England beat Australia to face Spain in first Women's World Cup final

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.

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.

Ella Toone celebrates her goal against Australia
Ella Toone celebrates her goal against Australia

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.

“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

Lauren Hemp restores England's lead over Australia in the Women's World Cup semi-final
Lauren Hemp restored England’s lead over Australia

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.

Team news headlines

  • England were unchanged from their match against Colombia in the quarter-finals.
  • Sam Kerr returned to Australia’s XI, replacing Emily van Egmond. Alanna Kennedy also missed out through illness, replaced by Clare Polkinghorne.

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.

Australia's Sam Kerr scores their equaliser
Sam Kerr scored a sublime effort to equalise for Australia

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 team-mate Bright. Kerr decided to go for goal herself, sending a sensational, curling effort past Earps.

The Lionesses reacted well – Lucy 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.

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England’s Lionesses make it through to the World Cup Final – follow the ups and downs as they beat Australia 3-1 in Sydney.

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.

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Sky Sports News’ Anton Toloui and Gail Davis analyse England’s 3-1 win against Australia which secured their spot in the World Cup Final.

Bronze: I have no words | Bright: It’s crazy!

England veteran Bronze, who started in both of England’s previous back-to-back World Cup semi-final defeats, told Sky Sports she had been left speechless by the Lionesses finally going one better to reach Sunday’s final.

She said: “There’s a lot of emotions right now after such heartache in previous semi-finals. I don’t know many players who have had to suffer semi-finals like myself and Alex [Greenwood] have had to go through. But to finally have got over that hurdle and to be in the final is… I have no words.

“It’s going to be a good game. I started jumping at the end and Sarina said ‘stop jumping, we need to prepare for the next game’. We’re focused on recovering for that game, we know it’ll be a tough game.

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Aston Villa’s Lucy Staniforth, Manchester United’s Millie Turner and Brighton’s Poppy Pattinson were full of pride after their Lionesses’ teammates reached the World Cup final.

“Spain have been fantastic at this tournament, although they suffered a defeat so we’re the only team still standing without a loss. We’ll be confident going into the game, as will Spain.”

Bronze’s defensive partner and captain for the tournament Bright said England would have little intention of over-celebrating with one final hurdle still to pass in the tournament, and paid tribute to her club team-mate Kerr, whose stunning equaliser was not enough to keep Australia’s tournament hopes alive.

She said: “It’s crazy. It’s something that we’ve dreamed of for so long and now we’ve put ourselves in a position where we’ve got a chance to go out and play in that final.

“We’re in such a strong mindset where you’re a little bit tunnel vision when it comes to tournaments. It’s almost rest, recover repeat and go again.

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Fern Whelan reacted as Alessia Russo’s strike gives England a late 3-1 lead over Australia

We’ll celebrate with friends and family tonight and we have to take in these moments, you have to take them in because they don’t happen often. But then it’s straight back onto business, head down and get grafting.

“Sam was the enemy tonight, but she’s a good friend of mine. I’m gutted for her but ultimately, my head is obviously with England. I have a huge amount of respect for her, I’ve wanted her shirt for a long time.

“I’m proud to have played against her. She’s very hard to keep quiet, you have to keep your eye on her and if you don’t, it’s in the back of the net. She really tested us tonight. As a nation, we’re respectful of our opponents, but we always get the job done.”

Kane: I’ll be watching!

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Harry Kane sends his congratulations to the Lionesses after they beat Australia 3-1 to reach the women’s World Cup final

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.”

Kerr: It’s hard not to feel bad

It took fives games and 62 minutes for Sam Kerr to finally make her mark in this Women’s World Cup, a stunning strike in the semi-final no less.

But superstars are the hardest on themselves, and after missing the chance to equalise again ahead of Russo’s goal, Kerr had to contend with her immediate disappointment post-match.

“All I can feel is disappointment right now,” said Kerr.

Sam Kerr of Australia shows emotion at full time during the Women's World Cup Semi Final football match between the Australia Matildas and England at Stadium Australia on August 16, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Damian Briggs/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)
Sam Kerr was visibly emotional after losing the Women’s World Cup semi-final

“I can’t blame it all on myself but it’s hard not to feel bad right now. I have to think of all the things the team have done, and I have done to be where we are now.

“That’s kind of the only thing keeping me smiling right now, the fact that we inspired a nation, everyone’s gotten behind us, the tournament has been amazing.

“I think for us, hopefully this has been life-changing for women’s football in Australia.

“If you bring the product to the show, we’ve proven people will come out and support it. Now it is time for funding and all of that stuff to be invested in the game because we’ve shown we can play the game.”

Gustavsson: We won something else

“A game of football in tournament football, I’ve said it before, it takes one moment and England were much more clinical than we were in the finishing tonight,” said Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson.

Australia's head coach Tony Gustavsson and Australia's Sam Kerr react to their loss at the end of 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)
Australia’s head coach Tony Gustavsson comforted Sam Kerr after the defeat

“What I said to the team in the huddle [after the match], I said, we promised ourselves to leave everything out there and every single player did and I think that’s why the fans thanked them.

“But then I said that we have no time to dwell on this. We have extremely limited time and if we get too emotionally dragged down with this one, we will have no chance in the bronze medal game, so we need to be strong now.

“We’re very disappointed at the loss but hopefully we won something else. We won the heart and the passion for this game in this country, but I agree with the players. This is not the end of something, this needs to be the start of something.”

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What’s next?

England will play Spain in the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday in Sydney, with kick-off at 11am. Australia will face Sweden in the third-place play-off in Brisbane on Saturday, with kick-off at 9am.

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