On top for almost the entire 70 minutes of the match, the Jillaroos lost out on a place in the semi finals after 26th minute goal from Canterbury’s Grace Balsdon proved enough for the English girls.
Prior to the match the Jillaroos were boosted by the return of Victorian Georgia Nanscawen from injury. The youngest woman to play 100 senior international matches for Australia had missed the Jillaroos’ three Pool C clashes with bruising on the knee bone but returned just as the tournament hotted up, metaphorically and physically.
Scorching temperatures forced each half to be stopped at its midway point to allow the players to take on fluids but the breaks failed to temper the Jillaroos’ attacking spirit. Undertaking the early running, the first chance fell to Australia at a seventh minute penalty corner but it flew wide. A series of unsuccessful Australian corners followed and so it was against the run of play that England broke the deadlock through Grace Balsdon’s penalty corner goal. Following up an initial save she fired high into the net to give England the lead ten minutes before half time.
The second half saw Australia pressing the English circle with mounting intensity but with numbers behind the ball England’s defence refused to yield. And the pressure grew as the Jillaroos won a series of penalty corners as England’s determination to protect their lead led to errors.
Having been so clinical from set pieces in their three previous matches, Australia grew in confidence with every new award but four Australian penalty corners in the final ten minutes of the match were all thwarted, including a superb tip over the bar from the English goalkeeper Caitlin Jeffries and a low diving save from an Anna Flanagan flick.
At full time, the disappointment was clearly etched on the faces of the Australian players who gave everything they had for 70 minutes.
England got the decisive goal from their only penalty corner of the match, following which they resolutely stood firm to take a deserved victory and book their place in the last four of the tournament. And when the crucial goal did come it wasn’t without its controversy. Initially disallowed by the umpires, it was then awarded after review with Balsdon scoring high into the net from just inside the circle from her second shot, after her first had hit the front runner.
Head Coach of England Craig Keegan said: “Overall there’s a great feeling of pride for the girls. We knew it was going to take a strong defensive performance and they certainly produced that.
“We had limited opportunities going forwards but our resilience and commitment to taking these chances was world class.
“The match started in 42 degree temperatures so the match was changed to four quarters allowing both teams the opportunity to manage their players. We now look forward to our semi final against Argentina.”
The result means that England will now play Argentina in the semi final on Friday (1.30pm UK time) and Australia will go into their final two fixtures of the tournament to contest positions five though eight. Their next match is against USA, who lost 2-0 to Argentina in their quarter final. That match takes place at 10:00pm AEST on Friday night (2:00pm local time in Germany). The other teams competing for positions five to eight are Spain and the loser of the match between the Netherlands and South Africa. Australia finished fifth at the last edition of the Junior World Cup in 2009.