Fowler living her Olympic dream

31 Jul 2021
  • Australia eliminated Great Britain in the quarter-finals

  • Starlet Mary Fowler put the Matildas ahead in extra time

  • “She’s got a great future ahead of her,” said Sam Kerr

“I’m overcome with emotion – I’m so proud that we won, and to score my first goal at the Olympics is an incredible feeling,” a breathless Mary Fowler told FIFA.com, after having celebrated – at great length – Australia’s historic victory over Great Britain in the quarter-finals of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020.

In a roller coaster match that had to be seen to be believed, the precocious forward came off the bench with ten minutes to go and made a significant impact shortly afterwards by scoring in extra time to give the Australians a 3-2 lead. The instrumental Sam Kerr, who sealed the 4-3 win after having notched a last-gasp equaliser in normal time, waxed lyrical about her youthful team-mate at the final whistle.

“She made such a difference, and she’s only 18!” exclaimed the Matildas skipper. “She’s got a great future ahead of her; we’re really lucky to have her. She’s well and truly established her place in the squad over the past year, and she was fantastic tonight.”

Fowler’s 103rd-minute goal, a powerful, deflected strike from just outside the box that looped over Great Britain goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck into the top right-hand corner, did not hugely surprise Australia coach Tony Gustavsson.

“Mary’s been scoring loads of goals in training for weeks, with her left foot, right foot and head,” said the Swede. “She was pretty close to getting one in the USA match, when she headed the ball against the bar. What I love about this team is that they all encourage each other: the experienced heads help and support the younger players. Mary’s been on good form for a while. And she’s handling the pressure well, as she showed today.”

The 18-year-old’s performance heralds a new stage in a burgeoning career that saw her included in Australia’s squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™, where she was the second youngest player to participate. “I’ve had the chance to take part in major tournaments, rubbing shoulders with some of the best players in the world,” noted Fowler, who was handed her first cap at the age of 15. “I’ve been lucky to experience all that at such a young age.”

Olympic destiny

The Montpellier attacked continued: “I’ve matured a lot since moving to play in Europe. I’m playing against top-level teams in a strong league. It’s a tremendous opportunity, which is really helping me to develop as a player.”

As a young girl, Fowler would take part in mini-Olympic Games, complete with mock-medal ceremonies, with her brother and sister – who are also talented footballers – on the beach, so to be competing in Tokyo has her pinching herself somewhat: “When I was a little girl, it was the only thing I ever dreamed of. It’s absolutely incredible to actually be involved in this adventure, and to think that it’s now part of my personal history.”

Obviously keen for the aforementioned adventure to continue for as long as possible, she now has a semi-final clash – the first time Australia have reached this stage, after having been eliminated in the quarters in 2004 and 2016 – with Sweden, who defeated the Matildas 4-2 during the group stage, to look forward to.

“We showed what we’re capable of this evening, and so I think we’ll go into the Sweden match with plenty of confidence,” Fowler said assuredly. “We’ve already created a little bit of history by reaching the semis, but going beyond that would just be incredible. Going by our emotions after tonight’s match, I can’t even begin to imagine the excitement we’ll feel if we go one step further.”

Mary Fowler of Australia poses for a portrait during the official FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 portrait session at Royal Hainaut Spa & Resort Hotel on June 06, 2019 in Valenciennes, France. (Photo by Matthias Hangst - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)