Reeling from the heartbreak of falling short in the Women’s World Cup semi-finals, the Matildas believe they can still reap silverware from their golden generation.
That starts with picking themselves up and beating Sweden in Saturday’s third-place play-off game to ensure they don’t leave their home tournament empty-handed.
Australia’s run that has captured the nation was brought to a screeching halt in Wednesday’s devastating 3-1 loss to England.
Plenty of the Matildas top players are either on the wrong side of 30 or not far off it – meaning the 2023 World Cup is a golden opportunity that has passed Australia by.
Lydia Williams (35), Clare Polkinghorne (34), Aivi Luik (38), Kyah Simon (32) and Tameka Yallop (32) are the squad’s oldest players.
But stars Sam Kerr (29), Steph Catley (29), Katrina Gorry (31) Caitlin Foord (28), Alanna Kennedy (28), Hayley Raso (28) and Emily van Egmond (30) will be at the tail end of their careers, or retired by the 2027 World Cup.
“Everyone’s gonna be hurting. I think the veterans probably more – we don’t really have another World Cup in us,” Gorry told reporters.
“So it’s a tough one to swallow at the moment.
“But, we’ll all get around each other, we’ll make sure that we’re ready to go for the next game. Because we want that bronze medal.
“It’s dangling right in front of us, Australia has got us here so far, we’re not gonna let them down.”
It took England three consecutive semi-finals, after heartbreak in 2015 and 2019, to finally break through for a World Cup decider.
When asked whether the Matildas would be better for the experience and stronger for it, Polkinghorne shrugged and said “I think we will.
“But I don’t know – being at home, a lot of people were getting behind us and supporting us and it was just incredible the amount of support we got.”
“So we’ll learn from it and be better.”
Catley, at her third World Cup, pointed to emerging talents like Mary Fowler and Kyra Cooney-Cross as reason why Australia wasn’t done yet.
“It does take a while and I think we’ve made enough quarter-finals, enough round of 16s,” she said.
“You learn a lot from those moments and some of these young girls that have just stepped in and they’ve now played in a semi-final, they’re gonna learn so much and they’re gonna be so much more prepared for the next time it comes around and that’s something that a lot of us haven’t had.
“So the fact that they’ve got that now so early in their careers is massive.
“Some of the players that we’ve seen come through: Mary, Kyra, the way they’ve performed, Clare Hunt, there’s so many.
“They just stepped up – they look so ready, they’ve got long careers ahead of them and yeah, hopefully we’re developing loads more girls that can come in and step in when they need to.
“Hopefully us old ducks can hold on a little bit longer and push for some more trophies.”
Australia will commence qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics later this year.
But first comes a tight turnaround to face Sweden, who lost to Spain on Tuesday, in Brisbane on Saturday evening.
“We’re not leaving here empty-handed,” Cooney-Cross said.