In early 2014 the Westfield Matildas played Brazil in a pre-Asian Cup friendly in Brisbane, with just over 2500 fans there to watch the Samba stars win 1-0.
Just over three years on and more than almost 32,000 fans have watched Australia’s women’s football team in a two-game friendly series against Brazil.
Saturday’s sell-out match in Penrith was backed up by a record 16,829 fans in Newcastle on Tuesday night as the Westfield Matildas went prime time under lights in the Hunter.
Not only were those crowds records for non-competitive international female sport in Australia – for any code - it even out-numbered an AFL finals match down the road in Sydney’s west on the weekend.
How good is that!
It’s a sign of this group of Westfield Matildas have captured the imagination of the nation and a reward for their excellent results and performances in recent years.
We chart the remarkable rise of the Westfield Matildas over the last few years and it proves just how far Alen Stajcic’s impressive side has come.
2015 FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP IN CANADA
The Westfield Matildas were pitted in the ‘group of death’ alongside the USA, African champions Nigeria and European heavyweights Sweden. And despite going down in the opening match to America, a win over Nigeria and draw with the Swedes to make the knockout stages. In an historic round of 16 clash against Brazil, Kyah Simon’s 80th-minute strike handed the Aussies a 1-0 win and first-ever knockout stage win at the World Cup. Unfortunately, AFC rivals Japan got a late goal to win a hard-fought quarter final 1-0 to end the Westfield Matildas’ incredible run at the tournament.
Game 1: Westfield Matildas 1-3 USA
Goal: Lisa De Vanna 27’
Crowd: 31148 at Winnipeg Stadium.
Game 2: Westfield Matildas 2-0 Nigeria
Goals: Kyah Simon 29’ and 68’
Crowd: 32,716 at Winnipeg Stadium
Game 3: Westfield Matildas 1-1 Sweden
Goal: Lisa De Vanna 5’
Crowd: 10,177 at Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton
Round of 16: Westfield Matildas 1-0 Brazil
Goal: Kyah Simon 80’
Crowd: 12,054 Moncton Stadium
Quarter Final: Westfield Matildas 0-1 Japan
Crowd: 19,814 at Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton
2016 OLYMPIC GAMES QUALIFIERS
Six nations, five games in 10 days, with two spots at the Rio Olympic Games on the line. The equation was simple but the task was difficult for the Westfield Matildas. But we needn’t have worried as Stajcic’s side continued their form from the previous year’s World Cup to cruise through the qualifying tournament. Four wins – including revenge on World Cup finalists Japan – saw the Westfield Matildas qualify for their first Olympics for 12 years with a game to spare before a draw with China in the final match. Rio, here we come!
Game 1: Westfield Matildas 3-1 Japan
Goals: Lisa De Vanna 25’, Michelle Heyman 41, Katrina Gorry 78’
Crowd: 4988 at Kincho Stadium, Osaka
Game 2: Westfield Matildas 9-0 Vietnam
Goals: Emily Gielnik 10’ Kyah Simon 17’, 38’ and 43’, Alanna Kennedy 19’, Ashleigh Sykes 64’, Emily van Egmond 68’, Michelle Heyman 77’, Clare Polkinghorne 85’
Crowd: 129 at Yanmar Stadium Nagai
Game 3: Westfield Matildas 2-0 South Korea
Goals: Kyah Simon 1’, Emily van Egmond 14’ (pen)
Crowd: 1124 at Yanmar Stadium Nagai
Game 4: Westfield Matildas 2-1 North Korea
Goals: Michelle Heyman 18’, Katrina Gorry 84’
Crowd: 900 at Yanmar Stadium Nagai
Game 5: Westfield Matildas 1-1 China
Goal: Emily van Egmond 85’
Crowd: 250 at Yanmar Stadium Nagai
2016 RIO OLYMPICS GAMES
One of the pre-Olympic favourites, the Westfield Matildas made a shaky start in Rio by losing their opening group match against Canada. A well-deserved draw with powerhouses Germany meant a big win over Zimbabwe ensured the Aussies made the quarter finals. It was the host nation that awaited Stajcic’s troops in the last night, with the gripping contest settled via a dramatic – and controversial – penalty shootout.
Game 1: Westfield Matildas 0-2 Canada
Crowd: 20,521 at Corinthians Arena, Sao Paulo
Game 2: Westfield Matildas 2-2 Germany
Goals: Sam Kerr 6’, Caitlin Foord 44’
Crowd: 37,475 at Corinthians Arena, Sao Paulo
Game 3: Westfield Matildas 6-1 Zimbabwe
Goals: Lisa De Vanna 2’, Clare Polkinghorne 15’, Alanna Kennedy 37’, Kyah Simon 50’, Michelle Heyman 55’, 66’
Crowd: Unknown at Fonte Nova Arena, Salvador
Quarter Final: Westfield Maildas 0-0 Brazil (Brazil won 7-6 on penalties)
Crowd: 52660 at Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
2017 TOURNAMENT OF NATIONS
The Westfield Matildas were invited to take part in the four-nation tournament with some of the world’s best nations, USA, Japan and Brazil. And the Aussies quickly showed they meant business, pulling off an historic first win over host-nation America thanks to Tameka Butt’s second-half goal. Not done with there, they came out three days later to dispose of Japan – with Kerr stealing the show – before securing the silverware with a drubbing of Brazil. The Westfield Matildas had a perfect three-from-three to be crowned Tournament of Nations champions!
Game 1: Westfield Matildas 1-0 USA
Goal: Tameka Butt 67’
Crowd: 15,748 at Century Link Field, Seattle
Game 2: Westfield Matildas 4-2 Japan
Goals: Sam Kerr 11’, 16’ and 43’, van Egmond 62’ (pen)
Crowd: 9597 at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Game 3: Westfield Matildas 6-1 Brazil
Goals: Lisa De Vanna 7’, 34’, Caitlin Foord 32’, 68’, Katrina Gorry 41, Sam Kerr 81’
Crowd: 11,948 at StubHub Centre, Carson
2017 FRIENDLY SERIES AGAINST BRAZIL
Australian fans couldn’t wait to get a close up look at the Westfield Matildas and turned out in record numbers to watch this side play. A sell-out crowd in Penrith on Saturday afternoon saw a stunning 2-1 win, before almost 17,000 turned out on a school night in the Hunter as Sam Kerr inspired Australia to another triumph over a clearly frustrated Samba outfit. That’s now five win in a row for Stajcic’s side as they continue to build ominously towards next year’s AFC Asian Cup and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Game 1: Westfield Matildas 2-1 Brazil
Goals: Lisa De Vanna 41’, Sam Kerr 67’
Crowd: 15,089 at Pepper Stadium, Penrith
Game 2: Westfield Matildas 3-2 Brazil
Goals: Sam Kerr 38‘, 66’, Caitlin Foord 47’
Crowd: 16,829 at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle