Raso’s Goals Keep Australia Going in Women’s World Cup, Eliminate Canada

(AP Photo/Victoria Adkins
Australia’s Hayley Raso celebrates after scoring her side’s second goal during the Women’s World Cup Group B soccer match between Australia and Canada in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, July 31, 2023.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — With Sam Kerr sidelined, Australia needed to find a new goal scorer Monday. Enter Hayley Raso, who scored twice in the first half of a 4-0 win over Canada to keep Australia in contention in the Women’s World Cup it is co-hosting.

Even though she made her debut for Australia in 2012 at the age of 17, Raso’s first goal in the 9th minute was her first at a World Cup.

“When I saw the girls put all their hands up, I actually didn’t hear that it was a goal,” Raso said. “I just fell to my knees.”

The Real Madrid-bound winger gave Australia at 2-0 lead at halftime after she completed a brace with a second goal in the 39th. Mary Fowler and Steph Catley added goals in the second half of the win-or-go-home, group-stage finale for the Matildas.

“We were on the front foot and we were so ruthless tonight,” Emily van Egmond said.

The win put Australia in the round of 16 and knocked the Olympic champions out of the tournament in the group stage for the first time.

“It was difficult, but we’ll bounce back,” Canada coach Bev Priestman said. “These are the moments that make you.”

If Australia had lost, it would have been the first time a Women’s World Cup host did not advance past the group stage. Co-host New Zealand’s campaign ended Sunday.

“I think everybody was really up for this game tonight,” Raso said. “It showed out there.”

Australia showcased its never-say-die mentality in front of 27,706 fans, a sea of green and gold in Melbourne.

“Just look at the fans,” Australia coach Tony Gustavsson said. “Look at the way they carried the team tonight.”

Ticket sales for the tournament have broken records, with the Matildas filling stadiums when they play. Their opener against Ireland in Sydney was moved to the bigger Stadium Australia from Sydney Football Stadium to meet demand for 76,000 fans.

“They get fueled, they get more energy,” Gustavsson said of his players’ response to the home crowds.

Kerr sustained a calf injury at training the day before the tournament began, and the game-time announcement that she would be out against Ireland seemed to silence Stadium Australia. She was available if required against Canada, but didn’t need to play.

Kerr told the team to “make sure to win without me so that I can get another week to train and recover and get healthy,” Gustavsson said. “And the team responded, said: ‘Yes we will. You sit on the bench tonight, and we’ll win for you.'”

Australia topped Group B and will play the second-place team from Group D next Monday in Sydney. Group D teams China, Denmark, England and Haiti all play Tuesday to determine final group standings and Australia’s round of 16 opponent.