Australia battled back from 2-0 down to beat Brazil in an extraordinary five-goal thriller and inflict a first group-stage defeat on the South Americans in 24 years.
The Matildas suffered a surprise loss to Italy in their opening game and their campaign looked in serious trouble when they trailed to a Marta penalty and Cristiane’s fourth strike in two matches.
But the Matildas levelled through Caitlin Foord’s poked finish and Chloe Logarzo’s cross-shot either side of half-time, with Marta needing to be withdrawn with a knock at the interval, having earlier extended her record tally to 16 World Cup goals.
Defender Monica’s unfortunate own goal – which was eventually awarded by VAR, with an offside Sam Kerr controversially judged not to have been interfering – completed Australia’s remarkable comeback.
The Australians, who are ranked sixth in the world, are now level with Brazil and the Italians on three points in Group C, before Jamaica and Italy meet in their second match in Reims on Friday, in the most evenly poised group at the tournament.
Brazil, who beat Jamaica last time out through a memorable Cristiane hat-trick, had not lost a group stage match at the finals since 1995.
And the 2007 runners-up appeared to be in full control of Thursday’s thriller in Montpellier upon entering first-half stoppage time, before Foord’s close-range finish gave Australia hope.
Marta continues to make history despite defeat
Marta, who missed Brazil’s first game through injury, arrived in France with a one-goal lead in the Women’s World Cup goal standings over former Germany star Birgit Prinz and ex-USA forward Abby Wambach, who both retired with 14 goals at the finals.
And the Orlando Pride star’s 16th saw her become Brazil’s record scorer at senior World Cups as she surpassed iconic former Real Madrid forward Ronaldo’s 15, while moving level with Germany’s Miroslav Klose at the top of the standings.
She coolly converted from the spot after Australia’s Elise Kellond-Knight had dragged back Leticia Santos in the box, before Cristiane’s fine leap and header into the corner made it 2-0.
At that stage, the Brazilians were almost unrecognisable from the disappointing team that finished bottom of this year’s invitational SheBelieves Cup in the United States in March.
Australia’s spirit keeps their hopes alive
Facing a second defeat from two matches, Australia were seemingly on the brink of elimination from a tournament they had entered with high hopes of challenging to win.
Some of their players appeared to display anger and frustration towards each other after conceding the second goal, but they defiantly rallied together – spurred on by a lively crowd – and showed their determination to stay in the competition.
Kerr’s darting runs in to the box caused Brazil’s defence significant problems, and she had a role to play in both of their second-half goals.
She attacked the six-yard box as Logarzo’s cross bounced towards goal and, although she did not get a touch on it, her intent was enough to distract the goalkeeper.
VAR has a say once again
Moments before initially falling behind, Australia wanted a penalty of their own, after Tameka Yallop was brought down by Thaisa, but after studying VAR, it became clear that Yallop’s hand had made contact with the ball seconds earlier.
And the VAR drama continued with the game’s decisive goal, as a long, dangerous ball forward – aimed towards the offside Matildas captain Kerr – flicked off Monica’s head and dropped in to the far corner of the net, but the officials felt Kerr’s role was not sufficient to disallow the goal, even though Monica had been trying to track Kerr’s run.
Nevertheless, the Australians – who have serious ambitions to go beyond the quarter-finals of this competition for the first time this summer – deserved praise for their fighting spirit as they pulled off a controversial but terrifically entertaining comeback.
‘Hopefully this brings Australia together’ – what they said
Australia coach Ante Milicic: “Tonight is one of the finest Australian performances that I’ve seen. The players deserve all the rewards they were given. They never stopped believing. Hopefully this brings our country together.
“As the game went on we looked very strong. Physically, we’re in great condition. Recovery is going to be important for us and then we move forward to the Jamaica game.”
Australia midfielder Chloe Logarzo: “The Australian mentality is to be able to come out swinging when our back is against the wall. We finally found our composure, kept the ball on the ground and were able to connect our passes.”
Brazil goalscorer Marta: “It was supposed to be a very competitive match, and that’s what we had. We came here to win and advance to the next stage. Now, it’s worthless to lament the result. We are still fighting for our spot and should focus on that.”
Brazil’s other goalscorer Cristiane: “The plan was to wait for them, looking for counters. But we had a blackout and suffered some silly goals that, honestly, can’t happen.”
Matildas mount rare fightback – stats
- Australia are just the second side in Women’s World Cup history to win a match having been at least two goals behind, after Sweden beat Germany 3-2 in 1995.
- Brazil conceded more goals in this game than they did in their previous 13 group stage games at the Women’s World Cup combined (two).
- Monica’s own goal was only the second Brazil have conceded in a Women’s World Cup game, after Daiane versus USA in 2011.
- Chloe Logarzo became the first Australia player to both score and assist in a Women’s World Cup game since Leena Khamis against Equatorial Guinea in 2011.
- Marta became the first player to score in five different editions of the Women’s World Cup, netting in 2019, 2015, 2011, 2007 and 2003.
What next in Group C?
Jamaica and Italy play their second match in Reims on Friday (17:00 BST). Italy then play Brazil in Valenciennes on Tuesday, 18 June, the same time as Jamaica take on Australia in Grenoble (20:00 BST).