Never Say Die: the day the Westfield Matildas matched it with the best at the Olympics

By the time Australia faced up against the United States in the final group match, the Athens 2004 Women's Olympic Football tournament had already been a milestone moment in Westfield Matildas history.  

After debuting at the Olympics four years before in Sydney, Athens saw the Westfield Matildas drawn in a group with two powerhouse nations in the United States and Brazil, as well as host nation Greece.  

Join our journey thin banner 2023

In their opening match, the Australians demonstrated their grit but fell to a Marta goal.  The performance saw Australia head into the second match against the home country with confidence.  

It was deserved as a 27th minute Heather Garriock goal saw Australia defeat Greece 1-0 and earn their first ever win and points at the Olympics.  

This set up a clash with the world number one United States.  For FFA Hall of Fame midfield Joey Peters, the USA were always a special match and different type of challenge.  

"Playing the US was always the best game and obviously, not winning against them, was always this huge mental battle," said Peters.  

“Going opposite that US "Dream Team" with Julie Foudy and Michelle Akers, challenging Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly, they were on another planet."  

Peters up against the USA (Credit: Getty Images)

However, even in the face of the US veteran superstars, the Westfield Matildas spirit, their "Never Say Die" attitude, was never going to let the Americans have their own way.  

Despite a positive start, Australia went down early in the 19th minute.  

"When we went down early through the Kristine Lilly goal, it was like ‘oh no, you can't let the USA get ahead’."  

"But we were going to hang on and keep working." 

[MORE: Australian Olympic Team turns spotlight on football]

[MORE: Caitlin Foord reflects on her Olympics debut at Rio 2016]

Led by Sports Australia and FFA Hall of Famer Cheryl Salisbury, the Westfield Matildas were undeterred at falling behind. 

For Salisbury it was a special day with the defender and captain lining up in her 100th match for Australia, becoming the second Westfield Matilda to reach this milestone.   

In the second half, Australia continually pushed the USA.  Peters was in the thick of the action with Sarah Walsh and Lisa De Vanna, in their first major tournments, providing the spark and pace they would later be renowned for.  

Finally, Peters and her teammates were rewarded in the 82nd minute.  

"I still have the number in my head," laughed Peters.  

"Heather was on the right hand side and cut in, put a cross over for me to head the goal home and draw 1-1 with them.

Scoring at the Olympics was a very proud, personal moment that I will be able to carry with me my whole life."

“I had a poster up in my room of Brianna Scurry in goal for about a year prior.  I didn’t think much of it until I saw the ball lob over her head into the top corner.  It was like I’d been imagining that goal all year.” 

For Peters, in her 110 game career for Australia, that match against the United States still remains special.  

“Coming up against them again in 2004, in their Last Dance, it is personally my favourite game.”

“It was amazing game. For us to take them on and show belief and what hard work can bring.  Then to be able to be the goal scorer, that was huge for me.”

It was also a significant moment for the Westfield Matildas.   

Not only was it their first points against the United States, the result also secured Australia's passage out of the group into the Athens 2004 Quarter Finals - the first senior women's Australian team to do so at Olympics or Women's World Cup.

Since that day, the Westfield Matildas have continued to build as team with Peters able to watch on in 2017 when Australia finally defeated the United States.