England will play Spain in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Sydney on Sunday. Spain beat Sweden 2-1 in its semifinal while England defeated co-hosts Australia 3-1 to reach the final.
Thirty-two teams started the 2023 Women’s soccer World Cup co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia. Two remain.
On Tuesday, Spain defeated Sweden by two goals to one at Eden Park in Auckland to reach its first World Cup final.
Spain first qualified for the event in 2015 and will face England, the current European champion, in Sunday’s final at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.
England defeated co-hosts Australia in front of more than 75,000 supporters in Sydney. It was arguably the biggest match on home soil in the host nation’s football history.
Australian player Mary Fowler told reporters after the game that it was an honor to play in a team that had inspired the nation.
“It was unreal tonight, just like it has been for all the games, actually,” she said. “It is really nice even when we are under the pump and we are down by some goals to hear the crowd get behind us and really try to cheer us on. Not many people get to experience that in their life being able to play at a home World Cup and really feel the support of the country behind them. So, [it is] something, you know, we are all very lucky to be part of.”
The Australians – known as the Matildas – had reached the World Cup semifinals for the first time. Co-host New Zealand failed to advance from the group stage of the competition, where four teams competed in eight sections. The top two countries progressed to the knockout round of 16.
Players – both past and present – as well as coaches and administrators hope that the co-hosts’ world cup journey will leave a legacy for female sport in Australia and New Zealand. It is hoped the performances of other nations, including Nigeria, Morocco and South Africa, will also promote the sport in other parts of the world.
Angela Iannotta, a former Matilda forward who scored Australia’s first World Cup goal in 1995, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that women’s football is changing dramatically.
“It is quite interesting,” she said, “because I remember when I am sitting at the airport with the Australian tracksuit and people would say, ‘Oh, what are you doing with Australian colors?’ and I said, ‘Oh, I am playing for the Australian women’s football team.’ ‘Oh, have we really got a national team?’ So, yeah, and the crowds were like, you know, 100 people, 200 people and things like that. So, just to see this change and this growth in women’s football in Australia is really unbelievable.”
Australia’s Matildas play Sweden in the World Cup third- and fourth-place playoff in Brisbane on Saturday.
The final takes place between Spain and England in Sydney on Sunday.
England striker Chloe Kelly told reporters after the semifinal victory against Australia that reaching the final was “what dreams are made of.”