The FIFA Women’s World Cup is now well underway, and the tournament has now reached the round of 16 stage, with 5 teams already through to the knockout stages. Amongst these teams are Australia, who progressed after a “shock” win against a Brazilian team who were one of the favourites. To think that this is a shock win, however, is not productive. As it stands the Australian team are currently ranked 10th in the world, while Brazil are sitting in 7th. This is a minute difference, and so surprise is the completely wrong reaction. To draw parallels with the men’s game, this is like the Spanish beating Portugal and then touting it as a shock upset. The Matildas have a fairly serious chance to win the World Cup from the quarter-finals, but their reaction to the victory against Brazil is not very encouraging.
First, to get one thing straight, no underdog team has ever won a World Cup. In 1966 Portugal and North Korea lit up their first ever World Cup, but the final was still England vs Germany. Costa Rica made a run to the quarter-finals in last year’s World Cup, but never looked like winning. Why? Because they were underdogs, and because they did not look to have any chance against the powerhouses in the draw.
Back to the Matildas then. They are a very strong team, as shown by their number 10 ranking, but at the moment their mindset is letting them down. They may have said that they went in to the match against Brazil thinking that they would win, but they would have surely been intimidated by the frenzied storm talking about Marta, the best player in the world. So what? Australia are 10th in the world, and they need to start acting like one of the best teams. A real test will be what their reaction is if they are eliminated, if they mask their disappointment or if they show it. The German team are not intimidated by anyone, in both men’s and women’s soccer. They also hold the number one ranking in both divisions. Coincidence? No. The Matildas need to stop treating other teams as the favourites and start expecting to beat the best if they want to be the best. Ange Postecoglou showed what had to be done when he took over the Socceroos job last year, after consecutive 6-0 defeats to Brazil and France. At this point, less than a year out from the World Cup, Postecoglou could have easily gone into the tournament with a defensive mindset, wrongly thought by many to be the vehicle for big teams to beat small, but he did not. Instead, he played with an attacking mindset which ensured that while they lost their three games they put up some commendable performances. This newfound confidence led to the team winning the Asian Cup, and even then Postecoglou would not rest on his laurels. If the Matildas can find this confidence after beating Brazil then they are in a much better place then the Socceroos were when they had their epiphany.