I’m frothing at what happened in Melbourne this weekend.
Beautiful, delightful and just plain fun times as the Matildas knocked four with no response against Sweden.
Inevitably there’s a buzz around Melbourne in the lead up to the Matildas’ return to the city. The stage is set before even arriving at the ground, with many of the faithful gathering at a Richmond pub.
Before heading to the hub of activity, I had bumped into Persa. She was wearing a Meidema Arsenal jersey at that time and we got chatting about the West Ham – Yallop kit I had on.
Turns out, she’s from Melbourne – not too far of a leap I suppose – but she’s also friends with Susanne and Jennie.
Susanne is Swedish, has been in Australia since 2001, but had never been to a football game before Saturday.
Jennie is Aussie and has gone to countless matches with her daughter. Both share a deep passion for our game and our Matildas.
Playing Sweden provided the prime opportunity for Jennie to invite Susanne.
The busyness of the pub meant I forgot to ask how Susanne was feeling ahead of the game, but I’m hoping it was excitement because that’s what I felt in the air.
I really hope she enjoyed the game and atmosphere, even though Sweden didn’t come away with the chocolates.
Credit goes to Susanne’s husband who wore a yellow polo that could’ve easily had been interpreted as Australian or Swedish. I was assured he’s fully Australian, so I hope he got to enjoy the Matildas’ masterclass.
Eventually the hype of the pub had to move to AAMI Park. It had been three years since I last attended a Matildas game with Chloe, thanks COVID and of course something special had to occur on the quick trip to the ground.
In a packed tram, the shuffle around meant we snagged a seat. Sitting opposite us was a fan wearing a classic Matildas away jersey.
There was simply no way I wasn’t going to ask about it.
So here I was saying “hi, great jersey. It’s number 6 and I’m trying to think who would’ve been wearing that when we had the design”.
We were both giving that thought, which was slightly odd until the person’s neighbour, and likely mother, said “tell them you’re Beattie Goad”.
Indeed it was Melbourne Victory’s Beattie Goad wearing an old jersey she wore in her youth days playing for the Matildas. Thank you Beattie for the quick chat, and good luck for the season.
Chloe Logarzo is who we settled on for number six in that era.
Confusion over the Matildas starting XI slowly gave way to understanding before snowballing into pure joy.
Gone are the days where the Matildas come out in a predictable formation of 4-3-3, without an ounce of adaptability.
The old magic of 4-4-2 sparked the Matildas creativity and confidence. Questions of not having enough in midfield faded with early, smart challenges from Katrina Gorry, while Kyra Cooney-Cross tore through a mountain of work.
Sweden were quick to press, organised off the ball and controlled it like it was tied to their shoes. But the quick counters of the first half for the Matildas always threatened after early dominance in the opening 10 minutes.
The support Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord provided one another was a throwback to their W-League games together. After many games where both have looked isolated and frustrated, this was a breath of fresh air.
Nervy moments in defence were fended off through some scrappy defending at times. However, our growth also comes from not dropping our heads over consistently minor mistakes.
The second half, it just looked fun.
I’d moved away from the top tier seats with the awesome view after getting fed up from the nearby sideline “coaches” making – often wrong – demands of players: “hold the ball”, “surely that’s a caution (post yellow card)”.
From the Matildas Active section we had a field day of a second half. Behind the goal, our side scored three goals right in front of us to add to the first half tally.
Surely the biggest takeaway is the confidence and joy the Matildas played with. From struggling against European opposition to beating two in a row, it makes the growing pains worthwhile.
The pieces are falling together. It’s looking good.
Now 2023, the year of our World Cup. It’s going to be a wild ride.