Football heroine Lucy Bronze expects a tough test against Japan in tonight’s World Cup semi-final, but insists England are not scared of the reigning champions.
The 23-year-old from Alnwick has played a starring role in guiding the Lionesses to the tournament’s last four, scoring in the quarter-final victory against hosts Canada and in the last-16 triumph over Norway.
And the determined Manchester City defender believes England can continue their red-hot form and secure a place in the World Cup final, where the USA await.
She said: “At this level it is tough and the Japanese are very technical. Japan are the favourites, we know that, but we’re confident. We know how we can beat them. England are going all the way!”
The match kicks off at midnight BST and is being shown live on BBC One. Bronze, who made her senior debut for her country against Japan in 2013, is relishing the semi-final.
She said: “For us to play one of the great teams at a World Cup is exciting. We’ve come across a hard European team in Norway, a couple of South American teams and we’ve beaten the host nation.
“Japan will be a different challenge again – they’re the reigning champions and that’s a big deal – but we’re looking forward to it and we’re confident.”
The team are the first England side to reach the World Cup semi-finals since 1990 and head coach Mark Sampson has guided the Lionesses to their best ever showing in the tournament’s history; having previously never gone beyond the quarter-finals.
The nation’s exploits have captured the imagination of fans back at home and England players have been inundated with messages of support since their win against Canada in Vancouver, which was watched by 1.6m people on BBC television despite a UK kick-off time of 00:30.
Bronze admits that the response has been overwhelming. She said: “The support back home has been incredible. Every single message, tweet, news article, video, picture, cheer – everything – is appreciated so much by us all! Thank you everyone so much. We are on the up and we are ready for this.”
After England’s victory against Canada, Bronze’s mother Diane booked plane tickets to North America.
Diane, who expressed her pride at her daughter’s heroics, said: “Many loved ones did the same as me and the team was boosted further by the arrival of relatives yesterday. It is fabulous to see Lucy so happy. I think she is still in disbelief over scoring and I don’t think it will sink in for a while. The team really are focussed on the match against Japan.”