Spain overcomes a stern Swedish test, England brushes aside Australia: 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Semi-Final Roundup
As has been the case with every round of knockout games at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the semi-final fixtures were also packed to the brim with thrill and last-minute drama. Spain overcame a stern Swedish challenge to confirm their maiden final appearance, while England showed character and composure in their 3-1 win over Australia.
Spain 2-1 Sweden
Spain qualified for their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup final with a thrilling 2-1 win over the 2003 runners-up Sweden. Salma Paralluelo and Olga Carmona scored for La Roja, while for Sweden, Rebecka Blomqvist was the lone goal-scorer.
The game had a sedate start, as both teams decided to measure the opponents’ strengths and weaknesses in the first few minutes, before going for attacks. Spain happened to be the first team who launched those attacks, with the first opportunity coming in the 14th minute.
Carmona found herself in space and struck a powerful shot, but it was narrowly wide of the target. Ten minutes later, Jorge Vilda’s girls had an even better opportunity when Alba Redondo played a brilliant ball to Jennifer Hermoso inside the box. But unfortunately for them, the Pachuca striker got her feet tangled and could not get a proper shot in.
The next big chance arrived in the 38th minute when Mariona Caldantey’s ball found Aitana Bonmati. The Barcelona midfielder did well to beat her marker with a perfectly executed turn, but she failed in the final step as her shot was not on target.
Despite Spain’s constant attacks, the biggest chance of the first half came to the Swedish contingent in the 43rd minute. A big mix-up between the Spanish defenders allowed a cross to be launched into the box, with Fridolina Rolfo waiting without any hindrance. However, despite being unchallenged, she was not clinical enough as the shot was saved by Catalina Coll.
The second half saw a shift in momentum, as Peter Gerhardsson’s team finally managed to break the shackles and launch more attacks. In the 55th minute, Stina Blackstenius was played a through ball and the Arsenal striker did well to get her shot in, but Coll came to Spain’s rescue yet again.
The next few minutes were cagey before Spain created yet another gilt-edged chance in the 70th minute. Hermoso played a pass for Redondo, and though the Levante striker could not get to the ball at the first time of asking, she was played in again via a Paralleulo pass. However, Redondo’s second attempt was not on target.
With only 1 few minutes remaining, it seemed the game would go into extra time, but Paralluelo struck out of nowhere. A cross pinged in from the left flank was cleared by the Swedish defenders, but the rebound fell kindly for the Barcelona striker, who made no mistake in making it 1-0 for Vilda’s team.
The game was still far from being over though, as Sweden struck back in the 88th minute. After receiving a pass at the back post, Lina Hurtig found Blomqvist, whose powerful attempt finally got the better of Coll.
But the lead lasted only one minute, with Spain hitting back instantly. A quickly-taken corner caught the Swedish players napping, with Carmona launching a powerful shot that struck the bar and went into the back of the net.
While Australia did well to make it to their maiden semis in the FIFA World Cup, their run came to an end with a 1-3 defeat against England. Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo scored for the Lionesses, while the Matildas’ star, Sam Kerr was also on the scoresheet.
Australia 1-3 England
Like the first semi-final, this game too had a scrappy start, but England found a major chance in the 9th minute. A brilliant lobbed pass from the deep by defender Alex Greenwood found Georgia Stanway totally unmarked, but Mackenzie Arnold spectacularly saved her shot.
The next few minutes saw England dominating possession but without creating any clear-cut chances, until Toone scored the opening goal for England. Russo deserves credit for the goal as well, as she played a brilliant ball from the left flank before the Manchester United player blasted her shot past a helpless Arnold.
The first chance of the second half came in the 59th minute when a corner found skipper Millie Bright unchallenged, but her header was not on target. It served as the wake-up call for the Matildas, with Kerr scoring the equalizer just 4 minutes later.
Having played a crucial part in the first goal, Russo brought England’s downfall as he gave the ball away at a crucial possession. Kerr then put on the afterburners to make a darting run, before launching her shot into the back of the net.
Nerves played a key role in this match, as after being gifted the equalizer, Matildas returned the lead to England in a gesture of kindness. Young defender Ellie Carpenter could not deal with a harmless ball from the deep, which was then picked up and struck home by Hemp.
To rub salt into Australia’s wounds and to make amends for her mistake, Russo added her name to the scoresheet in the 86th minute. Hemp was the creator this time as he made a darting run before finding the Arsenal striker, whose shot was too accurate for Arnold to save.