Why the Matildas winning the whole damn thing would trump America’s Cup

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Your humble correspondent has long proclaimed that, as sporting triumphs go, the only thing that could be bigger than Australia winning the America’s Cup back in 1983 would be the Socceroos one day winning the World Cup.

And I was wrong.

Because, of course, the Matildas doing the same would also surpass that.

And no, I don’t predict that, for it is close to inconceivable that they could win the next three matches, but let’s just say for a moment they did?

(Stop panicking, I said! I am NOT predicting it. They will almost certainly lose.)

As big and as satisfying as that win was, America’s Cup sailing was only ever a sport for supremely rich white blokes on the porky side of things. It is as far from a mass sport as it possible to get, whereas soccer – despite what those Neanderthal knuckle-dragging egg-ballers say (sniff, sneering look of absolute contempt) – is a genuine GLOBAL game, and don’t you bastards forget it!

And here in Australia, from Penrith to Perth, Darwin to the Derwent, Port Douglas to Port Lincoln, soccer is many times more relatable than sailing, because even if not everyone follows it we all at least understand it, and even most who haven’t played it have spent a cold winter morning watching their sons and daughters running around a pitch.

‘I don’t remember a time when a sporting team has so perfectly captured the zeitgeist that it is not only empowered by it but doing a lot of empowering along the way.’

All this means that if the Matildas did win, the impact on the country would be so much bigger. After the America’s Cup win, we tried to stay interested for a few years but really, the damn thing was so dull they could now hold it in Sydney Harbour and it would barely draw a crowd. It was never the sport that interested us; it was sticking it to the Americans who hadn’t been beaten in 132 years that made us rise up. Once that was done, no one really cared.

This is entirely different. For the first time in years the nation feels truly united behind one sporting team who have comported themselves with absolute class and are a real chance of making a global mark. And yes, yes, yes of course the fact that we see footage of excited little girls cheering the Matildas on is enormously significant. But is it wrong to posit that the impact might be even greater on little boys? How long since young lads in Oz have grown up in a country where the most revered sporting team is, far and away, a woman’s team? Shall we go with never?

All up, I don’t remember a time when a sporting team has so perfectly captured the zeitgeist that it is not only empowered by it but doing a lot of empowering along the way.

Moroccan gold

Ah, Australia, you make me proud.

The Washington Post picked up a lovely moment on our shores this week. See, after Morocco had been smashed 4-0 by France in Adelaide in their round of 16 match on Tuesday evening – and they had been lucky to get to nil on the night against their former colonisers – they had returned to their hotel feeling completely demoralised. The dream was over.

But, what now?

As they get off the bus to go into the hotel, they hear a huge noise. Cheering. Clapping. Whistles. They turn. It is members of Australia’s Moroccan community who had journeyed from all over the country to support them and had now come back to the hotel to congratulate them on a wonderful tournament anyway.

“Oh, it’s beautiful,” Ajay Ouakrim, a Sydneysider born in Morocco, told the Post. “Beautiful atmosphere. Very good atmosphere. It’s a good feeling to see the girls coming from the bus, their heads down, then they turn around, they say, ‘What is going on here? What’s going on here? These people are real?’ And they notice everybody, hugging, they’re kissing, they’re taking photos, they’re singing.”

France’s Wendie Renard and Morocco’s Nouhaila Benzina contest a header in their round of 16 match.Credit: Getty

Whereupon, he noted, the players “started smiling and hugging everybody, hugging and taking photos”.

That, friends, is us at our best and sport at its best.

It’s our best selves because it demonstrates that, no matter what national team plays where in our brown and pleasant land, our multicultural community will come out in force to support them, bolstered by enough native Australians to fill stadiums.

And it is sport at its best because, in the hyper-professional age, these sort of moments are so much harder to come by when so much of it seems to be about marketing, broadcast rights and shoe contracts. But women’s soccer is right at that wonderful stage where it is slick and skilled, fast and fabulous, but still has a soul!

Bravo, the lot of them.

