England moved on to their first Women’s World Cup final with a 3-1 victory over co-host Australia on Wednesday, ending the Matildas captivating run through the tournament.
Australia superstar Sam Kerr started her first match of the tournament and scored for the Matildas but it wasn’t enough to hold off European champions England.
Ella Toone scored in the 36th minute to put England up 1-0 and the Lionesses dominated possession in the first half.
Kerr’s equalizer in the 63rd gave the 75,000-plus crowd in Sydney some hope, but Lauren Hemp scored to restore England’s lead in the 71st and provided a perfect through ball for Alessia Russo to clinch the game four minutes from the end of regulation time.
England and Spain will each be playing in the World Cup final for the first time when they meet at Stadium Australia on Sunday. It will be the first all-European final since 2003.
England manager Sarina Wiegman became the first coach to lead two countries to the Women’s World Cup final. She guided Netherlands to the final before a loss to the United States in 2019.
“You make it to finals, it’s really special,” Wiegman said in a post-match television interview. “I’d never take anything for granted, but I’m like, ‘Am I here in the middle of a fairytale or something?’”
Australia will play Sweden for third place on Saturday in Brisbane.
“We wanted to dominate the game, we didn’t do that. And we wanted to probably create more scoring opportunities and we didn’t do that,” Australia midfielder Katrina Gorry said, reflecting on her 100th game for her national team. “But you know, we’ve got a quick turnaround and we want to win the bronze medal.”
England were playing in the semifinals for the third consecutive World Cup and Australia were in the final four for the first time.
It showed, particularly in the first half and in the last 20 minutes.
England had a harder edge, were more clinical when it counted and played a game that deprived Australia of possession for long periods.
The Australians seem to have played their final in the 7-6 penalty shootout win over France last weekend, their first win in four quarterfinal appearances at the Women’s World Cup.
Australia had to wait five games for Kerr to join the starting lineup in her home tournament because of a calf muscle injury she sustained on the eve of the tournament.
After being subdued by England’s defence in the first half, the superstar striker made a big entrance with an equalizer just after the hour. Kerr took the ball at half way, moved up-field in a solo run and wrong-footed a defender before launching a right-foot shot from outside that lightly touched defender Mille Bright before going into the top left corner.
Kerr started making inroads but England responded quickly, with Hemp running onto a long ball into the area and scoring with a left-foot finish after Australia defender Ellie Carpenter over-ran the ball.
Kerr missed a chance to equalize again with a header off the crossbar in the 82nd and England made the home team pay for the miss, with Russo finishing it off for England.