History-maker Simon confident of further success
The forward's 80th-minute strike against Brazil in the round of 16 led to the Matildas becoming the first Australian team to win a knockout game at a World Cup.
Add that moment to the winning penalty that Simon scored for Australia to win the 2010 Asian Cup and it’s starting to become a long list of firsts for the indigenous superstar.
While Simon, who has scored three goals at this World Cup, is delighted with the result and her strike, the next challenge – reigning world champions Japan – is the main focus for the Matildas, who believe they can progress even further.
“I definitely believe we can go all the way to the final,” a confident Simon told FourFourTwo.
“We’ve got the structure in place, a solid defence, potent attackers and the belief to go with it. That’s where our sights are set. But, in saying that, we’ve still got another two games to win before we think about reaching the final.
“I’m still very proud of what we achieved in beating Brazil, but I think we’ve flicked the switch on and are now refocusing on the Japan game. As big as an achievement as it was, it’s only one step closer to the big prize.
“We’re happy with what we’ve achieved and I think we’re in a good state of mind at the moment. We’re refocusing on our next opponents and that’s Japan who we’re very familiar with so by no means is it going to be an easy match. It’s up to us to refocus as a group so we can do the next job at hand.”
Before Simon came on as a substitute in the 60th minute, the coaching team gave the striker some simple instructions.
Simon, who turned 24 on Thursday, joked that following those commands led to the match-winning goal.
“They just told me to go on and score the winner (laughs) and try and change the game, and do what a substitute has to do,” she said.
“It was wet conditions and I gave myself the best chance to get on the end of any fumble that the goalkeeper did and I just knew I had to place it in the corner. The keeper was drifting with the ball so I knew to try and hit it back past her and I was thankful it shook up the side netting.”
The confidence in the Matildas camp has been one of the main characteristics of this World Cup squad.
Even before the tournament started, the Australians were in no doubt it would be a successful one.
“The belief is a huge factor amongst this group and a big factor of why we have made it this far,” said Simon.
“I think from how far we’ve progressed as well it has added to that. Firstly making it out of the group of death and then beating a powerhouse like Brazil.
“The round of 16 result has already got a bit of a movement going on back home at the moment and we’ve only really gone past the first knockout stage.
"If we were to progress further I think the hype and exposure would only grow and grow in a positive way. We’re on the right track but it’s up to us to finish off the job.”
While one of the Matildas' strengths at this World Cup is the depth in attack, the cover at the back is also a strong suit, particularly with the way the team contained the Brazilian attack.
Simon says it gives the team great assurance.
“I think that’s one of the main differences in this Matildas group is how solid we are in defence," she said.
"I know myself as an attacking player when our defence is getting pressured and tested I have full confidence in them.
"They’re so solid back there that all of the players in front of them feel very confident in having the likes of our back four, Lydia Williams and Elise Kellond-Knight holding down the fort back there."
Many critics thought the sacking of former coach Hesterine de Reus last year would derail the Matildas' chances at the World Cup.
But with the team making the Asian Cup final only a month later under Alen Stajcic, Simon says the character developed under the new regime is one of the main reasons they have flourished in Canada.
“Because I was not really around the team at that time I couldn’t really see what was going on firsthand. I was doing my own individual rehab but it really does show how far the team has developed and matured," she said.
“To be in such a positive mind frame now as a whole and the change in the culture of the group which Alen Stajcic, our coach, has instilled into us this year, it really does show all of the hard work we’ve done and the time we’ve invested from the staff to the players.
"We deserve nothing but some success at this World Cup."