The competition kicked off on the other side of the Tasman with the news that no Aussie wanted to hear. Sam Kerr, star striker, Australian captain, and one of the best players on the planet, had picked up a calf strain in training and would miss at least the opening two Matildas fixtures in the tournament.
The fixture began at a frenetic pace, with the Matildas clearly in the ascendancy in the first ten minutes. Buoyed by Katrina Gorry in the middle of the park, Tony Gustavvson’s side couldn’t make their dominance count with many balls flying well past their intended targets and harmlessly out of bounds.
The Republic of Ireland’s first meaningful attack came in the fifteenth minute from a set piece after a foul on Katie McCabe from newly minted Matilda Hayley Raso. The ball lingered for a fraction longer than anyone in Stadium Australia wanted it to before it was cleared from danger.
As the match entered the 25th minute, it hat settled down with the Matildas maintaining possession and Ireland trying to play on the counter, and only getting any type of meaningful attacks via set pieces. The Matildas, clearly showing some nerves, could not get their forward passing range right, and continued to hit balls too long for the frontline to capitalise.
Australia’s first real chance fell to Hayley Raso, who headed wide from stand-in captain Steph Catley’s inswinging corner as the game ticked toward its 30th minute.
Irish hearts were in mouths following a half chance that fell to Cortnee Vine and hit the side netting when Katie McCabe landed awkwardly on her wrist and needed medical attention. After a brief visit from the Irish head physio, she was considered okay to continue.
The physicality went up another notch as Hayley Raso and Alanna Kennedy both felt the wrath of the Irish side's aggression. The challenge on the latter saw Denise O’Sullivan go into the referee's book.
As the half wound down, Katrina Gorry, the Matildas best player in the first half had a long-range sighter that was no trouble for the goalkeeper and the referee ended the half with scores level at 0-0.
If it was a boxing match, you’d have to hand the first half points to Ireland. They took the crowd out of the game and played defensively with a physicality that the Matildas just couldn’t find an answer to.
Edge of the Crowd partners with Her Game Too for the Women's World Cup, uniting our passion for diversity and inclusivity in sports. Together, we aim to dismantle barriers, tackle sexism, and amplify women's voices in the sporting realm. Join us in celebrating the spirit of the beautiful game, free of gender constraints. The love for the game knows no gender; let's make every game, Her Game Too. Head to @HerGameToo on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to learn more.
The second half began with two free kicks to the Irish within the opening two minutes as the Matildas looked to start the second half matching their opponent's intensity from the first half. Thankfully for the home side, both set pieces amounted to nothing.
It was the 50th minute when the referee was left without a doubt that Hayley Raso was pushed in the penalty box by Irish winger Marissa Sheva and promptly awarded a penalty.
Stand-in captain Steph Catley stepped up and drilled it past Irish goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan, confidently slamming the ball to the left and giving the Matildas a 1-0 lead and sending Stadium Australia into meltdown. Incredibly it was only Catley’s fourth goal in 111 caps for her country.
Australia had a couple of half chances following the goal that came to nothing. Irish gaffer Vera Pauw made a double change just after the hour mark as she looked to get her side into the match.
Katrina Gorry continued to be the Matildas' best player on the park, threatening the goal from long range and defending with unmatched fervour in the midfield.
The substitutions from the Irish saw them have a sustained period of attack, creating some dangerous situations and winning consecutive corners, but they continued to fail in their attempts to breach the Australian goal. A combination of poor finishing and solid goalkeeping from Mackenzie Arnold kept the score at 1-0.
The tension ratcheted up to unbearable levels as Ireland continued to lay siege to the Australian goal, with Mackenzie Arnold falling victim to some aggressive Irish attacking. The pressure valve was almost released as Caitlin Foord teed up a beauty of a ball for player of the match Katrina Gorry, but the Australian midfielder couldn’t make the most of the opportunity and the score remained at 1-0.
Tony Gustavsson made a substitution designed to help Australia hold on to their slim lead, taking off Mary Fowler and bringing on Claire Polkinghorne to sure up the Matildas defence.
Hearts were in mouths yet again for Australia as Claire Hunt fouled Lucy Quinn right on the edge of the 18-yard box, giving away a dangerous free kick. Megan Connolly went close, but Arnold palmed it away from her near post. The two resulting corner kicks amounted to nothing as Australia looked to wind time down.
Ireland never said die and continued laying siege to the Matildas goal during stoppage time, but it was to no avail as Australia held on to a precious three points in Group B against a gallant Irish side. Now all eyes turn to Suncorp Stadium and Thursday's clash with Nigeria.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: KATRINA GORRY (AUS) - Mini was maximum tonight. The midfielder was steadfast in her defensive duties and was a threat going forwards. Sure her forward passes were not the quality we expect, but in truth no one was tonight.