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Crushed Matilda at centre of ref howler breaks silence

The Matildas – who on Tuesday will dust themselves off and start building towards their Olympic bronze medal match against the United States – are still befuddled by the controversial call that disallowed a Sam Kerr goal in the closing stages of the first half.It was a defining moment of the match given the cruel sucker punch that was to come from Fridolina Rolfo less than a minute into the second half.Kerr had volleyed Steph Catley’s free kick home at the near post only for referee Melissa Borjas to rule Matilda Emily van Egmond, further down the line of players, had blocked the run of Swedish defenders, leaving the Matildas up in arms. Van Egmond, still processing the incident after the match, said: “One hundred per cent that was a fair goal.”Promo“Personally I didn’t think there was much contact at all … I thought the girl ran into me and I am actually not too sure if there was anything at all in it.“The ref called me for a potential block … look we still have a game to play and a chance to get a medal so we’ll rest up and recover best we can.“It’s a tough tournament … but we have huge ambitions to win a medal.”When asked if the referee should have held her whistle instead of blowing it before the goal went in and checked with the VAR, Edmund added: “She blew the whistle before the goal was scored.“The whole point of VAR, isn’t it to go back and check?”Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said he was “disappointed” to have the goal disallowed and he needed to see the replays to understand the call, while vice-captain Steph Catley was perplexed.Catley said: “I didn’t get to speak to the referee. She didn’t answer me.”“She didn’t say why it was disallowed — but maybe some of the other girls were able to speak to her. But it didn’t look like anything clear in my opinion.”Gustavsosn added: “Before the game everyone talked about Sweden being the best team in the tournament, playing fantastic attacking football.“We showed from the first minute that we wanted to dominate this game, there was no fear whatsoever.“I’m extremely disappointed right now but I am proud of our performance and we have a bronze game coming up.”They will now face the United States, who lost to Canada 1-0 in the earlier semi-final, in Thursday’s bronze medal match — but without star defender Ellie Carpenter, who will be suspended after being sent off in the 95th minute.‘INCREDIBLE’ MATILDAS WON’T GIVE UP ON HISTORY Joe Barton The Matildas will pick themselves up off the canvas from Monday night’s controversial semi-final defeat to Sweden as they eye a piece of history: Australia’s first Olympic football medal.Moments after tasting defeat to the world’s No. 5 team for the second time in a fortnight — thanks to a mind-boggling decision to strip Sam Kerr of the game’s opener, and a freakishly lucky Sweden goal — the Matildas turned their attention to the top-ranked USA.The two teams will clash in Kashima on Thursday in the bronze medal match, a game which could be an afterthought for the four-time winners America but means the world to Kerr and her golden generation.“We know we’re a special team and we know we can do something special, but now is the time,” Kerr said.“We’re not going to be happy going home empty-handed — so unless we go home with something round our neck it’s going to be a disappointment to us.”Going into the Sweden game, Kerr was one of seven Matildas to have played more than 300 minutes during this tournament – prompting suggestions the talismanic striker could be in for a reduced role in Yokohama on Monday.Instead, she powered through another gutbusting 90 in the heartbreaking defeat before declaring she was a certain starter on Thursday.“I’m just tired. We all are,” Kerr said.“It’s not just this tournament. I think we’ve been going since last July when we started pre-season. It is what it is. But we get a buzz from there being a medal at stake so I’ll be ready come USA.”Coach Tony Gustavsson was careful with his words in the post-match press conference, but the normally upbeat mentor was clearly livid with the unfortunate series of events that led to his team being dumped from the gold medal rounds.He faces a tricky task in order to pick his troops off the floor for one final tilt at a historic medal, but it’s one he started when he pulled the squad into a huddle in the middle of the Yokohama International Stadium with Sweden’s celebrations still ringing around the empty arena.