If Mackenzie Arnold hadn't already endeared herself with Matildas fans at the Women's World Cup, she certainly did on Tuesday. Speaking to the media ahead of Australia's semi-final showdown with England on Wednesday night, the Matildas goalkeeper had the perfect response to a question from a British journalist.
The reporter asked Arnold to weigh-in on the traditional sporting rivalry between Australia and England, saying: “These two countries have a traditional and long rivalry. I’m sure there are a lot of England fans back home that would love to see them knock you out of your home tournament. Is the idea of being knocked out by England almost unthinkable to you?”
Arnold's response to blunt and perfect. She said: “Being knocked out by anyone is unthinkable. I think there’s a lot of English people that would like to see them knock us out but I think there’s more Australians that would love to see England knocked out by us. We have so many rivalries with so many different countries, this is just another game for us.”
“I’m sure there’s lots of England fans back home that would quite enjoy seeing England knock you out of your own tournament” is a sentence QF player of the match Arnold had to endure.
Her response was even better.
— SHE scores bangers (@SHEscoresbanger) August 15, 2023
The remark sparked laughter from the Australian press pack, with Arnold winning over even more admirers following her heroic performance in the quarter-finals. The keeper saved three penalties as the Matildas beat France in a shootout to progress to the semis for the first time ever.
However Arnold has managed to stay grounded by the realisation that it could all come undone if she doesn't replicate her feats against England on Wednesday night. "The last couple of days have been a pretty big whirlwind for me, probably the first time I've received attention like that," she told reporters.
"But at the same time, I just tend to block it out because I know, to be honest, if I play like s*** tomorrow, it could be a whole different attention on me. So I know the good comes with the bad so I'm just trying to take it in my stride and trying to block it out a bit and focus on the game tomorrow for sure."
Time to jog on, Engerland...
— Ne'erdoWell (@CommonerDR) August 15, 2023
Just a classic English question
— dan 🤞 (@Fisherking79) August 15, 2023
England…still thinking they rule the world.
— Mr. Joshua (@misterjoshua76) August 16, 2023
Mackenzie Arnold became national hero during Matildas run
Arnold pointed to the work she'd done with experienced goalkeeping coach Tony Franken as the main reason for her rise to Australia's No.1 shot-stopper. Franken previously worked with the Socceroos at the 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups.
"He's been massive in my development, of course on the field, but more so off the field," Arnold said. "When I wasn't playing in that starting role, and he could see the disappointment within me, he really made sure that I was switched on and I was ready to take my chance when it came, which is probably something I didn't do in the past. Of course I wanted to do it for myself but the pride that I see in his face every time I come off the field after a good performance is second-to-none."
The 29-year-old said a run of recent friendly wins over France, England, Spain and Sweden had given the Matildas belief they can beat anyone and go all the way to win the World Cup. "I remember coming in after the French game, the friendly before the World Cup and we were all in the change room and Sam said 'I think this is a time now that we're all really together and like this is the time that we can really believe that we can go all the way,'" she said.
"Because we'd just come off beating England, Spain, France and all these top teams that maybe we hadn't done in the past. Just everyone's confidence radiated off each other and being together and believing in each other, no matter who's starting, who's coming on, whatever it is - I think that's just really gone a long way in the confidence for everyone."
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