Matildas’ World Cup victory over France breaks television records and the match becomes Australia’s most-watched show since Cathy Freeman’s Olympic triumph more than 20 years ago.
As if beating France to reach a historic Women’s World Cup semi-final on home soil wasn’t enough, the Matildas have raised the bar even higher by becoming Australia’s highest rated television viewership in over two decades.
The Seven Network, the free-to-air broadcaster of the tournament, said a peak audience of 7.2 million tuned in for Australia’s 7-6 shootout win over France in Brisbane on Saturday.
Cathy Freeman’s iconic 400m final at the Sydney Olympics reportedly drew a record 8.8 million viewers, although OZTam data was not tracked in 2000.
An average of 4.17 million tuned in for the quarter-finals on the Seven Network, which said it enjoyed a record 472,000 viewers streaming the game on its 7Plus digital arm.
At its height, over seven million Australians tuned in to watch Ellie Carpenter (pictured) and her Matildas teammates rack up one of the biggest wins in the country’s sporting history.
Only Cathy Freeman’s famous victory in the 400m final at the Sydney Olympics drew more spectators than the win over France
Those numbers do not reflect fans watching in public places or viewers watching the game on Optus Sport.
It marked a monumental day for Australia with the Matildas receiving congratulations from across the sporting landscape.
John Aloisi, who carved his name into folklore with the penalty kick that sent the Socceroos to the 2006 World Cup, relished being surpassed by match-winner Cortnee Vine as Australia’s most talked-about penalty taker.
“I’m happy to be relegated (to second), I don’t care,” Aloisi said during a commentary for the Seven Network.
“We are in a semi-final and this is what a World Cup does, it unites the whole nation.”
The number of viewers would be even higher if fans who watched the game on live sites, pubs and even AFL games were included in the total (in the photo, Cortnee Vine is overwhelmed by her teammates after scoring the penalty winner)
Australian wheelchair tennis icon Dylan Alcott quipped on social media: “My God, that was the closest I’ve ever come to standing up.”
The sight of the pubs, live venues and lounges reflected the mood of the nation as Australia rejoiced in a victory that has them on course to collide with England in Wednesday’s semi-final.
There were also scenes of supporters broadcasting the Matildas match as they attended NRL and AFL matches.
Carlton’s wingmate Blake Acres and his teammates kept an eye out for the Matildas ahead of their AFL clash with Melbourne, but admitted to being confused by the noise in the MCG stands once their game started.
“I remember they kept cheering for the first quarter and I didn’t know what was going on,” Acres said.
“Obviously it was the penalty shootout they were cheering for.
“Then when they went crazy on the quarter hour, I was looking at the (big screen) and I saw a cheese ad there, and I was like, ‘What’s going on here? They’re celebrating cheese.’