“I’m extremely disappointed right now and very emotional so I’m trying to not talk too much to be honest,” Gustavsson said.“(In the huddle) I said I was proud of their performance but very disappointed by the result and just said we have unfinished business and make sure we perform as well in the bronze game.”Star wingback Steph Catley said the belief within the squad was something she’d never experienced before and believed that would lift them into their pursuit of a medal against the USA, who they drew 0-0 with in the group stage.“We came here with the ultimate goal of making the final and winning gold. We have to refocus pretty quickly because we came here to win a medal and we’ve still got that opportunity,” she said. “The football we’re playing right now is incredible. So proud of the girls and the effort and way we go about it.“I’ve never had this feeling in this team before in terms of the belief and genuinely thinking we’re capable of beating anyone on any given day. It’ll be another test for us but we’re definitely up for it.”REF BLUNDER COSTS MATILDAS GOLD MEDAL SHOT Joe Barton and Selina SteeleIt was the biggest game in Matildas’ history – and it took one of the biggest blunders to crush their Olympic gold medal hopes.Australia had every reason to be furious following their brutal 1-0 semi-final defeat to Sweden – which robbed them of a chance at playing Canada in Friday’s gold-medal match – after superstar Sam Kerr was controversially denied the game’s opening goal.In the shadows of the halftime, Kerr looked to have scored her sixth goal of the tournament when she beat Sweden’s Hedvig Lindahl after latching on to a superb, curling Steph Catley freekick in the 43rd minute.It was a magnificent volley from Australia’s inspirational leader – which should’ve given the Matildas a vital halftime lead, if not for a stunning ruling in the lead-up which scratched it from the history books.Referee Melissa Borjas ruled midfielder Emily van Egmond was the guilty party for her role in the penalty box scrum from which Kerr burst.But van Egmond’s actions seemed minimal at best and Australia had every right to wonder why play couldn’t have run on – which would’ve allowed VAR to analyse it with a fine-tooth comb.In finals of this magnitude, matches can be decided by the barest of margins and one mistake. On this occasion, the mistake may have come from Borjas.“It is what it is, I feel like that’s the first one they’ve called all tournament, but that’s football,” Kerr said of her disallowed goal.“It sucks to lose like that off one crappy goal.“It sucks to go out like that, but we’ve got a bronze medal we can win still so we’ve got to regroup. Obviously it hurts tonight and we’ll be disappointed, but we’ll be back and ready for the USA.”If the Matildas were unlucky before halftime, worse was to come.With the first attacking raid of the second half, a deflected shot from Filippa Angeldal took a wicked bounce in front of Australian keeper Teagan Micah – the ball bouncing over her outstretched hand before rebounding off the crossbar into the path of Fridolina Rolfo.The Swedish striker, who banged in two goals during their group stage win over Australia, skilfully slotted home with Micah still on her heels.The twin blows signalled a brutal end to the Matildas’ magnificent gold medal campaign.Try as they might, despite dominating possession and field position and sending relentless attacking raids, Australia would never get another chance as good as the one that was snuffed out late in the first half.Catley stung the gloves of Lindahl in the 74th minute with a fierce stroke from close range.Teenager Mary Fowler was injected, and immediately put Sweden’s defence on notice, while Ellie Carpenter gave her all to the point where she was shown a red card for a last-ditch attempt to save a goal.Alanna Kennedy fired a free kick over the cross bar. And not even Kerr could conjure the miraculous this time, though she came close when given a sliver of a headed chance with three minutes remaining.But it wasn’t to be, and Australia fell to their knees amid cries of anguish that rang around the nearly-empty 70,000 seater stadium.Instead, Australia will head back to Kashima – the scene of their famous 4-3 quarter-final defeat of Great Britain – where the USA will be waiting in the bronze medal match.Tony Gustavsson will have to pick his squad up from Monday’s crushing disappointment, because a bronze medal would still be a momentous achievement for the Matildas’ golden generation.Olympics – Medal Tally – Top 5

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