Cortnee Vine might have been the hero to send Australia into the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final with her penalty against France, but it was goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold who gave the Matildas the chance to win it, making three crucial saves.
And amidst the ecstasy of the host nation’s electrifying win on Saturday night, Ellie Carpenter wasn’t about to let that go unacknowledged.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Ellie Carpenter reacts after the Matildas’ thrilling penalty shootout.
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Eagle-eyed fans have gone back through the replays of the Matildas’ euphoric celebrations following Vine’s winner and noticed Carpenter’s reaction after locking eyes with Arnold in the chaos.
Carpenter had been in the centre of a joyous huddle that included Sam Kerr, Alanna Kennedy, Steph Catley, Mary Fowler and Vine, until she turned around and spotted Arnold, as did star midfielder Katrina Gorry, who had been celebrating out of shot.
Carpenter’s attention was immediately snatched by Arnold’s gaze as the defender pointed directly at her heroic goalkeeper in elation and appreciation.
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Gorry, whose stature in the game belies the 154cm she stands, sprung up above Arnold — who has some 25cm on Gorry — to swarm the goalkeeper in celebration.
“The shot of Carpenter noticing Arnold joining the celebration was one of the most iconic things I’ve ever seen,” broadcaster Phil Prior said on Twitter.
Ellie Carpenter and Katrina Gorry celebrate with Mackenzie Arnold (not pictured) after the Matildas’ win. Credit: Channel 7
Another fan added: “And Gorry jumps so high she’s suddenly as tall as Fowler… this may be my favourite clip of a bloody perfect evening.”
Arnold’s heroics during the nail-biting penalty shootout helped Australia create sporting history. Incredibly though, only a twist of fate many years ago allowed this story to be written.
Goalkeeping was never actually Arnold’s football goal.
In fact, when she was younger, she was trying out for a team as a defender, but the coach said, “Not this time, (but) maybe you can fill in as goalie”.
Mackenzie Arnold with her No.1 fan after the win over France. Credit: FIFA via Getty Images
Arnold refused to accept the judgement and left, only for fate to rear its head again just a few years later.
She was playing for a local team on the Gold Coast and was again asked to fill in as goalkeeper, but this time agreed — and the rest has now been etched into Australian football folklore.
But not only is Arnold an accidental goalkeeper, she revealed in April that she had been battling with hearing loss.
Off the field Arnold uses hearing aids, but she says this helps her to focus right before games.
And indeed, that focus was there for all of us to see on Saturday night.
After the match, Arnold — who won the best player award — was glassy-eyed, but the Matildas hero insisted it was not tears.
Mackenzie Arnold with her player of the match award speaks to the media after Australia’s win over France. Credit: FIFA via Getty Images
Arnold has been unwell and struggling with an illness since the round-of-16 triumph over Denmark.
But she was able to put all of that to one side to be the superstar of the night.
She also had the chance to earn victory for Australia when charged with the responsibility of taking the fifth penalty kick herself – but she sliced it onto the post.
She then had to re-group, dust off the pain of the missed opportunity, and concentrate on the immediate job at hand – stop France scoring.
And yes, she did it, pulling off the biggest performance of her life in one of the biggest nights ever in Australian sport.
She made three spectacular saves on the way to a sensational 7-6 penalty shootout win.
Mackenzie Arnold roars as she makes another save. Credit: FIFA via Getty Images
For Arnold, who only became Australia’s first-choice goalkeeper in Feburary, it capped off her incredible rise from third choice at the Tokyo Olympics to Matildas hero.
Post-match, she said: “I will remember this night for the rest of my life.
“I definitely haven’t processed it.
“That is the craziest game I’ve ever played, considering what was on the line.
“It’s going to take a long time to really realise what has happened and what I’ve done and what the team has done. I’m just super proud to be Australian right now.”
She also revealed that she had been struggling with a health issue.
“I haven’t been too well in the last couple of weeks. So I’m still getting over that, hence the eyes – this isn’t tears, yet, it’s not tears.
“(But) you’ve just got to do your job. I was always gonna play.”
And lucky for Australia she did.
– With Cameron Noakes and AAP
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