The Westfield Matildas are through to the knockout stage of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 after finishing second in their group following a tense 1-1 draw with Sweden tonight in Edmonton.
Dubbed the ‘group of death' before the 2015 tournament began, many had their doubts that Australia would even make it out of the group but the valuable point against Sweden ensured the Westfield Matildas would play in a third consecutive knockout stage as they move into the Round of 16 where they will now meet Brazil in Moncton early on Monday morning AEST.
Lisa De Vanna's already remarkable reputation and standing at World Cups was enhanced even further as she gave the Westfield Matildas the dream start after just five minutes.
A long ball from defender Laura Alleway caught the Swedish defence square and flat footed, De Vanna timing her run to perfection before producing a clinical finish to beat goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, the goal her seventh FIFA Women's World Cups.
The goal was just reward for an opening 10 minute spell that the Westfield Matildas completely dominated. But on 15 minutes a turnover in midfield allowed Sweden the slightest of openings and Sofia Jakobsson made it count as she cut inside before unleashing a left footed drive that snuck inside Lydia Williams' near post and into the back of the net.
From there on the game ebbed and flowed with both teams enjoying good patches, but with Australia's defence again holding firm, a composed midfield brigade led by Elise Kellond-Knight and Emily van Egmond, and the constant threat of a potent attacking force, there remained a steely resolve and belief amongst the Westfield Matildas that they could achieve a desired result.
With just under 30 minutes remaining, 19 year old Larissa Crummer made her World Cup debut as she replaced Australia's oldest player on the pitch in De Vanna, and the Queensland youngster showed maturity beyond her years as the Westfield Matildas held on to secure a draw and exact some revenge on the team that knocked them out of the last World Cup as the Swedes finished the group in third and could find themselves on a plane home depending on other results tomorrow.
Considering the quality of the opposition the Westfield Matildas were pitted up against in their group, just progressing would have be seen as a remarkable achievement in itself particularly with a squad with an average age of just 23, but Head Coach Alen Stajcic is not about to start thinking that's the job done.
"I'm obviously very proud of the team. I read a lot of reports before the World Cup started and I don't think I saw one where it had Australia coming out of the group of death, so it's an amzing achievement from a young group of players," Stajcic said.
"I think the starting eleven today, of the outfield players seven of the ten were aged between 20 and 22 so it's an amazing effort from a young group to show such maturity and composure against seasoned professionals like Sweden."
"It gives you so much belief and knowledge that you can compete against the best and we can't wait to get to the knockout rounds."
The squad will have a pool recovery session at the hotel in the morning before catching a chartered flight for the five and a half hour flight to Moncton.
The Westfield Matildas are scheduled to arrive in Moncton at 7.30pm to begin preparing for Sunday's do-or-die Round of 16 clash against Brazil on Sunday afternoon local time (Monday morning AEST).