Matildas Make History: “We Won Hearts” - Salt 106.5

Matildas Make History: “We Won Hearts”

The Matildas reach the end of their world cup tilt but inspire a new movement of young players and adoring fans.

By Michael CrooksThursday 17 Aug 2023EntertainmentReading Time: 3 minutes

Despite falling one game short of reaching the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, the Matildas have made history with a phenomenal run in the 2023 tournament.

On Tuesday night at a packed Stadium Australia in Sydney, the Matildas were beaten 3-1 by the England Lionesses, who will now meet Spain in Sunday’s final.

The Seven broadcast was watched by a reported 7.13 million people making it the highest-rating sporting event since Cathy Freeman’s gold-winning run at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

“We’re very disappointed in the loss, but hopefully we won something else,” coach Tony Gustavsson said.

“We won the hearts and the passion for this game in this country.”

The Matilda’s semi-final was watched by a reported 7.13 million people making it the highest-rating sporting event since Cathy Freeman’s gold-winning run at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Feel the love

England went up 1-0 before half time in the game, before an incredible strike by Australian favourite Sam Kerr brought scores level mid-way through the second half.

But minutes later, England capitalised on a defensive error to go two-up. The Lionesses scored again in the 86th minute.

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“We can’t thank the fans enough,” Sam Kerr told Optus Sport. “We’ve felt the love all over the country. Hopefully this stays around because it has been amazing.”

History makers

The Matildas had already made history at the World Cup, which was hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

By winning their quarter-final against France at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, they became the first Australian national soccer team to reach the semis. (The Australian national men’s team, the Socceroos, have never advanced past the round of 16.)

By winning their quarter-final against France at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, they became the first Australian national soccer team to reach the semis.

The quarter-final itself had its own history-making moment, with the longest-ever penalty shootout in any FIFA World Cup final. The game, with extra time, had finished at 0-0.

After 20 penalties in a dramatic shootout, the Matildas won the game 7-6. Cortnee Vine, 25, scored the winning penalty.

“In those moments, you just need to be confident in what you’ve practiced,” Ms Vine told the media.

Galvanising a nation

This World Cup has been a pivotal moment for women’s soccer and women’s sport in Australia.

The Matildas’ round-of-16 final against Denmark on August 7, was watched by 3.6 million viewers on Seven and Seven Plus. More tuned in to watch Saturday’s quarter-final against France.

Taking into consideration viewers on the subscription channel Optus Sport, the ratings for the semi-final may surpass Cathy Freeman’s famous run.

“The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 has brought Australia together in a way we haven’t seen for years,” Seven’s Melbourne managing director Lewis Martin said.

Matildas’ history

Apart from the first official FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, the Matildas have qualified for every World Cup tournament since 1995.

The previous World Cup was held in France and won by the US. In that tournament, Australia came second in the group stage, which saw Sam Kerr become the first Australian national soccer player to score a hat trick in a World Cup.

The Matildas were knocked out by Norway in the round of 16.

“Best thing ever”

Matildas now face Sweden in a “bronze medal” game on Saturday evening before Sunday’s final.

“I’ve won medals, but I said to the team before… it’s not about the medal around your neck, it’s about the heart beating under the back side of it,” coach Gustavsson told Optus Sport after the quarter-final win.

“The heart was beating tonight in this team and in this country… unbelievable!”

Matildas now face Sweden in a “bronze medal” game on Saturday evening before Sunday’s final.