Australia’s W’Cup dream turns awry

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A long, emotional day for Australian soccer fans turned into an even longer trip home when severe delays stranded thousands on train platforms at Stadium Australia after the nation’s disappointing 3-1 loss to England in the World Cup semifinal.

For many, it was a fitting end to a draining night that saw Australia’s newest sporting superstars, the Matildas, fall frustratingly short of their first ever World Cup final.

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After the match, a downcast Sam Kerr – Australia’s talismanic superstar and captain – told reporters she was lost for words.

“Unfortunately, this World Cup hasn’t gone as planned. I can’t blame it all on myself, but it’s hard not to feel bad right now,” she said.

Before the match kicked off, Australians had lifted their heroes onto their shoulders, but when the final score gave the game to England, they weren’t prepared to put them down.

“I think they played incredibly,” Skye Marshall told CNN, as she stood outside Stadium Australia with her family after the match.

“They’ve still got the hard work to do. And they will rally, and they will make us proud on Saturday,” she said, referring to Australia’s clash against Sweden in the third-place playoff.

“Rose gold,” added Harold Marshall. “That’s what we call it.”

After Wednesday’s game, politicians, sports stars and supporters lined up to commend the players.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said they had “shown incredible skill, ferocity and flair,” while Foreign Minister Penny Wong said they had “made Australia so proud.”

“You played some great football and along the way you have changed the country. We’re all behind you, always,” Wong posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Olympic runner Cathy Freeman, whose 400-meter dash for gold captivated the nation at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, also added words of encouragement.

“So incredibly proud of our girls! You gave it everything and inspired an entire nation! Hold your head up high and here’s to the future!” she posted on X.

Close match

Emotions ran high throughout the evening as spectators perched on edge of their seats, ready to spring to their feet every time Australia had a shot at goal.

The sound of drums echoed and fans launched into songs whose lyrics were distributed online by the Matildas’ dedicated supporters’ group: “Come on, Matildas!”

Sam Kerr’s stunning kick – arguably the goal of the tournament – to equalize the score at one goal apiece shook the stadium as fans roared their approval.

But as England pulled ahead with a second goal and then a third, the singing lost some of its volume and exuberance, and some fans sat quietly down, despair etched on their foreheads.

As the time ran out on a dream comeback, the dejected players huddled before walking around the pitch to thank their supporters.

Kerr gave Chelsea teammate Millie Bright her jersey, which the Lionesses defender wore as she told reporters that the England team had “started to click.”

“We’re getting the ball in the back of the net, which is nice,” she added.