Matildas fans in Victoria and South Australia were crying foul on Saturday night after Channel 7 decided to show the third-place game against Sweden on 7Mate, rather than the main channel. The Seven Network enjoyed record-breaking ratings for Matildas matches throughout the World Cup, which saw over 11 million viewers tune in to the semi-final against England.
The staggering ratings broke the record for most-watched TV event in Australian history, surpassing the 8.8 million who watched Cathy Freeman win gold in the 400m at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Such was the hype and interest in the Matildas, Channel 7 made the extraordinary decision to push the 6pm news bulletin back so they could show the quarter-final win over France on the main channel in full.
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It marked an unprecedented moment for Australia, with women's sport never previously taking priority over the ratings gold that is the news. But many were left sorely disappointed on Saturday night when the Matildas' clash with Sweden was pushed out to 7Mate so Seven could show the 6pm news and AFL on the main channel.
With the Matildas and Sweden kicking off at 6pm (AEST), viewers in Victoria and South Australia were shown the news bulletin and an AFL game at 7pm on the main channel. It was a different story in NSW and Queensland however, with the Matildas taking priority on the main channel.
One person wrote on social media: “The fact that Channel7 has bumped the Matildas to 7mate tonight now they’re not in the final is a disgrace. Seriously read the room. People still care.” Another commented: “Disgraceful Channel 7, can’t even show the soccer on your main channel.”
A third wrote: “Hopeless Channel 7 - not switching the AFL game to 7Mate. The Matildas deserve to be on the main channel for what they have given the nation.”
— Peter Murphy (@PeterWMurphy1) August 19, 2023
— Anth W. 🌏 (anth0888 on 🧵's) (@anth0888) August 19, 2023
What on earth are #7network thinking bumping the Matildas vs Sweden to 7Mate? Could have had 2nd largest ratings in history tonight, but corp heads are scared of girls being too popular
— MarxOutThere (@MarxOutThere) August 19, 2023
why is the matildas game on 7mate and not 7? seems a bit backwards considering that it’s such a big game for us…potentially 3rd!!!!!
— frankie (@frankiemaiese) August 19, 2023
— Tim (@TAlbTree) August 19, 2023
— king drip (@bigdoggitydog) August 19, 2023
Matildas coach defends tactics after loss in third-place game
A weary and tired Matildas outfit couldn't match it with a fresher Sweden side on Saturday night, going down 2-0 and finishing fourth - Australia's best-ever result at a football World Cup. Despite frequently talking up his squad's depth, Matildas coach Gustavsson rarely turned to his bench during the tournament and named an unchanged starting line-up on Saturday despite a three-day turnaround from the 3-1 semi-final loss to England.
The gamble of not playing some fresh legs backfired as Australia were dominated by the energetic Swedes. Fridolina Rolfo gave Sweden the lead on the half-hour mark from the penalty spot, and Kosovare Asllani added a long-range second in the 62nd minute.
Gustavsson said afterwards: "If I would have rotated a lot of players and then lose it would be 'why didn't you stick with it?'. And if I (was) not rotating and lose, that will be a sharp question, which is fair."
Of the 23-player squad, only 14 featured in an average of 30 or more minutes per match. Caitlin Foord, Katrina Gorry, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Ellie Carpenter and Steph Catley were run ragged by the big minutes they played.
"We've had a clear strategy going into tournaments based on experience but also based on some stats," Gustavsson said. "If you look at both men's and women's big tournaments and you look at teams that have gone far and won a lot of medals, continuity in starting lineup and less rotation in rosters have been a success factor.
"And with the relationship, the more time you spend together, the better you play together. It's not necessarily always about the best players. But I also want to say this with the biggest respect to my game changers (substitutes), I'm not criticising them by saying this, the players know that this has been a clear strategy. You saw it in the Olympics, you saw it now. It might be the reason why this team have been able to break barriers and bypass and break records and create history, that could be the reason why."
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