BRISBANE, Australia — In a remarkable display of resilience following a loss in the Women’s World Cup semifinals, Sweden maintained its supremacy by defeating even the tournament hosts. The Swedish women continued their flawless track record in World Cup third-place matches, securing their fourth victory in this context. Fridolina Rolfo and Kosovare Asllani showcased their prowess on Saturday, orchestrating a clinical 2-0 triumph over Australia.
“We’re overjoyed. Right from the outset, we demonstrated our superiority,” Rolfo affirmed. “This medal is rightfully ours.”
The outcome was a disheartening conclusion for the Matildas, who had captivated their nation with their maiden journey to the semifinals. The jointly-hosted tournament by Australia and New Zealand had set attendance records, with two of Australia’s matches becoming the most-watched programs on domestic commercial TV in two decades.
With the iconic Sydney Opera House illuminated in Australia’s signature green and gold hues and fervent supporters converging on fan zones to witness the games on colossal screens across cities, there still lingered a glimmer of hope for a medal for the Matildas.
However, this hope was ultimately quashed by consecutive losses to the third and fourth-ranked teams globally, despite the presence of star striker Sam Kerr back in the starting lineup. “Our aim was victory, our aim was to seize some hardware. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be,” Kerr expressed. Yet, she continued, “Through the unwavering support of our fans and the manner in which our team conducted itself, we’ve shown the world our stature as a footballing nation. While tonight’s victory eluded us, we hope to be an inspiration for years to come.”
As the European champion England squared off against Spain in the final in Sydney on Sunday, Sweden’s win solidified a European dominance in the top three spots.
The Swedish team triumphed in all three group stage matches, followed by a dramatic victory over the reigning champions, the U.S. team, in the round of 16, and a triumph over Japan in the quarterfinals. Employing a strategy of compactness, organization, and exploiting defensive gaps, Sweden demonstrated its dominance for most of the match against Australia.
Rolfo capitalized on a penalty opportunity with a skillful, curling left-foot shot in the 30th minute, following Australian defender Clare Hunt’s foul on Stina Blackstenius, confirmed after a VAR review. Asllani’s well-executed strike during a Swedish counterattack in the 62nd minute sealed their victory.
Goalkeeper Zecira Musovic sustained her exceptional form throughout the tournament, achieving another clean sheet by blocking Kerr’s angled right-foot strike in first-half stoppage time and thwarting Clare Polkinghorne’s close-range shot in the 70th minute.
“The sense of relief is coupled with an exhilarating feeling as the final whistle blows,” remarked Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson.
Kerr’s journey in the tournament had been marked by challenges, missing matches due to injury but making pivotal contributions on her return. A 2-1 loss to Spain in Auckland led Sweden to familiar ground, the third-place playoff. The Swedes had secured podium finishes in 1991, 2003 (runners-up), 2011, and 2019, triumphing over Germany, France, and England, respectively. Their cumulative achievements rank second only to the United States, a four-time champion, in Women’s World Cup history. Sweden also secured silver medals at the Tokyo Olympics and the 2016 Rio Games.
While the Swedish team received adulation from their devoted supporters in the near-capacity crowd of almost 50,000, the Matildas also took a lap to express their gratitude. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese graced the podium to award bronze medals to the triumphant Swedes, and later offered condolences to the Matildas on the field.
As the first Women’s World Cup held in the Southern Hemisphere concluded, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reflected on the Matildas’ journey. “It’s bittersweet that this chapter is closing. These four weeks have been the pinnacle of our careers,” Kerr acknowledged, reflecting on the significance of their fourth-place finish. “Though disappointment clouds the moment, in a few weeks’ time, we’ll look back on this and be immensely proud of what we achieved.”