Mary’s magic

TFF has previously exulted over specific sporting actions that have become so instantly iconic that they have become a part of Australia’s Pantheon of the Perfect. You know the ones I mean.

The Pass. David Campese’s blind pass to Tim Horan in the semi-final of the 1991 World Cup with three All Blacks about to hit him. The rugby league equivalent was Benji Marshall’s flick pass to Wests Tigers teammate Pat Richards in the 2005 grand final that helped put the Cowboys to the sword.

The Ball Of The Century. Shane Warne’s ball to Mike Gatting at Old Trafford, which was his first delivery of the 1993 Ashes campaign.

The Goal. Socceroo attacker John Aloisi nailing the winning penalty in the shoot-out against Uruguay at the Olympic Stadium to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

Mary Fowler: that pass.Credit: Getty

The Try. Don’t even speak. It was Steve Jackson’s try in the 1989 rugby league grand final between Canberra and Balmain – and no correspondence will be entered into.

The Race. Cathy Freeman’s gold-medal win in the Olympic 400-metre final at Sydney 2000. ’Nuff said?

The Mark. I am advised that nothing will ever get close to Alex Jesaulenko’s effort in the 1970 VFL grand final.

And now, friends?

Well, now we can add the Soccer Pass. As if you didn’t know, it happened 28 minutes into the Matildas’ match against Denmark. Our own Mary Fowler gets the ball deep in our half and surged forward even as the defence closes. She shimmies right, and they close.

She shimmies left, and they close again. Out of her left eye, she can see Caitlin Foord (who had started the move with a pass to Fowler) streaking up the left wing. She’s onside right now, but there are six Danish defenders and the goalie who could close on her. Could she possibly kick it beyond those defenders, threading them, so it will land just right for Foord, leaving her with only the goalie to beat? She draws back her left foot and … BOOM!

The ball whistles past the Danes – making the tune of Waltzing Matilda as it goes – and lands perfectly for Foord, who controls it superbly without breaking stride and shrugs off a Danish defender. There is just the goalie to beat. Foord brings back her own left foot and – with the only passage to the goal being straight between the goalie’s legs – takes aim. BOOM!

Goal. Goal! GOOOOOOOOAL! A goal for your life, I’ll tell a man it is. Bravo to both of them. And let Fowler’s effort be The Soccer Pass, in our Pantheon of the Perfect forever more.

Penalty twist

You know TFF. All soccer, all the time, and when too much soccer is never enough. Which brings me, oddly enough, to Ray Price. Do you remember way back when, as opposing goal-kickers were lining up to take conversions and penalty kicks, Ray would lean over way to the right or left just in front of them – the basic idea being to throw off the sense of balance of the kicker and distract him.

Well, that is now so old hat that Davey Crockett could wear it.

This week, the keeper for Mexican side Tigres UANL, Nahuel Guzman – famous for on-pitch antics – was defending his goal in a Leagues Cup penalty shootout against Vancouver Whitecaps. Just as the Whitecaps player lined up a shot, Guzman held him up and performed a magic trick in which he pulled a long ribbon from his mouth. Cue the Whitecap: WTAF?

The penalty taker missed. The Tigres won.

Ray Price, eat your heart out.

For Pete’s sake

I told yers, but you wouldn’t listen. I told yers that the whole rugby league players’ strike thing would inevitably end only when ARLC boss Peter V’landys flew back into town, and the whole thing would be contrived to make him look like Bob Hawke. And, BINGO, there was Thursday night’s news report, friends: “After refusing to speak to each other for months, the NRL and the players’ union met on Wednesday and again late on Thursday afternoon. The latter meeting resolved the final outstanding issues.” And everyone lived happily ever after!


Channel Seven commentator after the Matildas scored their first goal against Denmark: “It’s the scenario that Australia wanted, scoring first.” I can see why they call you “Scoop!” I’ll have two of straight vanilla, please.

