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How Lionesses are tantalisingly close to ending 56 years of hurt in semi

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ENGLAND’S Lionesses aim to get the nation roaring tomorrow.

Striker Fran Kirby said: “Hopefully we are giving the country something to smile about and to be proud of.”

England's Lionesses are tantalisingly close to ending 56 years of hurt in epic semi-final clash with Sweden

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England’s Lionesses are tantalisingly close to ending 56 years of hurt in epic semi-final clash with SwedenCredit: Getty

Their Euros semi-final against Sweden, being screened on BBC One, is set to be watched by TEN MILLION people as support for the Lionesses reaches fever pitch.

It shows how momentum is buiding, as 7.6million watched their thrilling eleventh-hour 2-1 victory over Spain last Wednesday.

With the final tantalisingly in sight, this could be England’s chance to ease the pain of last year’s men’s final defeat to Italy on penalties.

Fans are getting behind the Lionesses in a major way – 2,000 extra tickets for the clash at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane sold out in just ten minutes last week.

Kirby insists England ready to end their semis hoodoo by beating Sweden
'I went a little crazy' says jubilant Wiegman after England reach Euros semis

And we will be sinking 11.2million pints as we cheer them on tomorrow, according to Voucher Codes.co.uk — that’s on top of the 4.7million said to have been guzzled as they powered past Spain.

For the first time in women’s football history, up to 5,000 fans will flock to London’s Trafalgar Square to watch the semi-final on big screens.

The event is free, with lucky fans able to bag tickets on a first-come-first-served basis at london.gov.uk/womenseuro2022.

Announcing the event, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “With Euros fever gripping the country, I am delighted that thousands of Londoners and visitors will be able to come together and cheer the team on to glory.”

As the excitement builds to fever pitch the team, managed by the Dutchwoman Sarina Wiegman, are keeping their feet on the ground.

Some are still smarting after being bumped into fourth place by tomorrow’s opponents in the 2019 World Cup.

But a fresh start comes with a new captain — Arsenal defender Leah Williamson, 25.

She said: “I set myself a path to play for Arsenal, then England.

“Maybe I didn’t know exactly who I was but I knew where I was going.”

Manchester City’s Ellen White, 33 — known for her “goggles” goal celebration — is just one strike behind Wayne Rooney’s 53-goal record for his country and will be looking to equal or beat it tomorrow.

For some of the Lionesses the semi-final will be a time of divided loyalties.

Chelsea’s Millie Bright, 28, will be facing off against her Swedish team-mates, club captain Magdalena Eriksson and potentially keeper Zecira Mušovic.

Leah Williamson and Beth Mead, 27 — the top scorer in the tournament so far with five goals – are up against their Arsenal team-mate Stina Blackstenius.

Success against the Swedes will be no mean feat. Unlike England, they can boast at least one Euros win, even if it was in 1984.

‘FEVER GRIPPING COUNTRY’

But there are plenty of people who believe our girls can go all the way..

Match Of The Day host and ex-Three Lions ace Gary Linker was among a handful of high-profile names who took to social media to praise England’s comeback against Spain, tweeting: “Wonderful victory for @Lionesses. Well played.”

Prince William also congratulated them, writing: “Great performance and comeback @Lionesses, brilliant team effort! On to the #WEURO2020 semis.”

And the public are right behind the girls as Lioness fever has taken hold — which has not gone unnoticed by the team.

Fran Kirby added: “As the tournament has grown people have been going, ‘Well done, girls — we’re supporting you!’

“If we get the through to the final it will be incredible for people to have something to celebrate and enjoy.”

Fingers crossed the team make it to Wembley to face either France or Germany — the latter giving us a prospect as exciting as England’s 1966 World Cup final.

Football’s not coming home quite yet, but it’s tantalisingly close.

Below, we introduce you to the Lionesses, share pictures of them when they were youngsters dreaming of footie stardom and tell you sun facts about them.

Plus The Sun’s Head Of Sport gives his view.

LEAH WILLIAMSON

Arsenal Centre Back

Leah 25, is from Milton Keynes, Bucks She is studying part time to become an accountant

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Leah 25, is from Milton Keynes, Bucks She is studying part time to become an accountantCredit: Rex
Leah was scouted for the top Rushden & Diamonds Centre of Excellence aged just six

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Leah was scouted for the top Rushden & Diamonds Centre of Excellence aged just sixCredit: Instagram

GEORGIA STANWAY

Bayern Munich Midfield

Now 23, at 16 Georgia moved and from her home town of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, to follow her dreams to become a footballer

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Now 23, at 16 Georgia moved and from her home town of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, to follow her dreams to become a footballerCredit: Getty
Georgia's favourite cake is a Cartmel Sticky Toffee pudding

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Georgia’s favourite cake is a Cartmel Sticky Toffee puddingCredit: Instagram

MARY EARPS

Man Utd Goalkeeper

Comeback queen Mary returned to the squad last year after being axed by Phil Neville in 2019

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Comeback queen Mary returned to the squad last year after being axed by Phil Neville in 2019Credit: Getty
Mary, from Nottingham, attempted to learn German through podcasts while playing for VfL Wolfsburg

