The Matildas will have the distinction of kicking off the 2021 Olympics for Australia when they take on arch rivals New Zealand on Wednesday night.
It will be the latest chapter in what has been a storied rivalry between the 2023 World Cup co-hosts. Channel Seven will show the game live at 9:30pm (AEST).
The Matildas’ first ever female coach Trixie Tagg admits she is looking forward to watching the Matildas and the Olympics as a whole.
“I hope it will lift our spirits, it should be a fantastic few weeks of football,” said Tagg, who this year celebrates 40 years since she took Australia on a tour of New Zealand.
“I love watching all the sports the Aussies are participating in, I may even get excited about golf and tennis!”
With COVID lockdowns and restrictions sweeping the nation, seeing one of our favourite sporting teams in action will do wonders for the mood of the country.
While many have questioned whether the Olympics should have gone ahead considering the large number of COVID cases in Tokyo, the reality is it will provide a welcome distraction to billions around the world as the pandemic impacts the world.
Wednesday night provides a golden opportunity for women’s football to take the spotlight even if for one night.
“It’s great our Matildas get a chance to be seen by the whole nation, hopefully they get some due recognition,” said Tagg.
“We have come so far in the last 40 years and I’m excited about women’s football getting so much support.”
While preparations for Tony Gustavsson’s team have not been ideal, the Matildas are slowly finding their feet and a strong Olympic campaign will give the team confidence as they begin planning for the 2023 World Cup.
New Zealand have been Australia’s greatest rival in women’s football, dating back to the 1975 Women’s Asian Cup semi-final when the Football Ferns won 3-2. Isobel Richardson scored a double that day as the New Zealanders progressed to the final where they beat Thailand to claim the first Women’s Asian Cup.
Tagg actually scored one of Australia’s goals in that semi-final, and admits beating New Zealand on Wednesday night would be sweet.
“I still love beating the Kiwis in any sport when they play the Aussies,” she said with a laugh. “It should be a great contest on Wednesday night.”
Four years after that Asian Cup encounter, New Zealand had the honour of being Australia’s first official international opponent. The 1975 Australian team have never been officially recognised by Australian footballing authorities.
In the three-match series in 1979, the teams drew 2-2 at Seymour Shaw Park in the opener on 6 October, while the Football Ferns won 1-0 a few days later at the same venue, with the third game being a 1-0 result to Australia at Perry Park in Brisbane.
Sandra Brentnall scored the Matildas’ first official goal in the 2-2 draw. Sharon Loveless scored Australia’s first ever winner in the win.
Australia have dominated the head-to-head between the two countries, winning 30 of the 47 clashes between them with eight draws.
The last time they played each other was in 2019 at the Cup of Nations, with the Matildas winning 2-0 in Sydney.
Tagg hopes the dominance continues on Wednesday.
“Beating them on Wednesday could be the catalyst for a special run in Tokyo, it’s going to be tough but let’s see what happens.”
The Matildas take on Sweden in their second game on Saturday 24 July at 6:30pm, then the USA on Tuesday 27 July at 6pm.