The Matildas have kicked off their World Cup campaign. (Photo: Twitter- @TheMatildas)

The Matildas have gotten off to the best start possible, defeating Ireland to begin their 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign in style.

After New Zealand produced a miracle upset against Norway to kick off the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, all eyes were on the Australian Matildas to claim an easy three points against the Republic of Ireland. However, the game was anything but easy, with Ireland pushing Australia to their limits for the entire 90 minutes in front of 75,864 cheering fans at Accor Stadium in Sydney, Australia.

The Inner Sanctum has compiled the key takeaways of the match and the main moments which saw Australia escape with the three points and reach the top of the Group B table.

No Sam Kerr, no worries for the Aussies

Before the opening kick-off, the Matildas had already received a significant blow to their FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign, confirming that Chelsea superstar Sam Kerr would miss the opening two matches due to injury. 

“Sam Kerr is unavailable tonight after she picked up a calf injury at training after she picked up a calf injury at training on MD-1. Sam will be unavailable for the next two matches with the Matildas Medical Team to re-assess her following our second group stage match,” a statement from Australia read.

“Unfortunately I sustained a calf injury yesterday in training. I wanted to share this with everyone so there is no distraction from us doing what we came here to achieve. Of course I would have loved to have been out there tonight but I can’t wait to be apart of this amazing journey which starts now,” Kerr wrote on her Instagram profile.

The news could visibly be seen by the disappointed Matildas fans around Accor Stadium, however, they need not worry as replacement captain Steph Catley made sure that without Kerr, the Matildas were in safe hands.

It may have taken a while for the team to break the deadlock, but it finally happened in the 52nd minute when Australia was awarded a penalty kick. The experienced fullback couldn’t have scored a better penalty, slotting it right into the top-left corner away from goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan who went the other direction.

In their next match against Nigeria, they will once again be without Sam Kerr, who has recorded 63 international goals to her name. However, her absence will allow the likes of Mary Fowler, Cortnee Vine and Caitlin Foord to stand up and deliver match-winning performances.


Ireland impresses in first World Cup match

In their very first FIFA Women’s World Cup match, Ireland has become a genuine threat to make it out of the group stage with Australia. While they may not have re-claimed their heroics in 2021 when they defeated the Matildas 1-0, they have put the rest of Group B on notice.

Despite the loss, they looked like they were going to cause heartbreak for the home fans at some stages during the game. They were unlucky to remain scoreless for the entire 90 minutes, even though they had minimal possession compared to their opponents.

Led by an aggressive Denise O’Sullivan in the midfield and 25-year-old Liverpool defender Niamh Fahey, the Republic of Ireland produced a solid effort against the Australia side, including players from the best football leagues in the world.

The Republic of Ireland should be able to get the three points over an inconsistent Nigeria team, which means it will come down to either them or Canada to go through to the knockout stages with Australia. The two countries have only faced off against each other once before, with a late goal securing a 2-1 victory in favour of Canada.

First game nerves

In front of one of the largest stadiums packed in Sydney, Australia, nerves were expected to play a prominent role in the clash. However, no one could expect they would get the best of one of the best women’s teams in the world during the opening half.

Whether it was Cortnee Vine misdirecting an easy pass into the goalbox or midfielder Hayley Raso misjudging the power she placed into a pass towards Caitlin Foord, the Matildas seemed nervous during the opening 45 minutes.

Coming up against Nigeria in their next match, then Canada, they will be eager to get all the nerves out of their system before the knockout stage begins and they face more difficult opponents.

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Key Moments

28th Minute- A superbly timed corner from skipper Steph Catley provided Hayley Raso with the first real chance of the Matildas’ opening game. Unfortunately, the Real Madrid winger just headed it wide centimetres away from the far post.

30th Minute- Less than two minutes later, Irish midfielder Marissa Sheva found herself with room down the left-hand side of the field. In an attempted cross, looking for Kyra Caruso, it was palmed away from MacKenzie Arnold in goal for the Matildas.

42nd Minute- After a heroic effort that included silky touches, Kyra Cooney-Cross was able to keep the ball at her feet, despite being defended by three Irish players. Her skill would earn Denis O’Sullivan the first yellow card of the game and Ireland’s campaign after she went in with an aggressive tackle to beat Cooney-Cross’s tenacity.

Halftime- Australia 0 v Republic of Ireland 0

51st Minute- After continually placing pressure on the Irish defence, Australia’s hard work finally paid off, earning a penalty. Referee Nina Alves gave the penalty after Marissa Sheva shoved Hayley Raso in the back- attempting a header.

52nd Minute- Being named as the replacement captain due to Sam Kerr’s absence with injury, Steph Catley. The experienced fullback couldn’t have scored a better penalty, slotting it right into the top-left corner away from goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan who went the other direction.

68th Minute- Aiming to make it 2-0 in front of their home fans, the Matildas were relentless in attack, continually creating good chances. Off a corner kick, Foord nearly did so, but instead, the ball went across the face of the goal towards the back post, away from the goal, after hitting her head.

71st Minute- The left foot of Irish captain Katie McCabe saw the away side nearly tie the game back up. The Matildas’ defenders may have misjudged her swivelling corner, but it was no match for the safe hands of MacKenzie Arnold.

91st Minute- In the first minute of injury time, Ireland received their best chance of the game, earning a free kick just outside the penalty box. Stepping up to the plate, Megan Connolly nearly produced an all-time free kick. Instead, the attempted shot to the near post found the touch of MacKenzie Arnold.

97th Minute- In the game’s final minute, Ireland had one more chance but were unsuccessful in their attempt. Substitution, Lucy Quinn from the club of Birmingham City, came narrowly close to breaking the millions around Australia watching on but misjudged the header by a tad, meaning Australia would walk away with the victory.

Full-time- Australia 1 v Republic of Ireland 0

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