In a historic turn of events, England has secured a spot in the Women’s World Cup final for the first time with a remarkable 3-1 victory over co-host Australia on Wednesday.
Ella Toone’s goal in the first half gave England a well-deserved lead, followed by a sensational long-range strike from Australia’s superstar Sam Kerr that leveled the score in the second half.
However, a defensive error by Ellie Carpenter allowed Lauren Hemp to restore England’s lead, and Alessia Russo sealed Australia’s fate with a counterattack goal as the Matildas desperately sought an equalizer.
The anguish and heartbreak of defeat were evident on the faces of the Australian players, many of whom were brought to tears as they gratefully acknowledged their supporters’ unwavering backing at Sydney’s Stadium Australia.
Led by the remarkable Kerr, Australia had high hopes of becoming only the second host nation to claim victory in a Women’s World Cup.
Although the disappointment will linger, the team’s impact on women’s football in the country, reflected in record ticket sales, attendance, and TV viewership, will undoubtedly be appreciated once the dust settles.
Meanwhile, under the leadership of head coach Sarina Wiegman, England is asserting itself as a dominant force in international women’s football.
While criticized for their playing style at times during this World Cup, England secured their place in the final after winning the European Championships last summer. This marks the second consecutive major tournament where England has reached the final.
Wiegman’s impressive record with England boasts just one defeat – a friendly against Australia – in 38 matches. She has also become the first coach to guide two different teams to the Women’s World Cup final, having led the Netherlands there in 2019.
After the match, England defender Lucy Bronze expressed her feelings to the BBC: “The one thing I’ve always wanted is to make the final of the World Cup, and after coming close twice, I can’t put this into words.”
“We played the game how we wanted to; we were determined, resilient,” Bronze added. “We all dreamed of being in the final, and all our family and friends stayed until the final because they believed in us. It’s been amazing to play Australia in Australia; they’ve had a fantastic tournament.”
England’s Impressive Performance
Following a spirited rendition of Australia’s national anthem, the atmosphere inside the Stadium Australia quickly reached a crescendo.
Australia’s players displayed fervent energy, greeted by approving roars from the crowd with every tackle and forward pass. Despite the frenzied ambiance, England managed to stay composed.
England initiated the opening chance of the game, as Alex Greenwood’s precise pass over the top found Georgia Stanway, whose shot was denied by Australia’s goalkeeper, Mackenzie Arnold.
While England’s journey through the knockout stages of the World Cup had been challenging, they displayed significant improvement against Australia.
England’s dominance in the first half-hour was evident, with Australia struggling to contain the movement of Russo and Hemp in England’s forward line.
England’s breakthrough was a testament to their early pressure. Russo and Hemp’s collaboration on the left side of the penalty area allowed Toone to slot home a sumptuous effort with the outside of her boot.
While the boisterous atmosphere gradually subsided, Toone’s goal left the crowd momentarily stunned – except for the pockets of England fans in attendance.
The first half showcased a standout performance from Wiegman’s team, notably their best display at the 2023 tournament.
During halftime, Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson’s words evidently spurred his players to intensify their efforts. Australia’s second-half resurgence posed more challenges for England, and within the opening five minutes, they displayed greater vigor.
Despite Australia’s improvement, they struggled to create clear chances, while England continued to threaten, with Millie Bright narrowly missing a header from a corner.
However, Australia’s fortunes changed dramatically when Sam Kerr, their star player, showcased her brilliance. With a powerful strike from beyond 30 yards, Kerr’s shot dipped over Mary Earps’ outstretched arm and found the top corner of the net.
Stadium Australia erupted in jubilation and relief, echoing cheers across the nation.
Nevertheless, Australia’s joy was short-lived, as Ellie Carpenter’s defensive error gifted England the lead once again. Carpenter’s misjudged clearance allowed Hemp to capitalize and guide the ball into the bottom corner.
The sudden shift in momentum stunned both the team and the crowd. Despite their efforts to level the score, Australia was unable to find an equalizer as the clock ticked down to the final minutes.
With only four minutes of regulation time remaining, England extinguished any remaining hopes of an Australian comeback. Hemp turned provider, setting up Russo, whose precise shot past Arnold dashed Australia’s hopes.
England has successfully overcome the disappointments of their previous two World Cup semifinal defeats and now has the opportunity to make history once again in the championship final against Spain on Sunday.