FIFAWWC Countdown: Day 66 - Fans show their colours as Tillies sent off in style

As the countdown to the FIFA Women's World Cup reaches its final week, anticipation mounts for what is set to be the largest international women's sports tournament in history. On Day 66 of Edge of the Crowd's 70-Day Countdown, we turn our focus towards the building frenzy in Australia. The fans are showing up, and in full voice for the Matildas.

Tillies sent off in style

The Matildas faced Les Bleues in a warm up match as the last hitout before the World Cup, which kicks off in just a handful of days. A packed house at Marvel Stadium was the scene, as the two heavyweights went blow for blow in the early stages.

Both sides started with plenty of attacking pace, as Cortnee Vine and Hayley Raso set the pitch alight for the Matildas. The Aussies had the better of the opportunities, but struggled to make the final pass and set up the chance at a goal.

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On the flipside, the French generated opportunities, but Mackenzie Arnold was strong in goals for the home side.

At the back, the Matildas were working with a new combination in defence, as Alanna Kennedy made her return after almost nine months away from the top-flight. Alongside her was Clare Hunt, in her sixth appearance, setting up a new centre-back combination.

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As Raso and Vine continued to threaten, the momentum built inside the packed stadium, with Caitlin Foord and Katrina Gorry wreaking havoc through the middle of the park, setting up attacking threat after attacking threat.

At the half time break, Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson subbed out Vine, and replaced the young star with another emerging player, Mary Fowler.

Immediately, Fowler looked to get involved, playing the ball calmly through the middle of the pitch. Just after the hour mark, Tony Gustavsson reached for his sub bench again, switching out Foord and Sam Kerr, who had been unable to find the net.

In the moments after, a counterattack led by Hayley Roso resulted in a ball into the box, and Fowler calmly collected the ball on the edge of the six-yard box, and slotted it into the back of the net.

The crowd erupted, with more than 50,000 voices cheering as the Matildas found the goal.

As Gustavsson continued to roll through his bench in the dying stages, the Matildas were tested, as the back end continued to switch around. Despite the changes, the home side held out their opponents, and kept a clean sheet to finish.

One dark spot for the Matildas was an injury concern to Tameka Yallop, who appeared to hyperextend her knee, in her return from an ankle injury. The home side will be sweating on the results of scans for Yallop, who is expected to be a big part of the World Cup plans.

Fan frenzy is here

As the Matildas broke their record for the biggest home crowd, it was clear that the plan has come together at the right time for the World Cup hosts. Not just in the on-field results, which now are back-to-back wins over top-five sides in the world, but also in the fans.

Before Friday's send off match, the Matildas' attendance record was just more than 36,000. Now, the record will be broken twice in a week, and will be doubled in that time, with 50,629 fans packing Marvel Stadium, and more than 80,000 fans are expected to fill Accor Stadium at the World Cup opener on Thursday night against Ireland.

It isn't just the attendance at matches that has swelled. More than 229,000 households tuned in and plenty of people are tuning in by social media too. The Matildas' Twitter account has more than 91,000 followers, and more than double that on Instagram.

Last night had more than 2 million impressions on Matildas' tweets, and individual players had almost 1 million impressions on their personal posts. Instagram did bigger numbers, and that doesn't account for fan engagement and fan-generated content.

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And outside the fans too, the Matildas have become a national brand. Partnerships with Smiggle, Subway, Cadbury and other household brands have jumped on board. So too have the Royal Mint and Australia Post, as national institutions get on board.

Together, it has put the Matildas in the national conscience like never before. With the opportunity to play a number of games, close together and in front of huge crowds in different cities will only further this.

Few will have forgotten the impact that the Socceroos made on the national public during their World Cup campaign last year, and the Matildas will have every chance to do the same.

Given their prospects in the tournament, and the momentum growing for their support, the World Cup presents an opportunity for football, women's sport, and this group of athletes to vault themselves into the nation's sporting legacy, alongside stars like Cathy Freeman, Ian Thorpe and Sam Kerr (oh wait!).

Let the fan frenzy begin!

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Also don't forget to listen to the Australian World Cup Podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. New episode out now!