Australia, England battle for World Cup Final berth on TSN
With a date with Spain for the biggest prize in football on the line, England takes on hosts Australia in the second semi-final of the 2023 Women's World Cup from Sydney.
You can catch Australia vs. England in semi-final action from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Sydney on Wednesday morning with coverage getting underway at 5:45am et/2:45am pt on TSN1/4/5, streaming on the TSN App and on TSN.ca.
La Roja punched their ticket to the World Cup Final with a dramatic 2-1 win over Sweden on Tuesday morning.
England were given everything they could handle by upstarts Colombia in the quarters and fell behind in the closing minutes of the first half on an incredible goal from Leicy Santos. In the 44th, the Atletico midfielder, spotting that Mary Earps was off of her line, lofted a chip from just inside the area over the England 'keeper and into the net for a shock 1-0 opener. But Las Cafeteras' lead wouldn't last for long. In first-half stoppage, as the Lionesses pressed forward looking for an equalizer, Colombia 'keeper Catalina Perez spilled a tame effort from Alessia Russo that allowed for Lauren Hemp to pounce and poke home to tie it before the break. After the restart, it was Russo who came through for the Lionesses as she has done so many times before during her short international career. Getting service from Georgia Stanway, the 24-year-old Arsenal forward shook off a defender and beat Perez from close range in the 63rd to give England a 2-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"We’re in the semi-final of a World Cup and we’re keeping the dream alive," Russo said after the match. "Colombia are a top team, and they’ve shown that in this World Cup. It was a really tough test, but I’m so happy we are in the semis. They have so many talented players that can cause you trouble within a second, but I thought our backline were brilliant tonight. What makes this team great is that we’re always trying to find ways to improve. We’ve got lots to work on, we’ll get rested and recovered and go again."
For the Lionesses, this is a third straight trip to the last four, but it's at this stage that their last two World Cups ended. In Edmonton in 2015, England crashed out in a 2-1 loss to Japan on an own goal from Laura Bassett in second-half stoppage. Then in 2019 in France, first-half goals from Christen Press and Alex Morgan were enough for the United States to edge the Lionesses, 2-1. But since those two heartbreaking defeats, England has learned to get over the line as demonstrated by their Euro 2022 triumph last summer. Will the third time be the charm at the World Cup in front of what should be a hostile crowd cheering on the home Matildas?
"Throughout every game so far, we've had to dig deep," Manchester City forward Chloe Kelly said. "We especially had to do that against Colombia in the quarterfinal. They had a lot of fans supporting them and that was great preparation for Wednesday night. Australia are great side and they've shown their qualities during this tournament. We have been training well and have recovered well [from the quarters]. We’ll be ready."
Besides, Tottenham Hotspur forward Bethany England says, England is used to crowd noise.
"We’ve been in this situation where we’ve had a lot of noise," England said. "The Euros last year at Old Trafford, Wembley. It’s nothing these girls aren’t used to now. We are getting it more and more in the women’s game, selling out, getting big crowds and not being able to think. So it’s just going to be an exciting game and a special one.”
On the other side of the pitch, the Matildas finally broke through in their fourth World Cup quarterfinal in the past five tournaments to reach a first-ever semi-final with a nerve-wracking spot-kick 0-0 (7-6) victory over France. At one point during extra time, Australia didn't think penalties were coming. In the 99th minute, Alanna Kennedy turned a France corner into her own net, but jubilant celebrations from Les Bleues were cut short when the referee signaled no goal after spotting Wendie Renard's foul on Caitlin Foord in the leadup. Shortly after Cortnee Vine couldn't poke home from close range, Matildas 'keeper Mackenzie Arnold made a fine save on Vicki Becho in the 107th.
Heading to penalties, France manager Herve Renard made the controversial decision to switch netminders with Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, who had played well, withdrawn for penalties specialist Solene Durand. His choice appeared to be the right one with Durand turning aside Steph Catley, who previously scored a penalty against Ireland, and Clare Hunt. But Arnold was up to the challenge herself, making saves on Kenza Dali and Eve Perisset. When Arnold's own shot attempt hit the post, Becho had the chance to grab the advantage for Les Bleues, but she, too, hit the iron. It was then up to Vine to play hero and she did. Her right-footed effort was struck too well for Durand to do anything and the 25-year-old Sydney FC winger sent Australia into the last four.
"This feeling is something I’ve never felt before," West Ham's Arnold said after the match. "I’m just so proud of the girls. But I feel like I don’t know what to say - I’m overwhelmed. I didn’t feel I had too much to do for long periods of time but there were a couple of saves I needed to make and I’m glad I was able to do my job and help the team. I’ll be dwelling on the penalty I missed for a while but I just wanted to keep doing my job."
In the Lionesses, Australia faces a familiar foe with 11 members of Tony Gustavsson's 23-player roster plying their trade in the Women's Super League. But while those Matildas players might play their club football in England, it will be in front of home fans as the Lionesses visit Down Under.
“We’ve got the whole nation behind us and, you know, it is a knockout game in a major tournament, and a game that we’ve never played in before,” veteran midfielder Tameka Yallop, who spent two seasons at West Ham from 2021 to 2022, said. “So, for us, we just want to go out there, play out best football, and play for Australia. The focus is all on that.”
Gustavsson says he trusts his players to get the job done.
“These players are on a mission," he said after the France win. "I know that they’re going to celebrate this one, but from tomorrow they’re going to be focused again. They’re extremely professional and they’re on a mission.”
England and Australia met recently this past April in a friendly when the Matildas ended the Lionesses' 30-game unbeaten run and handed them their first defeat under Sarina Wiegman. Sam Kerr and Charlotte Grant scored in the 2-0 win at Brentford Community Stadium, the home of the Bees.
While both teams head into the match with no notable injury limitations, England will still be without Chelsea forward Lauren James as she serves the final game of her two-match ban for a red card in the Round of 16 against Nigeria.
The winner will advance to meet Spain in the World Cup Final on Sunday.