The Matildas have advanced to their first-ever World Cup semi-final after defeating France in one of the most dramatic penalty shoot-outs that you’ll ever see.
It was Cortnee Vine that sealed the victory with her decisive spot-kick, but it was Mackenzie Arnold’s heroics in goal that won Australia the game.
She was immense in regular time, extra time and in the shootout, keeping her side’s World Cup dreams alive with save after save.
France had scored 12 goals at this World Cup, the most they have ever scored in a single tournament and looked to continue to add to their tally as they created several chances early in the first half.
Their best chance of the game came in the 12th minute when the ball fell to France's all-time leading goal-scorer, Eugenie Le Sommer, in the second phase of a corner. She looked to hit it the first time but failed to connect well, still, the ball found its way to an unmarked Maelle Lakrar inside the six-yard box.
With a seemingly open goal, she was unable to direct it and somehow floated her shot over the bar.
The Les Bleues continued to attack Australia’s goal, looking to capitalise on the Matildas' untidy turnovers and nervous moments on the transition. But they were unable to put any pressure on the scoreboard with Arnold always making her presence known.
The rest of the Australian players tried to adapt to the fact the French pressed them in a way in which they couldn’t easily release the speed of Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso down the wings.
Eventually, they started to settle into the game and even finished the first half as the stronger team out on the pitch with some good chances of their own.
The French almost gifted Australia the lead after failing to clear a Raso cutback that fell on the edge of the six-yard box. Miscommunication between Sakina Karchaoui who attempted to shield the ball for her goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, allowed Emily van Egmond to get a touch and then find Mary Fowler free inside the box, she fired first time at goal but Elisa De Almeida came from nowhere to block it on the goal line.
Fowler looked sure to break the intense deadlock as she continued to be a constant threat upfront for the Matildas at the start of the second half, but she couldn’t sneak one past France's goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin.
It only took Sam Kerr five minutes after being subbed on early in half-time to set up her side’s first goal. She broke down the left and cut a ball back across the top of the box looking for Fowler, but it went past her to a running Raso down the right flank. She cut in-board and rocketed a shot at goal but Peyraud-Magnin made a great save and pushed the ball over the bar.
The Les Bleues had the best chances of the two teams in extra time but they were denied by several superb saves by Arnold.
It even looked like the French had taken the lead after Alanna Kennedy’s header off a corner went into the back of the Matildas net for an own goal, but they escaped with a free-kick after Wendie Renard was called for dragging down Caitlin Foord in the box.
France then subbed on goalkeeper Solène Durand at the death of extra time for penalty duties, despite the fact that she hadn’t featured at all this World Cup. It seemed like an inspired decision after she produced a great save to deny Steph Cately and give her side the advantage.
But it was her goalkeeper counterpart that stole the show. Arnold made three crucial saves whilst her teammates held their nerve. She had a chance to win it for Australia but struck the post, but she didn’t let the miss get to her, writing her name in Australian sporting folklore for her match-winning performance.
Australia’s win makes them only the second nation to reach the FIFA Women’s World Cup semifinals as hosts, with the USA the only other to do so when they won it in 1999 and finished third in 2003.
They will now take on England on Wednesday, August 16 at 8 pm in Sydney for the illustrious spot in the 2023 World Cup final.
The Lionesses came from behind in their quarter-final to defeat Colombia 2-1 in Sydney thanks to a second-half goal by Alessia Russo.
Colombia stunned the world’s fourth-ranked team when they struck first in the 44th minute of the match when Leicy Santos caught Lionesses goalkeeper Mary Earps off her line with a beautifully chipped shot-cross.
It was Colombia’s first shot that was on target for the match, and the first time this tournament that the English had trailed in a match. But they didn’t have to wait long for their equaliser with Lauren Hemp pulling the scores level on the brink of half-time.
It was a moment of disaster for the Colombian goalkeeper Catalina Pérez after she spilled what looked to be an easy save, despite attempting to clean up her mistake, she was unable to regather the bobbling ball and Hemp poked home her shot from close range.
The first half was a game of opposites, each side had their chances and time with the momentum of the game. England dominated possession and were patient on the ball with their calculated and controlled attacks. In contrast, the South Americans looked to let them keep the ball until they thought they could win it and then they’d pounce quickly on the counter-attack.
Colombia showed that they were up for the fight, they were confident on the ball going forward and showed that they were willing to put their bodies on the line defensively.
At the sixth minute mark, we saw Carolina Arias desperately slide across the field to block an almost certain goal for the Lionesses as Hemp go the first real chance of the game only for her shot to hit the sliding Arias’ face. The rebound fell to Russo but she too hit her shot into Arias with the Colombian defender needing to be helped from the ground and subsequently subbed off.
Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly proved to be constant threats down the flanks, looking to exploit the gaps left behind by Colombia when they streamed forward on attacks.
It was Daly that had an early chance for the opening goal in the 27th minute when Georgia Stanway’s attempted shot at the back post from a corner fell to Daly. She perhaps had more time than she thought with her header landing straight in the lap of Perez.
The physical battle continued into the second half with each side working hard to wrestle back the momentum of the game with both teams continuing to trust their brand of football.
Mayra Ramírez continued to cause headaches for England, but up the other end of the pitch, it was Russo who took her opportunity, clinically putting away the match-winner in the 65th minute.
Colombia failed to clear a through ball put in by Stanway and it fell into the path of Russo running down the right in time and space just inside the 18-yard box, she made no mistake powerfully placing the ball out of reach of Perez in the far bottom corner.
Colombia searched for their equaliser, putting the pressure back on England and creating several great chances to bring the game back level. But desperate defending by the Lionesses and some sharp saves by Earps meant the South Americans World Cup journey would come to an end.
It was another hard-fought battle, with the triumphant England now having a date with the co-hosts in the semi-final on Wednesday, August 16 at 8pm in Sydney for a chance to playoff in the big dance.