England break Australia hearts to reach World Cup final

England Women will compete in the Women’s World Cup final for the first time ever thanks to a pulsating 3-1 win over co-hosts Australia Women in Wednesday’s semi-final.

Two fabulous finishes from Ella Toone and Sam Kerr lit up Stadium Australia in Sydney, but Sarina Wiegman‘s Lionesses roared to victory as Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo made the net bulge in the second period, leaving Australia crestfallen as the European champions set up a mouthwatering final against Spain.

Both goalkeepers were called into action during an open start to the semi-final, as the feet of Mary Earps thwarted Kerr – who was offside anyway – in the eighth minute, before Mackenzie Arnold‘s boot denied Georgia Stanway from close range following a delicate ball over the top by Alex Greenwood

England continued to take the game to the co-hosts, and with 36 minutes on the clock, their efforts were rewarded thanks to a venomous opener from Euro 2022 hero Toone.

The 23-year-old’s former Manchester United teammate Russo got to the byline inside the box and tried to cut back for Hemp, but the ball found its way to Toone, who unleashed an unstoppable strike into the top-left hand corner of Arnold’s goal.

The stunned Matildas had a sighter of goal just two minutes after Toone’s thunderbolt, but Katrina Gorry‘s effort from range was straight down the throat of Earps, who enjoyed a relatively comfortable first half.

In contrast, Arnold was troubled once more 12 minutes into the second half, showcasing her athletic ability to deny a Hemp half-volley from finding the top corner, before Millie Bright rose highest from the resulting corner but headed just wide

Bright soon returned to her defensive duties, coming up against Chelsea teammate Kerr as Australia’s star forward charged towards goal, and the 29-year-old bettered Toone’s opener with an astonishing leveller in the 63rd minute.

As Bright continued to back away from Kerr – who was released on the counter after England lost the ball midway in the Australia half – the Chelsea forward let fly from 25 yards and expertly found the top corner, albeit with the aid of a slight nick off of Bright’s knee.

Even without the minor deflection, Kerr’s goal-bound strike would have proved too hot for Earps to handle, but the striker’s wonder goal galvanised England, who restored their lead just eight minutes later.

After Russo headed just wide, Australia quickly lost the ball and failed to deal with a long pass over the top from Bright to Hemp, who bullied Ellie Carpenter out of the way and drilled a low strike across goal into the side of the net.

As Australia huffed and puffed for an equaliser, Kerr had lost her golden touch – missing the target twice from close range – and the 29-year-old would live to regret those missed opportunities as her Arsenal counterpart Russo rubber-stamped England’s ticket to the showpiece.

Hemp quickly went from goalscorer to assister in the 87th minute, evading the Australia press and bursting forward before laying off Russo in the right-hand side of the area, and the 24-year-old also aimed for the far corner and succeeded with aplomb before the Sweet Caroline celebrations began.

Before England go for glory against Jorge Vilda‘s Spain on Sunday, Tony Gustavsson‘s disconsolate Australia will face Sweden for the consolation prize of third place on Saturday

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