to do with the game,’ said Naeher. ‘Our managers and operations have scouted out every hotel we’ve ever stayed in to make sure we’ve got plan A, plan B, plan C.’
The FA said it had ‘absolutely no concerns’ about a passer-by who was initially alleged to have been spying on training.
England, who will play in white tonight, have no injury problems, according to Neville.
The manager’s selection puzzles are whether to bring the more muscular Jade Moore into midfield in place of Keira Walsh, and choosing between Beth Mead and Toni Duggan.
US star winger Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring against France in the quarter final
The USA are the favourites to win the World Cup and are the reigning champions
On the USA side all eyes will be on Megan Rapinoe.
The 33-year-old has become the face of this FIFA Women’s World Cup, a lightning rod for dissent and protest, a hate figure and an inspiration.
And, tonight in Lyon, she is let loose on England. If Phil Neville isn’t naive enough to have his team focus almost entirely on the threat emanating from the USA’s left flank, he’ll understand the extra interest in one particular opposition player.
Since that video of Rapinoe rejecting the idea of an invitation to the ‘xxxx-ing White House’ went viral, the veteran has been thrust forcibly into the spotlight. Well within her comfort zone, as it turns out.
Ben Miller, head of partnerships at the Common Goal foundation that asks footballers to donate one per cent of their earnings to worthy projects around the world, is glowing in his praise of the first woman to sign up.
‘When I look for comparisons in history, I think of people like Jesse Owens and Muhammad Ali, who used their platform to drive social causes forward,’ Miller told Sportsmail.
‘Megan is in that bracket. And, having met and worked with her, I can tell you she’s just so sweet, so funny, so down to earth.
‘She will always choose to do what she believes is the right thing. She is an athlete-activist.
‘What first made me aware of her was something she did after winning the World Cup four years ago.
‘She was in a really strong position to monetise the situation and, given the disparity between earnings in men’s and the women’s game, nobody would have blamed her for cashing in.
‘But she chose to do something more important. She used her success to encourage girls and boys who were thinking about their sexuality, worried about being different, thinking they were the only one like them in the world.
‘She delivered a message to say that being different is fine, in fact it’s the most important thing because it makes us unique.’
Trump didn’t appreciate Rapinoe expressing her individual preference for doing almost anything other than joining this particular POTUS for a photo shoot. The leader of the free world responded, naturally, with a typically petulant tweet.
Some team-mates have publicly backed Rapinoe — who has accepted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s invitation to visit the House of Representatives — in her opposition to Trump.
Others have disagreed with her on points of order, while defending her right to speak out.
Mr President’s cheerleaders, of course, have rallied behind their man, openly attacking Rapinoe and questioning whether she was even that important to the national team.
The Lionesses’ pride! The plus-ones who’ll be cheering on England as they kick off their Women’s World Cup campaign in France (including a footballer playing for another team!)
From a childhood sweetheart to a fellow sports stars, these are the proud plus-ones who will be cheering on England as they kick off their Women’s World Cup campaign this weekend.
A pack of girlfriends, boyfriends and husbands – as well as parents, siblings and friends – is expected to descend on Nice as the Lionesses prepare take on Scotland in their opening match on Sunday night.
Among them is expected to be Stephen Darby, the proud husband of captain Steph Houghton, who announced today he will be jetting out despite being diagnosed with motor neuron disease just months ago.
Sheffield United defender Jack O’Connell, 25, who has been in a relationship with Manchester United star Alex Greenwood, 25, for several years, could also be in attendance now that his own football season has ended.
Meanwhile Kristie Mewis, 28, the American girlfriend of defender Rachel Daly, 27, hinted that she was starting the long journey from Houston, where they play for the club.
And Jodie Taylor, 33, won’t need to look far to find her girlfriend, for Emma Kete, 31, is on hand to represent her home country of New Zealand in the tournament.
Read on to learn a little more about the England WAGs – and HABs…
RACHEL DALY, 27
Teammates: Rachel Daly, right, and Kristie Mewis both play for American club Houston Dash
Biggest fan: The photogenic pair often share snaps of each other online, including the one above shared by Kristie. The proud girlfriend hinted she is on her way to France from the US
Style savvy: Kristie, pictured, keeps her followers updated with her fashion forward outfits
Originally from North Yorkshire, Daly currently plays club football for Houston Dash in Texas.
