Women's World Cup: Matildas legacy undeniable after epic Australia run

  • Australia made history with their run to the Women's World Cup semi-final
  • Matildas clash with England the most-watched TV event in history
  • Legacy undeniable as Australia become a true football country
Sam Kerr has helped raise the profile of Australian football despite her injury woes at the Women's World Cup
Sam Kerr has helped raise the profile of Australian football despite her injury woes at the Women's World Cup / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Prior to the 2023 Women's World Cup, Australia was described as a 'non-football' country.

But after being gripped by the biggest women's sporting event in history, coupled with the Matildas' historic run through to the semi-finals, it's fair to say attitudes have changed Down Under.

It's also fair to say that the legacy left by Australia's 23-player squad will be felt by generations to come, all of whom will look to the class of 2023 as being the source of real inspiration.

Packed 80,000 capacity crowds, gold and green decorations in the street, signs reading 'come on Tillies', 'Tillies 'til I die' adorned across shop windows, other sporting events paused to watch the dramatic penalty shootout win over France, taxi drivers engaged in conversation about the brilliance of Sam Kerr, portraits of Caitlin Foord and Mary Fowler beamed on Sydney skyscrapers; those just some of the sights and sounds of a remarkable four weeks in the country.

Australia's semi-final clash with England became the most-watched television event in Australian history - over 11 million people tuning in at one point with an average audience of over 7 million - while over 1.5 million ticket sales, from Victoria to Cairns, Sydney to Perth, represent the reach across the vast country.

Yet even though Australia's dream of winning the World Cup ended at the hands of Sarina Wiegman's England on that cool Sydney night, the feelings of disappointment were quickly swept to one side. Pride took over in the stands and at home amid a newfound devotion and adoration for the game - similar to the response of England supporters, albeit in different circumstances, during Euro 2022.

The next step in Australia's evolution will be to grow their domestic game. There was a domino effect in the WSL after England's Euro 2022 success, but a lack of professionalism and funding of the W-League in Australia means that growth here will not come at the near 200% rise in attendance rate seen in England.

More likely it will be a less accelerated growth, one that climbs with pace over time following a $200m pledge to revolutionise women’s football across the country. The investment will certainly develop women’s football from grassroots to domestic leagues, advancing the talent that will funnel into the next generation of Matildas.

However, with many of Australia's star turns playing in the WSL star - Kerr, Foord, Fowler, Mackenzie Arnold, Steph Catley and Alanna Kennedy to name six - it may be that the English domestic scene benefits quickest from the newly-created fandom - one based on completely opposite sides of the world.

If it does take time, so be it. That won't take anything away from what Australia have achieved at this tournament, nor will it dampen the legacy of a team who helped a country believe in football, but also see it. Australia a football country? You better believe it. The legacy of the Matildas? Undeniable.