The Matildas’ moment: Each penalty had its own story to tell


BRISBANE, Australia — Cortnee Vine is immediately swamped by her teammates. Their reactions to her historic penalty in Australia’s 7-6 shootout win over France will probably be printed throughout the entrance pages of newspapers, the covers of books, plastered on partitions and billboards, and Instagram tales for eternity.

For the primary time ever, Australia will participate in a World Cup semifinal. The Matildas will contest for a medal on the Women’s World Cup and change into the primary host nation to make it past the quarterfinals because the United States in 2003.

Disbelief and pleasure and aid had been all over the place on Saturday evening. From inside Brisbane Stadium, after all, to the fan festivals that had been operating throughout the nation all match. From contained in the pubs and lounge rooms of Australia, to the teams huddled round telephones at weddings and concert events and on public transport. Even those in the air and at different sporting occasions had been in a position to watch and share on this second that nobody will quickly overlook.

And these scriptwriters had been again at it once more with their scarcely plausible narratives, as if the sense of event wanted to be added to.

A World Cup quarterfinal determined on this trend, by the acute agony and ecstasy instrument that could be a penalty shootout, means the 120 minutes of soccer that preceded it change into a blur. There are solely hazy flashes of half-remembered possibilities and a imprecise recollection of what really occurred.

Conveniently, nothing summed up the 120 minutes of play fairly just like the penalty shootout itself. Spot kicks do not usually tell the story of a match, however this time they did.

Pregame, it was broadly accepted that France and the Matildas matched up nicely, from their similar formations to their comparable kinds of play. A contest that even may go solely one among two methods: the groups would cancel one another out, turning the sport to a grind, or the sport would change into open and free-flowing. It began as the previous, with the groups exchanging durations of dominance. It turned the latter as legs drained. Chances had been there, and each side may have received in regulation. Ditto additional time.

It’s not usually that it looks like a sport wants penalties to actually have the option to cut up two groups, however Saturday felt like one among them. The factor about penalties is that, within the second, you possibly can’t do something. All you are able to do is watch.

What unfolded was the longest penalty shootout in World Cup historical past, males’s or girls’s. It took 20 spot kicks to determine the winner. It stretched proceedings into a 3rd hour — a rarity in soccer. For each individual watching that match, the shootout felt like its own yr. But it was longest for Vine, Australia’s tenth penalty taker. Kick No. 20.

In the leadup to the match, Vine spoke of her “imposter syndrome” at being chosen. After beginning the primary two matches, she was moved to the bench and spoke throughout the week of wanting solely to play a job for the crew, no matter that function seemed like, and doing what the crew wanted.

“I did it. I didn’t think I would have to do it,” she laughed postgame. “I didn’t think it was going get to the 10th penalty taker and again, like I said, I was willing to do whatever the team wanted me to do and [Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson] picked me as 10th.

“So I stood up.”

In her debut World Cup, with 49,461 fans in the stands, their cheers reaching 123.8 decibels, Vine’s brow was furrowed with determination as she stood on the edge of immediate legend status in Australian football.

“I felt I used to be in a whirlwind, I did not know what was happening and I used to be like: ‘What simply occurred?'” Vine said.

She went on to credit Matildas goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold for taking the pressure off her. And while Vine wasn’t accurate when she said that Arnold saved the previous penalty — Vicki Bècho hit the post after sending Arnold the wrong way — it speaks volumes to the positive psychology and body language coming off the goalkeeper. In Vine’s mind, Arnold had done the hard work, and so she would return the favour and get the job done.

– Women’s World Cup: Home | Squads | Fixtures | Podcast

That brings us to Arnold.

Her growth over the past year, from third-choice keeper to starting World Cup shot-stopper, has been a journey of self-belief. And this shootout provided more proof, if anyone still needed any. Throughout the 120 minutes she was once again a calm presence down back, able to clean up messes and make routine saves with a commanding authority.

When it came to penalties there were no worries or doubts about what she could do in a shootout.

“We all understand how good she is at penalties. That’s at all times been her factor. So I feel after we went into this, I used to be like: ‘We’re good. Mac is gonna save in all probability numerous them,'” stand-in Matildas skipper Steph Catley said of her keeper.

And while Arnold did make saves, it was her response to setbacks that was more telling. The script was set perfectly for her to take the winning penalty after saving Eve Perisset’s effort, five kicks in.

“It was virtually prefer it was written within the stars,” was the way Gustavsson described it postmatch. “It’s meant to be, that is how you are feeling, after which she hits the put up, proper?”

It was a moment that had so much riding on it. But Arnold couldn’t dwell. She had to immediately return to her line and continue doing her job.

“The women are singing my praises, however I’m severely so pleased with every one among them,” Arnold said. “Especially after I missed the penalty as nicely and seeing them rally round me like they did and to maintain me within the sport. I’m so grateful for them.”

