Alessia Russo’s second-half goal saw England beat Colombia 2-1 in the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals, setting up a semi-final showdown with Australia.
Many wondered how a mentally and physically draining last-16 win against Nigeria would affect the Lionesses, but it was a much-improved performance in Sydney.
However, England did go behind in the 44th minute when Leicy Santos’ stunning effort saw Mary Earps beaten for only the second time in the tournament.
But a calamitous error from Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez allowed Lauren Hemp to poke home the equaliser with the last kick of the half.
It was another individual error at the back that allowed Russo through to score England’s winner in the 63rd minute, netting her second goal of the tournament.
England clung on to their lead as Colombia pressed for their own equaliser in the final half-hour, but managed to see the game out and book a semi-final meeting with co-hosts Australia on Wednesday – the only team to have beaten the Lionesses under Sarina Wiegman.
The England manager told ITV Sport after the game: “Again it was a very tough challenge, but we didn’t expect anything else. We showed resilience and in the first half, we played pretty good.
“We were too sloppy on the ball and they were really dangerous on the counter-attacks, so we conceded that goal, but we came back before half-time. I actually thought the goalkeeper already had the ball, then I saw it was in the goal.
“[In the] second half we pushed, we found a way to keep that score and win the final duels. I just hoped we would have finished the game off sooner because we could have.”
How England saw off Colombia
Colombia began well but Catalina Usme, who scored their winner against Jamaica in the last 16, shot went straight at Earps. At the other end, Colombia put their bodies on the line to block efforts from Russo and Hemp. In fact, they blocked so ferociously, Carolina Arias was eventually taken off with an injury.
Both sides continued to trade blows, and Rachel Daly had two quick efforts. The first saw a header go straight at Perez, before a curling effort from just outside the area whistled just wide.
Team news headlines
- England made one change from the last-16 game against Nigeria, with the suspended Lauren James replaced by Ella Toone.
- Colombia also made one change, with Manuela Vanegas coming back into the XI after suspension for Ana Maria Guzman.
Colombia went ahead in the 44th minute in a moment of magic from the impressive Santos. She collected the ball near the top-right corner of the area, squaring up to Daly, before sweeping a fine strike into the far corner with a leaping Earps unable to keep it out.
But the Lionesses responded well and equalised with the final kick of the half. Perez raced out to meet Russo’s initial strike, but spilled her collection. As she scrambled to keep the ball out, Russo’s touch sent the ball underneath the goalkeeper, allowing Hemp to round Perez and slot into an open net.
Colombia fired a warning shot within seconds of the restart – Mayra Ramirez lashing an effort into the side of the net – but the Lionesses again capitalised on another Colombian error to go ahead.
Russo’s marker failed to deal with a through ball from Georgia Stanway. The Arsenal forward pulled away, taking the ball wide before lashing home into the bottom corner.
But for the remaining half an hour, Colombia piled on the pressure. Their best chance came in the 71st minute when Earps was forced into an acrobatic, one-handed save to deny Lorena Bedoya’s strike from distance.
Manuela Vanegas, Ramirez and Caicedo all blazed over in eight minutes of added time as Colombia harried for a leveller, but England held on to reach a third successive World Cup semi-final.
England player ratings
England: Earps (7), Bronze (6), Bright (7), Greenwood (7), Carter (7), Daly (6), Walsh (6), Stanway (7), Toone (6), Hemp (7), Russo (7).
Subs used: Kelly (7), England (n/a).
Hemp praises connection with Russo
England goalscorer Lauren Hemp to ITV Sport:
“What an amazing feeling. I’m absolutely knackered right now – most of the team are, to be honest. We put in a great performance and I think you saw the resilience of the squad just there. I’m so proud of this team.
“I thought we controlled most of the game. They had a few counter-attacks and we knew what they were going to bring and I felt like we dealt with it quite well. Whenever we got the ball, we felt like we were going to create something. The team were really special [on Saturday] – long may that continue.
“We’ve changed formation a bit in recent games and, as a group, I feel like we’re really adaptable. We’ve got so much depth in the squad that anyone can come on and change the game and make a difference.
“I’m really enjoying it [her new role]. I feel really free when I’m on the pitch. I love playing on the wing, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I can go down the left or right whenever I want and the connection I’ve got with Alessia is really strong at the moment.
“The first one was a bit scrappy and I didn’t expect the ball to come into my path, but I feel like the connection we’ve got is so strong. Alessia can score like she did and it’s unbelievable to play with.
“I feel like I’m still a little way off. I’m always striving to be the best version of myself, but I feel like, as a group, we’re in a strong place at the moment, feeling confident. Bring on Australia in a few days’ time.
“This is where I want to be. I want to play on the world’s biggest stages and we’re here right now in the semi-finals. I’m over the moon and I can’t wait.
“The atmosphere here was incredible and it’s going to be incredible again, but I feel like sometimes that’s when you thrive. We thrived [on Saturday], so hopefully we’ll do the same in a few days’ time.”
Bright: I love England’s mentality
England captain Millie Bright to Sky Sports News:
“It’s amazing, we’re through to the semis, a position we wanted to be in. I thought we had a great game. We conceded, but it’s a World Cup and you’re going to concede chances.
“But for us, we executed when we needed to, we were clinical and had the mentality to come from 1-0 down. It was a much better performance. I think we showed the style of football we want to play and what we’re capable of.
“I love the mentality, I’ll mention it every single game because I know what this team is made of both mentally and physically, and also technically. Tonight, we had a mixture of everything.
“We’ve worked really hard to be in this position and mentality is a big part of it. That’s where you start in football and against any opponent you come up against.
“For us, we don’t underestimate, we don’t take anything for granted and we work our socks off every single week.”
Russo: We’re keeping the dream alive
England goalscorer Alessia Russo to ITV Sport:
“I’m buzzing. We’re keeping the dream alive. Colombia are a top, top team and I think they have shown more than that during this World Cup. It was a really tough test, but we’re just really happy to be in the semis.
“We did [dig deep], absolutely. We’ve had to dig deep from the first game. They have so many talented players that can cause you trouble within a second, but our backline were brilliant tonight. We kept it locked down and won.
“There’s lot to work on and I think what makes this team great is that we’re always trying to find ways to improve, even after we get through to the semis. Lots to work on, so we’ll get recovered and rested and go again.
“It’s exciting – what more do you want? You want to play against the best teams and Australia are the hosts. Colombia had a great fanbase out here [on Saturday], so we’ve had a little taste, but I’m so excited.
“You can always dare to dream, but we’ll be working hard.”
Abadia: We are not satisfied, but we have peace of mind
Colombia head coach Nelson Abadia:
“We made errors that you can’t make. We’re not satisfied, but we have peace of mind because we played a very good World Cup and we demonstrated the football in Colombia and we proved how football in Colombia has progressed over time.
“Maybe today there was a lack of finishing. The mistakes we made are because we are human and not technical or tactical errors.
“We have many important competitions coming up… we will have other challenges, other circumstances and we need to come back to a World Cup because this is the best that you can get in football.”
England will play Australia in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup. The game will be played on Wednesday August 16 with kick-off at 11am.
What is the schedule?
Spain will play Sweden in the first semi-final will then be played on August 15 in Auckland, with Australia facing England on August 16 at the Accor Stadium in Sydney, which will then host the final on August 20.
A third-place play-off will be played the day before the final on August 19 in Brisbane.