England fans dream of Women's World Cup glory

Coach Sarina Wiegman acknowledged England are buoyed by the support from home

England fans watching the Women's World Cup semi-final match between Australia and England in London. EPA
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England fans are daring to dream of World Cup glory on a day that could see the Lionesses, a team known for their smiles and goals, become double champions.

Among the fans are women campaigners known for wearing traditional hijab headscarves, fans of all backgrounds, and girls being inspired by watching their heroines.

In Australia, team coach Sarina Wiegman acknowledged England feel buoyed by the support from home ahead of the World Cup final against Spain in Sydney.

The game kicks off at 11am UK time. Across England, restaurants, bars and fan zones will be packed with people. More will watch at home with friends and family.

When the Lionesses take to the field, hordes of girls will cheer as rabid fans, both men and women, from all backgrounds hope the nation can finally win a World Cup.

England's only World Cup title came in 1966 when the men won the tournament held on home soil.

If last year’s European Women's Championship final is any indication, much of the nation will be watching. More than 23 million people, or about 42 per cent of the population, tuned in to see England beat Germany last year.

Prince William will be watching the final, too. He posted a video on social media apologising for his inability to attend, and wishing the team well.

His daughter, Princess Charlotte, eight, sat beside him with a ball on her lap and chimed in “Good Luck Lionesses!″

King Charles III issued his own rallying cry: “Good luck today Lionesses, and may you roar to victory.”

Once again, the success of 23 young English women and their Dutch coach has been a bit of good news in a nation struggling under the weight of crippling inflation and political crises.

Newspaper front pages were filled with pictures of England players Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo after they helped the team to a 3-1 victory over Australia in Wednesday’s semi-final.

“I feel like the Lionesses give us hope – to all of us, boys and girls, women and men,” said Huda Jawad, a feminist member of a fan group known as the Three Hijabis for their traditional Muslim headscarves.

“[It] is something to look forward to, and to be proud of, and to show that actually football, like society, can be joyous, it can be equal, it can be hopeful, that we can have community and friendship and solidarity.’’

In 2022, the women won their Euros title, so success on Sunday would mean they become double champions.

They won with pinpoint passing and flashy goals that attracted record crowds, burgeoning TV ratings and adoring coverage.

After a second year of success characterised by smiles and hugs and more booming goals, the team is described as almost a model sisterhood.

Jawad, whose group campaigns against discrimination in football, sees the team as an antidote to the stereotype of rowdy English football hooligans, though more needs to be done to increase diversity in a largely white squad.

“The Lionesses give us an opportunity to rewrite that story and say that actually the England team reflects a younger and more hopeful and more international kind of global outlook that wants to embrace diversity, equality and really wants to give people a sense of values …” Jawad said.

“It sets the cultural tone for our country in a way that our politics doesn’t, unfortunately.”

Winning the Women's World Cup would take things to a new level. Some are demanding a public holiday if the Lionesses win.

In Syndey, Wiegman said: “We felt the support, we felt the support here, but also from the other side of the world in the UK. That's something that we dream of.

“I feel privileged. I'm very happy in the place where I am now. There's a lot of support, we have everything we need to perform at the highest level. It is a pleasure to work with these incredible people.”

Young girls are proudly wearing their England shirts.

At St. Mary’s Sunbury-on-Thames, west of London, Vicar Andrew Downes decided to shorten his Sunday service so the congregation could watch a live-stream of the match in the parish hall.

“We will be praying like mad that the referee is a lover of the Lionesses,’’ Father Andrew said. “I mean, Jesus saves. Let’s just hope our goalie saves and we come home with the cup.’’

Updated: August 20, 2023, 3:46 AM