‘That’s when we won people over, with our bravery and courage’

It was just after lunchtime on 28 July 2017 in Australia. Westfield Matildas history was made.

After 26 previous meetings against superpowers the United States, 30 years of agony dating back to 1987, the final whistle blew and a first-ever Australian win was finally sealed.

Tameka Butt’s 67th-minute goal was the difference as the Westfield Matildas kicked off the Tournament of Nations by beating the host nation — they then backed it up with wins over Brazil and Japan to comprehensively lift the inaugural title. 

It set off a whirlwind of support back home, including messages from fans, pundits, former players and the prime minister.


“That final whistle wasn’t the pinnacle for me,” remembered Westfield Matildas star Chloe Logarzo, speaking to matildas.footballaustralia.com.au

“I was warming up at the time ‘Meeks’ scored, it was right in front of me so that was the [most memorable] moment. 

“You could feel the hum, the buzz of the girls on the field — that was the best part.

“Beating America for the first time was amazing. Just walking out and playing in that stadium, there was a fantastic atmosphere and we’re looking to repeat that.”

For Logarzo, just 22 at the time, the win was memorable.

For teammate and close friend Lisa De Vanna, it was even more symbolic.

Tameka Butt and Elise Kellond-Knight celebrate the goal against the United States
Tameka Butt and Elise Kellond-Knight celebrate the goal against the United States

The all-time record Westfield Matildas goalscorer has been a veteran of the national team for 14 years and 137 caps.

Twelve times during her career to date, De Vanna and past teammates had walked off the field unable to get over the challenge of the three-time FIFA Women’s World Cup and six-time Olympic Games winners.

“I’ve been in the team for 15 years now,” explained De Vanna to matildas.footballaustralia.com.au.

“We’d had moments during that time where we won [the public] over but then it died off. 

“Now, it’s consistent — everyone wanting to know about us, enjoying the football we’ve been playing.”

De Vanna added: “My number one [memory from the Tournament of Nation 2017] is always beating the US. 

“We’ve played them so many times — sometimes we’d been close, sometimes they’d smashed us. 

Lisa De Vanna celebrates a goal at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup against USA
Lisa De Vanna celebrates a goal at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup against USA

“To be able to beat them, and know that they’re the benchmark, was important. 

“We’ve been close before but we never had the mental capacity to [fully] compete with them because they’ve always had a strong mindset. Now we know we can.”

“That day, that game caught me by surprise,” said former Westfield Matildas striker Sarah Walsh.

Walsh, like De Vanna, had been through the tough-to-take moments against the women’s football powerhouses.

There were the heartbreaking stoppage time losses — twice in 2008, where Carli Lloyd netted in the 90th-minute winner to quash an almost heroic two-goal comeback. Less than a week later Angela Hucles popped up with a 94th-minute winner after the Westfield Matildas had come from 4-1 down to level the scores at 4-4, only to lose.

The win on 28 July 2017 was so special for Walsh, watching from afar in Australia.

“When I speak to other former matildas they get really raw about [the win against the United States] as well — I actually had to leave work because I was really upset and thought it was the most amazing thing,” Walsh added. 

Walsh scored against the United States in her final game as a Westfield Matilda in 2012
Walsh scored against the United States in her final game as a Westfield Matilda in 2012

“The appreciation I had for that team — to do something we were never able to do — they probably didn’t even know what they’ve done. 

“But the players who have been there before in the past — Lisa De Vanna, Lydia Williams, Clare Polkinghorne — they’ve been there for the losses. 

“I don’t think the younger kids understood what they did for the older cats — it wasn’t just a game and it wasn’t just a win. That was something we’d spent 26 games trying to do: losing in the final moments, the times we were the better team on the park but it doesn’t matter if you don’t produce the result. 

“It’s symbolic of that team overcoming a real psychological hurdle.”

Fast forward 12 months and the Westfield Matildas return to the Tournament of Nations looking to defend their crown, but also looking towards the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

The win over the United States, and later Brazil and Japan, set off a whirlwind of attention and demand from Aussie fans. 

Matildas Tournament of Nations
Lisa De Vanna lifts the 2017 Tournament of Nations trophy

Unprecedented support and expectation has followed, which for De Vanna was almost unimaginable. And the bigger picture still looms large.

“I’d like to think we could [get to where we are], I wanted it to … but I didn’t think it would happen,” reflected De Vanna. 

“We had to win things for it to happen and for people to hear the sacrifices we’ve made to get to where we are. 

“That [success at the Tournament of Nations] won people over because they like a story where there’s bravery and courage and that’s what these girls do. 

“It shows on the field, our character. To see it happen and for me personally to still be around to experience it is fantastic.

She added: “I think [this year’s tournament] is very important — every tournament and game we play in is building up to the World Cup so to have that momentum and to have that cohesion is important. 

“We’re hoping to do the same again because that tournament was when we won the nation over.”