England fire back at 'dirty' Sam Kerr claim after World Cup win over Matildas

England have refuted suggestions they resorted to the dark arts in the World Cup semi-final victory over the Matildas.

Pictured right is England's coach Sarina Wiegman and Sam Kerr on left.

England's coach and players have hit back at suggestions they resorted to "dirty" tactics against Sam Kerr and the Matildas in Wednesday night's World Cup semi-final triumph. The Lionesses booked their place in Sunday's Women's World Cup final against Spain with a clinical 3-1 win over the Aussies in front of a packed house at Sydney's Stadium Australia.

The European champions proved a class above the Matildas in the semi-final showdown, controlling much of the game and enjoying the greater chances throughout the 90 minutes, even if there physical approach came under criticism from Aussie fans. Matildas supporters and commentators lashed out at some of England's tackles, with Kerr often finding herself on the receiving end of England's rugged approach.

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Kerr had her foot stamped on very early in the contest from England's Keira Walsh, before she was clattered into by Alex Greenwood in an incident described as a "very nasty tackle" by former Matilda Amy Chapman in commentary. Pressed after the semi-final victory about whether her side's approach focused on targeting Kerr, England coach Sarina Wiegman denied her side went out to rough the Matildas captain up.

“No, I think they (Australia) wanted to find Sam Kerr quickly too,” Wiegman said. “And she made runs, they also tried to find her in the build(up). I think also the two midfielders for Australia were very quick, and they were sometimes very dangerous when they went forward too.

"Of course Sam Kerr is an important player to them, but I think there are more players for Australia that are really good. Yeah, we had to defend really well, and be in possession to play well too.”

Seen here, England defender Alex Greenwood fouls Sam Kerr.
Alex Greenwood picked up a yellow card for a cynical foul on Sam Kerr. (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

England did not deliberately target Sam Kerr

England defender Lucy Bronze also denied there was a concerted plan by the English players to resort to ugly tactics against Kerr. The Lionesses defender admitted it was a physical contest but made no apologies for her side giving it as well as they got it.

“I think the most physical game we played was probably against Nigeria, so playing Australia was a little less physical than that game," she told News Corp. “I think we’ve been prepared to play against many different types of teams in this tournament.

"And yeah, I think we’re capable of matching any team in terms of physicality, or whatever - football-based, counter-attack, sitting in blocks, high press, this England team’s adaptable to deal with whatever the game gives us.”

Asked to elaborate on whether that plan involved a specific targeting of Kerr, the England defender brushed off the suggestion. “Not particularly, we just wanted to play our game, and that’s exactly what we did,” she said.

“We didn’t have someone running around after Sam Kerr. We know she’s a fantastic player, but we’ve got 11 of those on the pitch. We just had to play our own game and I think that’s what we did tonight.”

Matildas rue missed chances as World Cup dream ends

Ella Toone gave England the lead in the 36th minute, before Kerr sent the crowd into a frenzy with an incredible long-range strike to equalise in the 63rd minute. But Kerr's heroics went in vain as Lauren Hemp scored eight minutes later to restore England's lead, before Alessia Russo scored England's third in the 86th minute.

Kerr missed two chances to equalise when the score was still 2-1, leaving her devastated. "It was one of those nights - I've said it before - tournament football is won and lost inside the 18 (yard box) and England was clinical tonight," Gustavsson 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."

The Matildas must now dust themselves off for the third-place playoff against Sweden on Saturday night at 6pm (AEST). Matildas' vice-captain Steph Catley said: "We do have another game. We were proud that we created history that we were able to get to a semi-final. But we ultimately believed that we could go all the way and do something really special."

Sunday's final between England and Spain will once again take place at Sydney's Stadium Australia at 8pm local time. Regardless of which nation wins, either England or Spain will join Germany as the only country to have won both the women's and men's World Cups.

with agencies

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