Australia’s thrilling run at the Women’s World Cup has ended at the semi-final stage, with England running out 3-1 winners in Sydney.
After finishing top of Group B during the opening phase, the host nation defeated Denmark 2-0 in the round of 16 to book their place in the quarter-finals.
They faced a France team that many people had tipped to lift the trophy, but upset the odds in dramatic fashion to triumph 7-6 on penalties.
According to betting sites online, Australia were not expected to progress any further than the last eight at the tournament.
They were rated as 11/1 shots to lift the trophy on this list of Australian bookmakers, so reaching the semi-finals can be rated as a solid achievement.
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However, that will be little consolation to Australia, who gave much-hyped England a good run for their money in a pulsating last-four tie.
Tony Gustafsson’s side started the game cautiously, allowing the Lionesses plenty of possession in the hope of catching them on the counter-attack.
Georgia Stanway spurned an early chance for England, but they struggled to create any other meaningful opportunities against stern resistance from Australia.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 36th minute as Ella Toone lashed home a stunning strike to put England 1-0 ahead.
Australia came out firing after the break and were rewarded just after the hour mark when all-time leading goalscorer Sam Kerr announced herself at the tournament.
Kerr had missed all of Australia’s games up to this point through injury, but showed why Gustafsson restored her to the team with a delicious 25-yard effort.
The goal should have been the trigger for Australia to kick on, but a dreadful piece of defending from Ellie Carpenter allowed England to retake the lead.
Lauren Hemp took full advantage of the howler to make it 2-1, and then turned provider as Alessia Russo added a third with four minutes remaining.
England will now face Spain in the final on Sunday, while Australia will go head-to-head with Sweden in the third-place play-off the previous day.
Kerr ‘Honoured’ to Represent Australia
While Kerr was understandably disappointed after the game, she admitted to feeling a sense of pride at the progress Australia made during the Women’s World Cup.
I think I did everything that I could to be back in this tournament,” Kerr said. “If I trained more than five times in this World Cup maybe I would have sunk that one (a second half chance).
I can’t put all the blame on myself. I have to think of all the things the team have done, and I have done to be where we are now and to inspire a nation. It is just really disappointing.
I can’t remember the last time I missed three games in a row. I had it stick with the girls and they have been amazing. It has been an enjoyable ride to be on, regardless of the calf, it has been an honour to be here.”
The semi-final tie marked a landmark moment for Australia midfielder Katrina Gorry, who was making her 100th appearance on the international stage.
Gorry has been an ever-present figure for the Matildas during their run to the last-four, and produced a determined display against England.
She admitted it was hugely disappointing to lose in front of passionate home crowd and vowed to give them something to cheer about against Sweden.
I thought that we still created lots of chances and kept possession well in patches and we put a lot of pressure on them,” Gorry said.
We couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net and they did. “We had to sit back and be compact and win the ball back in pressure pockets.
“We wanted to dominate the game. We didn’t do that. We wanted to create more scoring opportunities and we didn’t do that.
We want to win the bronze medal and we have to recover and focus on the next game.
It sucks. You feel like you let yourself down and your nation down. I know that we have the support of everyone and they will come out against the game against Sweden.
You never want to do that on home soil. Unfortunately it wasn’t our day.”
Australia will head into Saturday’s game as the bookmakers’ favourites to claim third place and it would be no surprise to see them end the tournament with a flourish.
Sweden were beaten 2-1 by Spain in their semi-final and may find it tough to raise themselves in front of a partisan home crowd.
There will likely be little to choose between Spain and England in the final on Sunday, although Australian fans will no doubt be lending their support to the former.
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