‘I’m exhilarated’: Federation Square erupts as the Matildas advance to the semi-finals

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One of the most heart-stopping moments in Australian sport turned to wild jubilation in Federation Square on Saturday night as Melbourne turned it on for the Matildas’ quarter-final match against France.

Matildas fans decked in green and gold under their ponchos and rain jackets ensured it was standing room only at the live site in the city, despite the drizzling rain.

Matildas fans erupt in Federation Square, Melbourne.Credit: Luis Enrique Ascui

The dedicated crowd was rewarded too when a nail-biting shootout saw the Matildas advance to the semi-finals.

After the longest shoot-out in World Cup history the final score was 7-6 with the Tillies on top.

There was jubilation in the city as the Matildas sent it home, flares lighting up the sky as thousands of Melburnians rejoiced together.

Isabella Meldrum, 16, said the energy at Federation Square was like nothing else as the goal for goal penalties kept the crowd on edge.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we could do it,” she said when the final siren rang.

“I was biting my nails the entire time. The crowds went crazy. I’m exhilarated!,” she said.

The quarter-final match came down to penalties when Australia and France had both failed to score after 120 minutes plus four more minutes of injury time.

Caitlin Foord took the first penalty shot for Australia and put the first score on the board for the match.

Matilda Aggenbach was every Australian on Saturday night as the Matildas took on France.Credit: LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI

Matilda Aggenbach, travelled on the train from Wangaratta two school friends to be part of the crowd at Federation Square on Saturday night.

Playing right-back position for her local league, the 16-year-old said she’d been a Matildas fan since she started playing at nine years old. Ellie Carpenter was her favourite player, if she had to pick one, she said.

The aptly-named fan said she’s felt the momentum build at school since the first World Cup kicked off last month. When the Matildas made the finals she knew she wanted to be in Melbourne among the crowds, she said.

“Having a home World Cup, being able to experience it with all my friends and family. Watching the girls in real life. It’s mad,” she said.

“Everyone’s getting around the girls at school.”

The Matildas started off slow before applying more forward pressure in the later parts of the opening half, Emily van Egmond and Mary Fowler both coming close to scoring in the first half.

The crowds upped their enthusiasm as the clock ticked, the noise ramping up when Alanna Kennedy was awarded – and then missed – a free kick moments into the second half. Fowler had another two shots on goal early on which were blocked by France’s defence.

Jade Owens was among the Matildas fan watching the game between Australia and France at Fed Square.Credit: LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI

Jade Orders donned the plastic poncho to watch the match with her wife and colleagues. The Scottish national said there was no way the rain way going to keep her away from Saturday night’s soccer.

“Honestly, it’s been the highlight of July and August,” she said.

Orders said the Matildas had spent the first 50 minutes “just kicking the ball about, just hoping that we would get out of the park.”

“We’re starting to play proper, proper football,” she said at half-time.

“I’ve been at the front all match and I ain’t movin’,” Orders said from Federation Square on Saturday.

France fans Barbara Mazzilli Ciraulo and Francis Caillet were well and truly out numbered at the live site in the city on Saturday night.

The French nationals said they’d become soccer fans since moving to Australia.

“A lot of things have changed in the French team, so maybe this is a good year for them,” Ciaulo said.

Sadly for the Frenchies, it was not to be.

Jade Owens was among the Matildas fan watching the game between Australia and France at Fed Square.Credit: LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI

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