It is set to be the biggest year in Australian women’s football history as the country gears up to host the Women’s World Cup.
It is a dream come true for the players and staff that are set to be involved, and it’s no different for young Matildas starlet Charli Grant.
“It’s just incredible, it’s what everyone dreams of being part of a World Cup, let alone a World Cup on home soil. It’s going to be amazing for the country.” The 21-year-old told Kick360.
There is a mountain of pressure and expectations on a Matildas side that endured a mixed 2022, with a strong finish to the year helping ease the pain of an embarrassing Asian Cup performance and and a poor run of results in the middle of the year. The Cup of Nations tournament – set to take place next month and featuring matches against Spain, Jamaica and Czechia – is designed to give the players ideal preparation for the tournament and to help finalise the side that will take the field in the first World Cup game against the Republic of Ireland.
For Grant, the importance in facing quality and varied opposition so close to the World Cup is not lost on the players.
“It’s really exciting to have a tournament this close to the World Cup, playing against three quality and different oppositions is really important for our preparations.”
The match against Spain at Commbank Stadium is set to be the showpiece event of the tournament, seeing the Matildas face one of the top sides in the world and also looking to avenge their 7-0 drubbing they copped when the sides faced in June last year. Grant was part of that side that was on the wrong end of the hiding, and she is looking forward to the opportunity to face La Roja.
I think it’s really exciting to be playing against Spain again, especially after last result, and to see how far we’ve come. Hopefully we can get a good result.”
That was one of 13 Matildas caps so far for Grant, who debuted in 2021 in a match against the Republic of Ireland. She saw her role in the national team set up increase due to the unfortunate injury to Ellie Carpenter, and she was highly impressive in the end of year friendlies where the side defeated Sweden and Thailand.
Getting an extended run in the side at such a young age is not something that happens to many players, and Grant is eager to ensure it continues going into 2023.
That’s what I’m working towards, to keep my spot on this team. I just feel honoured to be apart of this team and I’m gonna do whatever I can to stay in the team and hopefully keep getting given that opportunity.”
It has been a quick rise to international football for the Adelaide native, who debuted for her local club Adelaide United in 2018. Three impressive seasons followed before she became one of many top Australians to make the move overseas, signing for Swedish side FC Rosengard in 2021, where she was part of the side that won the Swedish championship.
She struggled to find regular game time, though, which resulted in her moving out on loan to fellow Swedish side Vittsjo, joining fellow Australians Clare Polkinghorne and Katrina Gorry. She settled in well, and in recent days made a permanent switch to Vittsjo in a bid to keep up regular game time before the World Cup.
“I’ve really improved as a player going overseas. It’s exposed me to different playing styles and it has been tough getting gametime at times, So for that it’s helped with my resilience and confidence. Hopefully I can bring that into this year in preparing for the World Cup.”
Image Credit: Jan Christensen/Getty Images