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Lionesses living ‘a fairytale’ after reaching World Cup final for first time

Lionesses coach Sarina Wiegman says her team are living “a fairytale” after they beat Australia to reach the Women’s World Cup final for the first time.

England conquered hosts Australia 3-1 in Sydney thanks to goals from Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo.

The win means the Lionesses will face Spain on Sunday, with kick-off at 11am.

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England’s Ella Toone celebrates her goal

King sends message to Lionesses – reaction to England’s semi-final triumph

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Wiegman said: “We achieved the final! It’s unbelievable, it feels like we won [the tournament] which we didn’t, we just won this game – in an incredible stadium, an away game, the way we played – it was a hard game, but we found a way to win again.

“People have been talking about ruthlessness all the time, in this team there is ruthlessness, up front or in defence. We really want to keep the ball out of the net and we want to win.

“We stick together, we stick to the plan, and it worked again.”

The tense semi-final showdown brought early chances at both ends, but England struck the first blow with a magnificent strike from Toone silencing the crowd and giving the Lionesses a 1-0 lead at half-time.

Thousands of fans across England took time off work to watch the game. There were jubilant scenes at fan parks – which erupted as Toone’s strike hit the back of the net.

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Fans erupt with cheer as England score

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.

Soccer Football - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Semi Final - Australia v England - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 16, 2023 Australia's Sam Kerr scores their first goal REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake
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Chelsea forward Sam Kerr scored Australia’s equaliser

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 Hemp, who fired the ball past Australia’s keeper Mackenzie Arnold, around 20 minutes from time.

Russo wrapped up proceedings with a goal in the 86th minute.

“(I’m) over the moon, incredible. I think a World Cup final – we’ve been saying we’ve been dreaming of the semis but now this is what it’s all about, a World Cup final with this group, I’m buzzing,” she told BBC One.

Soccer Football - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Semi Final - Australia v England - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 16, 2023 England's Alessia Russo celebrates scoring their third goal REUTERS/Carl Recine
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Alessia Russo celebrates the Lionesses’ third goal which sealed the win

Wiegman said: “I just said to [assistant manager] Arjan, having the chance as a coach or a player to make it to two finals is really special. I never take anything for granted, but it’s like I’m living in a fairy tale or something.”

Wiegman also paid tribute to the Matildas: “Australia have had an incredible tournament, they grew into the tournament. They had some setbacks, they had to win their last group-stage game and then they got better and better.

“Sam Kerr came back, we saw today why she is the star of the team, but they are really tough to play against as a team too.”

Australia's players after the match against the Lionesses
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Australia’s players looked close to tears after the match

“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.”

Soccer Football - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Semi Final - Australia v England - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 16, 2023 England's Lauren Hemp and teammates celebrate after the match as England progress to the final of the World Cup REUTERS/Jaimi Joy
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The Lionesses including England’s second goalscorer Lauren Hemp (centre) celebrate after the final whistle

King Charles said in a statement: “My wife and I join all our family in sending the mighty Lionesses our warmest congratulations on reaching the final of the World Cup, and in sharing our very best wishes for Sunday’s match.

“While your victory may have cost the magnificent Matildas their chance for the greatest prize in the game, both teams have been an inspiration on and off the pitch – and, for that, both nations are united in pride, admiration and respect.”

Former England striker Gary Lineker added his congratulations, writing on X (formerly Twitter): “Well played Lionesses. Absolutely superb performance. A World Cup final. A World Cup final at football. It’s been a while. What a wonderful achievement.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak added his thoughts on the game, posting: “What a performance Lionesses. Just one more game to go… Bring on Sunday.”

The Welsh Guards Band performed one of England’s footballing anthems Sweet Caroline during Wednesday’s Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace after the victory.

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