'How to win graciously': The Lioness' candour melts hearts at FIFA World Cup 2023

England players' actions are the result of an ethos established by coach Sarina Wiegman about remaining humble and respectful in victory.
England's captain Millie Bright (R) comforts Australia's captain Sam Kerr after their Women's World Cup semifinal soccer match at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, Aug. 16, 2023. (Photo | AP)
England's captain Millie Bright (R) comforts Australia's captain Sam Kerr after their Women's World Cup semifinal soccer match at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, Aug. 16, 2023. (Photo | AP)

SYDNEY: Unless there is an uncharacteristic outbreak of hostility and flurry of red cards in Sunday's final, opposing players consoling each other after games will be among the enduring images of the Women's World Cup.

'Really touching'

Pictures of Sweden defender Jonna Andersson hugging a distraught Maika Hamano of Japan after their quarter-final were also widely shared online. "I got sad because I saw she was sad," Andersson told reporters in Auckland after Sweden's victory.

"I hope it was important for her to feel that support, I know she has that support from the national team and the club team. I wanted to show her that I care about her, she's a fantastic person."

The two players know each other well from club football, where both played this season for Hammarby in Stockholm.

There were similar scenes on Tuesday when the tables were turned and the Swedes left in tears after Spain won 2-1 in their semi-final.

Spain's players comforted a tearful Fridolina Rolfo, the Swedish forward who plays for Barcelona and was up against several club colleagues.

Julie Dolan, the first captain of Australia's Matildas, in 1979, noted that similar happens in the men's game, but not to the same extent. "It's how to win graciously, I guess," she told AFP.

"It's a wonderful thing to see."

Pundits say it has been one of the endearing features of a World Cup that will already go down as the best-attended and be remembered for a series of shocking results.

"That has been one of the most heartwarming things about this tournament," former Australia international turned broadcaster Grace Gill said.

"Because as much joy and elation as there is for the winners of the game, they're so quick to turn their attention to make sure their friends, ultimately, are OK.

"To offer them a little bit of support at that moment is really touching to see."

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