The Matildas have been defeated by European champions England 3-1 in the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ semi-final. A Sam Kerr goal was not enough to cancel out goals to Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo.
Tony Gustavsson named two changes to the side that defeated France in the quarter-final. Clare Polkinghorne came into centre-back to replace Alanna Kennedy who had fallen ill. Meanwhile, captain Sam Kerr started her first game up top, coming into the team for Emily van Egmond.
The Lionesses began the game on the front foot. As expected, they had the majority of possession throughout the game and particularly so in the early stages. Mackenzie Arnold was required to make a good save early after Georgia Stanway found space in behind.
In typical fashion the Matildas were a constant threat on the counter, and their pressing game was causing England problems. Kerr thought she had a 1v1 opportunity early, but was called back for offside. Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso were consistently applying enough pressure to create little mistakes in England’s passing game.
However, it was the Lionesses who struck first. After Australia failed to clear their lines effectively, attacking midfielder Ella Toone found space on the edge of the area. Her strike into the top corner of the net was sublime, and England had the lead at the half-time break.
The second half brought renewed vigour to the Matildas. Ellie Carpenter was central to a couple of early opportunities, but the team was unable to create anything clear-cut.
So, Sam Kerr decided to take matters into her own hands. In the 63rd minute, with no one around her in support, she unleashed a howitzer from well outside the area. It nestled into the back of the net for the equaliser, proving – not that Australia had any doubt - why she is considered by many to be one of the best players in the world.
The noise from the crowd appeared to give the team a massive lift. However, the air came out of the tyres only minutes later. A defensive error from Carpenter allowed Lauren Hemp an opportunity to retake the lead for England and she made no mistake.
Kerr had two golden opportunities to equalise, first from a Fowler cross and then with a volley after a corner. To the dismay of the crowd, both flew over the crossbar.
Alessia Russo sealed it for England in the 86th minute, finding her way in behind tired legs to score the Lionesses’ third.
It is a campaign for Australia to be incredibly proud of in so many ways. The Matildas are guaranteed their best ever finish at a FIFA Women’s World Cup. They will play Sweden in the third-place playoff in Brisbane on Saturday.
FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ - Third Place
Sweden v Australia
Date: Saturday, 19 August 2023
Venue: Brisbane Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-Off: 6:00 pm (AEST)
Broadcast: Optus Sport and Channel 7
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