“Holy sh*t. Holy sh*t!” was how US sports website Deadspin began its match report on Australia’s defeat of Brazil in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
It was that big a deal, the first time an Aussie team, male or female, had won a World Cup knockout game. And to do it, they had secured Brazil’s earliest exit from the tournament.
It was a result that defied expectations. And sensible commentary.
In his excitement, Les Murray, usually such a dependable observer of the sport, catapulted the Matildas straight into the final four.
Hopefully after next weekend, Les.
The New York Times’ soccer writer Andrew Das was busy chowing down on humble pie after this forecast of the outcome.
US sports network SBNation declared of the Matildas: “They should be your new favourite.”
And goalscorer Kyah Simon, bless her, the only person to get through Brazil’s defences all tournament, announced in true Aussie fashion she was ‘super stoked’ and ‘a little bit speechless’.
The efforts of the Aussie women — from Lydia Williams’ epic fingertip save, to Caitlin Foord’s containment of Marta, the game’s most prolific World Cup scorer, to Kyah Simon’s glorious goal and Lisa De Vanna’s instruction to her teammates to hold it all together for the remaining 10 minutes — have drawn international attention.
Except in Brazil.
When Brazil was bundled out of the men’s World Cup a year ago, the nation’s papers went bonkers.
As the country digested its 7-1 semi-final loss to eventual winners Germany, front pages screamed ‘fiasco’ and ‘humiliation’.
With a sense of understatement that would do Fleet Street proud, some labelled the defeat as ‘the greatest humiliation in 100 years of history’ and ‘an embarrassment for eternity’. Hell hath no fury like a nation scorned.
But yesterday’s loss by Brazil’s highly fancied women didn’t rate a mention. Not out of sour grapes. It’s just that Brazilians don’t give a toss about women’s soccer.
Marco Aurelio Cunha, who co-ordinates the women’s game for the Confederation of Brazilian Football, hopes this can change.
“Now the women are getting more beautiful, putting on make-up,” says Marco.
“We used to dress the girls as boys. So the team lacked a spirit of elegance, femininity.
“Now the shorts are a bit shorter, the hair styles are more done up. It’s not a woman dressed as a man.”
That’s Marco in the middle of the picture below. If you run into him, could you please, with as much elegance and femininity as you can muster, knee him in the groin.
Meanwhile, our Matildas have waltzed into the quarter-finals and we’ll shout it from the rooftops.
They have done it against all odds, not only in terms of the competition but the financial travails many women confront to play their sport at the highest level.
As former Socceroo Craig Foster says: “They’re the girls when we were being paid as players, the guys, they were doing it for nothing, and they’re the ones that really are the heart of the game.
“They’re the ones who sacrificed sometimes their family life, and certainly their economic wellbeing just to play the game and just to wear the shirt.”
And they’re not stopping now. Says coach Alen Stajcic: “We’re probably one of the most dangerous teams at the World Cup.”
So, Sydneysiders, set your alarms for 6am on Sunday morning and let’s cheer on our girls. They don’t need hairdos or make-up or cute shorts. All they need is the Aussie grit they have in spades.
Yes, we’ll come a waltzing, Matildas, with you.