Prince William has called England's women footballers to wish them luck in their historic World Cup semi-final against Japan.

The Duke of Cambridge made the surprise call at the start of the team's tactics meeting ahead of the big match in Canada at midnight.

During the conversation, The Duke said the team had shown they are one of the best sides in the world and had created "a fantastic buzz" back home with the whole country behind them.

Kensington Palace said only manager Mark Sampson had been made aware of the call in advance.

The Duke, who is president of the Football Association, said: "Many, many congratulations to you all for what you have achieved so far and best of luck for today's match.

"Japan will be a tough team to beat but you are proving you are one of the best teams in the world and really making history.

"There is a fantastic buzz around the country. Everyone is following your progress and you are making the country proud. You are a true inspiration to all football fans, boys and girls, back home.

"Enjoy the game. We all have every faith in you and thank you for giving us all another excuse to stay up late and watch more football!

"Best of luck. Go get 'em."

The Three Lionesses, who face the reigning world champions, are are aiming to become the first England team to reach a major international final since 1966.

Waiting for them are USA, who overcame Germany in the other semi.

England Women have had their most successful ever World Cup Credit: Vaughn Ridley/EMPICS Sport

Big names have also been lining up to wish the team well for the match in Edmonton, which kicks off at midnight British time on Thursday.

Stars of the men's side Wayne Rooney and Gary Cahill, as well as former England striker Michael Owen, also tweeted the Lionesses good luck.