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England’s Lionesses have ‘fire in the belly’ for World Cup after Finalissima victory against Brazil

<i>Natalie Mincher/SPP/Shutterstock</i><br/>Chloe Kelly scored the crucial penalty in a shootout to decide the Women's Finalissima.
Natalie Mincher/SPP/Shutterstock
Natalie Mincher/SPP/Shutterstock
Chloe Kelly scored the crucial penalty in a shootout to decide the Women's Finalissima.

By George Ramsay, CNN

As they lifted an international trophy for a second time in nine months, England’s Lionesses advanced their impressive unbeaten run in timely fashion with the Women’s World Cup looming.

With Thursday’s Finalissima, which sees the European and South American champions go head-to-head, ending 1-1 after 90 minutes, England overcame Brazil 4-2 on penalties, further cementing its status as the form team in the women’s game.

And having never previously progressed beyond the semifinals of a World Cup, that record could change at this year’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

“We give everything we can to England in pursuit of this greater goal but we are going to enjoy it along the way … It just gives you the fire in the belly for the summer,” captain Leah Williamson said after the match.

The Lionesses are now unbeaten in 30 games, dating back to April 2021. In that time, they have defeated Germany in the European Championships final at Wembley Stadium and have now claimed a second trophy at the same venue.

In the first-ever Women’s Finalissima, Ella Toone finished off a brilliant team move to give England a 1-0 lead after 23 minutes.

Brazil, however, stepped up the intensity in the second half and pushed for an equalizer. Geyse saw her shot saved onto the top of the crossbar by Mary Earps but the goalkeeper then failed to gather a cross in added time, allowing Andressa Alves to score from close range.

That sent the contest straight to a penalty shootout, during which Brazil got a slight advantage when Toone’s penalty was saved by Letícia.

The momentum quickly shifted as Earps produced an excellent save against Tamires and Rafaelle hit the bar, before Chloe Kelly — the scorer of the winning goal in last year’s Euro 2022 final — fired home the winning spot kick, sparking celebrations among the home fans in London.

“I think we are made of great people — this team, the staff and the players. It’s about being ready for [the World Cup in] July,” said Kelly.

“It was another different challenge again tonight and we’re building momentum and will keep moving forward now.”

The US has dominated women’s soccer for most of the past decade, defending its Women’s World Cup title in France in 2019.

After a run of three consecutive defeats against England, Spain, and Germany last year, the US has enjoyed more success this year and has won its past five games, conceding only once.

Vlatko Andonovski’s team will be considered by many as the favorite to win the World Cup, which begins on July 20, but will face strong opposition from European opponents — notably England.

The Lionesses next face Australia on Tuesday as they continue their World Cup preparation — an opportunity to test themselves against a team that has just returned to the top 10 in the world rankings.

England’s players have now had to hold their nerves twice to win major trophies and are accustomed to playing in front of huge crowds at Wembley.

Thursday’s sold-out game of 83,132 fans no exception, and the Finalissima victory against Brazil provided more credence and experience for a team now accustomed to winning.

“I feel privileged,” said England coach Sarina Wiegman. “It’s such an incredible group, the team is so committed and we want to learn every day. It’s so nice to be a part of.”

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