Williams puts heroics aside for now
But there have been arguably none bigger than goalkeeper Lydia Williams, who after recovering from a second ACL injury has been a rock for the Australians in goal.
The 27-year-old is in a dream-like state about her situation in Canada.
It wasn’t just the injury that Williams had to overcome. Making the first team was a big obstacle too.
The goalkeeper displaced Matildas stalwart Melissa Barbieri after not playing in the first game against USA and, pre-World Cup, it was W-League goalkeeper of the year Mackenzie Arnold that was the favourite to be starting.
“Obviously it was a pretty difficult road to get back here. I just focused on being the best possible goalkeeper I could be and proving myself to get my starting position back,” the former Canberra United goalkeeper told FourFourTwo.
“At the moment it’s pretty surreal. I haven’t really had time to focus on the path that I’ve taken and stuff that I’ve overcome but it definitely feels exciting. I’m treating every game like it’s my last one so it has been good so far.
“So far it has been about 11 months post-surgery so all of my effort has been going into rehab. Even now I do prehab and rehab stuff so it has been literally up to five hours per day of anything I can do to get myself in the best possible shape. I have had a lot of help with the medical staff here, the goalkeeper coach Paul Jones and back at the AIS. It has been a lot of effort.”
Some of the talk leading up to the Matildas' quarter-final clash against Japan has been about the Australians getting revenge for the 1-0 Asian Cup final loss last year, and Williams is no different.
“I think both teams have changed a little bit, both in regard to their strengths and weaknesses, so it’s a little bit of revenge but more so we have gone into every game thinking it is our last one," the Tuggeranong junior said.
"So all the focus is on this game. What happened in the past happened in the past but we’re going into this with a new outlook and new attitude."
When the quarter-final clash kicks off on Sunday morning (AEST), the Matildas will have had more time to recuperate than the reigning world champions.
Williams says that may give Alen Stajcic's team an advantage.
“I think having the two extra days of recovery has helped us," she said.
"I think it will depend on who comes out on the day, and that will be the team that will come out on top. I think defence is going to give us the edge. It has been great so far, so hopefully we’re in top form and can stop any dangerous balls or crosses that they’re good at."
Being the first Australian football team to win a knockout game at a World Cup has raised the profile of the Matildas.
With many plaudits and well wishes coming from fans back home, the Western Australian is just trying to concentrate on events in Canada for now – and getting the Matildas into the semi-finals.
“When I get back I’ll receive more feedback on it, but I felt really good about my performance," Williams said.
"I didn’t really want to focus too much on what was happening during the game, I was just doing my best for Australia and for the team. I had a quick look at that stuff after the game but I just want to focus on helping this team get as far as it can.
“I think we all look at ourselves as role models. Also as a team we consider ourselves a family so first and foremost we’re for each other, for the badge and representing ourselves, and then everything that comes with it is a benefit and something special that we appreciate.”