Australian sport has many famous international rivalries: the Ashes in cricket, the Bledisloe Cup in rugby, and the Diamonds against the Silver Ferns in netball, to name but three. For women's football, however, the duel between Australia and soccer powerhouse Brazil is growing into one of the great global contests.
The good news?
The rivalry is headed back Down Under, with fixtures between the two set for Penrith and Newcastle in September. Ahead of the bidding process for the 2023 Women's World Cup, this is a real opportunity for Australians to show they have an appetite for high-quality football encounters.
The sides have met just 14 times since their first clash in 1988, with the win-loss record weighted in the Canarinhas' favour 9-5, but the past decade has seen a meaningful jostle for position and prestige.
To put the rivalry into context, it was a decade ago at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup that the Matildas came back from two goals down to draw level with Brazil with just 20 minutes remaining on the clock in Tianjin. Christiane scored in the 75th minute to seal victory, but Brazil were on notice.
The two went head-to-head again at the Peace Cup in South Korea in 2008, when Australia were the victors over the World Cup finalists thanks to an injury-time goal from teenager Kyah Simon.
Fast forward to the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, and Brazil regained the upper hand when Rosana struck the only goal to defeat Australia at Borussia Park in the opening game of the group stage. Revenge was sweet at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, after the Matildas -- with a win, a draw and a loss in the group stage -- had progressed to the playoffs against an undefeated Brazil. Simon once again proved to be Brazil's nemesis, scoring the goal that knocked them out of the tournament and put Australia through to the quarterfinals.
Australia's winning feeling was to be short lived.
The Matildas went to the Olympic Games highly fancied to win a medal, despite a 3-1 loss in a friendly warm-up match with their hosts, and 50,000 fans were on the edge of their seats in the stadium in Belo Horizonte as the teams went to penalties after a 0-0 draw after extra-time. Brazil this time would progress -- albeit to lose to Sweden on penalties in the semifinals.
The Matildas and Brazil meet each other once more prior to their meeting in Australia -- at the inaugural Tournament of Nations in the U.S. that will feature the world No. 1-ranked hosts, Japan (ranked No. 6), Australia (No. 7) and Brazil (No. 8) playing each other in a round-robin format.
Australia will open their campaign against the hosts in Seattle, followed by great AFC rivals Japan in San Diego, so they should be well and truly ready to play Brazil at the StubHub Center in Carson on August 3.
One thing is a given: There will be thousands of fans in the stands to watch these matches; the U.S. Women's National Team has proven hugely popular, and their 15 home games last year drew around 235,000 fans with an average of 15,653 over the calendar year. Tournament officials will expect similarly healthy crowds once again, and Australia will look for decent figures when Brazil make their way Down Under in September.
Large crowds at the games are not crucial to Australia's hopes of securing the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, but it certainly can't hurt to have full stands at Pepper Stadium in Penrith and McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle.
Penrith and Newcastle are not venues where fans might expect to see the national team playing, perhaps, but they are certainly areas with huge participation in football -- particularly in the female leagues. The venues were chosen with the usual collaborative support of Local Council and Destination NSW as well as both state and federal MPs, and FFA is offering a very special deal to recognise those who are involved in the game.
Tickets for registered participants in NSW are just $15 for adults and $5 for juniors; hence a family can attend the fixtures on a $30 ticket, which is an absolute bargain considering the quality of the players on the park.
Ballarat managed to get 4371 fans to the match against New Zealand in June last year, so surely NSW fans can beat at fixtures against Brazil. It's time the Matildas saw the support they get at World Cups and Olympic tournaments matched on home soil.
Anyone who still needs convincing that these players are capable of entertainment just needs to reference Samantha Kerr's recent feats in the U.S. National Women's Soccer League. Kerr in now the NWSL's all-time leading goal scorer - ahead of the likes of Marta, Carli Lloyd and Kim Little -- after posting a hat trick for Sky Blue FC on Saturday.
If that story doesn't get bums on seats, well, folks just don't realise a good thing when they see it.