SHE COMES FROM A LAND DOWN UN­DER – WHERE WOMEN ROAR AND SCORE

Australian Four Four Two - - NEWS -

ATILDASTAKEITTO ANEWLEVEL

MWind the clock back 12 months and the Matil­das were in tears af­ter los­ing a heart­break­ing penalty shootout to Brazil in Belo Hor­i­zonte in the 2016 Olympics quar­ter-fi­nals. They won one game out of four and some pun­dits ques­tioned if they even de­served to make the semis af­ter such a dis­ap­point­ing cam­paign.

But at the be­gin­ning of the year, coach Alen Sta­j­cic her­alded the start of a new four-year-cy­cle… and Aus­tralia bounced back in style.

In Au­gust they took out the 2017 Tour­na­ment of Na­tions, down­ing USA, Ja­pan and capped it off by smash­ing Brazil 6-1.

Many ex­perts, in­clud­ing for­mer and cur­rent Matil­das, have touted the cur­rent squad as the golden gen­er­a­tion of women’s foot­ball, nur­tur­ing a grow­ing be­lief they can take out the 2018 Asian Cup in Jor­dan and the 2019 World Cup in France.

The Matil­das are cur­rently No.6 in the world, tipped to go num­ber 4 in the new rank­ings this month, with new poster girl Sam Kerr win­ning hearts of fans all over the world this year.

There was out­rage when she was was over­looked for the fi­nal 2017 FIFA women’s player award short­list.

Kerr dom­i­nated the US NWSL sea­son with Sky Blue, scor­ing the most goals ever in a sea­son this year, win­ning the Golden Boot and be­com­ing the all-time lead­ing goal scorer.

In the green and gold, Kerr was the top scorer in the Tour­na­ment of Na­tions, cre­at­ing a trade­mark back-flip cel­e­bra­tion and is still in a rich vein of form, scor­ing worldies for fun.

The 24-year-old can’t stop scor­ing and is back­ing it up with W-League side Perth Glory. Although “happy to fly the flag for women’s foot­ball”, she ad­mits she is at times em­bar­rassed to be in the lime­light.

Some have called her The Fe­male Messi. But not us. We think she’s The New Messi.

VALE LES MUR­RAY AND MICHAEL COCKER ILL

Aus­tralian foot­ball’s big­gest moments over the last three decades came to you through ei­ther a Les Mur­ray or Michael Cock­er­ill lens. Their deaths, within weeks of each other, broke the heart of the sport’s com­mu­nity. Iconic SBS broad­caster Mur­ray was a main­stay on Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion screens and cham­pi­oned the game’s cause un­til his pass­ing at 71. The leg­endary foot­ball fig­ure graced FourFourTwo magazine’s in­au­gu­ral cover and last year told us that foot­ball’s im­pact on Aus­tralian cul­ture tran­scended sport. “Our so­ci­ety has be­come bet­ter, more worldly, more out­ward look­ing, more open as a re­sult of foot­ball, be­cause it’s the world game,” he said. “Foot­ball is not main­stream, foot­ball is not here to con­form, foot­ball is here to make change and that’s what foot­ball’s place is and should al­ways re­main.” Cock­er­ill de­voted 30 of his 56 years to foot­ball jour­nal­ism, pri­mar­ily with Fair­fax Me­dia and also as a com­men­ta­tor for Fox Sports, mak­ing him one of the hard­est work­ing men in the in­dus­try For­mer Socceroo and Fox Sports col­league John Kos­mina summed up the me­dia gi­ant best: “If Johnny War­ren built the foun­da­tion, Michael Cock­er­ill built the house.”

CLO­SURE OF EX­CEL­LENCE

When the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Sport opened its doors in 1981, its cut­ting-edge sports sci­ence and elite coach­ing made it a Soc­ceroos foot­ball fac­tory that pro­duced the likes of Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Ned Zelic. But in Au­gust this year, Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion Aus­tralia an­nounced fund­ing would be with­drawn from the Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence, sig­nalling the end of foot­ball’s in­volve­ment in the AIS . With the gov­ern­ing body strapped for cash, the $1.6 mil­lion pro­gram was axed with A-League and Na­tional Premier League acad­e­mies now re­spon­si­ble for elite player de­vel­op­ment. The demise of the Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence caused plenty of de­bate in the wider foot­ball com­mu­nity. The ma­jor­ity of the Golden Gen­er­a­tion who qual­i­fied for the 2006 World Cup came through its doors. Aus­tralia’s most suc­cess­ful Na­tional Youth Team coach Les Sche­in­flug told FourFourTwo he felt sick when first heard that the CoE was clos­ing its doors. “It’s the big­gest mis­take ever to close down the AIS,” he says. “I had ev­ery one of those boys who played at the 2006 World Cup in Ger­many ex­cept Tim Cahill. “They all went from the AIS to the na­tional team and they all worked un­der me. If there was no AIS, none of them would have been recog­nised at all.”

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