This winter, the expectation on the Australian Women's Soccer Team is higher than ever before ahead of the Women's World Cup. As one of the co-hosts, big things are expected and if the Matildas World Cup draw is anything to go by then these expectations are only going to rise the longer they remain in the tournament.
The route to the final is already mapped out for the Matildas, just as it is for every team competing at the World Cup this winter. Their draw for the group stages has been favourable and if confidence wasn't already high within the playing squad, then it will be now after their 1-0 victory over France earlier today. Next up for the Matildas is their opening group game. Let's see who they've got and their entire route to the final.
Australia Women World Cup draw: The group stages
Australia have been drawn into Group B. The four teams in Group B are as follows:
- Republic of Ireland
It is a group that Australia will feel confident about qualifying from considering the quality in their squad, however, they will be wary of the threat posed by the other teams in the group. Canada are the team most likely to join the Matildas in the knockout rounds and it wouldn't be a huge shock if they even finished above Australia.
Although Nigeria and the Republic of Ireland are expected to finish in third and fourth, both sides could spring a shock or too in the group stage. Nigeria have one of the best players in the world – Barcelona's Asisat Oshoala -while the Republic of Ireland have some stars of their own – Katie McCabe and Denise O'Sullivan.
Australia Women World Cup draw: Road to the final
Assuming Australia do enough to get out of Group B, there are two possible routes to the final in Sydney in late August. Both routes are explained in detail below.
Winning the group
Round of 16: England/Denmark: If Australia Women win their group then their round of 16 match will take place on Sunday the 7th of August in Sydney at 8:30 pm local time. They will be facing the runners-up in Group D which could mean a mouthwatering clash with England. A more likely outcome, however, is a clash with Denmark as England are firm favourites to win Group D.
Quarter-final: Brazil/France: If Australia were to progress through to the quarter-finals then a match with the winners of Group F would be the most likely scenario. Group F contains Brazil and France – two of the best teams in the world – meaning the outcome of that group is very much up in the air. The Matildas would probably prefer to play Brazil, however, either side would be a huge challenge.
Semi-final: England/Germany: Even if Australia manage to avoid England in the round of 16 then a clash against the old enemy is very much on the cards in the semi-finals. England are scheduled to take on Germany in the quarter-finals providing everything goes as expected and the winner of that could face Australia in a monster of a fixture in Syndey.
Final: USA: Although Australia's half of the draw is difficult, one blessing is that they will avoid the USA until the finals. The USA are the best team in the world but with home support behind them, the Matildas could pull off the unthinkable and lift the World Cup on Saturday, the 20th of August.
Coming second in the group
Round of 16: England: Finishing second in their group B is going to make life a lot more difficult for Australia. Not only would they almost be guaranteed to face England in the round of 16, but they would also have to endure more traveling across the country.
Quarter-final: Germany/Brazil: From here, the path gets fairly similar to route one but with the possibility of playing Germany in the quarter-finals put into the mix too.
Semi-final: France/Canada: Comings second in Group B means that they could potentially get the opportunity to get revenge on Canada in the semi-finals. The more likely outcome, however, is a clash against France.
Final: USA: Regardless of whether the Matildas finish first or second in Group B, they will avoid the USA until the very end. Coming second would give them a string of difficult games which would be ideal preparation for taking on a team like the USA.