Impetus’ Kieran Yap was in today’s Australia media conference for us and heard Lydia Williams reflect on her time with the national team ahead of her hundredth cap, and the benefits of playing in Europe (23/6/22).
Above: Lydia Williams in action for Australia. Photo: Football Australia.
As her 100th cap approaches, Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams is excited for the future and appreciative of a past filled with highlights.
She is expected to reach the milestone in the upcoming fixtures against Spain and Portugal. Goalkeeper is perhaps the most individual position on the field. But when asked about her journey she spoke glowingly about her long-term teammates and the growth of the game itself.
“To be honest I wouldn’t have dreamt that I would come this far,” Williams told the media. It’s just an honour and a privilege.
“I think I’ve been around for everyone’s first cap so that’s kind of awesome to me seeing how everyone’s developed. Seeing Australian football develop from not a whole lot of press to now, (where) we have the opportunity to host a World Cup and being a part of that whole process. For me, that was really special and definitely a feeling you could ever replicate.”
Williams has been in the national setup since 2007, but made the starting position her own at the 2015 World Cup. It was the tournament that Australia achieved their best-ever finish. The run to the quarter-finals is still one of her fondest memories. Particularly the thrilling, tense, and skilful win over Brazil in the round of 16.
“It was our best (finishing) position,” reflects Williams, who made some crucial saves in the 1-0 victory. “It was just a really good game, no one really believed in us. There were only a few hundred Aussies there supporting us. Doing that in the style that we did off that preparation was really special.”
Williams first entered the Matildas setup at the age of 15. She is now one of the most experienced players in the squad for these friendly matches and has enjoyed seeing the new faces adapt to the national team.
“They’re getting exposed to what playing for the Matildas is like. We definitely need more people coming through. It’s exciting to see what we’ve produced in training.”
In particular, she had praise for those players who had become national team players relatively recently but were taking on more responsibility in camp. “Seeing them step up has been really nice. They’ve come into camp over the last year or so and kind of been a regular, right now at this camp they’re in a senior role.
“It’s nice to see them step up. This is actually an opportunity for them to prove themselves and make sure they’re amongst this squad always.”
Australia goes into these matches in a different position than Spain or Portugal. While their opponents are fine-tuning before a major international tournament. Tony Gustavsson’s Matildas are exploring squad depth and tactical possibilities.
Much of the Matildas squad has been on a post-season break or playing domestically in the state competitions.
“It’s a good preparation for us,” says Williams. “Let’s be honest and real, it’s a team that is going into a major tournament versus a team that’s coming off a break. So right now, it’s going to be a good indication of seeing how these (European) teams are lining up”
These matches are tactically important for Australia’s preparations. European nations remain a challenge for Australia. After two years with Arsenal, Williams sees the difference more games can make to players.
“The good thing is we’re getting exposed to the stresses of European football. Playing in FA Cups, Conti Cups, Champions League, then the league. You’re playing upwards of 40-50 games a year, not to mention your international team. Getting that exposure is what the rest of the world doing so we need to catch up.”
The schedule may be intense, but there is the benefit of an off-season, something many senior Matildas have never experienced as they rotated from one league to the next. The result is, that many of the familiar faces are recuperating or recovering from small injuries or fatigue.
Williams sees this as an opportunity for new players to make an impact, and for the squad to see what areas they need to improve on. She characterizes these games as an “educational tool,” although anybody who has watched her play will know she will be eager to win once she crosses the white line.
“I’ve had a break which most of us have. It’s just getting back into it,” she says about returning from a break. Being back with the team again. This is my favourite team to play for so I’m just really excited to be back here.”