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Bright says England thrive in big moments as Australia blockbuster looms

Captain Millie Bright says England thrive in big games and will not be intimidated by the Sydney crowd when they face Australia in their Women’s World Cup semi-final on Wednesday.

England have been in this position before, in 2015 and 2019, losing 2-1 on both occasions, with a third-place finish their best World Cup so far.

But coach Sarina Wiegman led them to the European title last year on home soil and Bright said they were well prepared to handle another blockbuster game in front of an expected 75,000 partisan fans at Stadium Australia.

“We are just super-excited to play in front of a really intense full stadium. That’s what we want, that’s what we expect now,” the 29-year-old defender said on Tuesday.

“At these big tournaments, especially a semi-final, we thrive in these moments. We know as an England team there’s always pressure and it’s something we embrace and deal with. 

“I think we’ve experienced moments like this, a tense environment, big stadiums, big crowds, and we do thrive in those moments, it gives us energy,” she added. 

“But ultimately it’s about sticking to the task and executing the game plans very well.”

England are six places above Australia at four in the FIFA rankings and this will be the home side’s first World Cup semi-final.

But contrary to what her opposite number Tony Gustavsson said, Wiegman does not believe her team are favourites, especially with the home support roaring the Matildas on.

“I don’t think they are underdogs,” she said. “They are playing at home, the stadium will be really full.

“We are two teams who I think have grown into the tournament so I think it’s going to be very tight and very, very competitive.

“We approach the game as any other game and we expect a very strong Australia.”

England will again be without the banned Lauren James, who was replaced by Ella Toone in their 2-1 win over Colombia in the quarter-finals.

If Wiegman starts with the same 3-5-2 formation she has been favouring, she is likely to select an unchanged team for a clash pitting a possession-based England against a side that likes to counter-attack.

Australia may be into their first semi-final but they beat England 2-0 when they last met, ending the Lionesses’ 30-match unbeaten streak in a friendly in April in London.

They are likely to have fit-again star striker Sam Kerr available to start after playing 65 minutes against France in their penalty shootout win to reach the semi-finals.

Bright and Kerr are Chelsea teammates and she knows better than anyone the danger the prolific forward poses.

“I mean, everyone knows her pretty well on a worldwide stage, it’s pretty hard not to know Sam and her abilities,” Bright said.

“But there’s other players in the team and we’re prepared to play against Australia the team. We know everyone’s individual traits, strengths and weaknesses.

“But we are fully focused on ourselves.” 

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