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England enjoying ‘home’ crowd feeling at Women’s World Cup in Australia


GOSFORD, Australia (AP) — England flags fluttered in all directions as 2,500 fans from Nottingham to Sydney’s Northern Beaches gathered to watch England’s Women’s World Cup players practicing this week at Central Coast Stadium for their upcoming match against Denmark.

“It felt like we were at home with all of our fans here,” midfielder Katie Robinson said.

Although the Lionesses are about 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) away from home, the English fans – those who traveled here for the tournament as well as those who live here – have made the atmosphere welcoming.

A record 1.5 million tickets have been sold for the Women’s World Cup being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. England ranks second only to the United States in ticket sales for countries outside of the host nations, according to the English Football Association.

“I think it’s safe to say that you don’t get through some of these games without the support of your fans,” midfielder Jordan Nobbs said during a public practice session near Gosford in the wake of England’s 1-0 opening win over Haiti at Brisbane. “So they’ve been incredible and we hope to hear them all again next game.”

European champion England plays Denmark on Friday at Sydney Football Stadium. The winner will secure a spot in the knockout round.

England has proved it performs well in a home environment. T he Lionesses hosted and won the 2022 Euros, becoming the first English senior-level national team to win a major title since the England men’s team won the 1966 World Cup.

England beat Germany, a two-time Women’s World Cup champion, 2-1 in front of more than 87,000 fans at Wembley Stadium — a record for a women’s international soccer game in Europe.

“It was a special feeling to have a home Euros,” defender Alex Greenwood said. “This (Women’s World Cup) does feel big in the sense of being in Australia. We had 42,000 fans at the opening game in Brisbane and quite a lot to support us. So yes, for me it feels different, but it feels exactly where it’s meant to be.”

People from Britain and Ireland historically have been Australia’s biggest immigrant group. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, England tops the list of Australia’s overseas-born populations. In 2020, nearly 1 million English-born people lived in Australia, just under 4% of Australia’s overall population.

For England’s public practice session at Central Coast Stadium, Amanda Busuttil and her daughters Sophie and Alana traveled an hour from their home in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, missing work and school. The girls’ dad is from Nottingham, England, and they said he has encouraged them to be Lionesses fans.

After practice, the Lionesses went straight to the crowd to take pictures and sign autographs.

“It’s nice to have that interaction with the fans because at games, obviously, it’s quite hard to. So it’s nice to have these occasions when we can,” the midfielder Robinson said.

Maisie Fairweather, of Norwich, England, and Julie Abbott, of Nottingham, traveled to Australia for the Women’s World Cup. They showed up to the training session decked out in Lionesses gear, wearing Rachel Daly and Millie Bright jerseys. They had tickets for every group-stage game in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.

“I will follow them all of the way to the semifinals if I have to,” Abbott said.

One of the World Cup semifinals will be played in Auckland, New Zealand, on Aug. 15. The other will be played at Sydney’s Stadium Australia on Aug. 16. The final is Aug. 20 at Stadium Australia.

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Anna Ruth Riggins is a student at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.

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AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports





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