Whatever else caught the eye at the Petrovsky stadium in St Petersburg on Thursday, a certain pair of pink football boots belonging to Australia striker Sasha McDonnell definitely did not go unnoticed.
The 19-year-old striker might have failed to score in Australia's 3-0 opening day victory over New Zealand at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship Russia 2006, but her distinctive choice of footwear made her the centre of attention nonetheless. "It's basically my boyfriend's idea, because the rugby players back home all wear yellow boots," the youngster explained. "I've always wanted pink boots, but nobody makes them, so I just decided to paint them myself."
The speedy attacker turned in a commendable display, posing a constant threat to the New Zealand rearguard, but it was the experienced duo of Collette McCallum and Sally Shipard who claimed the match-winning goals. "Unfortunately, my boots weren't a lucky charm today, but hopefully I can score with them next time out," the Queensland Sting striker remarked with a smile.
Coach Alastair Edwards is certainly a big fan, both of the player and her footwear. "She's an electric forward and an electric person," he enthused afterwards. "And why shouldn't she wear pink boots? I don't have a problem with that."
The attitude expressed by the man at the top is typical of the relaxed, laid-back mood in the Australian camp as the women from Down Under revel in their Russian adventure. The squad set up base in St Petersburg a week ago. "We've already been out for a boat trip on the river," said Edwards. "This is a fabulous city, really impressive, especially when you come from a different continent and really know nothing about it at all."
Brazilians hold no fears
Their Antipodean neighbours aside, the Australians have made the longest journey of all the nations at the tournament, although the players insist they have now shaken off the inevitable jetlag. McDonnell's team-mate and Player of the Match, Collette McCallum, for one, reckons she has already become thoroughly accustomed to the new time zone.
"It was obvious we'd struggle with the effects of the long journey at the start, but we're over the jetlag now," the 20-year-old reported. "All the girls are loving it here. What's really fantastic is the number of family and friends who've come with us here to offer their support."
The midfielder with the cannonball shot has clearly drawn inspiration from that support, certainly if her inspirational performance and two brilliantly-taken goals against the New Zealanders are anything to go by. First, she scored direct from a left-foot corner to hand her side a half-time lead, before blasting a 25-metre thunderbolt just under the crossbar in the second period. "Yeah, I just let fly," she admitted afterwards.
Having disposed of the Kiwis, the Australians now face an altogether more imposing task on Sunday with a clash against Brazil, although the Young Matildas are anything but overawed. "The Brazilians are excellent players, but I didn't see anything to frighten us in their match against Russia ," said McCallum, the team's midfield schemer. "We're not scared of them in the slightest. We should be able to beat them."
"I think if we can maintain our form, we'll make it to the quarter-finals," agreed McDonnell, who will be hoping that those pink boots can hit the headlines again with a goal or two along the way.