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Matildas vs Lionesses – four things to expect  

Welcome to Wednesday’s Early Edition from i.

The tension is high, and the headlines have become desperate. “Lionesses out to exact Ashes revenge“, “How the Matildas can beat the Lionesses’ ‘own Bazball’”, “How the Lionesses can beat the Matildas“. “Is it the Cathy Freeman moment for the Matildas?”, “Let’s roar on Lionesses to waltz past the Matildas”. The predictions and inevitable puns are out in force, and in just a few hours time, we’ll get to see who got them right as England take on the Aussies at the Women’s World Cup. In the meantime, long-standing rivalries are being stoked to the max. Anyone who’s been to one of the matches across Australia will tell you about the positive, almost Olympic-like atmosphere of the games. But a sour tone has crept in lately. Booing of the Lionesses at last Saturday’s match against Colombia (which clearly didn’t put them off their stride) was unsavoury, but another reason for English defiance. The Australian press is known for its banter when it comes to sporting competitions, but some corners have recently taken it to a different level. The Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph bragged about paying for a helicopter to spy on an England training session. In a piece headlined: “11 Poms against a nation: Welcome to the Jungle, Lionesses”, the paper said England were in for a “rude shock” if they thought they could quietly prepare. “We’ve sent the chopper up to see how the old enemy are preparing,” it revealed, adding: “It might not be in the spirit of football, but after last month’s men’s Ashes cricket series we will let the moral arbiters England pass judgement on what is and isn’t acceptable in the world of sport.” To make matters more sour, it’s emerged tickets allocated to England fans were snapped up by Matildas supporters. Without knowing the result, what can we expect from today’s match? We’ll take a look, after the headlines.

Today’s news, and why it matters

Utilities including water, rail and electricity should be taken into public ownership, most voters believe in a challenge to both major political parties. A poll by Ipsos shows broad support for nationalisation of a number of key services – including among Conservative voters.

Record numbers of people in the UK are being prevented from working due to long-term sickness, and unemployment has risen to 4.2 per cent, latest figures indicate. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the jobless figures during the quarter to June soared by 0.3 percentage points from the previous three-month period.

Restoring A-level grades to pre-pandemic levels “is not an exact science” and examiners must resist any urge to “go in hard” on school leavers facing a scramble for university places this week, according to a leading education expert. Professor Mary Richardson from University College London suggested ministers are rushing too soon to restore marking boundaries to their 2019 levels – a move which is expected to see a near halving in the proportion of top A* grades when results are handed out on Thursday.

Three suspected spies for Russia living in the UK have been arrested and charged as part of a major national security investigation. Scotland Yard has confirmed that five people, three men and two women, were arrested on 8 February this year on suspicion of an offence under the Official Secrets Act 1911. All five have been bailed until next month.

Regular running, fast walking and other aerobic exercise when you’re young can significantly reduce the risk of nine types of cancer when you get older, a major study suggests. Research into 1.1 million 16- to 25-year-old males found that those with good cardiorespiratory fitness were up to 42 per cent less likely to develop nine different cancers than those with low levels of fitness over the 33 year follow-up period.

4 things to expect from today’s England vs Australia:

The war of words is going to escalate: It may be, for the most part, friendly and humorous, and we can all hope it stays that way. But there’s likely to be some lashing out – whether that’s in the stadium, on social media, or pumped out in the media. Earlier this week, Will Swanton wrote in The Australian: “The clash with the Lionesses is a huge occasion. Layer it with 146 years of grudges, gloating and gripes, spanning all sports, and you go to blockbuster and beyond. Blockbuster ain’t the word. The beautiful game is a beautiful thing when it pits sworn enemies against each other.” England’s manager, Dutchwoman Sarina Wiegman, appears to have her head in the right place. “I’m going to have a word with my backroom staff to find out what it’s about,” she said. “I think in general the Australians and English get on really well. And I like the people here. But that doesn’t mean there’s no rivalry.”

Australia well and truly hops on the football bandwagon: Aussies are often characterised as great lovers of spectator sports, but not so much when it comes to football. Much earlier in the tournament, the Women’s World Cup had not really caught the attention of the general public. But now, as Daniel Storey notes, “Australia’s biggest cities have broken out in a rash of green and gold. Shops that previously bore no sign of the tournament have draped scarves over shelves. Schools along the Pacific Highway, that snakes north out of Sydney, have good luck messages attached by pupils to the railings. In Sydney alone, the New South Wales government has agreed to open the Sydney Football Stadium and Western Sydney Stadium; Stadium Australia is, naturally, a sellout. None of this was planned a month ago”. You can read his full piece here. The transformation has been powerful, and its effects may well be long lasting, whatever the outcome of today’s match. James Johnson, the Football Australia chief, told the Times: “This goes beyond beating England. It’s another step in the direction of transformation of not only Australian football but Australian sport. The performance of the Matildas has really transformed the nation. You’re seeing more and more young girls play football than ever before. You’re seeing girls and boys supporting the Matildas. They’ve got stars, heroes they can see and look up to. You’re seeing kids walking down the streets of Sydney wearing Matildas jerseys. It’s something we’ve not seen before.”

