It was extra time, in an Olympic quarter-final and the scores were level. Great Britain had just won a dubious penalty and at home, 2.25 million Australian’s screamed in dismay. Up stepped Caroline Weir, all that stood in the way of Australian heartbreak was goalkeeper Teagan Micah.
Britain expected and Australia hoped.
What happened next will exist in Australian football folklore. Micah dived, she saved and a winning opportunity for Team GB became an attack for Australia.
In another 80 seconds, The Matildas took the lead through Mary Fowler’s goal. That penalty save was the turning point in an incredible match.
Despite the drama and the pressure, what was going through keeper’s mind in the moment?
“Honestly, going through my head was ‘she’s going to her left,’” Micah said from her home in Sweden.
“Our Technical Analyst Marty (Judge), he pretty much hands us (instructions) ‘this is where they go in club this is where they go in internationals.’ In big moments, It helps us a lot.”
Australians both at home and on the field exploded in jubilation. The dream was still alive but Micah had other worries. Goalkeepers have to be ever alert even when being swarmed by grateful teammates.
“I mean THE BALL WAS STILL IN! So I was like ‘get off me we’re still playing!’”
“It was something that I had strived for”
The journey to that moment began years ago. Micah’s story is one of perseverance and reward for risk. She makes a career as a goalkeeper by denying chances. But in football and life, she has taken hers.
After limited opportunities in the then W-League, the 23-year-old grasped the opportunity in 2016 to develop and play in the U.S college system.
She credits the high-intensity, high-pressure environment with helping her adjust to the Olympic schedule.
“I feel like it prepares you for a lot of back-to-back games in college because you have games Thursday so Sunday.
“Even in the final four, the semi-finals and the Grand Final is, I think it’s Friday to Sunday.
“I mean nothing can really prepare you for the quality and pace of an Olympic game and the fatigue you feel after international matches.
“But in terms of, I guess mental toughness I think college helped me with that, with being able to go back to back in such a short amount of time.”
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Micah was known to be talented before she went to the U.S but she received a football education that elevated her to the elite. In 2019 she was selected in the World Cup squad. It made her the first Matilda to be named while still in college.
“It’s such a shift,” she says of college sports.
“Not just game pace but you’re versus so many different teams and the Americans are just physical and we see that in its national team.
“So that trickles down a lot into the college system.
“It’s just a different style of game that you’re exposed to.
“I had a really good goalkeeper coach as well.
“She used to play for the New Zealand Ferns for a long time and definitely helped technically because you’re performing in games but you also have time to train. It was four years of your development.”
Following college, after another stint as a reserve in Australia, Micah moved to Norway where she was named in the team of the season. She then returned home to Melbourne City in December of 2020.
This remarkable rise continued with a spot in the initial 22-player Olympic squad. She then started the second group game against Sweden and followed that with a clean sheet against the world champions U.S.A team.
All this was before her player of the match performance against Team GB.
Now signed to Swedish champions Rosengard, Micah has barely had time to catch her breath.
“Some moments…I can kind of think, ‘wow that’s absolutely crazy’, but for me, it was something I had strived for and it was like week by week, day by day I’m going to get here so it wasn’t that crazy.
“When I look back on it in terms of timeline and how quick I did it as well as also having knee surgery in there, it is something that I’m extraordinarily proud of.”
In the early rounds of Melbourne City’s season, the 23-year-old was already looking to be in career-best form. She says the club helped her reach her goals.
“It was just down to being in such a good environment with (goalkeeper coach) Jordan Franken and him helping me and pushing me.”
Micah and Franken visualized her success, she looked at images of the Olympic rings and W-League trophy every day.
“We had those pictures up every single morning before we even started training and our video analysis, so I owe a lot of credit to him for kind of pushing me into that form and helping me get there,” Micah said.
“For me in my head, I was like ‘push for the second, push for the second (Matildas spot),’
“For so long I didn’t really realize at the same time I was also pushing for the first.”
“we just always believed that we were going to get through it.”
All of that work and experience were to Australia’s benefit. Micah’s performance in the Olympic quarter-final was pivotal for the still-new Tony Gustavsson era.
Football matches like that test the nerves of supporters. Many would have watched it through the cracks in their fingers.
For Teagan Micah, on the field, there was no time for stress.
“I think that’s the role of goalkeeping really and you kind of prepare for those moments.
“Every single time you make a mistake as a goalkeeper you can’t afford to not forget about it because whether you make a mistake in the first minute or the 80th you’re still going to have action ahead of you.
“So I think that it’s my role to the core, but as a team, I feel like we just always believed that we were going to get through it.
“When we got thrown a curveball during a game or them scoring or whatever happened we had such belief and trust in the game plan that we had from Tony that it wasn’t ever really in doubt for us.”
The nature of the position is that of pressure and responsibility. Every action is magnified and has decisive consequences. Micah would not have it any other way.
“There’s definitely tough days being a goalkeeper, but I definitely do love it.”
Onward to 2023
Now in Sweden, Micah is settling into the routine of club life again after the intensity of Tokyo.
“I think that’s the crazy part about coming down off the Olympics,” she reflects.
“Because for so long, the last 18 months, two years nearly, all I thought about was the Olympics.”
There are exciting times ahead for Micah and the Matildas as 2023 approaches and a World Cup on home soil.
She is contracted to Rosengard for the next two seasons allowing her stability and a professional setting.
“On-field we know what is next and that’s the World Cup.
“I think I’m going to be in a good environment here at Rosengard leading up to that.
“I’m really happy. I don’t want to have to keep moving around or have that stress leading up to 2023.”
She might be one of the heroes of the Matildas Olympic campaign but Micah is determined to improve further. Australia is blessed with goalkeeping talent and the manager has stated that three top-class options is ideal.
“I think for me I still have 40-50% to improve. I’m still so young, only 23 still so I have so many areas that I want to improve on both technically and tactically.
“Definitely having other goalkeepers s in form makes you push harder and work harder as well. I feel like we have such a good chunk of time now to all work individually but also push each other.”
In the immediate future, The Matildas are scheduled to play Brazil at home. It will be the first international football game in Australia in over 18 months.
Micah lights up at the mention of the event.
“I’m pumped, I’m seriously pumped.
“Honestly, October, Brazil that’s going to be amazing….they’re always such a good battle… they give us so many different things to look at.
“Obviously it will be amazing to get back in front of Australian fans I don’t know the situation with how many fans (will be allowed) but it will be amazing.
“I’m really looking forward to it, we all are. We all need it.”
Australia hosts Brazil on the 23rd of October at Commbank Stadium
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