Elise Kellond-Knight said she felt “immense pride” in winning her 100th cap for Australia and captaining the side in England, a feat she described as “pretty rare.”
The 28-year-old midfielder, who made her debut for the Matildas in an 8-1 win over Hong Kong in 2007 at the age of 16, led a makeshift side in London to join an elite group of female centurions to play for her country.
On achieving the century, she said: “It’s a special occasion. Playing 100 times for your country is pretty rare - I’m only the seventh player on the women’s side to do it – so I feel immense pride.
“It’s obviously a big commitment, so it’s a lot of hours and a lot of work behind those 100 games.”
While there is no question achieving the milestone would have been special in front of her home fans, turning out at a Premier League ground that sits alongside the River Thames, against the side ranked third in the world, isn’t a bad consolation.
The skipper for the night played a vital part in her side’s 1-1 draw, swinging in the corner for Clare Polkinghorne to head home, which resulted in the leveler six minutes from time.
The result meant the team comes away from Europe without a win having suffered defeat to France on Saturday morning. But Kellond-Knight highlighted how important the trip had been, especially for some of the squad’s youngsters, ahead of the World Cup next year.
“This was enormous in terms of our development and preparing for France next year. Not only playing against top nations but bringing a new look squad too.
“It was important for players that haven’t necessarily been starting games or haven’t really had any game time. We had two starting debutants and I think trying to develop our entire squad is a key step for France because in the past we’ve got through stages and fatigue has been a massive factor.
“So having those 23 players ready to play and ready to go is going to be big and an important part of our tournament prep.”
Five teenagers featured over the course of the 90 minutes against England, with Princess Ibini and Amy Sayer impressing from the start, and 15-year-old Mary Fowler making an appearance in the second half.
It’s this squad depth, and Australia’s style of play, that led England head coach Phil Neville to describe Alen Stajcic’s side as “dark horses” for next year’s World Cup ahead of the game – a tag Kellond-Knight played down, but admitted it does feel a little different going into France next year with more attention on the side at home and abroad.
“I guess the recognition is increasing around what Australia can achieve, we aren’t necessarily the dark horses as teams are taking more notice and are analysing how we play - so we’ve got to have an edge to our game now.
“We can’t always play a predictable style because teams will figure out how to counteract that. You saw that against France where they played a different style and I guess it caught us by surprise. So we have to have an edge and work out how to adapt to play against these different formations now that teams are analysing us more.”
The Matilda’s are back in action on home soil next month when they host World Cup debutants Chile twice, in Penrith on November 10th, and Newcastle on November 13.