Matildas show the way
The bigger the challenge, the greater the joy when it is overcome. Conscious of this, Australia held absolutely nothing back against Brazil on Sunday, especially having lost their previous two FIFA Women's World Cup™ encounters against the South Americans. However, those demons were well and truly exorcised on Sunday with a historic 1-0 win that made Alen Stajcic's charges the first Australia team, male or female, to win a knockout match at the global showpiece.
"We've had so much support from the men that it wouldn't be very nice to taunt them now," Kyah Simon, the scorer of the winning goal, told FIFA.com. Elise Kellond-Knight, on the other hand, could not resist a little teasing, saying: "We'd already shown them how to win an Asian Cup; now they'll know how to win a World Cup Round of 16 match. We've shown the way."
The final whistle was greeted with a euphoria usually only seen after winning a tournament. These celebrations were understandable, though, considering that the Australians had advanced from the group stage at the last two World Cups before falling at the next hurdle. Indeed, none other than Brazil were their conquerors at China 2007, while four years ago it was the turn of Sweden. As Emily van Egmond put it, "We had those bad memories in the back of our minds, but we tried not to think about them and to focus on our game."
And this they duly did. The Matildas unsettled the Auriverdes from the off with their committed approach and willingness to go toe to toe. "We were the better team defensively, we were more solid. This victory is deserved," the midfielder insisted. "We weren't afraid of anything. Our past failures gave us extra motivation," added Kellond-Knight, the Live Your Goals Player of the Match.
No limits "It was do or die. From the bench, I got the feeling from the outset that we'd give everything to the end," Simon said. "As I came on to the pitch, I said to myself, 'You've got to get the goal, it's up to you to play and make the difference.' Then I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time." Displaying the positional sense of all good forwards, she was then able to finish with aplomb when goalkeeper Luciana spilled a strike from none other than Lisa De Vanna.
De Vanna may not have been at her most inspired, but she once again led by example, vociferously calling on her team-mates to keep calm and not let up after the goal. "We've had a bad habit of easing off after scoring. I felt that I should remind them that it was our moment and that we had to fight to the death," said the Australia captain, who has previously admitted to treating every World Cup game as a matter of life or death. Behind her, her team's latest victims trudged on to their team coach, vacant expressions on their faces and their eyes still moist.
"It's a huge moment for us, but I'm hopeful that we'll experience even bigger ones in the near future," said coach Stajcic, convinced that the holy grail is within reach for his charges. Clare Polkinghorne echoed this view, saying: "We have no limits. We have talent in every department and real togetherness in the group. This is just one step." And who knows? Perhaps the Matildas could yet raise the bar even higher for their male counterparts before the end of their Canadian adventure.