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Australia ‘going nuts’ and soccer in the country ‘changed forever’ after the Matildas’ historic win


By Aimee Lewis, CNN

(CNN) — As Australia’s victorious players embarked on a lap of honor, home fans danced and cheered joyously inside a sold out Brisbane Stadium on Saturday. Neither players or supporters had experienced anything like it before.

The Matildas had beaten France in an extraordinary penalty shootout to reach the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup for the first time. That history was made on home soil made victory all the sweeter.

“I think before the World Cup that’s what we were dreaming about – changing the football in this nation forever,” said Australia’s star striker Sam Kerr to reporters, speaking about Australia’s co-hosting of the event.

“It makes us feel so good and gives us the energy to perform for 120 minutes, so we’re loving it and, hopefully, it can carry on for a couple more weeks.”

“We have so much belief,” she added. “We are riding the wave of excitement and we are playing some of our best football. The girls are smashing it and it’s a team effort … The country is going nuts. And we’re loving It …”

Kerr started the match on the bench as her recovery from a calf injury continues. Her 55th-minute introduction against France added impetus to Australia’s attack, however, though France’s defense could not be beaten.

After 120 minutes, the quarterfinal remained goalless and had to be decided on penalties – but the scoreline didn’t mean it wasn’t an entertaining match, or that there weren’t any opportunities created. Both teams, in fact, had chances to take the lead in regulation time.

But it was Cortnee Vine, the 20th penalty taker in the shootout, who sealed victory for Australia, securing a 7-6 win on penalties and a semifinal against England.

Kerr said she was going to enjoy the moment before focusing on the semifinal. “My calves are great – every day I feel better, obviously, with more training, more recovery, but I can’t even think about the next game. I’m just gonna enjoy tonight,” she said.

Co-host Australia will be confident in the semifinal despite England’s higher placing in the world rankings. In April, it was Australia which ended England’s unbeaten 30-match run with a 2-0 win, the Lionesses’ first loss under manager Sarina Wiegman.

But a lot of energy and emotion would have been exerted in creating history in Brisbane on Saturday.

A “spent” Steph Catley told reporters that the Matildas “put their heart, their soul, their body – everything into playing for this team in a game like that.”

While forward Emily van Egmond told reporters after the match that it would take “a good 24 hours” for the Matildas to come down off the high of reaching the semifinals.

“We deserve to enjoy it, and we will because, at the end of the day, we’ve made history,” she said.

It was a sell-out near-50,000 crowd at the Brisbane Stadium, while Monday night’s last-16 clash with Denmark broke viewing records in Australia, drawing an average 3.56 million viewers on free-to-air TV across the country, not including paid subscription packages.

Australians have taken the team to their hearts and with the next match against England – a country Aussies love to beat in sport – the next few days promise to be a time of wild excitement Down Under.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Issy Ronald and Hilary Whiteman contributed to reporting.

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