The Swedes, ranked third in the world, were awarded a penalty in the 28th minute after a VAR review showed Australia defender Clare Hunt clipped Stina Blackstenius’ heels, and forward Rolfo slotted home the resulting spot kick.
Sweden captain Asllani doubled their lead just after the hour mark, rifling a sweet strike from the edge of the penalty area beyond goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold following another quick counter-attack.
While disappointed to sign off at the World Cup with another defeat, the Matildas still achieved their best result at the tournament after a stellar run, having never previously gone beyond the quarter-final stage.
“We wanted to bring home a medal for this team, for the fans, for family and friends, for this country,” Australia coach Tony Gustavsson said. “We’re hurt … I’m so sorry we couldn’t give everyone this bronze medal.
“I’m too emotional now to reflect on the whole journey … But when we distance ourselves from this game and look at the whole tournament, I think maybe we won something bigger than a medal, considering how the nation has supported us.” Both teams were unchanged from the sides that started the semi-finals, where Australia were beaten 3-1 by England and Sweden lost 2-1 to Spain. England play Spain in the final in Sydney on Sunday.
‘RAISE THE STANDARD’
Sweden started brightly and could have made a dream start when Blackstenius fired a low drive across goal in the opening minute, but the attempt was palmed away by Arnold and cleared by defender Ellie Carpenter.
The Matildas soon found their passing rhythm, tearing forward on the counter through Hayley Raso but the winger’s effort was blocked. Raso was denied again midway through the half, with Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic making a fine save.
Rolfo headed against the bar from Asllani’s wonderful cross shortly before Sweden were given a penalty, the decision loudly jeered by the capacity crowd of 49,461.
With the pace of the game picking up, Arnold made a magnificent low save to keep out Rolfo’s free kick in the closing minutes of the half.
Moments after Gustavsson made his first substitutions, the Matildas fell further behind, Asllani finishing off an incisive break before being mobbed by her delighted team mates.
Australia pushed forward in numbers but looked out of energy and ideas while captain and star striker Kerr, who picked up a knock late in the match, was kept relatively quiet by Sweden as they closed out the game comfortably.
“I think we showed from the first minute that we were the better team. We deserve this medal,” Rolfo said.
“I hope that this tournament can raise the standard for players in Australia and also that clubs get better and more professional. I think this tournament has been great for Australia in general.”
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