We’ve got the finale of the 2023 World Cup: Spain will take on England to determine who will be the newest World Cup champion. Whichever way it goes, there will be a first-time winner.
The Lionesses would like it to be them.
They showed why they deserved their spot in the final with a masterclass performance and must-see billing Sydney’s Stadium Australia with a 3-1 win over Australia. It was a much-needed win for England which lost in the World Cup semifinals in 2015 and 2019. So in case 6 am wasn’t on your agenda, here’s what you missed in semifinal game number two.
Kicking things off
Playing in Sydney in front of 75,000 fans in their green and gold cheering on the Matildas. They did not disappoint as Australia came out flying. Their speed and attack felt like they missed an opportunity by not scoring in the first 10 minutes. The Lionesses put on a display of attacking dominance in the middle of the first half. Aussie keeper Mackenzie Arnold was put through her paces as the backline had to weather the onslaught.
The European champions were able to settle into the game and had several chances before Ella Toone scored in the 36th minute. Toone cut back from off a Lauren Hemp ball about 13 yards out and sent in a thunderous strike into the right side-netting, Mackenzie Arnold with no chance to stop this one. England took the 1-0 lead.
It was the first time in the whole tournament that Australia conceded a goal first at this World Cup. The Matildas all throughout the first half had little answer for England’s back line, which was solid and aggressive. But it was equally matched as neither team created many opportunities for scoring.
England lead one-nil at halftime with the Australian squad hoping they would come out to start the second half strong.
For all the meat pies in Australia
The second 45 minutes of the tournament were do or die for the Matildas. Having Kerr start for her country gave optimism that equalizing and/or taking the lead in the game was on her mind. So the 63rd minute, England made a critical mistake. A turnover by Alessia Russo allowed Australia to take possession. When they have Kerr, that’s who is going to get the ball. Even though she was flanked by two defenders, the 29-year-old unleashed a rocket from about 25 yards out that went just over keeper Mary Earps’ fingertips. Hope was restored as the Aussies equalized 1-1.
But as thrilling as the excitement was for the Matildas and the home crowd, England used it as motivation. Eight minutes later, the Aussies had a defensive breakdown and Lauren Hemp saw an opportunity. Fellow teammate Millie Bright lofted a ball from deep in the Lionesses’ territory over Australia’s backline and Hemp picked it up easily. Hemp caught the Australian keeper off-guard and England reclaimed the lead 2-1.
The Matildas seemed to lose a bit of steam after that, particularly on the backline. With just four minutes left in the second half, Hemp contributed to the one that sealed the deal. A no-look pass from Hemp was dribbled through the defense. Alessia Russo slowed her run to make sure she stayed onside, then took the pass and put a hard, right-footed shot into the net for three.
The score would hold through extra time and England finds their semifinal curse over with the 3-1 victory. Despite being a favorite, England this path to the final was a difficult run. The Lionesses lost three of their best players to injury, and have had to scrap through some games while in Australia.
The win gives them its first final appearance at the Women’s World Cup in the country’s long history.
When to watch
Australia does play Sweden in a third-place game on Saturday, August 19 from 6 pm AEST/4 am EST from Brisbane/Meeanjin’s Brisbane Stadium. It is Australia’s first chance at a World Cup medal while Sweden is seeking a fourth bronze at this tournament.
England will face Spain in the final on Sunday at 6 a.m. Eastern at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia.
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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Mark Baker