The FIFA Women’s World Cup semifinal between Australia and England broke all records in the Oceanic country as 11.5 million people tuned into the game at some point on television. The highest concurrent viewership of the game was nearly 7.2 million people. Given that Australia is a country of only 25 million people, it is difficult to overstate just how important the Matildas’ game against the Lionesses could be not only for the women’s game in the country but for footballing interest as a whole.
England and Australia are bitter rivals in the sporting world, as cricket fans will well understand, though their competitiveness extends to women’s football also. Australia’s Channel Seven reported that the game was the most-watched single program in the history of the current rating system, which was established in the year 2001. Not even the men’s world cup came close to this semifinal.
Channel 7’s head of network sport Lewis Martin stated, “The Matildas have rewritten the history books. Australia was captivated last night as the Matildas played their hearts out and did us all proud.”
Tony Gustavsson rues missed chances, says finishing the difference in the end
Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson was making no false pretenses going into the semi-final. The Matildas were heavily outclassed in squad quality by the Lionesses, who feature players regularly competing at the highest level of the women’s club game. On the other hand, Australia has numerous starters who play only in the local Australian league as well as the Swedish first division’s mid-table clubs.
Despite the massive disadvantage, the teams were relatively even for most of the match. The 3-1 score suggests a dominance that was not very present in the game aside from one aspect: finishing.
Gustavsson said, “It’s one of those nights where they were more clinical than us in the finishing. I think our defending was very solid in the first half. We told (the players) at halftime to be more confident on the ball and play the way we can play. When we started to do that we dominated the game but unfortunately, it didn’t pay off with enough goals tonight.”
Australia’s tournament isn't over yet as the Matildas prepare to face Sweden in the third-place playoff on Saturday.