The Matildas will get better and better after Tokyo 2020

Tokyo 2020 presented the first major tournament of Tony Gustavsson’s tenure as the coach of the Matildas.

Since his first match in April this year, the team has slowly worked its way out of the Covid-enforced hibernation that kept it off the pitch for nearly 400 days, to now finish fourth at an Olympics.

It’s the Matildas best ever result at this tournament and a promising sign of what is to come for this team.

The ‘Never Say Die’ attitude which is a hallmark of all Matildas' sides was on full display in Tokyo.

Even when time was running out and the scoreboard wasn’t in their favour, the Australians kept on going.

Against Great Britain, in the 89th minute, Sam Kerr scored the equaliser which took the teams to extra time and catapulted the Matildas to victory.

Her roar in Kashima was echoed in living rooms around Australia.

This team showed it can take it right up to the best teams in the world.

Whether it was their 135th cap like Clare Polkinghorne, their 100th like Kyah Simon, game number 50 like Ellie Carpenter, or only their seventh appearance like Teagan Micah, these women represented Australia with pride.

In addition to the history created as a team, Sam Kerr created her own bit of history becoming the all-time leading goal scorer for the Matildas, netting her 48th goal.

Fans won’t have to wait too long until they see this team in action at a major tournament again with the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 kicking off in January 2022.

Of course, the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand will follow a year later.

Legions of fans will be able to see this team in the flesh in stadiums around Australia in less than two years’ time.

And there is a whole new surge of fans who will be marking July 20th, 2023 in their calendars after the Matildas' efforts in Tokyo.

Read: Fan favourite moments from our Tokyo Olympic campaign

More: Sam Kerr: Matildas' greatest ever goal-scorer

Match report: Matildas make history with a fourth-place finish

Throughout the tournament, viewership records were broken for a women’s team sport event on Australian television.

A record-breaking 1,468,747 tuned in to watch the Matildas take on Sweden the group stage of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Women's Football Tournament.

The numbers continued to grow with a peak audience of over 2.2 million people tuning in to the 4-3 quarter-final victory over Great Britain. 

The record set in the group stage was then broken in the semi-final against Sweden with 1,871,107 Aussies watching the match and a peak audience of 2.32 million.

A whole new generation of fans, both young and old, are joining the ride towards 2023. While their support for the national team will be felt, it’s also a mass of new players at the grassroots level and of new volunteers and coaches at local clubs across the country.

It’s a whole new batch of football people.

The legacy journey for 2023 began the second Australia and New Zealand’s names were announced by FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

Tokyo 2020 was simply another step on the journey there.

“First of all, I think in terms of the Legacy ‘23 journey that we're on, is a massive and impressive investment from Football Australia,” Tony Gustavsson told media before the bronze medal game.

"I already think that we have sent a lot of positive messages on that journey. We're heading somewhere to leave this game better than when we arrived, in that sense, I already think that it's been important for women's football in Australia,” he continued.

Just as things will grow off the pitch, so too will the performances on it. Vice-captain Steph Catley said as much following on from the disappointment of the bronze medal game.

“It's hard to say it was a success. A success would have been a medal. That was our goal from the beginning," she said.

“But I would say we've gained a lot. We've learned a lot. And we've come a long, long way from where we were. 

“We've got semi-final experience now, which we've never had before.

“It's only up from here with the tournaments to come. And this team’s going to get better and better."