How Ellie Carpenter aims to evolve from teenage phenom to world football star

With everything she has achieved in her career to date, you can be forgiven for forgetting that Ellie Carpenter is still only 20 years of age.

The Westfield Matildas defender has settled comfortably in France after sealing a high-profile transfer to Olympique Lyonnais in June 2020. 

Her move to the seven-time UEFA Women's Champions League winners arrived five years after she debuted in the Westfield W-League and earned her first senior international cap as a 15-year-old. 

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The records continued to tumble at 16 as she became the youngest member of Australia's Rio 2016 Olympic team and at 18 when she became the youngest NWSL debutant and goalscorer with the Portland Thorns. 

Now at 20 years of age, Carpenter is gaining attention internationally like never before.  

In December 2020 she was shortlisted for the FIFA FIFPRO Women’s World 11 and included in the ‘100 best female footballers in the world 2020’ by the UK’s Guardian Newspaper.  Earlier this week she is shortlisted for the AFC Fan Awards: Best Women's Player in 2020 and was the first female footballer to be voted as AFC's Player of the Week.  

Carpenter continues to thrive after making the jump into the most prolific club outfit in women's football and has managed to establish herself as a first team player. 

“Everyone is really nice and on the pitch it's a great environment so it was really easy to transition into,” she reflects.  

Carpenter celebrates first goal

“I think this team is really unique, everyone just wants to help each other be the best for the team.

“The mentality here is all about winning and when a new player comes in they're just very excited to have a new foreign face to liven up the changing room.”

VOTE: Kerr, Foord and Carpenter up for AFC Best Women’s Player award

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Carpenter already has a UWCL medal to her name, however did not manage to take to the pitch as Lyon trumped Wolfsburg in August's final. 

The French juggernaut are aiming for a sixth-straight title in the 2020-21 competition and the marauding fullback was handed her continental debut as they comfortably overcame reigning Italian champions Juventus 6-2 on aggregate in the round of 32. 

“It was really exciting to make my debut in such a great team,” she recalls.

“We had a quite a hard first team to play in the round of 32 - Juventus are a quality team, definitely no pushover.

“It's a different intensity and quite a different feel to a World Cup or an Asian Cup and I just think (that is due to) the desire - every team wants to be the best team in Europe.

“It's such a prestigious tournament so it was really exciting for me to play, make my debut and make it through to the next round.”


One key part of embedding into the Lyon setup is learning the native language - a process that is progressing positively for Carpenter. 

“They're pretty adamant about us learning French so we get lessons three times a week in person and then they want us to do video sessions as well,” she explains.

“They're always pushing us because everything's in French, the drills, the sessions, the video sessions – so you have to learn it pretty quickly.

“It's going okay, I can get by, I can understand a few things and form a couple of sentences but hopefully in a year or so, I'll be nearly close to fluent!”

READ: Foord, Carpenter and Kerr ranked in 100 best players in the world for 2020

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On the pitch, the former Western Sydney Wanderers, Canberra United and Melbourne City defender feels as though the move is already paying dividends.

“I think I have improved a little bit from being here already for four or five months,” she says.

“I just think because every day the intensity in training, you can't even explain it.

Carpenter Lyon

“Every training session is like a match that everyone just wants to win so I definitely think I'm improving every day and that was my goal for coming here.

“I really wanted to focus on my technical side here and we do a lot of technical things in training as well so, I definitely think that side of my game has improved and I'm excited to see where I'm at after my time here.”

Carpenter believes her personal experiences bodes well for the Westfield Matildas as a whole, with a number of national team stars now plying their trade throughout Europe's greatest clubs.

“I really think that we would have all definitely improved individually from February, March this year so it's really exciting times for the team,” she anticipates.

FIFA21 - Carpenter

“Obviously we haven't been together in a long time but I honestly think when we get back together, it'll be a whole new environment with our new coach and I think everyone will be at a new level.

“I feel like we are amongst it all now, before I felt like we were so far away and separate from the European teams.

I think we definitely have learned a lot from the last World Cup and now going into next year I think we will be a lot wiser.”

Carpenter is back in action with Lyon after a month-long winter break with the defending champions facing Stade Reims on 17th January.

Her side's Champions League defence will continue with a home-and-away round of 16 tie in early March against an opponent determined in the draw scheduled for 16th February.