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Ruthless England reach first Women’s World Cup final despite Kerr stunner

Ruthless England reach first Women’s World Cup final despite Kerr stunner
Ella Toone of England celebrates scoring her Fifa Women’s World Cup semifinal goal at Stadium Australia, Sydney, on 16 August 2023 with teammates Lauren Hemp, Georgia Stanway, Alex Greenwood, Alessia Russo and Lucy Bronze while Caitlin Foord of Australia dejectedly looks on. England won 3-1 and face Spain in the final on Sunday, 20 August. (Photo: Joe Prior / Visionhaus via Getty Images)

England reached their first Women’s World Cup final after beating Australia 3-1 on Wednesday despite a wonder goal from Matildas striker Sam Kerr as the co-hosts’ fairytale run came to an end.

 

After falling at the semifinal stage in the previous two World Cups, England will face Spain on Sunday looking to add a world title to last year’s European Championship triumph, after they beat Australia 3-1 on Wednesday.

Attacking midfielder Ella Toone gave England a first-half lead to silence the crowd of 75,784 but a stunning strike from Sam Kerr, making her first start of the tournament, squared things up after halftime as Stadium Australia erupted in euphoria.

However, Lauren Hemp restored England’s lead before Alessia Russo put the result beyond doubt shortly before the end.

“This is the one thing I’ve always wanted, to make finals at a World Cup and after two times of getting huge disappointment, honestly I can’t believe it,” England fullback Lucy Bronze said.

england world cup

Sam Kerr of Australia (left) beats England goalie Mary Earps (right) to equalise. (Photo: Richard Callis / Eurasia Sport Images / Getty Images)

“We all dreamed of being in the final, and all our family and friends booked to stay here until the final because they all believed in us.”

Sarina Wiegman’s side clearly had a game plan to impose themselves physically on Australia, committing nine fouls in the first half as they nullified their opponents’ attacking options.

England opened the scoring in the 36th minute when Russo worked her way to the byline before cutting the ball back and Toone smashed it into the top right corner for her first goal of the tournament.

Historic moment

Australia started the second half much brighter and began pressing England higher up the pitch, looking to create a historic moment that would match Cathy Freeman’s incredible 400m victory in the same venue at the 2000 Olympics.

And they got it in the 63rd minute when Kerr received the ball in her own half, ran toward goal and fired an unstoppable rocket into the top left corner from 25m out beyond the diving Mary Earps.

The stadium erupted as Australian fans finally got to see their star striker score at this tournament, reigniting hope that Tony Gustavsson’s side could yet play for the title.

But the hosts found themselves behind again less than 10 minutes later.

Matildas defender Ellie Carpenter failed to deal with a long ball over the top from Millie Bright, allowing Hemp an easy finish into the bottom corner to restore England’s lead.

The 23-year-old was involved once more as the game entered the final stages.

Shortly after Kerr had missed a golden chance to equalise again, Hemp turned brilliantly on the halfway line before releasing Russo, who fired a low shot into the far corner to seal England’s place in the final.

england world cup

England goalkeeper Mary Earps (left) celebrates the semifinal victory with teammate Rachel Daly. (Photo: Joe Prior / Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Australia will play Sweden in the third-place playoff on Saturday. Kerr said they were proud of what they had achieved despite falling at the penultimate hurdle.

“We can’t thank the fans enough, they’ve been amazing,” she said.

“We’ve felt the love all over the country. Just to see the support has really pushed us on.

“So, hopefully this stays around because this has been amazing for us… It’s hard to think about [the third-place playoff] now but Tony’s already said it’s a quick turnaround.

“We’ve got to pick ourselves up and hopefully not go home empty-handed.”

Wiegman praises ruthlessness

After leading her native Netherlands to a runners-up finish in 2019, Wiegman became the first coach to take two different teams to a World Cup final.

“This team has 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 and we stick to the plan, and it worked again,” Wiegman said.

“I’ve never taken anything for granted, but I’m like ‘Am I here in a little fairytale or something?’

“I can hardly describe how proud I am of the team. They’ve adapted before the tournament, during the tournament and now in this game again. How we came through and found a way to win again, it’s so incredible,” she said.

England have now lost only once in 38 matches since Wiegman took over as coach in 2021, a 2-0 defeat in a friendly against Australia in London that ended a 30-match unbeaten run.

That run included last year’s Euros title triumph, which Wiegman said had changed the lives of her players, but had never affected their performance.

“We’re still getting better every day,” she said.

Wiegman’s regard for her players is clearly reciprocated.

“The mentality of this group is something I’ve never seen before,” said defensive leader Millie Bright.

“We are still celebrating now,” Wiegman said. “Tomorrow morning we’ll start getting ready for Sunday. We’re glad we have a couple of days.”DM

 

 

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