As if beating France to reach a historic Women’s World Cup semi-final on home soil wasn’t enough, the Matildas have raised the bar even higher by becoming the biggest television ratings hit in Australia in more than two decades.
The Seven Network, the tournament’s free-to-air broadcaster, said a peak audience of 7.2 million people tuned in for Australia’s 7-6 penalty shootout win over the French in Brisbane on Saturday.
Cathy Freeman’s iconic 400-metre final at the Sydney Olympics reportedly attracted a record 8.8 million viewers, although OZTam data was not tracked in 2000.
An average of 4.17 million tuned in to the quarter-final on the Seven Network, which said it enjoyed a record 472,000 viewers streaming the game on their digital arm 7Plus.
Those figures do not reflect fans watching in public places or viewers who watched the match on Optus Sport.
It signified a monumental day for Australia with the Matildas receiving congratulations from across the sporting landscape.
John Aloisi, who etched his name into folklore with the penalty which sent the Socceroos to the 2006 World Cup, took delight in match-winner Cortnee Vine surpassing him as Australia’s most talked about penalty-taker.
“I’m happy to be relegated (to second), I don’t care,” Aloisi said during commentary for the Seven Network.
“We’re in a semi final and this is what a World Cup does, it brings the whole nation together.”
Australian wheelchair tennis icon Dylan Alcott quipped on social media: “My god that was the closest I’ve ever been to standing up.”
Vision from pubs, live sites and lounge rooms reflected the mood of the nation as Australia rejoiced in a victory that has them on a collision course with England in Wednesday’s semi-final.
There were also scenes of supporters streaming the Matildas match while attending NRL and AFL matches.
Carlton wingman Blake Acres and his teammates had an eye on the Matildas before their AFL clash with Melbourne but admitted to being confused by the noise in the MCG stands once their game had started.
“I remember they just kept cheering throughout the first quarter and I didn’t know what was going on,” Acres said.
“It was obviously the penalty shootout they were cheering for.
“Then when they went crazy at quarter-time I was just looking up at the (big screen) and saw a cheese advert on there, I was like, ‘what’s going on here? They’re celebrating cheese’.”