Ruthless England stun co-hosts Australia to reach Women's World Cup final

Lionesses save their best for the semis as huge Sydney crowd is left deflated

England's Georgia Stanway, left, celebrates with Chloe Kelly after their semi-final victory over Australia. PA
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England crushed the dreams of co-hosts Australia to reach the final of the Women's World Cup in front of a sold-out crowd of almost 80,000 people in Sydney on Wednesday evening.

Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo scored vital second-half goals to secure a 3-1 win for the Lionesses, who were good value for their victory thanks to a combination of composed defending and ruthless finishing.

Australia's inspirational captain Sam Kerr briefly gave the Matildas hope when her stunning individual goal cancelled out Ella Toone's opener, however, she was also guilty of a pivotal miss when she spurned the chance to make it 2-2 shortly after Hemp's strike.

England will now return to Stadium Australia to face Spain in Sunday's final (2pm UAE time), while Australia will play Sweden for third place in Brisbane on Saturday (12 noon, UAE time).

It was a case of third time's a charm for England who will now contest their first world final having twice been beaten in the last four, in 2015 and 2019.

Remarkably, for Lionesses coach Sarina Wiegman, this result means she will have led teams in four consecutive major tournament finals. The Dutch coach led her homeland to Euro 2017 glory and then a runners-up spot at the 2019 World Cup before switching to England and orchestrating Euro 2022 success.

"We made it to the final, unbelievable," said Wiegman. "It feels like we won the whole thing but we didn't. Playing an away game at this incredible stadium, it was a hard game but again, we found a way to win.

"We scored three goals, in this team there is a ruthlessness, up front and in defence. We really want to win. We stick together and we stick to the plan and it worked again."

'Matildas mania' had built in Australia throughout the team's run to the semi-final, with the team attracting an army of new supporters and their exploits becoming front page news.

This proved a game too far, though, and midfielder Katrina Gorry, who earned her 100th cap on the night, accepted they had been beaten by the better team.

"We wanted to dominate the game, we didn’t do that," said a disappointed Gorry. "And we wanted to probably create more scoring opportunities and we didn’t do that. But you know, we’ve got a quick turnaround and we want to win the bronze medal.”

England's Barcelona defender, Lucy Bronze, said the team had executed their gameplan to perfection and that she was now expecting a deluge of questions from her team-mates ahead of Sunday's final against the Spanish.

"The one thing I've always wanted to do is get to a World Cup final. After two times of such disappointment, I can't believe it," said Bronze.

"We played how we wanted to, we were determined, resilient. We knew the crowd would be crazy and we talked about silencing them and at the end we did that.

"We all dreamed of being in the final, all our family and friends have boked to stay here until then because they all believed in us. It's been amazing to play against Australia, in Australia, what a fantastic tournament they had but we're in the final.

"Spain have been very good," she added. "They did have that defeat against Japan [in the group stage]. Me and Keira [Walsh] know 90 per cent of the squad very well so we'll be getting questions in the analysis I'm sure."

Updated: August 16, 2023, 5:00 PM