A sold out crowd at Stadium Australia in Sydney left with disappointment on Thursday as England knocked out the host nation with a 3-1 in the semifinals of the women’s World Cup.
Dominating every phase of the game, England was tactically more sound for the entire evening and more poised tactically. Australia’s inability to mount a consistent attack started their downfall, and numerous defensive failings sealed the deal. A tense opening half hour gave way to the first goal of the game as defensive miscommunication caused England’s Emma Toone to have the ball at her feet in the box, before delivering a thunderous strike into the top corner.
The story of the first half was physicality, as both teams were given free reign to do a lot of pushing and shoving. Entering halftime England had the lion’s share of possession, out-passing Australia and controlling the field box-to-box, while bracketing Matildas star Sam Kerr and failing to give her many opportunities.
It quickly became clear that if Australia was to have any hope it would need to come from some individual heroics, which came in the 63rd minute as Kerr took a pass at midfield and gave us the goal of the World Cup.
Australia’s celebration was short-lived, as another defensive miscommunication led to the the Matildas backfield watching the ball meander toward the backline when Lauren Hemp pounced, slotting home another goal.
It appeared as though the Matildas may have had a chance for some late-game drama, with Kerr having two more opportunities at goal — but the Lionesses shut the door with an 86th minute goal that sealed the game for England.
While this was a profoundly disappointing result for Australia, this is only the beginning for the Matildas. The soccer team has captivated a nation, similar to how the USWNT did for the United States, and there’s no chance they’ll be overlooked again. The Cinderella story might be over, but the story of the Matildas is only just starting.
Meanwhile for England, this was the culmination of years of disappointment. This was the third-straight semifinal appearance for the Lionesses, and they finally got over the hump in a tournament where expectations were low due to injury.
Now England faces Spain on Sunday in the final of the World Cup. Drama is going to at a fever pitch, and it’s going to be a fascinating, perfect ending to an amazing tournament.