Young Matildas History
Football has for many years, been a popular sport among young males in Australia, but the fascination with the round ball of the kicking variety, is now very much in the minds of many young females. In fact, women-s football has been one of the fastest growing sport in the last few years, not just in Australia, but around the world. Like their male counterparts, the females at a youth level can aspire to reach the world stage and in Australia-s case that team is the Qantas Young Matildas (Women-s U-20 side).
In October 2000, FIFA established the U-19 Women-s World Championship, the latest major coup for women-s football. The mere fact that the first staging of the event would come just eleven years after the advent of the FIFA Women-s World Cup says much about the enormous growth of the game around the globe over recent times, particularly at junior levels.
Australia had formed women-s national youth teams before this new era, but only spasmodically and without a set age group.
But with the biennial FIFA U19 Women-s World Championship (staged in even years), the game in Australia gave the national youth program a true focus, which in turn, will only be of great benefit to the Qantas Matildas.
The inaugural U-19 World Championship was held in Canada in 2002, and Australia-s young team paved the way forward with a real bang.
They kicked off their campaign with an emphatic 5-1 win over Chinese Taipei, but it was the next two group games that would decide their fate. They lost 4-0 to tournament favourites USA and it was down to the final game against England to see whether they would get the quarter finals, a result that was beyond all expectations.
The 0-0 draw saw Australia qualify in second spot and face Group B winners Brazil in the quarter finals. Down 3-1 at half time, the Australian team displayed its fighting spirit to level it at 3-3 at full time, but eventually lost 4-3 to a golden goal in extra time. Australia placed an impressive fifth and certainly made the stronger nations take notice of our potential at this level.
Having qualified comfortably as Oceania U-19 Champions, Australia went into the 2004 tournament with a great deal of confidence that they could back up their performance in Canada of two years earlier.
The draw however was not kind to the Aussies, placed in the same group as Canada (runners-up in Canada) and Germany (fourth in Canada) and the host nation Thailand.
Losses against Canada (1-2) and Germany (0-4) meant Australia needed to beat Thailand to sneak a best third place spot in the quarter finals. A 5-0 win secured a quarter final against defending world champions USA, which the girls lost 2-0, but only after giving their more accomplished rivals a real fight of it.
It remains to be seen how the next group of girls will go in Russia, but given many are now experienced internationals and are playing more competitive games on the international stage, expectations will be somewhat higher this time around.
FIFA U-19 Women-s World Championship - Overall Record
2 appearances - Played 8 matches - Won 2 - Drawn 1 - Lost 5
2002 (Canada) - 2nd in group (included eventual winners USA) - lost quarter final against Brazil 4-3 by golden goal 2004 (Thailand) - 3rd in group (included eventual winners Germany) - lost quarter final against USA 2006 (Russia)
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