Weblog: The football punter

Lionesses can push USA in semi-final clash

TV: BBC1, 8pm Tuesday

Phil Neville has called on England to "build a legacy" going into their World Cup semi-final with three-time winners the United States and the Lionesses have the talent to be a roaring success in Lyon.

Bookmakers anticipate that more bets will be placed on the last-four encounter than any women's match in history and the sides look set to put on a spectacle.

The Stars & Stripes were cut to lift the trophy after dispatching hosts and second favourites France 2-1 in the quarter-finals and the team now closest to them in the outright market are standing between them and a final berth. Outsiders Sweden and Holland will contest Wednesday's second semi-final.

England, 7-2 shots for a maiden World Cup title, have won all five of their matches at the tournament, seemingly improving with every performance.

Neville has made their intentions clear, saying: "We want to inspire and build a legacy. We're now at the point where people are jumping on board. We want to come home with that World Cup."

England have not conceded since their cagey opener with Scotland and they blew away an accomplished Norway outfit 3-0 last time out.

Much has been made of their versatile front line but defenders Steph Houghton and Millie Bright shook off an injury and illness respectively to put in spirited displays in the quarter-final.

That warrior-like mentality has been central to England's campaign and they are showing defensive resolve at the ideal time as they prepare to face the tournament's sharpest attack.

The USA have scored 22 goals in the tournament, although 13 of which came in a one-sided spanking of Thailand, and Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are tussling with England's Ellen White at the top of the scoring charts with five strikes each.

With so much attacking talent on display, it is hard to envisage a low-scoring affair but the tie should be tighter than the odds suggest.

England are 15-4 for victory in 90 minutes but that arguably flatters a USA team who have been pushed when meeting stronger opponents in the knockout phase.

After requiring two penalties to see off Spain, Jill Ellis's team lost the shot count 20-10 and they had only 39 per cent possession against ante-post hotshots France.

They have nonetheless lost only one of their last 43 matches in all competitions but those recent performances suggest teams are getting closer to working them out.

England have both the range of attacking options and dogged determination to take them past 90 minutes.

Lucy Bronze, one of the best defenders in world football, offers an extra goalscoring option on the right and she scored a stunning goal against Norway.

She should be brimming with confidence playing in her club stadium and England could hardly ask for a better player to keep tabs on the USA's in-form performer Rapinoe.

That will be one of many key battles in a game which should go the distance as England look to emulate their 2-2 draw with the States in March will helped them to lift the SheBelieves Cup. They are eyeing a more prestigous prize this time.

Draw & both teams to score

The Football Site

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