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson after the Denmark win: “I don’t know if you say it in English … the cream on the cake? Cherry on the cake, icing on the cake? It’s that extra that comes in. It’s a bonus for us. But it also means the players are challenging me now into decision making. I’ve got more than 11 players who deserve to start.”

USA goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher after failing to stop that penalty goal that was soooo close: “Someone said there was a picture of it and it was off by a millimetre. It’s tough to have your World Cup end by a millimetre. I thought I had it. It must’ve slipped in?”

Swedish player Lina Hurtig who hit the winning penalty in question: “The [VAR] picture I’ve seen a lot, the penalty not so much. I don’t want to see it again, I get a little pain in my stomach actually, there’s so many feelings that come up when I see it.”

US legend Megan Rapinoe was among those to miss a penalty.Credit: AP Photo

Legendary American Megan Rapinoe after missing a penalty in the shoot-out loss to Sweden: “There’s just some dark, dark comedy in me missing a penalty in my last game ever. It’s a sick, sick joke. I’ve never hit it over; when I miss they are saved. That’s why I had that smile on my face. Like, ‘You got to be f—ing kidding me. I’m going to miss the penalty?’”

Donald Trump being Donald Trump after the USA’s elimination from the World Cup: “WOKE EQUALS FAILURE. Nice shot Megan, the USA is going to Hell!!! MAGA.”

Adelaide Crows coach Matthew Nicks on their AFL game happening at the Gabba around the same time as the Matildas big match: “Hopefully that takes away from the crowd a little bit, because … if I could, I’d be watching the Matildas as well.”

England manager Sarina Wiegman after their stressful win against Nigeria.“I don’t know what my heart rate is – I just know I’m 10 years older.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino: “You are all really fantastic – a proud country, a country with a rich, rich history, a country which has put up the best FIFA Women’s World Cup ever.” Aw, shucks. This ain’t no Doha, nor LA. They call us Syd-er-ney.

The Diamonds won the World Cup for the 12th time.Credit: Getty

English opener Mark Stoneman looking back on his Ashes experience: “I’d played at Lord’s finals and stuff like that but nothing prepares you for walking out at the Gabba. It was an absolute cauldron bubbling over. Then we went to the MCG and it’s like 88,000 on Boxing Day. The sound is unreal. You can feel it reverberating in your bones. I remember thinking this might be what the Colosseum in ancient Rome was like, but with more beers.”

Eddie Jones on the loss to the All Blacks: “That’s a really important feeling we had because we’ve got a devastated group of men in there, but if we learn from it, it is going to be the most potent lesson. It’s going to be more than a PhD from the University of Otago.”

Here’s … Eddie! When asked if the Wallabies could win the World Cup: “One hundred per cent. As a matter of fact, I think we will. If I could bet on it, I would, but I think you get in trouble if you bet.”

Sky News host Paul Murray in October last year on why the Diamonds should have ignored their teammates’ qualms and stayed with Hancock Prospecting: “Because, put simply, without it netball is broke and one of the great sports of this country goes into very dark days.” In fact, they quickly replaced the sponsorship, courtesy of Visit Victoria, and have just won the World Cup.

Team of the week

Matildas. Smashed the TV ratings, with 2.294 million watching the Denmark match. Compare this to 1.98 million for the first State of Origin match this year or last year’s AFL grand final with 2.179 million. Expect this to be smashed this afternoon.

Morocco, South Africa, and Jamaica. The minnows of women’s soccer made the round of 16, while the whales Italy, Brazil, Germany, Canada didn’t, and the USA made it, but was knocked out. (The Matildas are the sharks.)

Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper. No one saw it coming, but Eddie Jones turned into a Hooper-Cooper-party-pooper, ending the careers of two fine Wallabies by not picking them for the World Cup squad.

Wallabies. Regained some credibility last weekend, by giving the All Blacks a bit of a scare. The World Cup starts in just under a month, and TFF will be there!

Australia. Won the Netball World Cup with resounding win over England.

English Premier League. The greatest show on turf starts this weekend. Be still, my beating heart.

Sydney Swans. After meandering all season, have won their last four.

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