EletiofeEngland ends Australia's dream run in Women's World Cup...

England ends Australia’s dream run in Women’s World Cup semis, advances to first final

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England's midfielder #10 Ella Toone celebrates scoring her team's first goal 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. (Photo by Izhar KHAN / AFP) (Photo by IZHAR KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

England‘s Ella Toone opened up the scoring against Australia giving the Lionesses an early lead Wednesday. England ended up winning 3-1 to advance to the Women’s World Cup final. (Photo by Izhar Khan/AFP)

Australia’s dreamy run at the 2023 Women’s World Cup met its match Wednesday in Sydney.

It met another 75,784 frenzied fans at Stadium Australia, and a nation overflowing with hope — hope that this heartening charge to the semifinals had inspired.

But it also met England.

In the 36th minute, with viewing parties nationwide at capacity, it met a stunning goal from English midfielder Ella Toone.

In the 71st minute, after Sam Kerr struck a storybook equalizer, it unraveled, undone by English forward Lauren Hemp and a defensive mix-up.

And after 90 enthralling minutes, after an 86th-minute Alessia Russo clincher, it ended in a 3-1 defeat.

It had been poignant and unforgettable. The Matildas, as this Australian team is known, had captured the imagination of Aussies everywhere, unlike ever before. They’d smashed national viewership records and World Cup attendance records. They’d filled fan festivals and done so many things that so many people never thought women’s soccer could do.

They all but brought their country to a standstill on a winter Wednesday night, with boys and girls, parents and grandparents gathering to watch historic moments multiply.

But instead, they all watched England seize control.

Georgia Stanway latched onto an early chance, and tested Mackenzie Arnold, the “Goliath” goalkeeper who’d been celebrated all week as a brick wall.

A half-hour later, Toone unleashed an unsavable shot, and gave England a deserved lead.

England’s Lionesses bossed the ball, holding twice as much possession as their hosts throughout the first half. They pinged it around, and kept it, and probed. Chances were infrequent, but the rhythm of the game had been defined, and Australia was struggling to get in sync with it.

That same rhythm continued after halftime — until Russo fumbled a touch in the attacking half, and Australia broke the other way. Kerr, the face of the World Cup who’d missed most of it due to injury, raced into open space. She bore down on English defender Millie Bright, and danced onto her right foot, and laced a shot into the top corner.

Stadium Australia erupted. The World Cup co-hosts suddenly had life. England rued its lapse, and the game threatened to elude its grasp. Australia was rising.

But the Lionesses steadied themselves, and pounced on an Australian error. Hemp found the bottom corner to give England a 2-1 lead.

Kerr had two glorious chances to equalize again, but skewed both wide of the goal. The second, off a corner with the clock ticking toward 90 minutes, pulled her hands to her head, knowing that her moment had come and gone.

And soon thereafter, Russo killed off the game at the tail end of a clinical counterattack.

England will advance to play Spain on Sunday (6 a.m. ET, Fox) in its first Women’s World Cup final. Sarina Wiegman, its best-in-class head coach, became the first person to lead two different nations to back-to-back finals.

Australia, meanwhile, will be left to reflect on a remarkable month, but also on what could have been.

Kerr, who dropped into a crouch at the final whistle, had said months ago: “Hopefully this is our first ever bit of silverware as a country, but also, [hopefully] this is the start of Australia being a footballing nation, and inspiring the world, and young girls, young boys.”

The Matildas accomplished one of those missions, undoubtedly. But Wednesday, the European champions, an age-old enemy, left them two steps shy of the other — of the trophy that they’d so desperately craved.

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