Women’s World Cup Preview: Australia looks to end campaign on high note against Sweden

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World Cup
Australia’s Sam Kerr scores her side’s opening goal during the Women’s World Cup semifinal soccer match between Australia and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

It was a heartbreaking loss for the Australian women’s national team as they were denied a spot in the World Cup final with a 3-1 defeat to England. Despite star Sam Kerr’s stunning goal for the hosts, the team couldn’t get by England.

However, it was still a historic moment for women’s soccer in Australia and around the globe. Bars and restaurants were packed there were watch parties across the country for the semifinal. Stadium Sydney had a sold-out crowd of 75,784, not including those outside the stadium

Still, the Matildas have a chance to still earn a spot on the podium.

Australia will play Sweden on Saturday for third place in Brisbane. Sweden was similarly disappointed to once again be out of the running for the title. The Swedes fell 2-1 to Spain in New Zealand. Sweden still has never won a World Cup title.

So let’s take a look at both squads as they kick off early Saturday morning for a chance at the bronze medal.

World Cup
Australia’s Sam Kerr scores her side’s opening goal during the Women’s World Cup semifinal soccer match between Australia and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Matildas on a Mission

It is roughly anticipated that head coach Tony Gustavsson will likely put the same starting XI on the pitch on Saturday.

However, he did get injury news about centreback Alanna Kennedy. She was ruled out due to “delayed concussion symptoms”. She missed the semifinal game due to illness and Clare Polkinghorne took her place.

Star striker Sam Kerr will feature once again in the bronze medal match. Kerr is the nation’s all-time leading scorer with 63 goals in 121 matches. Australia will want to go out on a high and although Sweden has real attacking options and are good at set-pieces, Kerr will want to make up for the chances she missed.

The Matildas will not lack motivation in their first-ever third-place game. All previous contests have ended in the quarterfinals. They’ve had a stellar run with their keeper Mackenzie Arnold, who has a tournament-best four clean sheets. There will also, oddly, be less pressure on the Aussies. That could lead to some spectacular individual moments from Kerr and the other attackers.

The Aussies have conceded three goals in a match twice and their defense might be porous enough that Sweden’s attackers use it to their benefit.

Australia had their best World Cup showing on their home turf. They’ll want to give the fans one last show to remember.

World Cup
Australia’s Hayley Raso, left, celebrates her side’s second goal during the Women’s World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Australia and Denmark at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, Monday, Aug. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme some Swedish Goals

You didn’t think you’d escape a preview without an ABBA reference, did you?

A bronze medal game is familiar territory for Sweden and they have won all three of their previous appearances in the third-place match.  They’re also back-to-back silver medalists at the Summer Olympics but a stain on that resume as they were eliminated in the semifinals in three of the last five Euros.

Manager Peter Gerhardsson will also likely stick with the same starting XI for the match.

 Sweden is 9-4-2 all-time against the Matildas, with a 27-14 advantage in goals so there is an advantage for the Swedes. The Swedish defense has been tough to crack, conceding just three goals in six matches. In case anyone forgot, Sweden held the USWNT scoreless before their victory on penalties. Then against tough Japan and Spain sides, they only allowed five shots on target.

But they’re the queens of coming up short and with that hanging over their heads, it might prove to be a disadvantage. Some of the current roster of players know how to regroup for a third-place game, but doing that four years later may be deflating more than encouraging.

World Cup
Sweden’s Magdalena Eriksson celebrates at the end of the Women’s World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Japan and Sweden at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023. Sweden won 2-1. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Where to watch

Australia vs. Sweden will be played at Lang Park in Brisbane, Australia on Saturday, Aug. 19. It will kick off at 6 p.m. local / 4 a.m. ET / 9 a.m. BST. Fans in the U.S. can watch on Fox or Peacock for the Spanish broadcast.

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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino