The Matildas might be out of the World Cup, but the journey that they have been on has inspired a nation – and now is the time to back them and Australian football into the future.
Speaking after the game on Seven, their lead pundits Elise Kellond-Knight and John Aloisi both pointed out the gaps in infrastructure between the Matildas and England, who now advance to the World Cup Final on Sunday.
Notably, both mentioned St George’s Park, the national centre of excellence, which has allowed both the Lionesses and Three Lions to make major finals.
“We should be so proud of the Matildas,” said Aloisi. “They have been inspirational throughout the tournament and we all feel down about the result. That second half result shows what we can do when we play good football.
“Let’s not stop there. Let’s keep building this game in our country. It is such a beautiful game and it means so much to so many people. You have seen over the last few weeks how it can unite a nation and we want to keep going this way.
“They have got St George’s Park. We need infrastructure in this country. Not only at senior level but grassroots level. We need the State Governments and councils to funds our game. That is how we will sustain and build success. This is a one off. We haven’t made the semifinal before.
“We don’t want to just make the World Cup, we want to win one. Let’s not stand still. Keep moving forward. We need that support from the government, especially now everyone wants to kick a ball, if they didn’t already.”
Kellond-Knight agreed, and said that it was vital to treat this as an amazing moment, before looking to improve next time.
“The Matildas, their journey is not over,” she said. “We will be in Brisbane for that third-placed playoff. Either way, it is the best that Australia has finished at a World Cup, male or female, and we know it has changed the face of women’s sport in this country.
“In terms of perspective, England have won the Euros last year and with their set up at St George’s Park and the facilities that they put in place, they are ahead of us. That has certainly reaped the rewards. We can learn from them.
“They have the best league. It attracts all our players and they all want to play in England. There is a reason why they have only lost one game in the last 38. This team is on fire and I think that they will win on Sunday.”
Commentator Heather Garriock lamented the loss, but praised the way that England played and how the Matildas have captured the heart of the nation.
“It’s one that got away to be honest,” she said. “England were the better team on the night. At the same time we had the quality and we had the chances. I think that we didn’t convert our chances.
“But at the end of the day you have to congratulate England. We have captured the imagination of the Australian public. The Matildas and football are on the map and wow, everyone is in love with the Matildas and this sport. Sam Kerr gave us something in that second half that nobody will ever forget.”
Katrina Gorry cut a devasted figure after the final whistle, telling Adam Peacock that the Matildas lost out in the crucial moments.
“I guess that is football,” she said. “Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. It is just a crappy time to lose, I guess.
“I thought that we still created lots of chances and kept possession well in patches and we put a lot of pressure on them. We couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net and they did.
“It looked chaotic for the most part. You don’t mind that and getting stuck in and looking up and and finding Sam (Kerr) in those moments.
“We had to sit back and be compact and win the ball back in pressure pockets. We wanted to dominate the game. We didn’t do that.
“We wanted to create more scoring opportunities and we didn’t do that. We want to win the bronze medals and we have to recover and focus on the next game.”
Kerr was annoyed at herself about her miss just before England’s third, and that she had not been able to play a bigger part due to her calf injury.
“Really disappointed obviously,” she told Peacock. “We just fell short. Really proud of the girls for this whole tournament. I know it is hard to say that now, just disappointment and how proud I am of them.
“The one that I missed, the last little bit. I think I did everything that I could to be back in this tournament. If I trained more tahan five times in this World Cup maybe I would have sunk that one.
“I can’t put all the blame on myself. I have to think of all the things the team have done and I have done to be where we are now and inspire a nation. It is really disappointing.
“The support from the Aussies has been absolutely incredible. They have pushed us over the line and been at our hotel and on planes and we have felt the love. Hopefully way can get third for them.
“I can’t remember last time I missed three games in a row. I had it stick with the girls and they have been amazing and be ready for tonight. It has been an enjoyable ride to be on. Regardless of the calf, it has been an honour to be here.”