Sarina Wiegman was left asking “am I in a fairytale?” after England booked their place in the 2023 Women’s World Cup final with a 3-1 win over Australia.
Goals from Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo saw the Lionesses to victory and set up a showdown with Spain in Sunday’s final.
This will be the Lionesses’ final appearance at the World Cup but for Wiegman it will be her second in as many tournaments, after the Netherlands finished runner-up to the USWNT in France four years ago. It will be the Dutch manager’s fourth successive major tournament final appearance and she will become the first manager to win the Women’s World Cup with two separate sides if England win against Spain.
“I don’t know,” Wiegman told BBC Sport when asked how he did it. “I just said to (England assistant coach) Arjan (Veurink), the chance as a coach or as a player to get to the finals is very special. And we’ve made it to four! I never take it for granted anything but am i in a little fairytale or something?
England beat Australia: World Cup final awaits – quick analysis
England took the lead with Toone’s first-half strike before Sam Kerr opened his account for the tournament with an effort from range shortly after the hour mark to level the scores.
The Lionesses rallied again, Hemp picking up a searching Millie Bright pass and capitalizing on an Ellie Carpenter error to restore England’s lead.
Hemp turned provider to put the game past the co-hosts as his pass was headed home by Russo.
“It’s unbelievable,” Wiegman said. “It looked like we won it, but we didn’t win it, but we won this game. It’s an amazing stadium, an away game, the way we played of course it was a tough game but we found a way to win.
“You always talk about cruelty. I think in this team there is violence, whether that is forward or defense, we really want to keep the ball in the net, we really want to win. We got together and we stuck to the plan and it worked again.
England will play fellow World Cup final debutants Spain at Stadium Australia on Sunday.
How Spain reached the final of the World Cup
Spain started the tournament well, beating Costa Rica and Zambia 3-0 and 5-0 respectively, but suffered a shock defeat to Japan in their final group game.
That loss meant they finished second in Group C, setting up a knockout match in Switzerland. But the Spaniards roared back into form, thrashing their fellow Europeans 5-1.
They then defeated the Netherlands, winning 2-1 in extra time, before defeating Sweden — USWNT champions — to secure their place in the Women’s World Cup final for the first time.
How England reached the World Cup final
England made smooth progress through the group stage, beating Haiti and Denmark 1-0 before returning in style against China. They won 6-1 at the top of Group D.
But they were made to sweat in the round of 16 against tough Nigeria, especially after Lauren James saw red for a stamp. But they persevered and won on penalties.
They will also have to work hard against Colombia, who fell for the first time in the tournament. But they fought back to win 2-1 and then beat host nation Australia to reach the final.
(Image: Alex Pantling – FIFA via Getty Images)