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‘Magnifique Matildas’ – co-hosts creating sporting legacy


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Venue: Stadium Australia Date: 16 August Kick-off: 11:00 BSTCoverage: Watch live on BBC One, listen on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds and follow on the BBC Sport website & app. Full coverage details;latest newsWhile the England team and their fans are already looking ahead to the prospect of adding another chapter to one of the most fiercely contested sporting rivalries, Australia was still basking in the glory of one of its greatest sporting moments.On Saturday evening local time, Australia held their nerve through 20 agonising penalty kicks to beat France in a shootout and reach their first Women’s World Cup semi-final.European champions England are on the horizon for their next match, but for now, Matildas fans are still trying to make sense of what they witnessed. The sight of their yellow-shirted players jumping in ecstasy was plastered over the country’s front pages on Sunday, accompanied with headlines including “Magnifique Matildas” and “Mathrilldas”.Overnight viewing figures reported the biggest television audience in more than two decadesexternal-link – since Cathy Freeman won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 – with an average of 4.23 million.And that did not account for the hordes of fans who descended on the fan parks, congregated round large screens and met at the pub to cheer on the Matildas.Australia media savoured the nation’s historic penalty victory over France at the Women’s World CupSunday Herald sports writer Emma Kemp describes it as a moment “that will forever be etched into Australian sporting folklore”.She writes: “Where were you at exactly 8pm on August 12, 2023? When Cortnee Vine’s deathly spot-kick marked the end of a penalty shootout that gave grandmothers around the nation heart attacks.”Sports journalist Robert Craddock, writing in Australia’s Sunday Telegraph, said: “Even before it was finished, it stood in all of its nerve-jangling glory, as one of the greatest Australian sporting events of all time.”Vine’s winning spot-kick was quickly declared to have replaced what had previously been considered the nation’s most iconic football moment – when John Aloisi scored a penalty in 2005 to send the Socceroos to their first World Cup since 1974.The man himself, fittingly a co-commentator on the Matildas quarter-final for Australian TV, had few complaints.”I’m happy to be relegated, I don’t care,” said Aloisi.”What this will do, this will inspire a future generation. That’s what the girls spoke about before the tournament, that’s what they’ve been speaking about during the tournament. And they’re living this moment.” ‘What it is to be a Matildas fan’Australian media are reporting that Matildas merchandise is selling out as fans rush to buy scarves and shirtsSome seasoned observers compared the impact of the victory to Freeman’s iconic 400m gold medal 23 years ago, with the whole nation getting behind their women’s football team. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has promised a national public holiday if the Matildas go all the way and lift the trophy.Adam Peacock, a journalist for the Australian Sunday Telegraph, wrote: “Of all the wonderful world champions, gold medallists and sporting legends this country has gifted to the world, the Matildas are now firmly on the top shelf and might yet occupy a place all their own.”But with their next match taking place in just four days’ time – in the same stadium in Sydney where Freeman had her generation-defining moment – the team do not have long to come back down to earth.ABC women’s football journalist Samantha Lewis is one of a small number of reporters who have been following the Matildas for many years. She told the BBC World Service’s World Football podcast how the emotion overwhelmed her after the semi-final triumph and she broke down in tears halfway through asking a question to Australia manager Tony Gustavsson in the post-match media conference.”I don’t know if there are ice packs for emotions but that’s what I need over the next couple of days,” she said.”For now, emotionally for the players, physically for them, it’s just about trying to come down off the wave and get themselves revved up for whatever happens next. “Honestly, I don’t know if I can experience this again. What it is to be a Matildas fan…”

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