Australia 1-3 England: Lionesses see off co-hosts to set up Spain showdown in their first Women’s World Cup final


England’s players react after winning the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women’s World Cup semi-final football match between Australia and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney on August 16, 2023.

Franck Fife | AFP | Getty Images

England have made more history, reaching their first Women’s World Cup final after beating Australia 3-1 to set up a showdown with Spain on Sunday.

The pre-match amble focused on who would be considered the underdog – the Euro 2022 champions or tournament co-hosts – as well as the rich sporting history between the two countries.

And it all made for an entertaining semi-final at Stadium Australia. England drew first blood as Ella Toone (36) curled home a superb effort as the Matildas conceded their first World Cup goal since the second group game against Nigeria – a run of well over five hours.

Australia saw their talismanic captain Sam Kerr return to the XI, and she had her inevitable say in proceedings in the 63rd minute, hammering a sensational effort home from around 25 yards.

But England’s tournament pedigree began to shine through as Lauren Hemp (71) saw the Lionesses back ahead soon after, before Alessia Russo (86) made sure of their spot in Sunday’s showpiece final against Spain.

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While co-hosts Australia – who were backed by a magnificent home crowd in Sydney – can no longer win the tournament, they can secure a third-place finish when they face Sweden in the play-off on Saturday.

England manager Sarina Wiegman was almost speechless following the game, telling BBC Sport: “We achieved the final! It’s unbelievable, it feels like we won [the tournament] which we didn’t, we just won this game – in an incredible stadium, an away game, the way we played – it was a hard game, but we found a way to win again.

England football fans celebrate at Boxpark Wembley following the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Semi Final match between England and Australia on August 16, 2023 in London, England.

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“Australia have had an incredible tournament, they grew into the tournament. They had some setbacks, they had to win their last group-stage game and then they got better and better.

“I just said to [assistant manager] Arjan, having the chance as a coach or a player to make it to two finals is really special. I never take anything for granted, but it’s like I’m living in a fairytale or something.”

How England beat Australia to reach final

Kerr wasted no time in reminding the world of her talent, as she raced through on goal in the seventh minute. Her eventual shot was well-saved by Mary Earps, who got down low, as the offside flag was raised. At the other end, Mackenzie Arnold also continued her fine tournament, denying Georgia Stanway as she tried to slot home at the near post.

The two teams continued to trade chances as the half went on. Toone released Russo inside the area, but lashed an effort into the side of the net. An Australia corner then found Haley Raso unmarked towards the back post, but she also sent her shot wide.

Australia’s defender #04 Clare Polkinghorne, forward #16 Hayley Raso and England’s midfielder #08 Georgia Stanway jump to head the ball during the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women’s World Cup semi-final football match between Australia and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney on August 16, 2023. 

Franck Fife | AFP | Getty Images

It was a moment of magic from Toone in the 36th minute that broke the deadlock. Hemp pulled it back for the midfielder, who then sent an arrowing effort into the top corner, giving Arnold no chance of saving it.

As you would expect, Australia came racing out of the traps in the second half. Their best opening saw Mary Fowler pick out Caitlin Foord on the left, but the latter’s effort was collected well by Earps. England also saw openings as Hemp drew a save from Arnold, before Millie Bright nodded wide from the corner.

But anything Toone could do, Kerr could match as she scored an equally as stunning goal to level. She picked up the ball on the halfway line before standing up against her Chelsea teammate Bright. Kerr decided to go for goal herself, sending a sensational, curling effort past Earps.

The Lionesses reacted well – Bronze and Russo going close in the interim eight minutes before Hemp fired England back in front. It was a superb ball over the top from Bright to find the winger, who rounded Ellie Carpenter as the Australia defender failed to keep the ball under control, before slotting into the net.

England’s forward #23 Alessia Russo (R) scores a goal past Australia’s goalkeeper #18 Mackenzie Arnold during the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women’s World Cup semi-final football match between Australia and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney on August 16, 2023. 

Saeed Khan | AFP | Getty Images

Australia pushed for an equaliser as the clock ticked by, although Kerr was uncharacteristically guilty of wasting two gilt-edged chances, with Earps also pushing away a cross from Cortnee Vine.

But England rode the wave of pressure before securing their place in Sunday’s final with Russo’s third goal. She was found in a similar position to her goal against Colombia, collecting a delightful reverse pass from Hemp before firing into the far corner.

Kane: I’ll be watching!

England men’s captain Harry Kane on Sky Sports News:

“Massive congratulations to the Lionesses. They deserve it. “We are all behind them and hopefully they can do it in the final.

“We saw what happened when the Lionesses won the Euros and how much it brought the country together.

“I’ll be watching the final out here in Germany.”


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