John Aloisi is happy to be the second most famous penalty taker in Australian football history.
The former Socceroos star, fittingly, was on commentary for Seven after the Matildas created history by winning through to the World Cup semi-finals when Cortnee Vine nailed the 10th penalty of a thrilling shootout to send Suncorp Stadium into raptures and Australia past France after 120 scoreless minutes.
“I’m happy to be relegated, I don’t care,” said Aloisi, who etched his name into Australian sporting folklore 18 years ago with the penalty against Uruguay which propelled the Socceroos into the 2006 World Cup.
“What this will do, this will inspire a future generation. That’s what the girls spoke about before the tournament, that’s what they’ve been speaking about during the tournament. And they’re living this moment. They will remember this for the rest of their lives.
“It’s a special time for them. For Australian football, for the entire nation. But we don’t want it to stop here. The semi-finals are Wednesday and we can’t wait for that.”
Former Matildas stalwart Elise Kellond-Knight said Aloisi inspired her as a young player.
“As a younger player, I actually idolised yourself, stepping up at that moment, taking that penalty,” she said.
“Now these young players are going to idolise Vine, taking that courage, being able to step up in that moment – 50,000 eyeballs on you in the stadium, millions of people watching from their home screens. It’s just iconic. This is a moment created in history but it’s not over, we’ve got two games left in us.
“There’s nothing that could separate those teams tonight.”
Aloisi said the mood in the country is reminiscent of Australia’s greatest sporting triumphs in any sport.
“Let’s not forget what this is doing for the Australian public and everyone following the Matildas,” he said.
“Let’s not just rest here and I’m not talking about this tournament. I’m talking about future tournaments, future players. The rest of the world won’t rest, the European nations won’t rest so we need our government to fund our game because look what it does.
“You don’t see this atmosphere many times. A team like the Matildas, they are the most loved team in Australia and they have been for a while.
“I can imagine so many kids now, boys and girls, will be practising penalties. You have to remember, after the five penalties, these players didn’t think they would take a penalty.
“This was the 10th penalty. It’s the longest that I’ve ever seen.
“Cortnee Vine would have thought no way am I stepping up to take a penalty but how cool was she.”
Kelmond-Knight said she was “idolising the whole team right now”.
“I’ve seen us fall short so many times but they’ve done such great work in the last four years to make sure it’s not going to happen again,” she said.
“The amount of work they’ve put into practising these penalties.
“It’s not just your ability but it’s your mental strength to go in at this moment with the whole nation watching you.”