Football players around the globe dream of representing their country at a World Cup at least once throughout their career, let alone five times. Matildas defender Clare Polkinghorne will join the five-time club with teammate Lydia Williams this campaign, becoming the only Australians to do so.
Hailing from Brisbane, this World Cup will be quite the homecoming for Polkinghorne. The Matildas are based in her hometown and will play their second group match against Nigeria at Lang Park on Thursday night. Should the Matildas make the quarterfinals, they will play a second game at the venue.
The veteran says that in what is likely to be her final World Cup, playing on home soil sets the scene for a potential swansong.
“It’s something we didn’t think would happen in our playing careers. So to have it at home and to play a game in Brisbane, to have our home base in Brisbane is a really nice way to round out my World Cups,” Polkinghorne said.
However, retirement is the furthest thing from the mind of the 34-year-old, involved in arguably Australia’s biggest World Cup campaign in history – something Polkinghorne wants to soak in.
“If it [were] to be my final World Cup, then it’s a really nice way to end it,” she said.
“[I’m] just trying to enjoy everything that comes with it and soaking it in because it goes really quickly.”
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The most capped Matilda in history, Polkinghorne made her World Cup debut during their miracle run in 2007, where they were knocked out by Brazil in the quarterfinals.
Despite her experience representing her national side on football’s grandest stage, each World Cup holds its own value.
“I think each World Cup is special in its own way, and I’ve never taken the jersey for granted,” she said.
“Each World Cup has its challenges as well. I’m at different parts of my career at each World Cup, and then add the home World Cup and it’s a little bit different to the others…it’s a really exciting time.”
Since the World Cup in China, the growth of Australian football has progressed significantly. The Matildas might be currently selling out Australia’s biggest stadiums, including two in the last fortnight, but this feat was a far cry in the early phase of Polkinghorne’s career.
“I remember we played North Korea. I don’t even know how long ago it was, but we played them in like a backfield in Brisbane, maybe like 100 or 200 people if we were lucky,” she said.
“It’s incredible how far we’ve come and [the World Cup is] an opportunity to continue to grow [the game].”
Another bumper crowd will be in attendance tomorrow night as the Matildas continue their quest to cement their spot atop Group B.