Ellie Carpenter is set to play in the biggest game of her career. (Photo: Football NSW)

"She deserves the best."

Playing together at Lyon in the Division 1 Feminine in France, Damaris Egurrola and Ellie Carpenter have created a special bond with one another. While Egurrola and the Netherlands World Cup hopes have ended, she has provided advice to her club teammate as Carpenter prepares to compete in the biggest game of her short career.

Matildas’ fullback Ellie Carpenter is less than 24 hours away from competing in the biggest game of her short career. Some may argue that the 2021-22 UEFA Women’s Champions League Final was when she played her biggest game, but in front of thousands of home fans cheering her name, a World Cup final berth would see Carpenter reach something that many have dreamt about, and few have achieved.

Born and raised in country New South Wales, Carpenter was always a sporty kid. Having tried her luck with multiple sports, such as athletics, Aussie Rules, cricket, dance, swimming and more, she would eventually pick up football. Turning her full attention to the round-ball game, it would be a sport she would eventually find the most success in.

Starting out in the Women’s A-League, she quickly progressed through the competition, which saw her drop out of high school to pursue a career in professional football. The gamble would pay off, as it wouldn’t take long for Carpenter to rise to stardom. Playing her best football that already saw her make her international debut for Australia, she would divide her year between the Women’s A-League and the NWSL competitions.

Whilst the competitions were entirely different to each other, the A-League saw her claim three consecutive Young Footballer of the Year awards putting critics to rest. In contrast, the NWSL saw her become the youngest player to appear in the competition at the time and introduced her to the global football stage.

It was then in 2020, she was recognised by Lyon, a club that competes in arguably the most prestigious women’s football league on the planet- the Division 1 Feminine in France.

Playing with the likes of the superstar forward pairing of Eugenie Le Sommer (France) and Ada Hegerberg (Norway), midfield giants Danielle van de Donk (Netherlands) and Dzsenifer Marozsan (Germany) and defensive wizards like Selma Bacha (France) and Wendie Renard (France), Carpenter would soon become a household name in the realm of Australian women’s football and arguably second-best to only Sam Kerr.

“I would say everything, but she already knows everything, so I’m really happy for her (and) hopefully she goes through,” Lyon teammate Damaris Egurrola told this masthead when asked about words of advice she would give Carpenter ahead of a do-or-die match against England.

“I think she’s really enjoying the tournament, so I’m really happy for her. She deserves the best.

“Her energy, I think brings energy to everyone around (and) also the stadium. She’s unique, and she’s really my friend, so I’m really happy for her.”

Whilst Damaris Egurrola may wish the best to Carpenter and hope she can have an outstanding game, the same cannot be said for the England Lionesses, who will be eager to poke at every weakness the Matildas offer on Wednesday evening. Coming into the tournament without stars Leah Williamson, Fran Kirby and Beth Mead, many pundits didn’t expect the Lionesses to last this long. However, the reigning European Champions love to prove people wrong.

Despite the injured trio, and due to many shocks which saw the likes of Germany and the United States upset at the tournament, England has been selected as the favourites to win ahead of Spain and Australia. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Lionesses’ manager Sarina Wiegaman doesn’t believe they should be considered favourites, especially in the game against the Matildas.

“I don’t think Australia are the underdog, they are playing at home and the stadium will be very full,” stated the 53-year-old, whose side have won all five of their matches so far, “ Wiegamen said.

“There’s two teams that are very strong and have grown into the tournament, it’s going to be very tight and competitive.

“We approach the game as any other game, we prepare how we want to play and analyse our opponent really well so we can hopefully expose some weaknesses.”

“I am not going to explain our plan for tomorrow. We know Australia strengths, the better we do, the less they can use those qualities.”

“We hope we can have the ball a lot and keep the ball a lot, that prevents all those moments too.”

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The match between the two countries is no ordinary clash as the game is set to add another layer to the storied sports rivalry between Australia and England. A rivalry that has provided fans with match-winning goals in football, hattricks and centuries in cricket, tries and field goals in rugby and memorable world-class performances across a wide range of sports.

Although Australia were announced as winners against England in the recent Ashes series, flashback to 2003, and that was the last time the two countries appeared head-to-head in a major sporting final. At the time, it was England who enjoyed winning the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup and made Jonny Wilkinson an instant legend of English sport. 

Who will walk away as winners this time? Will it be the Matildas, led by the likes of Ellie Carpenter, Sam Kerr and Steph Catley, who enter the World Cup Final against Spain, or will the Lionesses break the hearts of all the Australians watching around the country and enter the World Cup Final with the likes of Lucy Bronze, Keira Walsh and Mille Bright as they look to clinch the double; the European Championship and World Cup.

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