The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007 in China was a significant moment for the Westfield Matildas and helped progress women's football in Australia.
Not only did the team win their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup match, but they also moved past the group stage for the first time.
One of the breakout stars of the tournament was Lisa De Vanna and she would go on to become the second highest capped Australian footballer and the current leading Westfield Matildas goal scorer.
However, whether De Vanna would compete in in China was not a given after heartbreak and tragedy befell the striker just prior to tournament.
Three months before departing, De Vanna’s beloved father passed away but it was the care of her teammates that saw her attend the tournament that would make an impact on Australian women’s football.
“During that time my teammates made sure that I was okay first,” De Vanna previously recalled.
“They cared about me as a person first rather than as a player, which made me more determined to go out and perform the way I did.”
I knew that they had my back on and off the field. It was my chance to repay them for the support they had given me through a very tough time.”
And perform she did.
Against Ghana the dynamic striker scored twice off the bench to help the Westfield Matildas to a 4-1 win.
Then against Norway, she lit up the tournament with a spectacular solo goal despite four Norwegian players surrounding the diminutive forward.
“I was nervous before that game,” De Vanna recounted in a prior interview.
We knew that as the number 4 team in the world, Norway were a powerhouse and we really wanted to make a statement as a nation.”
“I loved the team so much it didn’t matter if I started or not. If I did come on, I was always going to give 100%.”
With Australia 1-0 down, De Vanna latched onto a Caitlin Munoz ball and turned the Norwegian defence inside out before firing home from 20 yards out.
“I remember warming up and down that field just before going on and I was just praying to give me the strength because mentally I was in a different headspace.”
“I remember having one chance and I hit the crossbar. Then I had one second to myself and promised that if I had another chance, I will go on and put it away.”
“Literally two minutes after that Munoz played me in and I just went at them and took that chance.”
“You could see in my celebration how much it meant to me because of my father and right there also was Heather Garriock.”
“She knew what it meant to lose someone so close to you and she was there for me all through the tournament.”
Australia would go on to draw with Canada and reach the quarter finals.
Following the quarter final run in 2007, women’s football exploded in Australia with almost 10% growth in participation the following year.
2008 also saw the announcement and the commencement of the Westfield W-League, a competition that has nurtured the majority of the current Westfield Matildas.
Women’s football in Australia has continued on that growth trajectory with last year seeing a 11% increase in women and girl’s participation and in 2023, Australia will co-host the FIFA Women's World Cup with New Zealand.
Looking back, the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2007 played an important role in the rise of Australian women’s football.
“We always knew what we were capable of. We knew we were capable of taking on the world’s best and taking our game to another level.”