Many sports teams are currently in a holding pattern amid the pandemic, but the Matildas are experiencing a positive “turning point” that can lead them on a path to World Cup success.
Not even the coronavirus can slow down the momentum of Australia’s best female footballers.
While several Socceroos are leaving top-flight clubs in Europe, a majority of Matildas have been snapped up by footballing giants.
Matildas captain Sam Kerr is at Chelsea, Caitlin Foord is at Arsenal, Aivi Luik is in Sevilla, Hayley Raso is at Everton and Amy Harrison is with PSV Eindhoven, just to name a few of the 25 Matildas of the last year that are playing club football in Europe.
Cowra product Ellie Carpenter is by far at the most high-profile club of all the Matildas though – the freshly-crowned Champions League winners, Lyon (Olympique Lyonnais).
Carpenter’s recruitment was a huge endorsement of not only her talent, but the 20-year-old also believes it was long-overdue recognition of the quality of players being produced in Australia in the women’s game right now.
“It’s so great. You just look around Europe and there’s pretty much an Australian in every league,” she exclusively told Wide World of Sports at the launch of the Matildas’ new Nike home and away kit.
“It’s amazing that we’re getting recognised worldwide. I think the World Cup last year really helped that and identified a lot of us [in Europe].”
The incredible momentum of the last few years in particular has been astounding for the Matildas, and with more players in Europe than ever before, Carpenter said it’s setting up the women’s national team to go to a whole new level.
“I really think this is the turning point for our team and the future generation of Matildas,” she said.
“Young girls watching us playing over in Europe at big clubs, it’s going to make them want to become a professional footballer.
“We’re all in the best environments and I really think this is the time that the Matildas can push to be the top 3 – 5 countries in the world. It’s really exciting times for us as a team and individually.”
The timing could not be better for this pivotal moment to happen too, with the announcement of Australia and New Zealand being selected as co-hosts for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“It’s a dream come true to play in a World Cup, let alone on home soil so us getting back into next camp, I feel like the energy, passion and excitement we bring, will show on the field,” Carpenter said.
“We know what we have in the next two, three years and we want to give it our all. We’re in the best environments in our club and competing for spots within the national team – it’s been the most competitive ever trying to get that starting 11 position – we have such a solid squad.”
Winning the World Cup is unashamedly in the Matildas’ future plans too, especially after the disappointing campaign in 2019 in France where they fell short of expectations.
In 2023, Carpenter nearly guaranteed it would be a “different story”.
“[Winning it] would be the icing on the cake really,” she said.
“My first World Cup last year was a good experience. We bowed out a bit earlier than what we would have liked, but at the next World Cup, being at home and having the fans behind us, it’ll definitely be a different story.
“We’re just so eager to show the world what we’re made of.”
Matildas captain Sam Kerr knows the significance of a home World Cup, and with the electric striker to be hitting 30 by then, she’s already thinking about the legacy that she and the team can leave.
“We always talk about the 2000 Olympics. I remember Cathy Freeman still to this day. It was one of the most amazing moments watching her run on home soil so hopefully this team can have that impact on young boys and girls growing up now.
“We have more and more kids wanting to play for the Socceroos and Matildas, so I hope that we can be in 30 years to them what Cathy Freeman was to kids like us back then.”
With so many Matildas based in Europe, during the launch it was teased that their next camp could potentially be held overseas to easily get the team back together again.
In the meantime, Carpenter is brushing up on her French – she hopes to be “très bien” in a few years – and working on evolving into an even better player at Lyon.
“I just want to become the best player I can be. By coming here it’s really tested me so far,” she said.
“I couldn’t be in a more perfect environment. Everyday I’m being pushed, working on my weaknesses and my strengths as well.
“I just can’t wait to get back in with the national team and show what I’ve learnt here and all my experience here and hopefully I can bring that to the squad.
“We’re all itching to get together again, and hopefully that’s in the next couple of months. I love wearing the green and gold and walking out there representing my country – it means everything.
“It’s been a while and I’ve missed that feeling so can’t wait to get back together and play games.”