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Mary, from Nottingham, attempted to learn German through podcasts while playing for VfL Wolfsburg

MILLIE BRIGHT

Chelsea Defender

Millie, 28, is one of the toughest players on the pitch but as a kid growing up in Chesterfield, Derbys, she was obsessed with horse riding

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Millie, 28, is one of the toughest players on the pitch but as a kid growing up in Chesterfield, Derbys, she was obsessed with horse ridingCredit: Getty
Millie dumped horse riding for footie after being scouted by Sheffield United. As a teen, she idolised Olympic hero Jessica Ennis-Hill

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Millie dumped horse riding for footie after being scouted by Sheffield United. As a teen, she idolised Olympic hero Jessica Ennis-HillCredit: Instagram

BETH MEAD

Arsenal Forward

The Euros’ top scorer so far with five goals, Beth was a sports all-rounder as a child in Hinderwell, Yorks

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The Euros’ top scorer so far with five goals, Beth was a sports all-rounder as a child in Hinderwell, YorksCredit: Getty
Beth 27, excelled at netball, cricket, hockey and cross-country before bopting to pursue football. So she could afford her pairs of boots, she worked at a local pub

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Beth 27, excelled at netball, cricket, hockey and cross-country before bopting to pursue football. So she could afford her pairs of boots, she worked at a local pubCredit: Instagram

LUCY BRONZE

Barcelona Fullback

Lucy, 30, from Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, is the team’s most experienced player

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Lucy, 30, from Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, is the team’s most experienced playerCredit: Getty
Lucy is bilingual thanks to her Portuguese dad. She worked part-time in a pizza shop when she signed for Everton.

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Lucy is bilingual thanks to her Portuguese dad. She worked part-time in a pizza shop when she signed for Everton.Credit: Instagram

RACHEL DALY

Houston Dash Forward/Fullback

Rachel, 30, is from Harrogate North Yorks. As a child, some mistook her for a boy due to her short hair when she played for a lads’ team

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Rachel, 30, is from Harrogate North Yorks. As a child, some mistook her for a boy due to her short hair when she played for a lads’ teamCredit: Getty
St John Ambulance dedicated a staff member every year to count how many yellow cards Rachel got as a teen player and warned her when she was getting close to a suspension

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St John Ambulance dedicated a staff member every year to count how many yellow cards Rachel got as a teen player and warned her when she was getting close to a suspensionCredit: Instagram

FRAN KIRBY

Chelsea Forward

Fran is 29 and from Reading. Her mum once wrote in a birthday card that Fran would play in the World Cup. Tragically she died suddenly when Fran was 14.

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Fran is 29 and from Reading. Her mum once wrote in a birthday card that Fran would play in the World Cup. Tragically she died suddenly when Fran was 14.Credit: Getty
Tragically Fran's mum died suddenly when Fran was 14

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Tragically Fran’s mum died suddenly when Fran was 14Credit: Instagram / @frankirby

KEIRA WALSH

Man City Midfield

Seen as one of the world’s most talented midfielders, Keira, 25, from Rochdale, was obsessed with Man City from early on

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Seen as one of the world’s most talented midfielders, Keira, 25, from Rochdale, was obsessed with Man City from early onCredit: Getty
As a kid Keira named her goldfish Shaun Goater and Nicolas Anelka after two former club strikers

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As a kid Keira named her goldfish Shaun Goater and Nicolas Anelka after two former club strikersCredit: Instagram

LAUREN HEMP

Man City Forward

Hailing from North Walsham in Norfolk, 21-year-old Lauren’s early passion was dancing

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Hailing from North Walsham in Norfolk, 21-year-old Lauren’s early passion was dancingCredit: Getty
Lauren only took up football after watching her older sister play in their garden at home

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Lauren only took up football after watching her older sister play in their garden at homeCredit: Twitter

ELLEN WHITE

Man City Forward

Last year Ellen became the women’s top scorer of all time when she slotted home the 55th career goal

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Last year Ellen became the women’s top scorer of all time when she slotted home the 55th career goalCredit: Getty
Now 33, she was eight and being trained by her dad Jon when she was spotted by an Arsenal scout

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Now 33, she was eight and being trained by her dad Jon when she was spotted by an Arsenal scoutCredit: Supplied

My view

By SHAUN CUSTIS Head of Sun Sport

THIS Euros has proved that the women’s game can stand on its own two feet.

Which is why we should stop comparing it with men’s football.

Last week it was being said that if Ellen White nets another two she will go past Wayne Rooney’s England goal-scoring record of 53.

No she won’t, she will extend her own incredible record in women’s football.

After all if Harry Kane, currently on 50 goals, gets to 55 we wouldn’t say he’s beaten Ellen White, so why do it the other way round?

Of course, should The Lionesses win the tournament at Wembley on Sunday, there will be the inevitable digs at the men about the females triumphing where they failed last year.

And they will deserve all the plaudits that come their way.

But for the women’s game to seriously progress in the years to come it needs to develop in its own space.

Hopefully that means this Euros will encourage girls’ football teams in every primary school, rather than the best players being in the boys’ teams.

Once that becomes the norm, then women’s football will really be on the march.



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