Alex Chidiac had not played for The Matildas for almost three years. After a career best season in the A-League women, public demand was high for her inclusion to face New Zealand.
She did not feature in the first game on Friday night, but four days later she made her return to the national team to much fanfare.
With Australia 3-1 up but the result far from decided, Chidiac entered the game. Running toward the touchline and with the confidence and imagination that has made her a fan favourite, Chidiac flicked a delightful backheel into the path of an overlapping teammate who did not have to break stride.
This was her first touch of the ball and in many ways, it was symbolic of these two performances. The Matildas have their swagger back, and they are not afraid to take some risks.
The Asian Cup loss to South Korea was frustrating in more ways than just the result. For the first half of that quarter final, Australia played some of their best attacking football. The early Gustavsson matches had been typified by attacks from wide areas. Against the eventual finalists, they were creating chances through a mix of crosses, midfield interplay and long passes.
When they could not score, and eventually went behind, it felt like it amounted to nothing. They had played exactly the way they wanted to and still fell short. Disaster loomed but in reality, all that was missing was a goal.
Although these two games were just friendly matches, there were signs that the method works, all that was missing was some more composure, and a little luck.
The first match on Friday night saw Australia dominate the early stages and create nine clear cut chances before New Zealand took a shock lead.
They turned it around through relentless attacking play. In the aftermath of the last second 2-1 win, the stats were encouraging.
38 shots to three, 16 of them on target with 72% possession and 13 corners. This is an indicator that the team is playing the way it wants to. Their control of the play is not cautious.
The Matildas generally played with attacking intent. That only two of those shots ended in goals was almost entirely down to the New Zealand goalkeeper Victoria Esson.
That Australia had the composure to score them despite time being against them was down to the players and the coaching staff.
Except for a few minutes, there was no panic. Even after they moved Alanna Kennedy up forward, the players resisted the temptation for long , hopeful balls forward. The goals eventually came.
The second match on Tuesday in Canberra saw a similar story. The Matildas were more clinical, with three goals scored in the first half. They had slightly less possession and only 23 shots on goal but Sam Kerr’s brace and Hayley Raso’s strike were all finishes of a confident attack.
The extra sharpness in attack is easily attributable to the extra time in camp. The team only had one full session before Friday’s game. By Tuesday night’s game they had the full squad together for five days to train and more importantly, to rest.
Overall, these were two strong performances by a team that needed to show that they are still moving forward despite a poor Asian Cup tournament.
Australia scored five times over two games. Hayley Raso’s was the only one that did not look to be a move off the training pitch.
Emily van Egmond’s equaliser on Friday night was the type of goal The Matildas would love to score more of. Carpenter raced down the right flank and with Kerr and Caitlin Foord dragging defenders toward goal, van Egmond was in space in the box.
Carpenter cut the ball back to her for an excellent finish. Kerr’s late winner and fifth minute opener in the following game were the result of set pieces and her second was a one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
These are the type of clear-cut chances that Australia prefer to create, and up until the last moments on Friday had failed to confidently convert since the thumping of Indonesia.
Over the two matches, Australia largely adhered to the plan and were finally rewarded with two wins from two games. The pressure will only become more intense on the Matildas as the World Cup nears, and more hiccups are inevitable as they refine their personnel and tactics.
Speculation will continue to rage about the tenure of Tony Gustavsson. Much of this is based in presumption and he enjoys the support of many long term Matildas fans. There is still much improvement left in the squad and New Zealand will hardly be the toughest test this team will need to overcome.
However, the observable facts in these two games tell us that The Matildas have a clear method and showed that they are capable and willing to carry it out.