Moncton: There is far more riding on the Matildas’ advancing further into the knock-out stages of of the 2015 Women’s World Cup than just glory.
Australia will face Brazil at 3am on Monday morning [AEST] in the round of 16 where a victory could be the first step to major advancements in women’s sports, particularly football. Payment, sponsorship, investment and participation rates of women’s football lag significantly behind that of the men’s game and Matildas defensive midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight is striving to rectify that by her team at least reach the semi-final stage of the tournament.
Players contracted with the Football Federation of Australia earn a base remuneration of approximately a quarter of the national salary. Players are payed $21,000 plus $500 per match with incomes often supplemented by short-term club contracts as well as other part-time jobs away from football.
Kellond-Knight hopes the Matilda’s knock-out match against Brazil in Moncton will further capture the imagination of the public, attract more interest in the game and establish Australia as one of the world’s best football nations.
“For the future I hope that happens,” Kellond-Knight said. “Once we become one of the top one or two nations in the world I can really see that happening and to enable that I think we have to win something and that starts here.”
A win over Brazil will set-up a likely quarter final match against regional rivals and defending champions Japan in Edmonton which is a fixture that could prove influential for major events in years to come. Both Japan and Australia are set to bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup and improving Australia’s ranking and stature within the women’s game will be a major benefit to the FFA’s likely bid.
Australia were ranked 10th coming into the 2015 tournament in Canada but have never won a knock-out match at a World Cup before.
“If we can keep progressing I’m sure it will take the game forward a lot more steps and hopefully even encourage the FFA,” Matildas coach Alen Stajcic said. “I know we’re bidding for the 2023 [Women’s] World Cup so I see these as massive turning points in our code and our culture to bring football to be the number one sport in our country.”
It remains a difficult task in overcoming the South American giants who boast the greatest female player of all time, Marta, but there is a sense of calm matching the Matildas confidence. After progressing out of the group of death at this tournament, Australia’s players are more relaxed than before the start of the World Cup.
“I think I actually feel more confident and less nervous. Thinking back to the US game, there was a lot of nerves around the game, it was our first World Cup game and we were really unsure if we could compete with the world’s best,” Kellond-Knight said. “Now that we’ve done that we know we’ve got a good squad, we know we can play a good brand of football and we’ve grown in confidence with the group games and we’ve taken that to the knockout stage.”
It may also be the biggest game of Stajcic’s coaching career but feeling suitably prepared, the Matildas boss shares his players’ confidence in continuing their stay in Canada.
“You really and truly get nervous and over aroused when you haven’t done your preparation,” Stajcic said. “I think with the work this team’s done and the preparation that we’ve done, we feel calm and relaxed because I know we’ve done everything we can possibly do to be as good as we can.”
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