After an emphatic come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Brazil, one thing rang true for the Matildas – despite the criticism and negativity endured over the last six months, life under Ante Milicic is good.
It goes without saying, that a happy team is a successful team. The Matildas have weathered their fair share of upheaval with the ousting of Alen Stajcic taking centre stage since January.
Previous to last night’s incredible win, punters had been quick to blame a slump in performance on both the new coach and playing style, but the Matildas have shown nothing but trust, respect, and faith in Milicic’s process.
Player of the Match, Chloe Logarzo said it all when asked what the turning point was for the Aussie side who were down 2-0 just before half time.
“The confidence that Ante instills in us, just to be able to play the way that we play, is something amazing," the midfielder said when dedicating the win to her coach.
“He is really able to just lift us in all the right ways. I think the Australian mentality is to be able to come out swinging when your back is against the wall, we love a good fight.
“Hearing those words from Ante definitely got us going - we kept playing our football and trusted our process.
"The win was definitely for Ante - the criticism is more on his behalf and it's really disheartening for us to hear that because the amount of work he's put in, it's incredible. I don't think people see that, so today was definitely for him."
In an added moment of sentimentality, when almost forgetting her POTM trophy, Logarzo laughed, “Sorry, almost forgot this, wanted to leave it for the coach.”
The mutual admiration was palpable with Milicic singing the praises of his team, noting the negative press the Matildas have received recently, along with the massive shake-up to the squad just months out from the World Cup.
When Milicic was asked how it felt to effectively come back from the brink, he echoed the Matildas war cry of “Never Say Die”.
“Tonight, I must say, it’s one of the finest Australian performances I’ve seen and I’m really, really proud of these girls," he told the post-match press conference.
“It hasn’t been easy for them and they deserve all the rewards that were given to them tonight. The circumstances that we won the game in and getting the three points was a massive confidence booster for them, they never stopped believing.
After shipping eight goals over two friendlies, then losing their first World Cup match in a massive upset against Italy and dealing with a resulting barrage of criticism, skipper Sam Kerr summed up her emotions in raw fashion.
"There were a lot of critics talking about us, but we're back, so suck on that one!" she laughed.
"We don't listen to the haters, I love these girls, they're something else."
When Milicic was asked how it felt to effectively come back from the brink.
“We don’t lose our belief – if a team lost its belief, it doesn’t come back from a game like that. These girls believe in each other, first and foremost, and they understand this opportunity. They believe in the playing style and in the work that we’ve done.”
When asked if he thought the Matildas first win of their World Cup campaign would put the negative noise to bed, Milicic said dealing with negativity is all part and parcel of the passion of Australian football – but the focus always remains internal.
“I don’t think it will ever go to bed, because that’s just Australian football these days. The important thing is, that we as staff give these girls every opportunity to be successful at this tournament and the outside noise, stays out.
“We really have to focus on our job because opportunities at a World Cup don’t come around often enough and these girls fully understand that this is their time now. They want to make the most of it and as a staff, a football nation and a football community we need to give these girls every opportunity to succeed and hopefully, this win brings the country together.
Milicic has got it right, for the Matildas, their time is now - and for the Australian public, it’s time to look towards the future.
The Matildas are set to have a training session near Grenoble this afternoon.