After 5,832 days since Australia’s last match at a FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, it was a triumphant return for the Young Matildas on the global stage.
In front of a parochial home Costa Rican crowd, the Young Matildas overcame the tournament hosts 3-1 in their opening match with midfielder Sarah Hunter coolly converting Australia’s opening goal.
Speaking at a media opportunity, Hunter described her emotions and those of the team following an unforgettable night for the U20 side.
“I can’t stop smiling,” she said. “I think it hasn’t really sunk in yet so I’m feeling amazing. All the girls are in high spirits. It was a crazy experience.”
“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced. It was just electric and loud. When we walked out it was a dream come true honestly. Just hearing the national anthem as well, it was pretty crazy.”
Australia went down an early goal due to a stunner from the Costa Rican captain but, as they had in their warmup fixtures, the team rallied quickly to turn the deficit around into a win.
Hunter stated that instead of demoralising the Young Matildas, the opening Alexandra Pinell goal sparked them in action and tapped into their resolve.
“When you’ve got 22,000 people screaming for the other team, when they just scored, it’s a bit daunting, but our group is so strong.”
“When you’re in that mentality of “we’re going to win this game”, nothing can faze you. The setback just made us stronger and just kicked us into gear a bit. We just got better and better during the game.”
A key part of Australia’s performance was their ability to control the tempo of the match once they pulled level. It’s a fundamental part of their game and, with tough opponents ahead in Group A, Hunter believes staying true to their game style will be the key to building on the Costa Rica result.
“Pretty much from day one of our preparations all the way back in April, it’s just been the same message; no matter the opposition, we play how we want to play,” she said.
“I think nothing will really change against Brazil or Spain because what we’re good at is what we’re good at.”
“We’re just going to put our best foot forward and that’s by being confident. Like Leah said last night, we are at our best when we have the ball. I think that’s what we’re going with.”
Currently on top of Group A, Australia’s second match of the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2022 campaign will see them face South American U20 champions Brazil early Sunday morning (Australian time).
The Young Matildas full World Cup campaign will be live, free and in HD on SBS and SBS on Demand.