Socceroos Legend Craig Foster Predicts The First Australian Ballon d’Or Winner And Reveals Matildas’ World Cup Ambition

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Socceroos Legend Craig Foster Predicts The First Australian Ballon d’Or Winner And Reveals Matildas’ World Cup Ambition

Speaking at a community pitch unveiling in Sydney, Australia, we caught up with Socceroos legend and the Matildas’ biggest supporter, Craig Foster, to talk about the biggest FIFA Women’s World Cup in history, an Australian Ballon d’Or winner and how we can best encourage the Matildas stars of tomorrow.

With more than 1.7 million tickets sold, this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup is set to be the biggest women’s football event in history and the biggest sporting event in Australia for more than 20 years. Something unfathomable for many considering the tired-old narrative that “Australia isn’t a football nation.”

You wouldn’t think it was true as we arrived at Sam Kerr’s new community pitch unveiling in Sydney, with hundreds of people huddled into the caged pitch to listen to Craig Foster, Ian Wright, Emily Gielnik and Amy Chessari speak ahead of the official opening.

“It’s the biggest in terms of tickets sold, that’s for sure,” Socceroos legend and activist, Craig Foster told DMARGE. “I think in the first 14 days, they already exceeded the number of impressions on FIFA websites and social media from the last World Cup four years ago. In some ways that’s normal, because the competition keeps just escalating exponentially with the growth of women’s football – but the tickets [sold] is really incredible.”

“There’s no guarantee that even in a sports-mad country like Australia that you’re going to pack out every single game and so that’s been absolutely beautiful.”

Craig Foster

Hundreds of thousands of football fans have descended onto Australian soil to watch the games; some with tickets, some arriving without, all hoping to experience firsthand the once-in-a-lifetime atmosphere created throughout this special event. And for Craig Foster, Australian fans with tickets to the games have been the catalyst for some stellar Matildas’ performances.

Craig Foster was in Sydney to officially open the Sam Kerr x EA SPORTS FC 24 Future Pitch. Image: EA Sports FC

“There’s been 1.7 million [tickets sold] you know, let’s say one and a half million of them are Aussies, you know, there’s a whole new generation of Australians now who’ve sat in that stadium and felt the energy, felt the emotion and felt the power of football.”

“Australian crowds are doing a really great job of driving them and giving them energy, which is really necessary. So anyone who’s got tickets to any of the games — certainly quarter-final, but if they [Matildas] get beyond that — you’ve really got to play your role; it’s an active role and the Matildas are feeding off it, which is so important in a Home World Cup. That can be a huge factor in carrying them over the line.”

RELATED: Yes, The Matildas Could Just Win The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup… Here’s Why

As the Matildas downed Denmark in front of 75,000 screaming fans in Sydney, it felt as though the millions of Australian supporters that had fallen in love with the game were inside that stadium with them, cheering on their new heroes of today as they achieved yet another landmark victory at this historic football tournament.

Sam Kerr took to the pitch to a chorus of cheers; the ever-venerable Steph Catley removed the captain’s armband that she has carried so valiantly in her teammate’s absence and handed it to Kerr for her first minutes in this World Cup.

“It was a big blow when she [Kerr] was out through injury,” Foster told DMARGE. “Everyone was devastated because she’s been voted I think number two or number three player in the world. We think that she’s the best and we want her to excel in this tournament and for Australia to do really well; in part because if she does, there’s a good chance she’ll win the Ballon d’Or as the world’s best player.”

Steph Catley hands the armband to Sam Kerr as she takes to the pitch in Sydney. Image: Getty

Kerr came on with a point to prove. The two-time WSL Player of the Year was sharp, focused and desperate to impress, showing a blistering turn of pace and ball control to create goal-scoring opportunities for herself and her teammates.

The Australia captain appeared to have shaken off a calf injury that hampered her minutes during this Women’s World Cup, radiating illustrious creativity to provide an attacking threat alongside Caitlin Foord exploding down the left wing and keeping the pressure on a faltering Denmark side. For Foster, Kerr’s return has come at the perfect time heading into the latter stages of this competition.

“There’s a good chance she’ll win the Ballon d’Or as the world’s best player.”

Craig Foster on Sam Kerr

“In a full, final three games — they’re the most difficult games of the whole tournament — obviously, it only gets harder from here, because of the pressure, because of the quality of the opponents, and the experience that they have in being here as well.”

“Sam’s at her absolute peak. She’s ready to dominate. And even the 15 minutes she came on against Denmark, you know, it’s like, ‘wow, it’s just electrifying’… she comes on and just looks like she’s on a different planet, right. So that’s perfect.”

Craig Foster was joined by FC Futures Ambassador Ian Wright, who has been spending time in Australia throughout the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Together with EA Sports, the pair opened a community pitch in a Western Sydney suburb to celebrate Australia’s talismanic striker and captain, Sam Kerr.

WATCH: Sam Kerr x EA SPORTS FC Futures Pitch reveal below.

The pitch, which will be digitally replicated in the latest edition of EA SPORTS FC 24, and completely playable in-game, will encourage young people in the area who have been inspired by the heroics of their favourite players during this historic World Cup to come and play football.

It not only provides a positive and supportive environment for these young people to play and train but serves as an inspiration of what can be achieved by those individuals with a dream, to put in the work today and produce the Matildas of tomorrow.

The Matildas have progressed to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, equalling a tournament-best achievement in 2007, 2011 and 2015; for reference, the men’s side has never made it past the round of 16. They’ll meet world No. 5, France after Les Bleues easily swept away a spirited Morocco side in Adelaide this week, and Foster believes Australia has everything it takes to go all the way.

“The Matildas are capable; this generation is capable of winning now, particularly because they’re at home,” the Socceroos legend claimed.

Australia continue their FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign against France on Saturday 12 August at 5pm AET.