The Matildas are the newsmakers of the year

The Matildas captured the hearts and attention of the nation in 2023.

The Matildas captured the hearts and attention of the nation in 2023. Photo: Getty

Football hasn’t always been a newsmaker in Australia – aside from a few major moments in the men’s game like the 2006 World Cup – but the Matildas truly took the world game from undesirable to undeniable in 2023.

Nobody will ever forget when the Australian women’s football team won the hearts, minds and eyes of the country during the Women’s World Cup on home soil.

Their semi-final run had so many memorable moments along the way, from record penalty shootout heroics to goals of the tournament.

Caitlin Foord, who started every game for the Matildas during the tournament, said she never expected “the World Cup to go the way it did”.

“To see the news bulletins get changed and our game being played in stadiums around the country, and how the whole nation stopped … if you would have asked me before that that was going to happen, I probably would have laughed,” she said.

“Still kind of hard to believe that it actually did happen. So yeah, it was amazing.”

The group stage

Expectations and hopes were high heading into the tournament, but the Matildas didn’t exactly hit the ground running.

A sluggish 1-0 win against the Republic of Ireland was followed by a 3-2 loss to Nigeria, but the team finally clicked in the final do-or-die group stage game against Canada.

In front of a sold-out AAMI Park in Melbourne, the Matildas put the reigning Olympic champions to the sword, running out 4-0 winners and booking a slot in the knockout stages.

Round of 16

After a strong finish to the group stage, the Matildas faced Denmark in the round of 16 for a place in the quarter-finals, which no Australian football team — men’s or women’s — had ever reached.

A packed house in Sydney spurred on the team as the Tillies defeated the Danish 2-0, and Foord said scoring in front of 80,000 people, including her friends and family, was a special moment “that I’ll cherish forever”.

Caitlin Foord scored against Denmark in the round of 16. Photo: Getty


When the Matildas played France in the quarter-finals, not even 120 gruelling minutes of football could separate the two sides.

What followed was the longest penalty shootout in World Cup history — men’s or women’s — and a moment that is forever etched in the Australian sporting landscape.

Foord said the team faced two hurdles — the penalty shootout and getting past the quarter-finals — that the Matildas hadn’t overcome before.

“That was just huge for the team to win a penalty shootout and to get through to the semi-final – the furthest in a competition we’ve ever gone,” she said.

“That was just a special moment for the team and a special night for the nation.”


With the teeth-clenching penalty shootout win behind them, the Matildas shaped up for a semi-final to remember against England.

Although Australia didn’t get the result the entire nation so desperately wanted, there was one moment that is now seared into the collective sporting psyche of the country: That Sam Kerr goal.

The 3-1 loss to England was a crushing moment, but it did little to diminish the success of the tournament for the Matildas.

The future

Foord said women’s football “can only grow” and she is excited for what the future holds.

“The impact that we had on the country and seeing that there are now thousands and thousands of children playing the game now means it will only become bigger in the future,” she said.

“It’s exciting for Australians that there’s only going to be more talent coming through. The competition to get to the national team is going to be better than ever.”

Australia can only eagerly hope that the Matildas finish the story in 2027 and bring home Australia’s first World Cup.

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