Renewed calls to end the gender gap: The disparity between men and women’s football is shocking. In Australia, the men’s team has an average team salary of $13,456,420 (£6,832,031) whereas the women’s team take just $532,959 (£270,591). According to analysis by the BBC last year, the average Women’s Super League player earns £47,000 a year, while men earn around 100 times that with Leicester paying their squad an average of £6.4m, Wolves an average of £4.7m and West Ham an average of £4.3m. And on top of that there’s the gender gap when it comes to access to sport. That gap, between girls and boys, has widened over the past year, despite Government assurances that the Lionesses’ historic victory at the Euros would translate into better PE opportunities for schoolgirls. You can read that full story here.

Complicated emotions in mixed-nationality households: It may not be headline news, but for those families with both British and Australian members, things could get tricky today. As my family perfectly fit that description, I’ve written about it all here.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 31: Fans before Australia plays Canada at the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium. (Photo credit should read Chris Putnam/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Australian fans before the country’s game with Canada at the Women’s World Cup in Melbourne last month (Photo: Chris Putnam/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

 Around the world

Russia’s nuclear arsenal is weaker than claimed as it relies on “zombie” submarines that are no longer fit for purpose, according to research from a Russian political scientist. Five of the 13 Russian nuclear subs officially in active service are “now past their useful lives”, wrote Dr Pavel Luzin in Russian analysis journal Riddle, suggesting that they have been quietly retired.

Maui’s war memorial gymnasium is usually an American football stadium but has become a shelter for some of the more than 4,000 people left homeless by the worst wildfire in the US in more than a century. Here, Sky News’s US correspondent Martha Kelner meets the people who lost everything, in scenes compared to Pompeii after Vesuvius erupted.

Former New York City mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is facing huge legal bills and sanctions after defending the former US president. In court on Monday, Mr Giuliani said the legal quagmires have left him effectively out of cash.

Two American tourists in Paris were found sleeping inside the Eiffel Tower after getting stuck between the tower’s second and third levels whilst inebriated, it has been alleged. The men “appear to have got stuck because of how drunk they were”, Paris prosecutors told the AFP news agency.

 Watch out for…

 inflation figures – with predictions it could drop again today. 

 Thoughts for the day

Want to know what our politicians are thinking? Look at where they holiday. Everything at this level of public life is a message, whether it’s Theresa May’s middle-market Swiss alpine hiking or the splashier days of the Blairs, argues Anne McElvoy.

If record wage growth after 15 years of stagnation is ‘getting back to normal’, then we should all be scared. With workers earning a paltry £1 a week more than in 2008, mortgage and rent rises dwarf any ‘good news’ on salaries, says Paul Waugh.

Omagh bombing families are still waiting for justice after 25 years of unimaginable suffering. Rather than destroying the Good Friday Agreement as the perpetrators intended, the atrocity encouraged the region’s politicians to come together, writes Dr Peter McLoughlin.

Family members of those killed in the Omagh bomb attack gather in the memorial garden for a service on the 25th anniversary of the Omagh bombing, in tribute of the victims, in the city centre of Omagh, on August 13, 2023 (Photo: Paul Faith/Getty)

 Culture Break

‘I slept in a shed with a chamber pot’: Edinburgh Fringe’s accommodation crisis. Finding a place to stay is a miserable ordeal thanks to soaring costs. Holly O’Mahony – who was forced to stay in a shed with chamber pot – investigates.

Writer Holly O’Mahony’s summerhouse room rental, during Edinburgh Fringe 2023 (Photo: Holly O’Mahony)

 The Big Read

Threads was meant to be Meta’s Twitter killer. So what went wrong?The platform has struggled to keep users engaged, with numbers dropping by 79% from its peak, writes Chris Stokel-Walker.

Threads became the fastest downloaded app in history, but users are no longer engaging (Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire)


‘Jon Jones has got a big ego – it’s nothing personal’. Tom Aspinall has his sights on the UFC heavyweight title after making a successful return from injury against Marcin Tybura last month, writes Tom Ward.

Aspinall (left) claims Jones ‘has got a big ego’ (Photos: Getty)

 Something to brighten your day

Recordings of electrical brainwaves have been decoded to reconstruct Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall in what is being seen as a scientific breakthrough. Scientists hope the achievement could pave the way for restoring the musicality of natural speech in patients who struggle to communicate because of conditions such as stroke.

Scientists were able to reconstruct Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images)

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