Magic England waltz over Matildas

Australia Women v England Women – FIFA Women’s World Cup Semi-Final – Stadium Australia, Sydney – Report

Australia Women 1-3 England Women 

On a landmark night for British sport, England silenced a sell-out crowd and broke the hearts of a nation as they overcame co-hosts Australia 3-1 at Stadium Australia in Sydney to reach the FIFA Women’s World Cup final for the first time.

Having reached the semi-final stages of the last two tournaments, being eliminated by Japan in 2015 and the USA in 2019, the Lionesses became the first England football team since 1966 to reach a senior final on the world stage.

Coach Sarina Wiegman named an unchanged starting lineup from the team that defeated Colombia 2-1 in the quarter-final and with the match kicking off with the Matilda’s being noisily spurred on by a partisan and vocal crowd, the game sprang to life after only seven minutes when Sam Kerr, starting for the first time in the tournament, forced Mary Earps into a reflex save – only for the offside flag to be raised somewhat belatedly shortly after.

With the reigning European champions dominating the early part of the proceedings, Georgia Stanway forced a fine stop from Matilda’s keeper Mackenzie Arnold after being played in by Alex Greenwood before Alessia Russo also went close when her shot found the side netting in the seventeenth minute.

Despite the hosts starting to settle more as the half wore on, England broke the deadlock in the thirty-sixth minute when Arsenal striker Russo laid the ball back across the area for Ella Toone to fire an angled, curling shot past Arnold into the top right-hand corner of the net. 

Australia started the second half strongly but was unable to create any early clear-cut chances, the closest of which being Caitlin Foord’s header which was easily dealt with by Earps.

Just after the hour mark, Lauren Hemp saw her long-range speculative half volley spectacularly pushed away by West Ham’s Arnold but just shortly after, the game was lit up by a moment of sublime magnificence from Matilda’s talisman Kerr, who showing clever close control, ran with the ball from just inside her own half before striking the ball home into the top left-hand corner past Earps from twenty-five yards out to draw Australia level at 1-1. 

Sam Kerr of Australia (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

The Lionesses continued to push forward and twice went close when Lucy Bronze’s chip flew along the goal line and Russo headed just wide of the post shortly after.

With twenty minutes left on the clock, skipper Millie Bright threaded the ball through for Manchester City’s Hemp to run on and fire low into the bottom right corner to restore England’s lead and make it 2-1.

Kerr had two late chances to draw the scores level on the night, first heading over the bar before later flashing wide from a corner, whilst Jess Carter was also on hand near the end to clear the ball to safety after Earps was forced to parry away Courtnee Vine’s dangerous effort.

Any hopes of a Matilda’s comeback were quickly blown away when with just four minutes left, the impressive Hemp, undoubtedly the player of the match on the night, cleverly played in Russo to fire home England’s third goal of the night to comprehensively seal the win and with it, the Lionesses place in the final against Spain on Sunday.

Sarina Wiegman on “We achieved the final, it’s unbelievable.

“It feels like we won it [the whole tournament], we didn’t win it, but we won this game. 

“The chance that, as a coach or as players, to make it to finals is really special – we made it to four already.

“I never take anything for granted but it’s like I’m living a fairytale or something.

“We made the first final in 2017 [with the Netherlands] and thought this is really special, it might not ever happen again. Then you make the second, the third and the fourth and still think this might never happen again because there is so much competition.”

“I can hardly describe how proud I am of the team.

“This team has adapted all the time. Before the tournament, during the tournament then this game again – how we came through and found a way to win again is so incredible.”

England women’s coach Sarina Wiegman (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

Millie Bright on BBC One: “It’s crazy. I’m keeping two feet on the ground. Just remain on task, focused. I don’t have any words for that. To be saying we’re going to the final is crazy.”

Ella Toone on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It feels unbelievable. I was speaking to the girls as we celebrated with the crowd and said ‘Wow, we are in a World Cup final,’ which is something you dream of as a little girl.”

Ella Toone (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

Alessia Russo on BBC One: “I’m over the moon, incredible. We’ve been saying we’ve been dreaming of the semis, but this is what it’s all about, a World Cup final with this group. Buzzing.”

Alessia Russo (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

Lucy Bronze on BBC One: “The one thing I’ve always wanted to do is get to a World Cup final. After two times of such disappointment, I can’t believe it. We played how we wanted to, we were determined, resilient.”

After one of the greatest nights in British sporting history, the Lionesses and Sarina Wiegman now stand on the cusp of footballing immortality. A nation awaits. 

England: Mary Earps, Jess Carter, Millie Bright, Alex Greenwood, Lucy Bronze, Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh, Rachel Daly, Ella Toone (Charles 90’) Alessia Russo (Chloe Kelly 87’) Lauren Hemp. Subs not used: Jordan Nobbs, Hannah Hampton, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Esme Morgan, Laura Coombs, Bethany England, Katie Zelem, Ellie Roebuck, Katie Robinson

Australia: Mackenzie Arnold, Ellie Carpenter, Clare Hunt, Clare Polkinghorne (Emily van Egmond 81’) Steph Catley, Hayley Raso (Courtnee Vine 72’) Katrina Gorry (Alex Chidiac 88’) Kyra Cooney-Cross, Caitlin Foord, Sam Kerr, Mary Fowler Subs not used: Lydia Williams, Courtney Nevin, Aivi Luik, Clare Wheeler, Teagan Micah, Tameka Yallop, Kyah Simon, Charlotte Grant

Referee: Tori Penso 

Assistants: Brooke Mayo and Mijensa Rensch

Fourth Official: Yoshimi Yamashita 

Reserve Assistant Referee: Makoto Bozono 

VAR: Massimiliano Irrati 

Assistant VAR: Carol Anne Chenard

Offside VAR: Kathryn Nesbitt 

Attendance: 75,784