“More than a sporting event”
Australia is looking forward to the World Cup “battle”.
8/16/2023 7:54 am
In Australia there is boundless euphoria about the “Matildas” winning the World Cup. The last hurdle on the way to the dream destination of Finale is the former colonial power England. It is still unclear what role star striker Sam Kerr will play.
Anthony Albanese spoke from the soul of an entire nation: “This is more than a sporting event,” announced Australia’s prime minister before the game of the century in Sydney, “it’s so much more. It’s just inspiration.” The triumph of the Matildas, the heroines in yellow and green, captivated almost 26 million people Down Under.
When Australia’s women’s footballers at noon (12:00 p.m. CEST/ARD and in the live ticker on ntv.de) fighting England’s European champions in front of 83,500 fans in the semi-finals of the home World Cup for a place in the final duel with Spain (2-1 in the first semi-final against Sweden), it’s not just a football match. It is a national event, also because it is against the old colonial power. An event that has not happened at exactly the same place since Cathy Freeman’s legendary Olympic gold run in 2000.
“An old foe, a new battle – and a nation of admiration holding its breath,” headlined The Australian daily. Anyone who thought that the drama in the quarterfinals against France (7:6 a.e.t.) had reached the maximum of emotions is wrong: the dream of the world title is becoming feverish. “We all believe in it,” wrote the Tasmanian daily Mercury. Albanese has promised a holiday in the event of the final triumph.
Will Kerr return to the starting XI?
The expectations are huge for the semi-final debutants, but national coach Tony Gustavsson sees no burden. “It’s not pressure for us, it’s fuel,” says the Swede. Fuel could also be a starting XI by star striker Sam Kerr, who is suffering from the consequences of a torn muscle fiber – but the Chelsea attacker again only looks like a joker role. “She played longer than we had hoped for in the quarter-finals,” says Gustavsson, “but she gave us an unbelievable amount of physical and mental push.”
Your countrymen will tremble with and for Kerr – just as they did with Cathy Freeman 23 years ago. At that time, 8.8 million people in Australia watched on TV – the quota now in the quarterfinals was 7.2. The former exceptional track and field athlete Freeman, who shies away from public appearances, had committed the Matildas to the tournament before the World Cup.
The gold run of Freeman, who is of indigenous descent, had sent a big political message at the Millennium Games. In this tradition, the women’s footballers are now playing, even if the only two players with Aboriginal roots – goalkeeper Lydia Williams and attacker Kyah Simon – have not played a minute so far.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of pressure on the English women in their third semi-final after 2015 and 2019 – both times they lost. “The Australia match will be bigger than I ever imagined,” says England coach Sarina Wiegman. “I had to talk to my players and staff to know what this rivalry means.”
It means a lot, especially in Australia. The faraway island was once used by the British to set up penal colonies, and Australia’s struggle for independence was only fully ended in 1986 with the Australia Act. The sporting rivalry developed as early as the late 1860s. And now finds its continuation. “The English may be favourites,” says Gustavsson. “But we have something they lack – the huge support of the fans.”