Two years ago in Canada, before the Matildas played Brazil for a spot in the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals, the bookies had the Australians as underdogs.
When the Matildas upset them 1-0 the world sat up and noticed, just as it did at the Rio Olympics last year when Alen Stajcic’s team held the South American heavyweights scoreless for 120 minutes before a heartbreaking penalty shootout loss.
Yet Saturday’s 2-1 friendly win in Penrith was perhaps the first time the Matildas had entered a meeting with Brazil as true favourites, courtesy of last month’s 6-1 thrashing delivered at the Tournament of Nations.
That more than 15,000 fans turned out in Penrith to watch stars Sam Kerr, Lisa De Vanna and company overcome their rivals for a second-straight time was evidence of just how far the balance of power has swung.
The Matildas’ Sam Kerr (L) celebrates her goal with Caitlin Foord against Brazil. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
For Kerr, knowing that Marta and her world-class teammates are now viewed as underdogs against Australia is a sign the Matildas can realise their goal of becoming the world’s top-ranked side.
“It gives us confidence,” Kerr said.
“It’s a bit more pressure, but we love going into a game knowing Marta is worrying about Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley, rather than us just worrying about her.
“Even our team talks from when we played them at the World Cup are completely different — it’s about us and what we can do.
@_jessticulate tweets: “Spotted at @TheMatildas #AUSvBRA friendly. @samkerr1 #GoMatildas”
“That’s what we want. We want to win consistently against top five or six nations. Brazil is a top side and they’ve got Marta, who’s one of the best to ever play the game.
“So we’ve got a lot of respect for them but now we’re wanting to be the powerhouse of women’s football. We feel confident every game, but more so now after the recent results we’ve had.
“It’s just great for women’s football, honestly. The girls were saying they were holding back tears during the national anthem with that whole crowd behind us.”
The Matildas will attempt a repeat in Tuesday night’s second clash with Brazil in Newcastle.
Stajcic has signalled potential changes to his starting XI, while being cognisant of retaining some of the chemistry that set the crowd alight on Saturday.
Brazil coach Emily Lima also hinted changes are afoot, though Kerr expects an equally physical encounter as they bid to get one back over the Matildas.
“We expected that after beating them 6-1. We wouldn’t take a smashing like that lightly either,” Kerr said.
“Staj mentioned that to us a few times before the game, but we held our own and gave them a few back too.
“It was just that final pass. That’s the hard part, controlling possession in the final third.”
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