Matildas: The World at Our Feet – Profile of a team laser-focused on winning the World Cup

Six-part docuseries on Disney+ follows the Australian women’s football team as the country co-hosts the Women’s World Cup

The opening scene of Matildas: The World at Our Feet, a six-part docuseries now on Disney+, has the Australian women’s football team waiting with bated breath. And then, the announcement that becomes their compass for the next two years: Australia are hosting the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup, along with New Zealand.

“When we play that opening game in the World Cup, on home soil and we step on that pitch, the opposition is not just playing against 11 players and a coach on the sideline and some game changer; they are playing against every single person in that stadium believing that we can win. Every single person,” says head coach Tony Gustavsson in the second episode.

That opposition, we know now, is the Republic of Ireland, making their Women’s World Cup debut against the host country in Sydney on Thursday July 20th.

That belief that the Matildas can – and will – win is embodied throughout the series both by the team’s fans, with record crowds at games (36,109, in a friendly against the US in 2021) and the team, pitting themselves against the world’s best in competitive friendlies and their never-say-die attitude, playing until the bitter end of each game, with the motto stitched into the jerseys at one point.


It’ll be a crucial game for both Ireland and Australia. The initial win is crucial before going up against Olympic gold medallists Canada later in the group, with only the top two teams from the group progressing into the knockout stages.

Episodes are punctuated by a World Cup countdown, starting in late 2020. They never lose focus on what it means that they’re hosting and what it would mean to win. The grounds have been moved from Sydney Football Stadium to Stadium Australia, with capacities of 42,500 to 83,500 respectively, expectations for the first World Cup game to take place in Australia have increased. While Ireland have beaten Australia before, delivering a quality performance in Tallaght in September 2021, this time any home advantage will go towards the Matildas.

Neither the viewer nor the Irish team can ignore Australian captain and Chelsea player Sam Kerr, who holds the record for most goals scored for Australia. She anchors the series, showing the pressures and privileges of being a star of women’s football at a time when the spotlight is on.

Despite being one of the world’s indisputable greats, Kerr is subject to the depressing constant sexism towards women’s sports, and her record number of goals are being questioned by a national paper. Are they of an equal quality/standard to the male player, Tim Cahill, she has just surpassed? “I’d like to say what I really think,” says Kerr to the camera, after answering media questions about it, noting that the team wasn’t focusing on these types of distractions and outside noise.

The experience and depth of the Matildas squad is significant: when the opportunity comes to play against seventh-ranked Spain, younger players are brought in, leaving the more experienced players to have a break, coming back well rested and ready to go. “If we lose a game but gain a player [for the World Cup] then it’ll be worth it,” notes Gustavsson.

Like Ireland, Australia have also played against the top-ranked US team recently. Unlike Ireland, they have recent experience playing with fellow group B opponents Canada, when they lost 1-2 to a friendly in September 2022. While no doubt the loss hurt, the experience of playing the Olympic gold medallists just under a year before the World Cup will stand to them – the Ireland and Canada women’s teams last played against each other in the Cyprus Cup in 2014. It’s safe to say that both teams and playing environments have changed significantly since.

The Irish set-up could have been different had Mary Fowler, showcased in episode five, declared for Ireland through her Irish father, Kevin. Fowler joined the Australian international set-up in 2018 when she was just 15 and is currently playing her football with Manchester City in the Women’s Super League. Before her move, we see her living in France with her brothers Seamus and Quivi. Now just 20, she will be one to watch out for and is heralded as a young star in the football scene.

Even the experienced make mistakes, and when it’s all to play for, anything can happen. Australia could crash out – as they did in the Asian Cup at the quarter-final stage for the first time ever – and players will get injured; sometimes things just don’t go your way.

Just over a month out from the World Cup, the series offers an insight into the preparation that all teams will be going through, the competition to get a place, the focus on avoiding injuries, the personal sacrifices.

While it’s an insight into the preparation of Ireland’s first opponents in the World Cup, it also exhibits the peaks and troughs of being a professional woman athlete. There are the universal tropes of sports documentaries – questioning the coach’s abilities to win; last-minute victories set to inspirational music – with an additional factor by virtue of the team being women. There are returns after pregnancy, a baby and a toddler at camp having their meals alongside the team, an ACL rupture (the ever-recurring injury in women’s sports), and LGBTQ relationships out in the open, unlike in the men’s game.

With the World Cup on their doorsteps, the Australians will be looking for their own version of the Lioness’s Euro 2022. Ireland are one of eight teams making their debut in the tournament, putting them in their favoured position of being the underdog.

There’s a sense of possibility with this World Cup, not just for the teams, but for the status of women’s football in general and that no matter who you play for that anything can happen.

Matildas: The World at Our Feet is available to stream on Disney+