Guide to Matildas v Republic of Ireland: Australia’s Women’s World Cup moment is here

The Matildas will get their FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign underway in front of a mammoth crowd in Sydney but Republic of Ireland will try to spoil the party, writes Sacha Pisani.

After years of preparations centred on this moment, it’s finally here for Tony Gustavsson and the Matildas.

Some 75,000 fans are expected to pack into Stadium Australia for Australia’s opening FIFA Women’s World Cup fixture against tournament debutants Republic of Ireland in Sydney on Thursday night.

Co-hosts the Matildas enter the Group B showdown on the back of a 1-0 win over fifth-ranked France in Melbourne, and nine wins from their past 10 internationals.

With an entire nation behind them, the pressure will be on Australia to progress beyond the quarter-finals of a World Cup for the first time in their history.

Ireland don’t have the same pressure as the 10th-ranked Aussies. For ‘The Girls in Green‘, they have nothing to lose and plenty to gain in their first World Cup appearance.


Australia v Republic of Ireland
Thursday, 20 July 2023
Venue: Stadium Australia
Kick-Off: 8.00pm AEST
Broadcast: Channel 7 and Optus Sport

All the action from the Matildas’ World Cup opener will be live and free on Channel 7, as well as via Optus Sport.


Matildas poised to do something rare?

Only once before have the Matildas won their opening World Cup match – a 4-1 rout of Ghana at the 2007 showpiece event.

Since then, Australia have lost first-up to Brazil (1-0) in 2011, gone down to the USA 3-1 in 2015 and suffered a stoppage-time loss to Italy four years ago.

This time around, with a capacity crowd behind them, the Matildas have the opportunity to set themselves up for a deep run at the World Cup.

Does Grant play?

The Adelaide United product has overcome illness and is in the mix to start against Ireland.

While Ellie Carpenter and Steph Catley were sidelined through injury, Charlotte Grant not only made her debut in 2021 but has established herself as one of Gustavsson’s key players.

She has also displayed her versatility – filling in for Matildas star Carpenter at right-back, while also filling in at left-back with Catley absent.

Catley and Carpenter are back to full fitness and both started against France as Clare Hunt and Alanna Kennedy were the preferred centre-back pairing. But does Grant come in to face Ireland?



Goalkeepers: Mackenzie Arnold (West Ham), Teagan Micah (Liverpool), Lydia Williams (Brighton and Hove Albion)

Defenders: Ellie Carpenter (Lyon), Steph Catley (Arsenal), Charlotte Grant (Vittsjo GIK), Clare Hunt (Western Sydney Wanderers), Alanna Kennedy (Manchester City), Aivi Luik (BK Hacken), Courtney Nevin (Leicester City), Clare Polkinghorne (Vittsjo GIK)

Midfielders: Alex Chidiac (Racing Louisville), Kyra Cooney-Cross (Hammarby IF), Katrina Gorry (Vittsjo GIK), Emily Van Egmond (San Diego Wave), Clare Wheeler (Everton), Tameka Yallop (SK Brann)

Forwards: Caitlin Foord (Arsenal), Mary Fowler (Manchester City), Sam Kerr (Chelsea), Hayley Raso (Real Madrid), Kyah Simon (unattached), Cortnee Vine (Sydney FC)

Coach: Tony Gustavsson

Republic of Ireland

Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Grace Moloney (Reading), Megan Walsh (Brighton)

Defenders: Aine O’Gorman (Shamrock Rovers), Louise Quinn (Birmingham), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Diane Caldwell (Reading), Claire O’Riordan (Celtic), Chloe Mustaki (Bristol City), Heather Payne (Florida State Seminoles), Isibeal Atkinson (West Ham United)

Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Megan Connolly (Brighton), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa), Ciara Grant (Hearts), Lily Agg (London City Lionesses), Sinead Farrelly (NY/NJ Gotham), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City)

Forwards: Abbie Larkin (Shamrock Rovers), Kyra Carusa (London City Lionesses), Amber Barrett (Potsdam Turbine), Marissa Sheva (Washington Spirit)

Reserve players: Sophie Whitehouse (Lewes), Harriet Scott (Birmingham City), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City)

Coach: Vera Pauw


It’s been a mixed run of form for Republic of Ireland since pipping Scotland – on enemy soil – to a World Cup berth in October.

Two wins have followed from the next six fixtures, routing Morocco 4-0 in November before edging Zambia 3-2 last month. They were swept aside 3-0 by France earlier this month, having lost a pair of friendlies against world champions the United States in April after a goalless draw with China.

Dutchwoman Vera Pauw and her side are embracing the challenge that awaits them in a group that also features Olympic champions Canada and Nigeria.


The Matildas and Republic of Ireland previously met in a five-goal thriller in Dublin in September 2021.

On that night, Ireland prevailed 3-2 despite a first-half brace from Australian star Mary Fowler.

Star players

Katie McCabe is the one to watch.

The youngest captain in the country’s history, she is Arsenal’s reigning Player of the Year and teammates with Matildas pair Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley at the Gunners in the Women’s Super League (WSL).

McCabe is the face of an Ireland team making history by just appearing at this World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The 27-year-old full-back is also coming off a season in which she scored three goals and supplied four assists in the WSL – the second-most at Arsenal, who claimed the League Cup in 2022-23.

“She sits in a really privileged position because it being their first World cup, I think they have nothing to lose. That plays into their mentality as a nation. Lets roll up our sleeves. They clearly have a really tight group. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Arsenal’s Australian assistant coach Aaron D’Antino told KEEPUP.

“She will lead by example and the team will come with her.

“She will definitely be the one the Matildas will have to focus on limiting her impact on the match as much as possible, on and off the ball. She will rattle people and she enjoys that. She will be super excited and a big one to watch for sure.”

He added: “It’s her quality. Her ability to join the attack. She is powerful. One-v-one dribbling ability it’s not her biggest threat if you look at her as an attacking threat.

“But her delivery on the ball, her power and ability to join the attack particularly if she is coming in from a wing-back area and she’s joining things late, running into space. Your ability to recognise her runs and movement early, and also have someone who can drop back to defend in two-v-one in wide areas against her will be the big thing you’re going to have to respect.

“If you’re allowing her to run into space, you’re going to put yourself in a world of pain.

“Then her quality on the ball is second to none. For us she’s been playing on the right (and) coming in on the left, so she’s built that versality. I’m sure Ireland will find a way to bring her into the game.

“She can do it for 90-minutes plus. It will be a really important game mentally, you can’t give her a second for 90 minutes.”