Matildas-mania has completely gripped Australia, as they enter the final four of a World Cup guaranteed to produce a first-time winner. Here’s the Semi Finals preview:
Spain vs Sweden, Tuesday 6pm (AEST)
While Spain has never been this deep in a FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sweden have made four semi-finals before, including two of the last three.
Nevertheless it’s La Roja that start as $2.05 favourites to continue their history-making run. It was a gruelling 2-1 quarter final victory for Spain over the Dutch in the Wellington sunshine. They played over 102 minutes of football even before an additional 30-plus minutes of extra time, in which young gun Salma Paralluelo smashed home the winner. Spain’s run this World Cup is made all the more unlikely given the frosty relations that continue in the dressing room, with the players and coach Jorge Vilda remaining apart during celebrations. Whether the playing group can continue producing despite fractured relations is a huge ask at the business end of this tournament. What’s clear is that they will maintain their high possession game against Sweden. Averaging three goals per game this tournament, they will continue to create chances.
Spain’s style will contrast heavily with that of Sweden ($3.80), who in comparison are a case study in defensive sturdiness. The Swedes have conceded just two goals in their five games this World Cup. While that aspect of their game has never been in question, their movement in the final third has. However they surprised many in that respect against Japan in the quarters, and were well worth the 2-1 win despite starting $3.40 underdogs. By contrast with Spain, Sweden got the job done in 90 minutes and remain in Auckland to play consecutive games at Eden Park, which could prove an advantage.
Stina Blackstenius = Big game player. 😎🔥
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) August 13, 2023
Australia vs England, Wednesday 8pm (AEST)
The vibes couldn’t be higher. Any football fan knew a deep Matildas World Cup run on home soil would make a dent on the country’s sporting landscape. But this much? This level of excitement?
A penalty shootout win for the ages against France, after finishing 0-0 ($8.50 pre-game), saw Australia through to their first ever World Cup final and, along with the other three nations left in their incredible tournament, loom as a first-time winner. That they now face an across-the-board sporting rival in England, making the buildup even bigger. The Aussies retained the men’s and women’s Ashes in recent months, while the Diamonds defeated England in the recent netball World Cup final. Can the Matildas make it four from four in perhaps the sweetest possible victory? They start as $3.40 underdogs to win in normal time, and $2.23 (England $1.61) to progress to the final.
It’s difficult to imagine a more physically and mentally taxing match than Saturday night’s — something Tony Gustavsson has admitted. The coach has played the same starting XI for three straight games, and eight players have more or less played every minute this tournament. All eyes will be on whether Sam Kerr’s calf is strong enough to start her first match. While the Aussies can take confidence from defeating the Lionesses 2-0 in April, England without doubt loom as their biggest test this World Cup. The reigning European champions deservedly shortened into tournament favourites early in the campaign, and have proven themselves as the best team across the park throughout the last three weeks. But in Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Mary Fowler, the Matildas could have the attacking prowess to seal what would likely go on the podium as one of the biggest sporting victories by Australia on these shores.
— CommBank Matildas (@TheMatildas) August 13, 2023