The Matildas are fantastic.
At the risk of sounding like an unreconstructed, patronising dinosaur, I’m going to lay my cojones on the chopping block and tell you what I really think.
The Matildas have come such a long way. I’m a person who’s been very involved in women’s football – coached for ten years – and I’ve always focused on the simple things.
The simple things were not always simple, for most players, but over the last few years the standard has improved out of sight. Especially at Matildas level.
The thing that most did my head in – watching women’s football – was first touch. Diabolical over most of our history.
The other things were strategy and team shape. For a person used to watching these things in men’s football it was distressing to see their absence in women’s – but the improvement in recent times has been excellent.
It has to tell you something about coaching in women’s football. The general rise in standard is obvious, and for anyone watching the two recent Matildas v Brazil matches… I’m sure they’d agree. They were entertaining, quality football. The first touch was great and the shape and strategy was comparable with anything you'd see in professional men's football.
Clearly you’d expect a couple of decent matches with 11 v 7 (FIFA ratings) but these were truly gripping encounters.
The quality of the younger Matildas, in particular, was outstanding. Mary Fowler and Ellie Carpenter were just brilliant. Carpenter reminds me of a young Ryan Giggs the way she comes from deep to burn defenders away with her pace and then play dangerous balls into the box. (And yes I know – he was a left footed winger.)
Fowler, to continue the Man U analogy (despite me being an Arsenal fan) reminds me of Paul Scholes the way she wins the ball and finds early dangerous balls down the flanks. And occasionally scores herself.
Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord, of course, are just amazing front third players and always dangerous.
I guess the bottom line is this… in the past, I would watch the Matildas if there was nothing else on.
Now, I look forward to their matches and would no more miss one than I’d miss a Socceroos match. Unthinkable.
To some, that will sound sexist, but I make no apology.
Genuine progress, in terms of team support and viewer numbers will only occur through genuine improvement in game quality.
This should not be undersold or over-varnished, and we are absolutely seeing the truth of that via Matildas and A-League Women right now. It’s a product worth watching (unlike some other hastily cobbled together codes I could mention) and I am already factoring that into my so-called social life given the packed fixture list ahead of us.
A fixture list that includes the Asian Cup and then the World Cup on home soil. Happy times ahead for the true believers.
Adrian's books can be purchased at any good bookstore or through ebook alchemy. His first sci-fi novel will be published by Hague Publishing in late 2021.