There is no denying the Matildas belong in the upper echelons of Australian sport from a legacy that spans 50 years, but will ultimately reach its crowning moment in 2023. Ahead of that and their match against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday morning, here are the Top 10 Matildas Moments in history.
AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2010
It’s hard to look past silverware when it comes to the first selection. The Matildas became champions of Asia and the first nation to qualify for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals thanks to a capable, assured win over North Korea in the competition’s final. It was a backs-to-the-wall type of situation for Australia, up against humid, muggy and deteriorating conditions and opponents who had full-time backing from their government at the time. Yet, the Aussies prevailed to bring the first piece of major silverware to Australia, male or female. This proved to be a watershed moment in Australian football, as the women’s game was finally shown the overdue respect it deserved.
2017 Tournament of Nations title
The Matildas weren’t considered easy-beats ahead of the tournament, but the manner in which they played raised plenty of eyebrows around the world. The friendly tournament consisted of World Champions, USA, Asian Champions, Japan, Brazil and Australia. The Matildas got past America 1-0, to register their first ever win against the nation in 27 attempts, which set the tone for the following matches. Up next was Japan, who were also no match for Australia and the brilliant Sam Kerr, who registered a first half hat-trick. But, the best was saved until last, with the Matildas smashing Brazil 6-1 to finish the tournament unbeaten and worthy champions.
1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualification
Many remember November 2005 for being the iconic night John Aloisi’s penalty kick propelled Australia to their first World Cup in 32 years. However, just 11 years earlier the Matildas too transcended Australian football, qualifying for the nations first ever World Cup by overcoming New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in the 1994 Oceania Confederations Cup. The result avenged for the Matildas failure to make it to the inaugural 1991 Women’s World Cup and is by far one of the most significant moments in Australian football history.
2023 Women’s World Cup
Off the pitch, there may never be a bigger story. The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will shine a light on Australian football like never before. The added impetus for the Matildas to win the tournament can’t be understated, and the fact FIFA have recognised the women’s game in Australia and New Zealand as being of the right profile to host an event like this, is testament to how far the women’s game has come. As the wounds from Tokyo 2020 heal for the Matildas, the 2023 World Cup is shaping up to be their biggest moment yet.
First international match vs New Zealand in 1979
The first women’s national team was formed a year earlier in 1978 despite FIFA having no women’s football program at that time. Australia began life as a national team playing whoever they could, wherever they could actually find opposition. On October 6, 1979, things changed when the Matildas met New Zealand in their first full 'A' international at Seymour Shaw Park in Sydney in a game that finished 2-2. Julie Dolan AM, who was the captain of the side was bestowed the honour of cap number one for the Matildas.
Becoming the Matildas in 1995
It’s hard to imagine the Matildas being called anything else, isn’t it? However it wasn’t until 1995, Australia’s women’s football team was given its nickname. How was that the case? Ahead of the 1995 World Cup and with one eye on the approaching 2000 Sydney Olympics, the women’s football association (at the time) teamed up with SBS to run a TV poll on what nickname should replace the Female Socceroos as the team’s official nickname. Ultimately, the Matildas prevailed and stuck, but the manner in how it was chosen didn’t sit well with key players and stakeholders at the time.
4th Place at 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Whilst the 4th placed finish at the hands of the USA ultimately stung the tails of the Matildas, the result was still the highest placed finish from an Australian side in the women’s football event at the Olympics. On top of this, Sam Kerr too made history for Australia, becoming the Matildas all-time leading goalscorer to cement her status as the greatest Aussie of all time. Wins over Great Britain and New Zealand, coupled with gallant performances against powerhouses USA and Sweden made for a more than memorable tournament.
Quarter Finals finish at 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup
2011 saw Australia put in one of their best FIFA Women’s World Cup performances, with the sides first ever quarter-final finish. It was a tournament where Australia had the third youngest squad with an average age of 22, in which wins over Equatorial Guinea and Norway lit up the group stage. Advancing directly to the quarter-finals, Australia were met by eventual third placed finishers Sweden, who used all their experience to prevail in a 3-1 win. History still mattered for the Matildas though, who were now World Cup quarter-finalists.
Win over Brazil in Round of 16 at 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup
The history made in 2011 was then followed up and bettered by at the 2015 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Socceroos famously reached the Round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, only to fall to the eventual winners Italy in heartbreaking fashion. There would be no such issues for the Matildas though, who put on a brave and assured performance to topple powerhouse Brazil. Like the Asian Cup title did in 2010, the 2015 knockout stage win again proved the trail-blazing like status the Matildas have in Australian football history.
Comeback win over Brazil at 2019 World Cup
Who can forget this one? One of the Matildas greatest matches in recent history. 2-0 down, 3-2 up. Goals to Brazilian superstars Marta and Cristiane early in the first half had Australia scratching their heads. Minutes before half time, Caitlin Foord slid the ball home to give the Matildas inspiration at the half time break. Chloe Logarzo then connected with Sam Kerr in the second half to square the ledger at 2-2, before a late Brazilian own goal handed the Matildas all three points. The result proved to be the crowning moment of the tournament for Australia, who had copped their fair share of negative media attention in the build up to the match.
So there it is, some of the Matildas best moments throughout their illustrious history. From major title success in 2010 and 2017, to hosting a World Cup in 2023, it feels like the Matildas legacy is far from being written.