100 Cap Caitlin: The story of CommBank Matildas' iconic #9
Commonwealth Bank Matildas' and Arsenal FC striker Caitlin Foord has celebrated a historic milestone, having now been capped in 100 Australian internationals
Let's look back at the national team journey, for one of our greatest ever goal-scorers and the progression she has made since her debut.
Making her 100th appearance in a coastal town against arch-rivals New Zealand is incredibly fitting for the girl from NSW's South Coast.
Just like Townsville, her debut game came in another spot of paradise on the Central Coast, where a teenage Foord opened her international account, scoring in a 3-0 victory for the Commbank Matildas against the nation from across the Tasman. Having only just broken through in the A-League Women's competition, the selection was a major surprise, yet many within the Matildas' camp had placed a key eye on the forward throughout her junior years.
At the time, the 16-year-old was commuting to Sydney FC training from her hometown of Shellharbour and although she has now traded the golden beaches of the Illawarra for the glum weather of North London, it is still evident that Foord rises whenever given conditions similar to the those in which she grew up.
Transition to a poacher
Australian supporters may well have assumed that Caitlin Foord had been goal-poaching from birth, such as the ease in which the forward can anticipate where the ball will land in space and convert, yet that wasn't always the case, especially at the international level.
The first major tournament in which Foord appeared in was the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup at just the age of 16. For the teenager to break into a side that had claimed the Asian Cup just a year earlier and snatch the illustrious Number 9, was a credit to her immense talent.
Yet despite the shirt number, Foord was unable to break into the Commonwealth Bank Matildas frontline for the early part of her career, with Kerr, Simon, and De Vanna having already established themselves as prolific finishers. Coach Tom Sermanni elected to start the youngster in the backline instead, with all but one of her first World Cup campaign matches, being spent at right-back.
Spanning the first two years of her international career, the fact that Foord's record stands at 22 goals from 100 matches despite the constant changing of position, highlights just how efficient the Shellharbour girl has been in the green and gold over recent years.
Brightest Star in Asian Football
Although the best is still yet to come for the 27-year-old, as she prepares to hit her peak for both club and country, supporters got a sneak peek of Foord's optimal form during 2015-2017, as the forward claimed the AFC Player of the Year.
Having previously won the Young Player of the Year award as a 17-year-old, it became a challenge for her to progress her game and do what many others had failed to do and claim the senior gong. The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup set Foord on her way, after being given the keys to Australia's attack, starting every match as the focal point up-front.
However, it was an Olympic campaign in Rio de Janeiro just 12 months later that sparked the striker into career-best form. Still developing her goal-scoring abilities, it was her set-up play that caught the eye of many, with several assists against world-class opposition and a winning goal in the side's last group match against Germany, that may well have been enough to earn her the continent's greatest accolade.
Grown into Leadership
Her 100th appearance against New Zealand saw Caitlin Foord deservedly wear the captain's armband for the first time at the international level, an achievement that was a long time in the making if you ask any of her Commonwealth Bank Matildas teammates.
The 27-year-old has always been one of the standard-setters within the national team. Whether it be her hard work in training sessions, constant tweaking of technique to improve her abilities on the field, or even the academic work done off it to broaden her skills after playing, Foord seems to be the perfect role model for younger professionals to sculpt their game off.
Her influence has been seen across the squad too, with her strike partners Sam Kerr, Mary Fowler and Kyah Simon scoring on a far more consistent basis, whenever the number 9 is present, creating opportunities. Foord's brave move to Arsenal, although not the first or most noted, was the spark for a plethora of Australian stars to test their abilities in Europe's biggest leagues, showcasing how highly she is regarded amongst our nation's female footballers.
A clutch match for a clutch player to bring up such a historic milestone, with Foord's 100th appearance commemorated with a famous 2-1 victory against rivals New Zealand, which included two injury-time strikes from the Australians to win the match.
The striker started the match from the bench, due to a heavy workload over recent weeks in England, but showed her class after being brought on at half-time, with her composure and calmness in attack rubbing off on a particularly frantic forward line.
Supporters' eyes lit up as the ball bounced to Foord just a few yards out from goal, yet the hopes for a celebratory goal were dashed as the 27-year-old hit the middle of the crossbar.
She eventually got her just reward in injury-time however, as a 95th-minute corner saw Caitlin Foord leap above the pack, guiding her header toward strike partner of Sam Kerr, who powered home for the match-winner. The effort was fitting for a player who had scored prolifically herself, yet was never afraid to provide or change her role to suit her teammates.
Commonwealth Bank Matildas v New Zealand
Tuesday, 12 April 2022
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick Off: 7.45pm (AEST)
Broadcast: Live and free on 10 Bold and simulcast on 10 Play and Paramount+.
Ticketing Details: www.ticketek.com.au
$1 (plus GST) from every ticket will be donated to the ParaMatildas, Australia’s first national team for women and girls with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or symptoms from stroke.