As the FIFA Women’s World Cup ends following Spain’s 1-0 win against England in the final, it’s important to reflect on the Matildas’ success and what the future holds for women’s football in Australia.
The Matildas’ inspirational journey ended with a 2-0 defeat to Sweden in the bronze medal playoff match, however the achievement has been hailed as the “turning point for women’s sport in this country.”
Despite the Matildas not featuring in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final, an electric atmosphere and capacity crowd of 75,784 greeted England and Spain at Stadium Australia in Sydney.
The Australian public have embraced the World Cup with huge crowds at the matches, incredible television ratings and the Matildas becoming national heroes and an inspiration to young girls and boys who want to play football.
Legendary broadcaster Bruce McAvaney hailed the tournament as the best in history.
The Matildas’ pre-game huddle ahead of the match against England. Credit: Getty Images
“What I was thinking down there was 23 years ago, a Spaniard, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was the President of the International Olympic Committee, said ‘Sydney the best Olympic Games ever’,” he said on Channel 7 after Sunday’s final.
“When I was down there, I felt Sydney, Australia, New Zealand, the best World Cup ever. How proud we should be.”
Matildas great Elise Kellond-Knight said it was a groundbreaking moment in women’s sport.
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“I think it’s been phenomenal. I think it’s really been the turning point for women’s sport in this country. I just can’t wait to see what next step is after this,” she said.
“It was groundbreaking. I think some of the milestones that we achieved, like, having 75,000 people in these stadiums, I never would have dreamt that that would have happened. I’ve been at World Cups before. It doesn’t happen. So, for me to see this turn out, it’s phenomenal.”
After the Matildas’ semi-final loss, McAvaney said Australian football has made a “giant step forward over the last month.”
“(The World Cup has) changed all our lives. There will be more investment, there’s no question. There’ll be more investment in the game. We know that,” McAvaney said.
“It’s also given a lot of young women and men that vision that only football can create a stage like we’ve seen.
“They’re (the Matildas) going to be followed by the Australian public now in a way they weren’t going to be followed prior to this World Cup.
“Because we’re now invested in Cooney-Cross. We’re invested in Hunt. We want to see where they end up from this point on. We know the potential of Fowler. Will she get more game time now in England?”
Sam Kerr waves to fans following the Matildas loss to Sweden. Credit: Getty Images
Matildas captain Sam Kerr said the success of the team, who achieved their best ever result at a World Cup by finishing fourth, has turned Australia into a “football nation”.
“The way the fans have got behind us, the way the girls have carried themselves. We’ve proven to the world but also within Australia that we are a footballing nation,” Kerr said following the Matildas loss to Sweden.
“That’s all down to the fans. We couldn’t get it done, but hopefully we’ve inspired people for many years to come.”
Emotional Matildas vice-captain Steph Catley praised the Australian public for their support through the tournament and urged fans to continue to get behind women’s football.
“What else can I say other than thank you,” Catley told 7NEWS.com.au following the semi-final loss to England as she fought back tears.
“It’s been an incredible ride and I’m sure the fans have felt every single emotion like we have.
“We have felt the love, we have felt the support and we hear the crowd.
“We have seen fans on the street and wishing us well and good luck.
“The fans have been through it all, so a massive thank you and keep supporting us
“Keep supporting women’s football because this is only the beginning.”
Matildas young gun Mary Fowler has a bright future ahead. Credit: AAP
For women’s football and women’s sport to continue to be successful, more government funding is needed, with the Matildas using their World Cup success to push their claim for more money.
“I can only speak for the Matildas. We need funding in our development. We need funding in our grassroots. We need funding. We need funding everywhere,” Kerr said after the loss to England.
“The comparison to other sports isn’t really good enough. And hopefully this tournament changes that because that’s the legacy you leave — not what you do on the pitch. The legacy is what you do off the pitch.
“And hopefully, I mean, it’s hard to talk about now, but hopefully that this is the start of something new.”
In a positive sign for the future of women’s football, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently said the World Cup has “changed sport in Australia forever” as he detailed a $200 million boost for women’s sport and an overhaul of broadcast rules.
“The Matildas have given us a moment of national inspiration, this is about seizing that opportunity for the next generation, investing in community sporting facilities for women and girls around Australia,” Albanese said.
“We want women and girls everywhere in Australia to have the facilities and the support to choose a sport they love.”
Now that the FIFA Women’s World Cup is over and the Matildas have given Australia “a moment of national inspiration”, it’s time to look ahead and embrace the future.