It was there she met girlfriend Kristie Mewis, 28, who is believed to be en route from the US to France to support the Lionesses.
The photogenic pair often share sweet snaps on Instagram, where they boast a combined following of 176,800.
Speaking about her footballing career, Daly said: ‘My coach, Mr Sweetman, at Rossett High School in Harrogate had a huge influence on my career. His passion for the game and development of girls’ football was and still is amazing.’
MILLIE BRIGHT, 25
Appreciated: Millie Bright shared this snap of beau Jordan Bird thanking him for his support
Night out: Millie and Jordan, left, on a night out with England goalkeeper Carly Telford, second from right, and her girlfriend, England cricketer Georgia Elwiss
Yorkshire-born Millie Bright overcame childhood illness to become one of the country’s best footballers. In 2015 the defender left the Dales to sign with Chelsea.
The 25-year-old is dating Jordan Bird, who works as a First Assistant on the Pam Barton Course Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club.
Every inch the proud boyfriend, Bird frequently posts about his football star girlfriend on his Twitter, recently retweeting a promotional video with the caption: ‘Love it. keep smashing it mushy.’
Bright announced she would be staying off social media for the duration of the World Cup.
LUCY STANIFORTH, 26
In France: Girlfriend Laura Wilson, right, has arrived in France to support England star Lucy
Jet set: The couple have travelled around the world together, pictured in a snap in Ibiza
Biggest fans: Lucy, right, will also be supported by her parents as she plays for England
Described by former England manager Mark Sampson as ‘one of the best young players in Europe’, Staniforth is an attacking midfielder for Birmingham City and England.
She is in a relationship with Laura Wilson, who has jetted out to France to support her girlfriend from the stands.
This World Cup holds special significance for Staniforth and her family as she is playing in memory of her brother Thomas Staniforth, a Sheffied Wednesday footballer who died on a night out in 2001, aged 20.
Staniforth wears the number 37 on her shirt, just like her late brother. Her proud parents are known for travelling the world to watch their daughter play.
STEPH HOUGHTON, 31
Leader: Possibly the Lionesses’ most high profile player, Houghton captains both Manchester City and the England teams. She is supported by proud husband Stephen Darby, pictured
Devoted: Darby is expected to make the journey to France to support his wife as she leads her team in their Wold Cup campaign, despite his motor neuron disease diagnosis
Stunning: The couple married in a beautiful ceremony in June last year, pictured. Darby was given his diagnosis shortly afterwards
Possibly the Lionesses’ most high profile player, Houghton captains both Manchester City and the England teams and has received an MBE for her services to football.
She married husband Stephen Darby, a former footballer, in a beautiful ceremony in June last year.
However shortly afterwards the couple were dealt a devastating blow when Darby was diagnosed with motor neuron disease.
Despite his health issues, Darby is expected to make the journey to France to support his wife as she leads her team in their Wold Cup campaign.
Fans will be eagerly waiting to see the supportive husband in the stands as England takes on Scotland in Nice on Sunday evening.
JODIE TAYLOR, 33
Friendly competition: Jodie Taylor, left, plays for England while Emma Kete, right, will represent her home country of New Zealand at the Women’s World Cup
Jet-setters: The couple, pictured in an Instagram snap, both have careers spanning the globe
Jet set Jodie Taylor has travelled around the world with her career, notching up appearances for clubs in Sweden, Australia and the US.
She has recently returned to Seattle’s Reign FC following a season on loan to Melbourne City.
For someone with such an international background, it is of little surprise she has found love with someone just as well travelled.
Girlfriend Emma Kete, 31, is a New Zealand footballer who will also be representing her country in France – although fortunately they are not in the same group.
GEORGIA STANWAY, 20
Blossoming romance: Georgia Stanway, 20, appeared to confirm a relationship with Rugby League player Olly Ashall-Bott, 21, when she shared this recent snap on Instagram
The baby of the squad, Stanway has already proved she is a force to be reckoned with as a forward for Manchester City.
She appeared to confirm a blossoming relationship with Rugby League player Olly Ashall-Bott, 21, when she shared this recent snap on Instagram.
While the caption gave little away, Stanway’s friends and followers were quick to comment on the ‘cute’ couple, with fellow footballer Taylor Hinds writing: ‘FINALLYYYYYYYY…cuteeee.’ Another wrote: ‘Awwwww youse cuties.’
