The Matildas’ gutsy 3-2 win over Brazil this morning was as courageous a comeback as we’ve ever seen from an Australian national team.
Re-live the action with The Roar’s live blog.
The whole thing started with an air of familiarity for seasoned football watchers.
There was the 2am wake-up call, the excitement of taking the game to a big-name opponent, then the familiar feeling of crushing disappointment as everything that could possibly go wrong predictably did so for the Matildas.
They appeared to have earned a cast-iron penalty when Tameka Yallop was tripped inside the penalty area on the 20-minute mark, only for the VAR to adjudge the ball to have hit Yallop’s hand in the build-up to the goal.
It looked a somewhat harsh decision in real time but it was hardly the last we’d hear from the VAR.
Barely three minutes later and Elise Kellond-Knight tugged on Leticia Santos’ jersey, allowing the Brazilian defender to go down theatrically inside the box.
If the first penalty decision looked harsh then this one was as soft as it gets, although Kellond-Knight was naïve to lay a hand on Santos in the first place.
Marta dispatched the penalty with all the calmness of a player scoring in her fifth World Cup – and her 16th World Cup goal overall – and the Matildas were up against it.
But if Brazil’s opener was a shock, their second was a stone-cold catastrophe.
With the Matildas threatening to crack the Brazilian defence during a period of concerted pressure, instead it was As Canarinhas who struck again with a devastating counter-attack.
There seemed to be little danger when Tamires received a pass on the sideline, but when she nutmegged Emily Gielnek she opened up space for Debinha in behind and her intelligent run was matched by an ever better cross.
You could argue Steph Catley was flat-footed and should have attacked the ball, but even so Cristiane’s header finished a gloriously constructed goal.
It also demonstrated once again just how vulnerable the Matildas are to passes in behind the fullbacks – particularly when Ellie Carpenter is bombing forward.
And that was that. Except it wasn’t.
Caitlin Foord’s lunging volley on the stroke of half-time gave the Matildas hope and saw the Brazilians drop their heads.
But not even the wildest scriptwriter could have dreamed up the drama of the second half.
About the only thing missing from Chloe Logarzo’s all-action display was a goal – or at least it would have been until she unleashed from an acute angle just before the hour mark.
Was it meant to be a cross? Probably.
But with Sam Kerr’s run attracting two defenders, Logarzo’s shot flashed across the face of goal and in at the far post.
At 2-2 Matildas fans could have been forgiven for thinking the worst.
After all, how often have we seen an Australian national team fall victim to a ridiculous piece of misfortune?
But with just under 20 minutes remaining a minor miracle took place. A fortuitous refereeing decision actually went Australia’s way!
The VAR interpretation of Monica’s own goal was obviously that Sam Kerr was not interfering with play when she once again attracted two defenders from Emily van Egmond’s cross.
The video replay showed Kerr starting her run from an offside position but given that she was not technically involved in ball ending up in the back of the net, the goal was awarded.
Correct decision? We’ll take it!
And we’ll take the three points that came Australia’s way while we’re at it.
“There was a lot of critics talking about us but we’re back, so suck on that one!” said Kerr with a laugh after the game.
The dream is on. Australia’s World Cup campaign is not over by a long shot.
And on a morning of unspeakable drama, the Matildas have reminded us all of just why we love this beautiful game.