There was no denying Arnold had stayed in the game when she came up big to stop Kenza Dali’s penalty. You could feel her guttural roar just by looking at her. But VAR deemed the Matildas keeper had stepped off her line and the penalty needed to be retaken. It was another moment where the response would have the power to influence the rest of the shootout.

“It’s a little bit little bit of a thoughts sport, to be trustworthy, whether or not she’s going to go the identical manner or change it up. But I again myself, and fortunately, I acquired the identical once more,” Arnold said.

The keeper looked at the ref, did a thumbs-up waiting for confirmation of the second save, and then raised her hands above her head. Brisbane Stadium lost its mind.



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The Brisbane crowd was a presence in itself during the game, fully buying into the occasion and what was required of them. A rousing rendition of “Waltzing Matilda” during the Welcome to Country in the prematch ceremonies set the tone. The fans made sure to cheer every Matildas save and chance, Bronx cheer French mistakes, and boo with incredulity at real and perceived slights on the Australians from the referee. Then, if the stadium had a roof, it would have been lifted off at the 55-minute mark, with Sam Kerr’s introduction.

To say Kerr’s World Cup hadn’t gone to plan so far would be a bit of an understatement. Before Saturday night, the talisman of not just the Matildas but the World Cup as a whole had played a grand total of 10 minutes plus injury time all tournament. It felt cruel and unusual that Kerr wasn’t getting to participate on the pitch, but the Matildas had proved they could win without her. That, in turn, made being able to use her off the bench all the more powerful.

When the game went to penalties, it felt right that Kerr was on the pitch. But the elephant in the room needed to be addressed.

Everyone was thinking it, including Kerr. Visions of her last World Cup penalty kick were running on a loop in people’s minds: the ball travelling up into the clear night sky in Nice in 2019 and the Matildas crashing out of the tournament in the round of 16.

On that night, only one of Kerr’s teammates actually converted their penalty. But she had an expectation on her unlike anyone else at the time, and that has only grown in the years since. The difference now is that she has grown into that pressure.

As Kerr walked up to the spot in Brisbane, she burned a hole into the painted-on 12-yard circle with her stare. She rarely looked up as France keeper Solène Durand walked to her line slowly. Her mind was back in Nice.

“The solely pen I used to be desirous about once I stepped up is the final World Cup once I missed,” Kerr said.

“Last World Cup once I missed, I in all probability simply tried to do one thing I wasn’t used to. This time was all about routine and all about focus and simply doing what I do know I’m good at.”

As the whistle went Kerr looked at the ball, snuck a glance at the goal, and ran up, striking the ball low and hard beyond the keeper to score. A fist bump, a beat of the chest, a demon exorcised.

Kerr’s penalty, in conjunction with a major tournament penalty shootout win, felt like the true closing of a chapter. Overcoming adversity in all its forms was a common theme.

Katrina Gorry has done a mountain of work as the metronome in the middle of the park for the Matildas. At times, the 31-year-old is inescapable to opponents: constructing an opportunity, losing the ball and tracking back to recover it all within the same minute. Her penalty was fueled by emotion, a specific example of a wider trend throughout the team.



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Gorry’s penalty was struck into the side netting, evading Durand, who guessed the right way. She kissed her wrist and pointed to the sky, eyes already glassy. She then did a rocking the baby celebration for her daughter, Harper. Her lips went into a thin line, as she does when holding back tears, and returned to her teammates. It wasn’t until after the match that Gorry revealed that her initial celebration was for her fiancée’s father, who passed away a couple of days prior. While time doesn’t feel real at a World Cup and life feels like it pauses, it doesn’t. For Gorry to be a world away from her family, experiencing a professional high and personal low simultaneously, is a credit to her as a person and as a player.

And there were more stories still. Mary Fowler’s breakout tournament continued with a performance in the 120 minutes that should’ve included goals. Her penalty — calm, assured, thumping — spoke to all of her best qualities, what she still has to give, and what fans can expect from this 20-year-old in the years to come.

“I simply do not understand how the gamers are doing it on this environment,” the commentator mused on the world feed.

But the Matildas have shown all tournament that all of these emotions and pressure — be it personal or expectations from a nation — are a driving force rather than a weight to be lugged around. All of their talk of belief and improvement and growth has been backed up by action. Luck has fallen their way, but they’ve made their own luck in turn.

It is a mentality shift that might well be one of the defining traits and lasting achievements of the Gustavsson era. Getting it done, even in dramatic fashion, means the story continues. Catley summarised it perfectly in the afterglow of Saturday’s epic triumph: “[It’s] how we’re as a crew in the mean time, we simply consider. We maintain combating it doesn’t matter what occurs: whether or not it is VAR, a retake, penalties, misses, objectives, saves … no matter it’s, we by no means cease believing that we’re going to win.”


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