Ashall-Bott, who plays for the Widnes Vikings, shared a matching photo, although he told one follower he is simply a fan of Stanway’s.
Stanway has impressed since making her Manchester City debut at 16.
This year she scored the second goal as Manchester City defeated West Ham 3-0 in the 2019 SSE Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley.
The talented youngster was awarded the 2019 PFA Young Player of the Year award.
ALEX GREENWOOD, 25
Double delight: Alex Greenwood, right, is dating Sheffield United defender Jack O’Connell, 25. Both players celebrated their teams being promoted this season
Alex Greenwood is from Liverpool but plays at Manchester United. Writing in The Times, teammate Jordan Nobbs said Greenwood is ‘very big into her heels, her dresses and her eyelashes’.
She is dating Sheffield United defender Jack O’Connell, 25, who she met while at school. The couple have been together for several years but keep a relatively low profile on social media.
Both their teams were promoted this season, giving the couple twice as much reason to celebrate.
Are England being spied on again? Security staff remove onlooker in the bushes watching Lionesses prepare for USA semi-final just one day after hotel row at Women’s World Cup
Security staff at England’s training base in France had to remove one onlooker who appeared to be spying on their training session ahead of their Women’s World Cup semi-final against the United States.
Phil Neville’s squad were going through their training routine as normal on Monday morning when staff noticed something unusual in the hillside overlooking their practice pitches.
Security staff were instantly sent to see what was happening and they came across an individual watching the session at their Terrain d’Honneur Lyon base from the bushes.
Security staff at England’s training base in France had to remove one onlooker on Monday
An individual wearing a blue jacket and white trousers was captured on film in the bushes
There are fears the individual was watching them train before their World Cup semi-final
Security staff raced over to the individual to see what the nature of their business was
They seemed to be unable to get to the intruder as a fence separated them from reaching him
In footage posted on Twitter by ITV’s Steve Scott, two members of Neville’s staff can be looking up at the hill.
It then cuts to an individual wearing white trousers and a blue coat stood among the greenery that overlooks the pitches.
A security official rushes off towards the area in which the person is standing in but can’t appear to reach them because of a fence.
It comes just a day after the US delegation sent two members of staff to scout the five-star Fourviere Hotel in Lyon, where England are currently housed, as a possible place to stay before the World Cup final.
Neville was clearly frustrated about the incident and even suggested USA coach Jill Ellis should launch an investigation. The Americans visited incognito while England were out at training.
The Lionesses booked themselves in for a short stay at the hotel in heart of Lyon ahead of their semi-final with the US on Tuesday evening.
The hotel, which was built in 1854, is located 15 miles away from the Lyon Olympic Stadium where the last-four encounter will be played with it being deemed the perfect place to set up camp for Steph Houghton and Co.
It comes after England’s hotel in the centre of Lyon was scouted by two members of US staff
Formerly an old convent, the hotel was scouted as a possibility for the US if they make the final
The five-star hotel includes a heated pool which is located in scenic surroundings
There are 75 air-conditioned modern rooms spread over three levels at the hotel
Alyssa Naeher denied claims the USA had breached etiquette by scouting out England’s hotel
While the England squad continue to get comfortable in their latest surroundings, it was revealed on Sunday night that the two American officials, including the operations manager, were given a tour of the hotel.
Neville said on Sunday that it was breach of ‘etiquette’ and that he would expect his opposite number Jill Ellis to instigate an investigation.
‘The only thing I would say is that it’s not something I would want my team ops person to do,’ said Neville, who declared he had no injury worries ahead of the semi-final.
‘I’m happy with my team hotel and I hope they are enjoying their hotel. It’s not something we would have done, sending someone around to (the opponents) hotel and I’m sure they will be dealing with it.
‘It doesn’t give them an unfair advantage. It has no bearing on the game. I thought it was quite funny. I was thinking “What are they are doing”. But it’s not etiquette is it? It’s not something my team would be doing.’
However, US keeper Alyssa Naeher rejected the manager’s claims on Monday. She said: ‘I just heard about that five minutes ago before coming in here. That has nothing to do with the game.
‘Our managers and operations have scouted out every hotel we’ve ever stayed in or every potential hotel we stay in, to make sure we’ve got plan A, plan B, plan C. And that’s nothing to do with the game. It’s just our operations checking all the boxes and preparing for whatever path we take.’