12 months on from France, Karly Roestbakken reflects on Westfield Matildas debut

The defender explains the moments that led to her debut as a senior international, during one of the most memorable matches in Westfield Matildas World Cup history.

For Karly Roestbakken, the lead up to the FIFA Women's World Cup in France was a whirlwind.  While the Westfield Young Matildas captain had been on Ante Milicic's radar, the process from a surprise injury replacement call up, to debuting for her country all happened within the space of two weeks.  


Roestbakken had been involved with the national team set-up since the age of 16, representing at both under-17 and under-20s for Australia. In December 2018, 7 months before the tournament, she was nominated for the Westfield W-League Young Player of the Year. Not surprisingly, a national team selection followed shortly after. However, leading into the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a chance to play for the senior team had alluded her. 

The call up to France, while unexpected, was was reward for consistency at youth and Westfield W-League levels.   For the born and raised Canberra native, just being at the FIFA Women's World Cup was an experience, and  game time at the tournament would be a bonus.

Leading into the match against Brazil, one of Australia's fiercest rivals, Roestbakken believed that the team's and her own personal preparation had them well positioned for the must-win clash.  However, for the teenager, there was some understandable tension.  

“My feelings in the build-up to the Brazil game was full of excitement and honestly a little bit of nerves as well," she remembered.

"I wasn’t really sure if I would be playing at all. Brazil were a big opponent, so obviously I had a little bit of nerves. The team was just really excited and really pumped to go out there.”

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What eventuated was on the matches of the tournament, with the two women's football heavy weights going toe to toe in absorbing battle, with Roestbakken provided a front row seat.  However, the defender was not going to be just a spectator as assistant coach Gary van Egmond gave young Roestbakken the words she was not sure she would hear.

“It was around half time and Gary said to me ‘yep you’re gonna go on’. I know knew I was coming on it was just a matter of when.”

“I was warming up, it was really late in the game around 89th minute maybe, he (Gary) said ‘you’re on’ and I was like (deep breath) ‘okay’.”

“When I ran on, all I felt was relief and excitement.”

After debuting in a match where the Westfield Matildas miraculously recovered from being two goals behind, Roestbakken detailed the moments of celebration after the match as being a highlight.

“The thing I probably remember the most about the game would be the feelings after the game, sitting on the bench.”

“It was such an exciting game and it was so intense, to come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2, it was crazy.

“Everyone after the game were just really pumped, there was good vibes everywhere.”

Roestbakken post match
Roestbakken celebrating post match against Brazil (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Speaking to matildas.com.au, 12 months on from one of the most significant days in her young football career, the 19-year-old can still recall the emotions and how much it means to be a fully capped Westfield Matilda.

“It means everything to me. It was a goal that I was trying to achieve for so long,” she said.  “Everything was coming back because it was something I had been working towards for a very long time.”

To be able to debut at a World Cup, and in an incredible game, it was crazy and something I don’t take lightly.”

“I just honestly couldn’t believe it happened.”


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