Matildas dudded by 'unfair' farce as Sweden win bronze at Women's World Cup

The Matildas' historic run at the Women's World Cup has resulted in a fourth-place finish.

The Matildas, pictured here after losing to Sweden in the third-place game at the Women's World Cup.
The Matildas lost to Sweden in the third-place game at the Women's World Cup. Image: Getty

Questions are being asked about the scheduling of the final games at the Women's World Cup after the Matildas lost the third-place game against Sweden on Saturday night. A tired and depleted Matildas side went down 2-0 as Sweden claimed the bronze medal and consigned the Aussies to fourth.

However the Matildas were given one less day to rest and prepare than Sweden, who played their semi-final on Tuesday night. Australia and England played their semi 24 hours later on Wednesday night, meaning the Matildas had just two days to prepare for the third-place game compared to Sweden's three.

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And it's a similar story for the final, with Spain afforded four days to rest and prepare compared to England's three. The farcical situation also stretches back to the quarter-finals, which saw Australia and England play last Saturday and Spain and Sweden play last Friday.

The scheduling is understandable for the quarter-finals considering there are four games to be played. But surely both of the semi-finals should have taken place on the same day so neither team got an extra advantage ahead of the final and third-place game.

One pundit wrote on social media: "It doesn't seem fair that the winner of Spain-Sweden WWCF semi-final gets an extra day of rest before facing winner of Wednesday's England-Australia match on Sunday." Another commented: "Who's idea was to split the two semi-finals? So the winner of Spain and Sweden will have one extra rest day to Australia and England."

One fan commented: "Why are the Matildas playing on Saturday, Wednesday and then Saturday again… you’re telling me no one thought to give them more than three days between games?" Another added: "We have no chance in 3rd place playoff (Sweden have extra day preparation)."

Others also pointed out that coach Tony Gustavsson seemed to rely way too heavily on his starting players and didn't have the luxury of resting or rotating players like Sweden did.

Matildas finish fourth at Women's World Cup

Fridolina Rolfo gave Sweden the lead on the half-hour mark on Saturday night after a VAR review saw them awarded a penalty. Kosovare Asllani added a long-range goal in the 60th minute, and the Matildas' largely blunted attack were unable to mount a comeback.

Sam Kerr went down screaming in pain holding her right calf - the opposite leg to her previous injury - after a challenge from Magdalena Eriksson in the 75th minute. The Matildas captain required treatment before returning to the fray.

The loss marks a sad end to the Matildas' groundbreaking campaign, but is their best-ever finish at a World Cup. Gustavsson showed faith in his depth throughout Australia's campaign and named an unchanged starting line-up on Tuesday night, despite just a three-day turnaround.

Matildas players, pictured here after their loss to Sweden.
Matildas players look on after their loss to Sweden in the third-place game. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, who made multiple strong saves, was called into action in the opening minute, knocking away Stina Blackstenius' shot after the striker was slipped through by Asllani. Hayley Raso forced a good save from Zecira Musovic in the 23rd minute.

But three minutes later, Blackstenius went down after Clare Hunt clipped her foot. Following a VAR review, Rolfo coolly buried the spot-kick past Arnold.

Gustavsson turned to Emily van Egmond and Cortnee Vine off the bench in the 60th minute, but Sweden scored just two minutes later. Asllani pounced on a turnover, worked the ball to Blackstenius and kept running. Under pressure from Hunt, the striker cut the ball to the top of the box to Asllani, who finished coolly.

Clare Polkinghorne forced an excellent save from Musovic in the 70th minute and two minutes later she and Ellie Carpenter were substituted for Alex Chidiac and World Cup debutant Courtney Nevin. But Australia couldn't mount a comeback from there.

with AAP

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