Hayley Raso living the dream with the Matildas and Real Madrid. (Pictures: CommBank Matildas;@HayleyRaso/ Twitter)

The past seven days have been nothing short of a dream for Matildas forward Hayley Raso, signing for Real Madrid after being selected for the World Cup.

Looking ahead to the challenges ready to be tackled, the 28-year-old is adrenalised to be back in the Australian camp.

“It’s really nice to be back amongst the girls and preparing for the tournament so there’s a real buzz around the camp and I’m just very excited,” Raso said.

“We’ve been training a lot and training hard, getting fit and firing but everything is preparing for the first game coming up. To be back here in and amongst the group it’s what I play for.”

Friday night promises to be an incredible send-off for the Matildas before their opening World Cup encounter in Sydney, as they host France at Marvel Stadium in an international friendly.

Raso and the rest of her teammates will be going into that clash with the mentality of taking it one game at a time.

“We’re all really looking forward to the game against France and it will be a really good test for us,” she said.

“We’re feeling very ready and prepared for the World Cup, so it’s important for us to get a game in before that to make sure we’re firing and ready to go.”

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Despite the dominance and progress of European football, one main attribute that the Matildas will be relying on is experience and home support.

Veterans Clare Polkinghorne and Lydia Williams will both be making their fifth World Cup appearance, a record that will be set for both women and men.

“It’s my third World Cup but I think the importance of this one and how special it is being a home World Cup, so we’re really looking forward to what’s coming up,” Raso said

“I think the biggest thing is selling out the first World Cup game over 80,000 people is pretty special and I think ten years ago it wouldn’t have even got close to that, so you can see how much we’ve inspired young girls and boys.”

Along the journey, there have been key moments that have helped solidify the Matildas’ success and popularity over the years. For Raso, there are a few turning points that stand out from the rest.

“I think we’ve fought a lot for what this team deserves and I think they were definitely stepping stones,” she said.

“When I look back to the recent tournament at the Olympics I think as a team and the way we played and getting the rest of the world looking at us, I think that’s when we really stepped up and performed well.”

With the expansion of the Women’s World Cup now reaching 32 teams, the quality and depth are continuously improving meaning the Matildas cannot afford to take any opponent lightly.

Touching upon the group stage opposition and the rest of the field as a whole, Raso is fully aware of this.

“I really do think every team is tough. You look at all the teams at the moment and even the group games are going to be so tough you don’t look at the World Cup as an easy game,” she said.

“It’s about preparing for your group and what’s beyond that but I do think it’s an open field and there’s going to be some really good matchups.”

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