‘We can win this’: Matildas’ Cup belief grows as France showdown looms

Defender Clare Hunt is taking the JFK approach to what her team can do – asking not why they can win it, but why not?

Just as she defends, so Clare Hunt talks. Direct, to the point, no frills. All the other players are talking of taking each game as it comes. Hunt cuts through the equivocation.

“We’ve always believed we can win the World Cup,” she says with a certainty that belies her international experience. Incredibly, almost 10% of her entire professional career has been played at this World Cup.

With three clean sheets in four games, she has looked entirely at home. The biggest test so far is imminent, facing France’s free-scoring attack on Saturday night at Brisbane Stadium.

But there are reasons why Hunt believes that attack can be blunted, that the Matildas can win, and keep winning, through to the final on Sunday week.

“We have believed since we started this World Cup that we can win this World Cup. We’ve always had that belief,” Hunt said in a way that brooked little argument. 

“We’ve shown that belief, we express that in the way we play. 

“If we continue to deal with the pressure in the way that we know we can, and continue to provide performances that are winning performances, then of course we can win this World Cup.

“We have the belief that we can win and that’s what we’re focusing on. 

“We have shown Australia what we are capable of. That is what we are aiming for.

“I don’t think we’re deeming it a success or failure, whatever happens. But we are fighting for lifting that trophy. 

“The fact that we’ve motivated Australia and shown them what we are capable of has been successful in a way.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JULY 20: Clare Hunt of Australia in action during the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group B match between Australia and Ireland at Stadium Australia on July 20, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Hunt’s international career is only 10 games old but, like her more experienced teammates, she firmly believes it is Australia’s time to shine.

“It’s amazing to be a part of this group when everyone as a collective believes that this is the time,” she said. 

“To have that belief and knowing that we have the capacity to win this tournament is absolutely amazing.”

Sam Kerr appears unlikely to start in her second game back from a calf injury but offers something special as a game-changing forward off the bench.

Based on the almighty roar that accompanied Kerr’s introduction against Denmark at Stadium Australia in the round-of-16 clash, the lift given by her presence to the crowd and her teammates is something the Matildas can tap into.

“It was amazing for Sam to experience that,” Hunt said. 

“To have the disappointment of not starting that first game, the way that she was met by the Australian crowd and by her teammates … was special for her.”

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 04: Clare Hunt runs during an Australia Matildas training session at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 at Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre on August 04, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Talk of those crowds invites concerns about the pressures on the Matildas as hosts, carrying the weight of expectation from a country apparently smitten by the World Cup. We needn’t worry, Hunt insists.

“The way that we visualize it is that we don’t feel that pressure as a negative cloud,” she said. “I think for us, we feel extremely privileged to be in that situation, where we are a host nation where we are fighting for a World Cup final and a World Cup win.

“I think that pressure presents itself in a positive light, we feel supported by the Australian public, we feel backed by the Australian public, we feel supported in what we’re doing.

“So yes, there is a pressure. But I think when we’re playing, we’re not thinking about that pressure. We’re thinking about, we are representing our amazing country, and we’re playing a football and a style of football that we’re proud of.”