The Matildas ended their Olympic campaign in fourth place last night, after losing 4-3 to the USA in the Bronze medal match.
Overall, this is the best result the Matildas have achieved at the Olympics in their history, surpassing their 5th place finish at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
In the warm up matches in the build-up to the tournament under new coach Tony Gustavsson, the Matildas were shaky to say the least.
A 5-2 loss to Germany, followed by a 5-0 loss to the Netherlands, led to many questioning the resolve of the team before kicking a ball at the Olympic Games.
Gustavsson and his squad of players didn’t panic however, and when the Matildas’ Olympic campaign officially begun, they opened with a 2-1 win over New Zealand.
An entertaining 4-2 loss to Sweden was followed by a gritty 0-0 draw with the USA which allowed the Australian side to progress to a quarter final match up against Great Britain.
A 4-3 victory over Great Britain in the quarter final, in a game which showcased their ‘never say die’ attitude was the clear high point of the tournament for the Matildas.
Australians in their droves tuned into to every Matildas match, with their eventual 1-0 loss to Sweden in the semi final watched by an average audience of over 1.8 million and thousands more streaming the game on 7Plus.
Figures such as this highlight how the team has become one of Australia’s most loved sporting teams, with the country heartbroken yet proud of their efforts.
The Matildas are undoubtedly ‘box office’ but their Olympic exploits are just the beginning of a big couple of years to come for Tony Gustavsson’s side.
The team are set to compete in the 2022 Asian Cup in India in the coming months, looking to go one step better this time after losing in the final in 2018 to Japan.
The tournament in India is a chance for this group of players to win their first Asian Cup since 2010, but will also give the side more competitive tournament minutes before the big one, a home Women’s World Cup in 2023.
The Women’s World Cup in 2023 will be the biggest event held on Australian shores since the 2000 Olympics, and economically it will be a major boost for the country after the significant hit it has taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tom Rischbieth, Football Australia’s head of commercial and events, believes the 2023 event will produce similar benefits economically.
“Yes, it will deliver amazing football matches but also substantial benefits socially and economically. We know from a tourism perspective 60,000 international visitors are predicted for the tournament equating to 600,000 bed nights and the numbers just keep growing, an estimated 5,000 jobs will also be created, it is a huge opportunity and one that we realise the benefits of,” Rischbieth said recently at a SportsPro APAC Series event.
The organisers of the tournament believe the 2023 competition is on track to sell 1.5 million tickets, which will break records for the women’s game.
“We know in France, over a million fans attended the 52 matches. And we now know that we’re going to have 64 matches in 2023. The ten stadiums that have been confirmed range from boutique to mega size, so we’re definitely on track,” Jane Fernandez, Chief Operating Officer (Australia) for the FIFA WWC 2023 said at the SportsPro event.
Football Australia have heavily focused on the legacy the tournament will have on the game here, including factors such as participation, facilities and improving region relations, but a strong Matildas outfit at the tournament is of vital importance.
With their impressive showings at the Olympic Games, fans of the Matildas should see the further development of players before the World Cup, including highly talented youngsters like Mary Fowler, Ellie Carpenter and Kyra Cooney-Cross.
With a right blend of these youngsters and world class players in their prime, there is no reason why the Matildas can’t seriously challenge to win the World Cup on home soil.
The hype around hosting the World Cup in two years’ time has not yet set in for most Australians, with many not understanding the magnitude of the event.
When the tournament does finally roll around however, the world will be watching, with many millions of Australians hoping to see our golden girls once again give them something to be proud of.