England’s Lionesses have reached the final of the Women’s World Cup after beating Australia 3-1 in a thrilling semi-final.
The European champions took on the Matildas at Sydney’s sold-out Stadium Australia, where the majority of the 75,000 in attendance were backing the tournament co-hosts.
The tense showdown brought early chances at both ends, but England struck the first blow with a magnificent strike from Ella Toone silencing the crowd and giving the Lionesses a 1-0 lead at half-time.
Fan parks across London erupted as Toone’s strike hit the back of the net.
Toone’s goal was the first Australia had conceded in five hours and 54 minutes – after losing 3-2 to Nigeria in the group stages, the Matildas went on to keep three clean sheets.
Australia needed some magic to keep their World Cup hopes alive – and found it in striker Sam Kerr, who picked up the ball on the half-way line and hit home from 25 yards out to level the match.
But England weren’t fazed and did what they had to do to book themselves a place in the global showpiece with a second goal – this time from Lauren Hemp, who fired the ball past Australia’s keeper Mackenzie Arnold 20 minutes from time.
Alessia Russo wrapped up proceedings with a goal in the 86th minute.
An emotional Sarina Wiegman said reaching the World Cup final was “like a fairy tale”.
“It’s unbelieveable – it feels like we won it,” said the England boss, reacting to the response from fans, home and abroad.
“It was a hard game but again we found a way to win. In this team… we really want to win and work together.”
“We all dreamed of being in the final,” said England’s Lucy Bronze, after the final whistle.
“It is the one thing I have ever wanted – to reach the final of the World Cup… I can’t believe it.”
England men’s captain Harry Kane told 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.”
The Lionesses will play Spain in the final on Sunday in Sydney, with kick-off at 11am.
Sweden will face Australia in the third-place play-off on Saturday in Brisbane at 9am.