It’s right up there.
The Matildas’ World Cup win over France is arguably Australia’s greatest sporting moment since Cathy Freeman’s 2000 heroics — an event that tops our actual ‘best sporting moments’ list.
Now whether you agree or not, just take a second to reflect on the enormity of the penalty shootout and what it had you feeling, in that moment.
Yep — it was truly something.
And yet, as we get on with our busy lives, there’s rarely time for proper reflection.
So we’re calling on our readers to stop what they’re doing for a few minutes and put your energy into re-living the moments that make it the moment of 2023 in sport.
The Matildas’ moment of a lifetime
Let’s re-paint the picture.
After a 3-2 group stage defeat to Nigeria, a Royal Commission was almost called into the Matildas’ home World Cup performance. Following their defeat to the African nation, a Samantha Kerr-less side downed Canada to set up a round of 16 clash with Denmark — they managed strong back-to-back wins over two nations that are far from easy-beats.
It was then France, led by the imperious Wendie Renard, at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
50,000 turned up and millions more tuned in around the country; the nation’s collective fingernails chewed within an inch of their live’s before a ball had even been kicked.
What awaited the Matildas was history; a chance to leave their mark on a country obsessed with just about anything other than football.
How they got there was Herculean, a testament to their collective skill and spirit, and a result that reinvigorated national footballing prospects.
Let’s re-live that faithful winter’s evening, significant play by significant play, and soak in the nerves and glory of that encounter.
MATILDAS v FRANCE, World Cup Quarter Final
Suncorp Stadium, Saturday August 12
Moment #1: Kick off
With Sam Kerr still not at full fitness, Gustavsson names the same starting XI from the Denmark game:
Arnold; Carpenter, Hunt, Kennedy, Catley (c); Raso, Gorry, Cooney-Cross, Foord; Fowler, Van Egmond
Moment #2: Diani chance (7′)
A finely poised game to this point, Alanna Kennedy shakes a clearance high into the Brisbane sky, allowing Kadidiatou Diani to pounce. Having outmuscled Kennedy, who was lucky to not collect a card, the Lyon striker flashes an early warning shot across Australia’s bow.
Moment #3: Lakrar miss (12′)
Consecutive corners targeting Wendie Renard fail to find their target, but the latter bounces to Eugenie Le Sommer, who fires a bobbling shot back into the crowd.
It’s a dangerous chance tamed by a poor, heeled finish from French centre-half Maelle Lakrar.
Moment #4: Arnold save (31′)
Another corner, another problem for the Matildas. The ball falls to Lakrar again on the right side of the box.
She connects with a better shot, this time only to be denied expertly by a strong right paw from Australia’s keeper.
Moment #5: Blocked by Elisa De Almeida (40′)
Wow, what a chance!
Confusion at the back sees Van Egmond collect a petering Raso cross and square it to Mary Fowler.
Facing an empty net, Fowler’s shot looks all but certainly goal-bound, only to be denied by a last-gasp goal line block from Elisa de Almeida.
Moment #6: Sam Kerr’s arrival (54′)
The crowd erupts, as Kerr replaces Van Egmond.
Australia’s best and most important player gets straight into the action, creating a brilliant chance for Raso, who’s edge-of-the-area strike is palmed over the bar by Pauline Peyraud Magnin.
Moment #7: Fowler! (59′)
Australia’s enigmatic young talent is denied again. A poor headed clearance finds Fowler on the penalty spot. A divine first touch sets up a rapid shot which finds the legs of France’s goalkeeper as opposed to the back of the net.
Moment #8: It’s Arnold again (107′)
Ball breaks to young France substitute Vicki Becho on the edge of the area. Her arrowed strike meets a stiff Mackenzie Arnold hand on its way over the crossbar. France reminds Suncorp who exactly they are.
Moment #9: Advantage, Australia (Penalties, 0-1)
Mackenzie Arnold, Australia’s Minister for Defence, denied Selma Bacha for France’s first penalty of the shootout.
Australia’s response? Caitlin Foord rolls her’s into the bottom corner, giving the Tillies their first tangible advantage of the match.
Moment #10: Catley denied! (Penalties, 1-1)
Australia’s skipper, with the chance to push victory nearly from France’s grip, has her effort saved.
Agony and anguish; France is right back in it.
Moment #11: Two juggernauts do what they do (Penalties, 2-2)
Wendie Renard and Sam Kerr both stepped up for their respective side’s third penalties, knowing how monumental a miss would be.
Both slide their shots into the back of the net; ice cool under pressure.
Moment #12: The Minister for Defence sworn in (Penalties, 3-3)
Who knows what the final score is without Mackenzie Arnold. She tips Eve Perriset’s penalty onto the post and returns the advantage back to the Matilda’s. Does anyone have any fingernails left?
Moment #13: Keeper v Keeper (Penalties, 3-3)
After gifting Australia the advantage, Mackenzie Arnold steps up to take a penalty of her own, much to the disbelief of the home nation.
It’s keeper v keeper with the Matilda’s progression hedging on Arnold’s success. But her powerful strike to the right rattles off the post, keeping the score 3-3 after five shots each.
At this point, everyone in Australia feels sick.
Moment #14: Sudden death denials (Penalties, 6-6)
In the second round of sudden death penalties, both Kenza Dali and Clare Hunt are denied by the keeper.
It’s heart-in-mouth, sick to your stomach, sweaty palms and shaky legs kind of stuff; made all the worse after Arnold’s first denial of Dali is brought back for encroachment.
Luckily, second time’s a charm. How does anyone enjoy this?
Moment #15, THE MOMENT: DiVine, Cortnee (Penalties, 6-7)
“Cue the party!”
After Vicki Becho’s costly miss, striking the bottom of the post, young Sydney FC winger Cortnee Vine sweeps the winner home.
Cue pandemonium. Cue the party. Cue overflowing national pride. Cue a date with England in the Semi Final.
What a moment; elating, joyous, relieving, and every other emotion under the sun.
Quite simply, it’s one of Australian sport’s greatest ever moments.