Hail Mary, the Matildas spirit returns as Van Edgmond plays in her 100th

Emily Van Edgmond played in her 100th cap for the Matildas against Denmark picture: FIFA Women's World Cup via twitter

When teenage striker Mary Fowler rocketed home a late goal for Australia in the 3-2 loss to Denmark it was an important moment.

Not just because it was the first goal of her much-hyped international career and not because of the quality of the strike.

That goal was quickly followed by Clare Polkinghorne and brought Australia back into the contest. It restored a feeling Matildas fans have become familiar with. They fight until the end.

That confidence in the famous “Never Say Die” mantra was questioned after they were thrashed by Germany and The Netherlands. The Matildas were missing key players and had not trained as a team for over a year, but they looked badly composed and struggled to gain any control over the opposition or themselves.

Against Denmark, Australia controlled the midfield and pressed hard. The three goals they conceded happened in an early 10-minute patch where nothing would go right.

An own goal was followed by a scramble that bounced around before finally being finished by Rikke Sevecke and a cross that Mackenzie Arnold somehow fumbled over at the near post.

What fans needed to see next was a response. Would they crumble and let the floodgates open as they did previously or fight back?

They steadily regained control of the midfield, the manager made some incisive changes and the familiar sight of Ellie Carpenter bombing down the right returned.

Sam Kerr found more space this time and was unlucky to be denied from desperate defending and solid goalkeeping.

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The 3-2 loss was probably the correct result but an impressive one in context.

Denmark has scored 48 goals in qualification for Euro 2022. Pernille Harder is one of the worlds best forwards and they have been playing regular competitive football.

The fact that they came back from 3-0 down is most important. The players will probably not be satisfied with a close loss and there is an undeniable issue with defending set-pieces. But the Matildas look to have rediscovered their confidence.

The tests get tougher. They face World Cup semi-finalist Sweden next week and there is a good chance they will enter the Olympics still without beating European opposition.

But the team resembled their old selves again. There was a visible game plan and players on the bench who impacted the result.

It is too early to declare the Matildas back in form, but not too early to be genuinely hopeful.

Australia started strong and they finished stronger. When the referee blew the final whistle, only one team was relieved the game was over.

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