Matildas to face Republic of Ireland on September 22

There will be a little extra green to go with all the gold the next time the Matildas assemble, with Football Australia announcing on Friday evening that coach Tony Gustavsson’s side will face the Republic of Ireland in Dublin later this month.

Scheduled for September 22 (Australian time), the friendly at Tallaght Stadium — the home of Irish powers Shamrock Rovers — will be the first-ever meeting between the two sides and represent something of a homecoming for attacking prodigy Mary Fowler, who was the subject of an international tug-of-war between the two nations thanks to her father’s Celtic birth.

The Cairns-born 18-year-old became tied to Australia at a senior level when she represented the nation at Tokyo 2020 — a tournament in which she established herself as a likely attacking mainstay in the squad for the coming decade. 

After a rusty and disjointed start to life under Gustavsson, the Matildas were able to ride a wave of emotion and grit to the Bronze Medal fixture at those Games, downing Great Britain in a famous quater final win before ultimately going home empty-handed after a 4-3 loss to the United States in the battle for bronze.  

Nonetheless, despite breaking the elusive final-eight barrier, the task ahead of a team that their nation hopes will mount a serious challenge on a home World Cup in 2023 remained clear: the centre of defence an area of key concern, midfield play inconsistent and the group ultimately winning just a single game at the tournament — a 2-1 win over New Zealand — within 90 minutes. 

Keen to continue improving his unit, their Swedish coach welcomed the opportunity to gather his side once again.

“Like the rest of the country, I was proud of the way the team represented the nation in Japan,” said Gustavsson. 

“The level of motivation and commitment displayed by the players over the campaign really excites me for what lies ahead, as we work towards the Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023.

“Every time we play an international match, it is an opportunity for this team to reinforce our foundations and truly become one day better. We made a lot of positive strides in our last assembly, and I can’t wait to come together once again.

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“The last couple of years have demonstrated the impressive growth of women’s football internationally and that every nation presents a different challenge that we can learn from. It’s vital that we continue to focus on our own progression as a team and every match is key to that mission.”

Compared to previous opponents in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Japan, 33rd in the World ranked Éire represent the least credentialled friendly opposition lined up by Football Australia since Gustavsson — who has frequently stated his desire to play as strong opponents as possible — took over in January. 

Nonetheless, in the form of players such as Katie McCabe and Denise O’Sullivan, Na cailíní i nglas possess the capability to test Australia’s women — especially with home advantage. 

“Joining a record number of Australians, I was glued to my screen following the Matildas during their recent campaign,” Football Australia CEO James Johnson said.

“During the Games, the passion, desire and pride with which the team represented our nation inspired the Australian public with record-breaking TV audiences; a clear indicator of the connection of the team, and our sport, with the nation.

“We are fully committed to continuing our significant investment into women’s football and the Matildas, as we establish the platform for greater numbers of women and girls to fully participate in our game at all levels.”

Declaring that they had “a roster of high-quality nations already secured for home matches”, Football Australia also said that it was in negotiations with Federal and State Governments to stage the remainders of the Matildas’ 2021 fixtures within Australia — the team not having played in Australia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Header Image Credit: Football Australia

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