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Sam missile strikes with World Cup worldie but Matildas bow out as Lionesses roar into Final

16th August, 2023
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16th August, 2023
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The Matildas’ fairytale run at the FIFA Women’s World Cup has ended after a 3-1 semi-final defeat to England at Stadium Australia despite a goal of the tournament contender from Sam Kerr.

Brought to you in partnership with Cupra – Proud supporter of the Matildas – The Impulse of a New Generation

Kerr, back into the starting line-up for the first time all tournament, cancelled out Ella Toone’s opening goal with a magnificent long-range strike before Lauren Hemp restored England’s lead and her strike partner Alessia Russo sealed the Lionesses’ passage into the World Cup Final.

England will play Spain at the same venue on Sunday, guaranteeing a first-time champion.

Tony Gustavsson’s side failed to create further history after a magical run in their home World Cup, unable to better their first-ever semi-final appearance with England too clinical. Australia will now take on Sweden for a third-placed finish in Brisbane on Saturday.

Sam Kerr Matildas dejected

(Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

“I feel for so many (people) tonight,” Tony Gustavsson told Optus Sport post-game.

“Look at this… the players left it all out there – I think that’s why the fans are thanking them. But it was one of those nights, I’ve said it before, tournament football is won and lost within the 18 (yard box), and I think England was clinical tonight. We had a chance for 2-2, a couple of minutes later they make it 3-1 – it’s one of those games, unfortunately.

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“I think so (the small details decided the game). We talked about at half-time, our defending was solid in the first half but I don’t think we were brave enough on the ball. I think in the second half we started playing the game we can play, much braver on the ball, moving it faster.

“We dominated England in parts of that second half but you need to get those key moments there – Sam’s brilliant goal, for example. And then we have a sitter that we miss for 2-2, and they were clinical in front of goal tonight.

“Sometimes you play a team that have a better night and I think England had a better night than us – in terms of those moments.”

England coach Sarina Wiegman has now made consecutive finals, having lead her native Netherlands to the showpiece in 2019 before taking the Lionesses to the final two.

“We achieved the final and it’s unbelievable, it feels like we’ve won it,” she said. “But we won this game, it’s an incredible stadium, an away game, of course it was a hard game but again we found a way to win.

“We scored three goals, in this team that ruthlessness, whether it’s up front or in defence we really want to keep the ball out of the net, we really want to win and we stick together. We stick to the plan and it worked again.”

The big pre-match news was the inclusion of Kerr from the opening whistle. Elsewhere, Alanna Kennedy missed out on the Matildas’ first-ever World Cup semi-final due to illness, with veteran centre-half Clare Polkinghorne coming into Tony Gustavsson’s starting side.

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Quarter-final hero Mackenzie Arnold was called into action early, denying Georgia Stanway from close range in the Lionessess’ first real sight at goal.

Alex Greenwood was the first woman in the referee’s notebook after a late challenge on the marauding Kerr, a trend that would continue with England giving away cynical fouls when Australia looked to transition quickly.

The Lionesses would soon make Australia pay as Ella Toone slotted the opening goal from 10 years out.

Controlling a pass from Lauren Hemp in the area, Alessia Russo looked to return the favour but the ball rolled past her strike partner into the path of Toone, who picked out the top corner with a fantastic strike.

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England had grown into the game as the minutes ticked by and deserved their lead, while the Matildas struggled to find Kerr with Mary Fowler also not involved in the contest at all.

Wingback Lucy Bronze found joy in the space behind Steph Catley as the midfield trio starved Australia of possession.

The trend continued after the restart as Hemp forced Arnold into another good save, but nothing was to come from the resulting corner kick.

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But just as England looked good to stretch their lead, Kerr proved why she is the world’s best player with a stunner to level the semi-final.

Receiving Gorry’s pass on halfway, Kerr drove at the backtracking English defence before unleashing a phenomenal strike from 25 metres, giving Earps absolutely no chance.

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Australia’s joy would be short-lived, however, with Hemp restoring England’s lead just eight minutes later after a colossal error from Carpenter.

Carpenter let a seemingly innocuous long ball bounce twice, allowing Hemp to sneak in and take possession before finishing calmly to put the Lionesses in a formidable position with just under 20 minutes to play.

Gustavsson eventually shuffled his deck, bringing on Emily van Egmond and Cortnee Vine to try and swing the contest back in Australia’s favour.

Kerr had a big opportunity to once again level the semi-final tie but couldn’t keep her shot down, and the miss would prove very costly as the Lionesses went up the other end and sealed their spot in the Final through Russo.

Given too much room by the Matildas’ defence Hemp found Russo with a perfect pass and she made no mistake with a clinical finish to break Australian hearts.

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They might have captured the hearts of the entire nation, but they weren’t quite able to go to the next level against an excellent England outfit.

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