Despite a miraculous goal from the Australian star striker Sam Kerr, England women advanced to their maiden Women’s World Cup final after defeating Australia 3-1 on Wednesday, ending the co-hosts’ fairytale run. After losing in the semifinals of the previous two World Cups, England will now face Spain on August 20, Sunday in an attempt to add a world crown to last year’s European Championship victory.
England took the lead in the first half thanks to attacking midfielder Ella Toone, who silenced the home crowd with a fine strike. But Kerr made her maiden start of the tournament, with a stunning shot to equalize in the 63rd minute as Stadium Australia exploded in joy. However, eight minutes later, Lauren Hemp restored England’s advantage before Alessia Russo put the game out of reach for the Australians.
Sarina Wiegman’s team clearly had a game plan to physically press themselves on Australia, accumulating nine fouls in the first half to limit their opponents’ attacking possibilities. Russo fought her way to the byline before cutting the ball back, and 23-year-old Toone hammered it into the top-right corner for her first goal of the tournament in the 36th minute.
The Matildas came out firing in the second half, pressuring England further up the pitch in search of a historic moment to mirror Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman’s amazing 400-meter victory in the same arena at the 2000 Olympics. Kerr received the ball in her own half, sprinted towards goal, and blasted an unstoppable rocket into the top-left corner from 25 yards out, beyond the diving Mary Earps.
The stadium roared as Australian fans saw their star striker score in this tournament for the first time, reigniting hope that Tony Gustavsson’s team could still win the tournament. However, the hosts quickly fell behind once more.
Ellie Carpenter, a Matildas defender, failed to deal with a long ball over the top from Millie Bright, allowing Hemp to finish easily into the bottom corner to restore England’s advantage. England’s young forward Hemp was involved again as the game entered the final stages.
After Kerr missed a golden opportunity to equalize, Hemp turned wonderfully on the halfway line before feeding Russo, who sent a low shot into the far corner to secure England’s spot in the final.
Spain is going to be even tougher, every single game that we’ve come into this tournament has been of the highest level, so we have to be ready, but we’ve been dreaming since we were little girls, so we’re excited, Russo said after the victory.