Following the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup draw, the PFA Deputy Chief Executive Kathryn Gill pens a reflective article on the opportunity that exists for the Matildas next year.

June 2006.

Every live site in Australia was saturated. The normally awkward composite of green and gold lit up stadiums across Germany.

Meanwhile, I was trying to forge a career for myself as a footballer in Sweden. I sat in cafes in Stockholm, with friends and team-mates, seemingly light years away. I watched the Socceroos beat Japan, push Brazil, outplay Croatia and fall agonizingly albeit inevitably to Italy

Before June 2006, I was a curiosity. An Aussie who played football. After June 2006, I was still an Aussie who played football. But everybody knew what that meant. Such was the impact of that month for Australian footballers.

I couldn’t help but think back to that month upon hearing the Matilads being drawn with Brazil and Italy at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Our moments against Brazil and Italy in 2006 were iconic – and now we have a serendipitous chance against the same opponents to redefine Australian football and Australian footballers.

Clearly, we don’t know what fate awaits the Matildas in France. Fortune and chance and the same serendipity that drew Australia against two of the world’s iconic football nations might play a defining role.

It is so fitting that two matches that helped redefine Australian football for the men now has the same opportunity to redefine football – not just women’s football – a generation on.

I will never forget the lead-up to that match against Italy. The hype, the hysteria. The gripping and crippling 95 minutes of football. A Cahill header, a long-range effort from Bresciano, to the Lucas Neil tackle and Totti’s composure. These were moments that forged a nation’s unrequited love with the beautiful game.

The Matildas now carry this torch to France. Drawing Brazil and Italy would set football purists mouth-watering at the thought of a David verses Goliath battle but the parallels, whilst poetic, are turned on their head. One can argue that it is the shadow cast by the Matildas that represent the imposing giant, dwarfing both Brazil and Italy, emphasising just how captivating this team and these players are, and how transformative to Women’s Football they have become.

Fearful of scripting a Mills and Boone novel I can’t help but romanticise at the opportunity that lies ahead for Australian football, built out of my unconditional love for the game and unwavering desire to see the players deliver on their potential.

The days are gone where the Matildas were hard to beat, they are now the team to beat. Speaking to just how much women’s football has matured, from the growing prominence of the W-League, to the demand for Australian talent abroad all culminating in the darlings of Australian Sport; the Matildas carrying the pride of a nation and living the aspirational dream of every young boy and girl.

History will repeat as our Matildas line up against Brazil and Italy, referenced only in the names and colours of the nations they will encounter.

Fate will then take its’ course and the destiny of twenty-three proud Australian footballers will write the next chapter in Australia’s football history. It is a chapter written not only on the deeds of the generations of stoic Matildas who went before them but, equally as importantly, the Socceroos who transfixed a nation for a month in June 2006.