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