Hegerberg absence lauded by Matildas

Ben McKay
Ada Hegerberg's women's World Cup boycott is a bonus and inspiration for the Matildas

It is not rare for the best players in the world to miss out on World Cups; injuries or qualifying misses can rob the global showpiece of football's brightest stars.

But Ada Hegerberg, the reigning Ballon d'Or winner and Norwegian superstar, is bypassing the tournament of her own accord.

So when the Matildas take on Norway's Grasshoppers on Sunday (AEST), instead of menacing Australia's defence, she'll working as a pundit on French TV.

The 23-year-old stood down from national team duty two years ago, part of a principled stand against her federation for unequal treatment of men's and women's national teams.

"I always feel that I have been a worse player when I have gone home from [Norweigan team duty], and it should not be so," she told Norweigan newspaper Aftenposten in 2017.

Hegerberg's criticisms aren't as simple as asking for more money, better pitches, or more off-field support.

While those are certainly long-standing requests from any female professional, in the case of Hegerberg, the notoriously headstrong forward is seeking a change of culture.

Stating that the "ceiling was set too low" by the Norwegian national team, Hegerberg felt she couldn't reach her potential for her country.

Her experience stands in contrast to her club environment at Olympique Lyonnais.

The record-smashing French club has won the past four European Champions Leagues and past 13 domestic titles, unashamedly raising the bar for excellence in women's football.

That incredible record was a key reason behind Lyon hosting the semi-finals and final of the 2019 World Cup next month.

It in Lyon that Hegerberg has achieved professional fulfilment, scoring at more than a goal a game for the last five seasons and winning the inaugural Ballon d'Or.

While the Matildas now stand to gain from Hegerberg's absence, Australia midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight praised her rival's sacrifice.

"These are the big statements that matter," she said.

"When someone's really passionate and believes in something, they make a big statement like this. I fully support it.

"How else are we going to make change?

"It's up to us and the onus is on us to be out there and doing things for change the game in favour of females."

The Matildas are taking action of their own at this World Cup, threatening to sue FIFA to lift prize money to address a damning gulf between the men's and women's prize pools.

The No.1-ranked US national team also filed a gender discrimination lawsuit under the Equal Pay Act earlier this year.