King urges Lionesses to ‘roar to victory’ as excitement builds ahead of historic World Cup final

UK

The prime minister has told England’s Lionesses they have “already secured a lasting legacy” as they prepare to face Spain in the World Cup final.

Rishi Sunak and his two daughters will be among the 13 million Britons expected to tune in for the historic game, which kicks off in Sydney at 11am UK time on Sunday.

In a message of support to Sarina Wiegman‘s team, who hope to become the country’s first World Cup-winning footballers since 1966, he said “you’ve made us all proud”.

“Whatever the result, I want you to know that you have secured a lasting legacy,” he said.

“That every girl in this country will have equal access to all school sport, including football.”

Mr Sunak said from being crowned European champions at Wembley last year, to their dramatic campaign in Australia this summer, the squad had made young girls “feel they belong on the pitch”.

“So, in a way, you’ve already brought football home,” he said, referencing the popular England anthem.

“All that remains is to bring the trophy home too – and the whole nation is rooting for you.”

Experts are predicting that the match could shatter previous records for a women’s football match, which included an average audience of 11 million for the Euros final in 2022 against Germany.

With Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove being forced to write to local councils to ask them to do “everything they can to help pubs get open earlier on Sunday”, it is thought most will stay home to watch the game.

Read more:
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The stars who might bring home Women’s World Cup glory?

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How Lionesses inspire young fan

Women and girls around the country celebrate progress

Mr Sunak has opted not to travel to the match and will be among those watching from home, with the foreign and culture secretaries to represent the government at Stadium Australia.

As the Lionesses take to the field, they will be backed by hordes of women and girls rooting for their heroes, with many celebrating the progress that has been made since their parents and grandparents were denied a chance to play the game.

One fan, 70-year-old Gail Newsham, says she can’t wait to see the team take to the pitch, after growing up at a time when women were banned from the sport.

She told AP: “I’ll be wearing my shirt, I’ll be having a sausage roll and a glass of bubbles. That’s what I’ve done every match, so I’m going to do it again on Sunday and just, you know, cheer the girls on.”

Ten-year-old Ava is just one of the young girls inspired by the Lionesses.

The young footballer, whose favourite player is injured captain Leah Williamson, told Sky News she was “nervous” about the final and there would be “big cheers” if England won.

“I see them as people I want to become,” she said.

“It’s inspirational how women who used to not be able to do a lot of stuff have climbed up the mountain to become the best they can be.”

Team aiming for ‘best game ever’

England boss Wiegman has said her players are hoping to play their “best game ever” to bring the trophy home.

She said: “We felt the support, we felt the support here, but also from the other side of the world in the UK. That’s something that we dream of.”

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‘We hope we’ll play our best game ever’

William criticised for missing final

Among those watching will be Britain’s royals, including the King, Queen, Prince William and his children.

William has apologised after receiving criticism for not going to the match.

The prince has come in for particular backlash because he is the president of the Football Association (FA).

“Sorry we can’t be there in person,” he said in a social media video on Saturday, joined by his excited daughter Princess Charlotte.

The young royal said in the clip: “Good luck Lionesses!”

William wished the team “huge good luck” for the match, saying his family are “so proud of everything you have achieved and the millions you have inspired here and around the world”.

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