Matildas vs Brazil is the biggest rivalry in Australian football

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Minutes before kick-off at CommBank Stadium on Tuesday, Brazilian talisman, Marta, relit the flame to perhaps the fiercest of footballing rivalries in the women’s game.

After the proud renditions of national anthems and exchange of ceremonial pennants between the two nations, the visiting captain darted towards her huddle of interlocked teammates and vivaciously frisbeed the banner onto the grass by the sideline.

A Brazilian coach stepped on it before another picked it up.

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It went largely unnoticed and was far from a contrast to her fiery character, but to those who saw it, it served as a reminder of the bitter rivalry that has grown between these two sides for over a decade.

“This is what football should be about,” said Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson after the lively 2-2 draw in Parramatta.

“Two teams that like to challenge each other but what I also love is it’s two teams that have a really attacking mindset towards football.”

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The history of Australia vs Brazil in women’s football is immense.

In the Matildas’ last six major tournaments, the fixture has taken place five times. Three of those occasions have seen one nation knock the other out of the tournament.

Brazil knocked out Australia in the quarter-finals of the 2007 World Cup.

Australia waited eight years to return serve in a major tournament, knocking out Brazil in the Round of 16 at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

And just one year later, the Brazilians won 7-6 on penalties to eliminate the Matildas from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

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The animosity between the two footballing nations came to a frothy head in September 2017. A run of derby triumphs for the Matildas continued with a 3-2 victory in Newcastle, after which several Brazilian players refused to shake hands. An act described as “not an Australian thing” by a then 24-year-old Sam Kerr.

They last met in the group stages of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

After going 2-0 down to goals from Marta and Cristiane, the Matildas turned the match around and stole the win with an own goal from Brazilian defender Monica. Both nations would go on to be eliminated in the Round of 16.

It would be weird if they didn’t hate each other.

Tuesday night’s clash, whilst officially a friendly and perhaps overshadowed by the unwavering excitement surrounding the Matildas’ return to Australia, certainly provided a fitting instalment to the long-standing narrative of sporting hostility between the two sides.

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Brazil’s relentless high press was aggressive, bold and imposing. It made Australia’s backline itchy on the ball and drew a wince from supporters at any slightly loose pass between defenders.

When the Matildas managed to play through it, player of the match Ellie Carpenter led charge after rapid charge down the right flank. Interplaying with Tameka Yallop and Mary Fowler in a repetitive dance crafted on the fly to turn the opposition around and force them to make chase.

And turn them, force them, frustrate them it did.

End-to-end perhaps too fitting of a cliché to avoid.

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“It’s fantastic. Talk about entertainment huh,” said a smiling Gustavsson, who seems to love the rivalry for what it brings to the football itself as much as anything else.

“When its 2-2, both teams are going for 3-2. No one is conservative, trying to sit back. (There was) not a lot of time in the middle third, it was always about their final third or our final third.”

A fascinating and hectic spectacle with precisely the heat desired by a neutral, Tuesday’s deadlock celebrated the return of the Matildas, and re-introduced what may be the greatest rivalry in international women’s football.

All eyes on the fixture list.

Feature Image Credit: Rachel Bach

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Tom Macraehttp://medium.com/@macraetomr23
Communications undergrad at Western Sydney University covering Macarthur FC in the 2021/22 season. Newcastle United. Jack Grealish fangirl.

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