“When it came down to penalties, we basically had the usual chat. “Hurry up and get it over with, cos dinner is waiting at the hotel.’”
Those were the unexpected final words from then head coach Tom Sermanni before the penalty shoot-out that would see the Westfield Matildas capture Australia’s first major title in the Asian Football Confederation.
This month marks the 10th anniversary of that ground-breaking 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup tournament and, from 18 – 31 May, the Westfield Matildas digital and social channels will re-live and celebrate the stories of that campaign.
While many of the 23-player squad are now household names, a decade ago the likes of Sam Kerr, Elise Kellond-Knight, Kyah Simon and Tameka Yallop were young players participating in their first senior tournament.
The fresh faces were surrounded by plenty of experience including then captain Melissa Hudson (nee Barbieri), Thea Slatyer, Heather Garriock, Lauren Colthorpe and Collette McCallum, just to name a few.
One of those key veteran voices was then striker Sarah Walsh. Walsh had been on the other side of a penalty shootout four years earlier as China overcame the Westfield Matildas at the 2006 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Adelaide.
After the retirement of a host of national team stalwarts including long time captain Cheryl Salisbury, Dianne Alagich and Joey Peters, the 2010 victory defied expectations and demonstrated the potential of the next generation.
“We did it really hard that tournament through a period of transition,” Walsh recollected.
We were most definitely underdogs and I think we felt comfortable there. Our youth stepped up to win a final for us. ”
“I don’t think [the victory] sunk in for years to come for me. I most definitely look back and appreciate it more now given that it was the first silverware for an Australian team in Asia.”
“I would say that winning a piece of silverware gave the Matildas holistically this platform where we deserved to be there.”
For Sermanni, a coach who had been at the helm in 2006, victory resulted in many emotions.
A decade on the FFA Hall of Famer is most proud of the collective effort by the 23 players and coaching staff to claim the trophy.
“As a head coach, when you win a game, I have always felt more a sense of relief than anything else,” he said.
It was incredible credit to the players to be able to do that. It showed not just ability, but character, teamwork, discipline. It showed every good aspect of what team play is about.”
“I think the significance of that game and that win is greater now than it was then. At that time, it was just a sense of happiness that we had gone there, and we had managed to win this thing and win it under the circumstances and the conditions that we did.”