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England v USA ultimate guide: Lionesses aim for first World Cup final

England will reach the Women’s World Cup final for the time ever if they manage to beat the current holders – USA – tonight.

The Lionesses have now reached two consecutive semi-finals at the tournament, but will be looking to go one better than 2015 and seal their spot in Sunday’s final in France.

Manager Phil Neville’s team defeated Norway 3-0 in their quarter-final last week.

And victory in Lyon tonight would mean they will become the first England team to reach a major international final since 1966.

But the Lionesses face an uphill task to reach the last two as they play a side that has won their last 10 World Cup games.

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Jill Ellis and Phil Neville
Image: USA manager Jill Ellis and her England counterpart Phil Neville

The USA, who are ranked number one in the world, have scored 22 goals scored so far in the current tournament – although 13 of these came against Thailand in their opening game.

The Americans, coached by Jill Ellis, won 2-1 against hosts France in their quarter-final. The winner of tonight’s game, which kicks off at 8pm UK time, is set to play either the Netherlands or Sweden in the Lyon final.

The losers of both ties will play in Saturday’s third-place play-off in Nice.

Ellen White
Image: Ellen White is a leading contender for the Golden Boot award

Race for the Golden Boot

Heading into the semi-final, it is a three-way tie for the Golden Boot. Americans Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and England forward Ellen White have all scored five times in France. They are all likely to play tonight.

Neville not worried about USA

Phil Neville is not concerned about the threat the USA may pose ahead of the semi-final.

He said: “The US are the best team in the world, their record is phenomenal, their coach’s record is phenomenal, but I never worry about anything or the opposition.”

He added: “We concentrate a lot on what we can do and how we can try to win a game. Our strengths, our values and our style of play and the way we want to play is the most important thing.

“We want to play a certain style in a World Cup semi-final – with the freedom and expression we have had the past five games.”

(L-R) Millie Bright, Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze of England
Image: (L-R) Millie Bright, Nikita Parris and Lucy Bronze of England

The key battle: Bronze vs Rapinoe

The stars of their respective quarter-finals, England defender Lucy Bronze and USA co-captain and winger Megan Rapinoe will go head-to-head in Lyon as Bronze looks to keep Rapinoe from adding to her five goals already in the tournament.

It was Rapinoe who scored all four USA goals in their wins over Spain and France.

Lucy Bronze of England and Megan Rapinoe of USA
Image: Lucy Bronze of England and Megan Rapinoe of USA will be a key battle

But she will arguably face a different prospect in Bronze, who Neville has tipped for the Ballon d’Or.

The defender was key to England’s progression in the quarter-finals and topped her performance off with a sensational goal.

Ellis’ England connection

USA manager Jill Ellis was born in Portsmouth and lived in England until the age of 15 before moving to Virginia.

Ellis, who identifies her nationality as American, will not let her British connections play a part.

Jill Ellis
Image: Ellis, who identifies her nationality as American, will not let her British connections play a part

“I’m an American except when I’m in the supermarket or at the candy store,” she told a press conference.

“I grew up playing with boys in the schoolyard and my brother in the backyard. I had zero opportunity to play over here [in Europe] so that is what America gave me, an environment to put on my first team uniform in terms of soccer. I always loved sport, so it gave me a vehicle to experience it even more.

“I have a lot of fond memories of my life in England. I was a Pompey lass – I can’t say I supported Pompey all the time. I have been a Man United lass since I was seven. But so many fond memories, great people, I spent many a summer in Edinburgh so my whole British culture growing up is still with me for sure.”

Will ‘spy gate’ have an effect?

There was drama ahead of tonight’s big game, with members of the USA’s backroom staff caught in the private sections of England’s team hotel over the weekend.

It is reported that none of the delegates were wearing official identification as they looked to scout out the Fourviere Hotel for the USA team, who could move there ahead of the final should they beat England.

The Lionesses were training away from the hotel and no sensitive information was left lying around, with the incident appearing to be a psychological play rather than tactical.

Speaking about the incident, Neville said: “It’s not a concern, but it’s not something I would want my team’s operations doing.”

The last meeting: SheBelieves draw

Tuesday’s semi-final will be the second time England and the USA have played each other this year, having met in March during the SheBelieves Cup.

England won SheBelieves Cup
Image: England won the SheBelieves Cup in March, as the USA finished runners-up

It was a 2-2 draw in Nashville, Tennessee, with Rapinoe’s 33rd-minute opener quickly cancelled out by England captain Steph Houghton.

Nikita Parris then put England ahead seven minutes after the break, but Tobin Heath equalised 15 minutes later to see the points shared.

England went on to lift the trophy after winning their other two games, while the USA lost their title as they finished as runners-up.

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