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A moment of Kerr brilliance as Matildas lose to England

Ella Toone opens the scoring for England in Sydney on Wednesday night.

Ella Toone opens the scoring for England in Sydney on Wednesday night. Photo: Getty

The Matildas have had a “heartbreaking end” to their inspirational World Cup campaign, but it’s not quite over yet for the team that has become the pride of the nation.

The Australians suffered a 3-1 semi-final loss to England’s Lionesses at Sydney Olympic Park on Wednesday night in front of more than 75,000 roaring football fans.

But the Matildas are turning their attention to their next game on Saturday when they play Sweden for third place in Brisbane – and they are counting on their fans.

“This one hurts but we regroup, stick together and go again Saturday,” Matilda Caitlin Foord wrote on Twitter.

“Australia thank you for your support, we still need you.”

England will play Spain in the World Cup final as both sides aspire to win the tournament for the first time.

As Australia’s dream came to an end on Wednesday night, there was a moment of brilliance from skipper Sam Kerr.

Making her first start of the competition, Kerr sent soccer fans wild with an absolute wonder goal in the 63rd minute that has been called the goal of the tournament.

Proving why she’s one of the best in the game, Kerr’s 30-yard screamer dragged Australia back into the match after a lacklustre opening hour, to level the score 1-1.

But sadly for Australia the euphoria only lasted eight minutes and the Matildas fell apart.

England’s Lauren Hemp put the Lionesses back ahead before Alessia Russo finished things off to make it 3-1.

Kerr’s stunning goal has instead become an afterthought on a night when Australia’s momentum came to a crushing end.

“I guess it really doesn’t matter now,” Kerr told reporters. “All I can think about right now is disappointment.”

“I think that’s kind of the only thing that’s keeping me smiling right now, is the way that we’ve inspired the nation, everyone’s got behind us.

“The tournament’s been amazing, every single team, player, person that’s visited has said how beautiful our country is.

“So I think for us, it’s been hopefully life-changing for women’s football in Australia.”

Kerr had a number of chances late in the game to draw Australia level but the Matildas skipper was unable to convert, blasting one over the bar and having another cleared off the line.

It is unclear how she will be used in Saturday’s third-place play-off against Sweden in Brisbane given her heavy load in the quarter-final and semi-final.

Coach Tony Gustavsson said Kerr was beating herself up for her failure to get the Matildas back into the game.

Kerr said England’s composure was the difference between the two sides after the Lionesses hit them on the counter late in the game to seal victory.

“There was only a couple of moments in the game and I guess they took theirs,” Kerr said.

“I thought it was honestly pretty even and from where I was sitting it kind of ebbed and flowed each way but after we scored I thought we were going to go and score another.

“Then they kind of took momentum back so I guess it felt like it would have been a great game to watch honestly from where I was.”

Coach Gustavsson said it was “one of those nights”.

“I’ve said it before. Tournament football is won and lost inside the 18 (yard box) and I think England was clinical tonight,” he said.

“We had a chance for 2-2 and a couple of minutes later it was 3-1. It was one of those games, unfortunately.

“You have to understand that you sometimes play against a team that have a better night, and I think England had a better night than us.”

Matildas captain Sam Kerr reflects on what might have been in Sydney on Wednesday night. Photo: Getty

Katrina Gorry worked tirelessly in midfield in her 100th cap but Australia was twice undone by poor work in defence.

Kerr made her first start since her calf injury with Emily van Egmond making way, while Alanna Kennedy missed the match through illness and was replaced by Clare Polkinghorne.

She almost made an immediate impact in the seventh minute when Katrina Gorry won possession and brilliantly sent a long ball over the England defence and into Kerr’s path, but was offside.

Two minutes later Mackenzie Arnold brilliantly denied Georgia Stanway.

England scored when Hemp picked up a Rachel Daly throw in and flicked it over Ellie Carpenter.

Russo pounced, weaved into space and quickly worked the ball back to an unmarked Toone, who buried a first-time shot into the top corner.

Hayley Raso, Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord are lost for words after the loss to England. Photo: Getty

Australia appeared down and out with its superstar captain kept quiet, until the tireless Gorry slipped through Kerr and she took off.

Kerr went on a wonderful marauding run before cutting outside Chelsea teammate Millie Bright and launching an incredible long-range shot that beat star goalkeeper Mary Earps.

But just eight minutes later Bright launched a long ball and Carpenter failed to deal with physical pressure from Hemp.

The attacker nipped the ball away from Carpenter before restoring England’s lead.

Kerr headed over the bar in the 82nd minute while substitute Cortnee Vine forced Earps into a save a minute later.

Kerr blasted over the bar in the 85th minute and a minute later Hemp turned provider, slipped through Russo who fired low and into the bottom corner to round out the victory.

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