England ready to seize the chance of a lifetime in Women's World Cup final

Captain Bright backs the Lionesses to succeed while Sweden beat co-hosts Australia to third place

England's defender Millie Bright celebrates their semi-final victory over Australia. AFP
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England captain Millie Bright vowed the Lionesses are prepared to play the "game of their lives" when they face Spain in their first Women's World Cup final on Sunday.

England could be crowned world champions for the first time since the men’s team triumphed in 1966, but on the eve of the monumental encounter the skipper’s focus was fully in the present.

And, while no one needs to explain the magnitude of the moment to the 29-year-old defender, she urged her team-mates to approach the most important match in their history no differently from any other.

Bright said: “I think for us we live in the moment, and yes it’s a World Cup final, but for us our mentality is it’s another game.

“I think our preparations don’t change no matter the stage in the tournament and to me that’s the key part of preparation.

“I want our players to prepare in any way they need to, like they normally do, and we’ve got a game plan that we have to go out and execute, but I think everyone knows how big this is.

“I think it’s been players’ dreams for years.

“We know how passionate our nation is back home and how much they want us to win. But for us, there is a process. We have a game plan to execute. We need to play the game of our lives.”

England boss Sarina Wiegman has already become the first manager to lead two sides to the World Cup final after accomplishing the same feat with the Netherlands four years ago.

The enormously popular Dutchwoman also has two European championship trophies with those countries, but so far football’s most coveted title eludes her.

She said: “Playing a final is really special. I know that. I never take anything for granted. Playing in another is really special, but we’re just preparing for the game. Yes, it is a final, but we don’t do anything different than we do normally.

"When you go so far in the tournament people get more and more excited and that’s what you see.”

Meanwhile, Spain coach Jorge Vilda declined to answer questions about the mutiny in his squad earlier this year and said his team were united, having fun and determined to win their country a first Women's World Cup.

La Roja's run to the final against England on Sunday is all the more remarkable given that a dozen of their top players did not travel Down Under after they withdrew from the national squad in a row over team culture.

"Next question, please," was Vilda's terse response to the first attempt by reporters to tease an answer out of him on the issue.

Further attempts to approach the matter were parried by the 42-year-old but he was prepared to share some thoughts about the mood in the camp.

"From the very beginning, the players have been united and they've been working hard," he said.

"I believe that today will be the 65th training session and all of them have gone very well. And that's been reflected by what's happened on the pitch.

"It's been extraordinary. They will have memories for the rest of their lives, they've enjoyed it, they've had fun. We've been together and tomorrow we want to celebrate together."

On Saturday, Sweden picked up their fourth Women's World Cup bronze medal after beating co-hosts Australia 2-0 in the third-place playoff match at Lang Park in Brisbane.

The Swedes were awarded a penalty in the 28th minute after a VAR review showed Australia's Clare Hunt clipped Stina Blackstenius' heels, and Fridolina Rolfo slotted home the resulting spot kick.

Sweden captain Kosovare Asllani doubled their lead just after the hour mark, rifling a sweet strike from the edge of the penalty area beyond goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold following another quick counter-attack.

While disappointed to sign off at the World Cup with another defeat, the Matildas still achieved their best result at the tournament having never previously gone beyond the quarter-final stage.

Updated: August 19, 2023, 11:18 AM