Rousing Matildas Documentary Series 'The World at Our Feet' Is Absolutely Essential Viewing Right Now

This six-part Disney+ doco charts the national Australian women's soccer team's path to the 2023 World Cup — wins, challenges and all.
Sarah Ward
August 14, 2023

Passion flows as feverishly through the Australia's women's national football team as talent, and Matildas: The World at Our Feet boasts plenty of examples to show it. Covering the lead up to the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, this six-part documentary series sees enthusiasm and emotion everywhere, regardless of who the squad is playing, why or where, and the end score. Kicking goals? Joyous. Winning games? Euphoric. Taking every step needed to do their best at soccer's ultimate contest, especially because it's being held on home soil for the first time ever? A positively peppy and determined task. Inspiring girls across Australia to follow in their footsteps? For Sam Kerr and company, that's what their hard work is all about. 

To start this Disney+ doco's sixth episode, Kerr and several teammates chat about how much it means to them to be galvanising tomorrow's female athletes, a topic that pops up more than once across the entire series. In this particular instalment, they also discuss the equivalent influence in their own lives: Cathy Freeman's 400-metre gold-medal run at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. "We didn't have a role model in women's football, or any sport," shares goalkeeper Lydia Williams. "Watching Cathy Freeman at 2000, that just kind of ignited my dreams," she continues. "At the time, I was just amazed — blown away that every single person in the country could be talking about one person, and she was a female athlete," adds Kerr. "As I sat in my lounge room as a nine-year-old girl and watched her, that inspired me to one, be proud of who I am, but to also follow my sporting dreams to play football for Australia," says fellow striker Kyah Simon.

The force of their feelings radiates from the screen, even more so in light of the squad's 2023 Women's World Cup achievements so far. Indeed, while Matildas: The World at Our Feet has been streaming since April, but it couldn't be more essential viewing as the team progresses through the pinnacle of international soccer — and that Freeman adulation, and those dreams of having the same impact, couldn't be more apt. With their stunning quarter-final defeat of France in the longest penalty shootout in the tournament's history, the Matildas likely eclipsed all other Aussie sporting moments in viewership since Freeman's famous race. The influence that their current campaign is having Australia-wide can't be so easily boiled down to numbers, but it's just as massive. 

No matter how the Matildas' Women's World Cup plays out from their semi-final match against England onwards — they're   guaranteed to hit the pitch again after that, either to vie for the whole thing or compete for third place — consider Matildas: The World at Our Feet the origin story. The team's past goes back further than 2021's hosting announcement and coach Tony Gustavsson's present tenure, of course, but director Katie Bender Wynn (The Will to Fly) focuses on Kerr, Williams, Simon, Katrina Gorry, Mary Fowler, Ellie Carpenter and more as they prepare for 2023's global contest. The successes, the struggles, the sacrifices: they're all included. Game-day thrills, behind-the-scenes glimpses, to-camera interviews: they are as well. A rousing portrait of Australia's favourite national sporting team as it embraces its biggest moment yet: that's the whole must-watch doco. 

Bender Wynn takes her cues from soccer in the documentary's approach, celebrating the team overall first and foremost, yet always seeing the exceptional contributors that make today's Matildas era what it is. When the doco lingers among the group, their communal energy is palpable and infectious. Gustavsson's always-positive attitude, beaming brightly like a Swedish Ted Lasso with a wealth of the right football experience, comes through just as strongly. Amid peeks at spirited training sessions and camaraderie-filled camps, too, it's no wonder that each victory feels not just exuberant but truly shared. As Gustavsson puts the Matildas on an ambitious path to face top nations like the US, Spain and Canada as Women's World Cup prep, it's similarly hardly surprising that any loss hits hard, as always accompanied by the coach finding at least one learning or benefit as a silver lining.  

As captain, Australia's leading international goal scorer across both women's and men's soccer, and the best female striker in the world — when a calf injury isn't keeping her off the turf — Kerr earns the doco's individual focus early, but also swiftly shares the spotlight. As she chats, including in New York on breaks from both the Matildas and Chelsea, and while finding a slice of normality in London around her Women's Super League schedule, she doesn't just sing Freeman's praises, championing everyone that she's representing her country with. Some pre-date her on the team. Others she's grown up with. A few she's clearly an idol to. How they all can combine to ideally win the Women's World Cup is as crucial to the candid Kerr as it is to the series. 

Matildas: The World at Our Feet also charts midfielder Gorry's journey through motherhood, including returning to play after giving birth — and, with Tameka Yallop's daughter as well, sees the difference that having children and family around during the Matildas' camps makes. It follows forward Fowler's leap overseas as a teenager, and her growing confidence in the game while playing in France and England, albeit away from her family. It watches defender Carpenter go from strength to strength for Lyon, then face coming back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in time for the Women's World Cup. Williams explores her connection to Country, her role as a leader and her memories of the Matildas back when washing their own kits was a given. The fleet-footed Caitlin Foord talks through the commitment required not just on her part to get to this point, but from her single mother when she was a kid.

Just like passion, there's no shortage of stories in Matildas: The World at Our Feet, whether Steph Catley is stressing the Matildas' "never say die" mentality, Emily Gielnik is all nerves leading up to proposing to her girlfriend, or Kerr is rightly fuming when she's the subject of a horrendously sexist article after besting Tim Cahill's all-time goal-scoring record. Along the way, this  fly-on-the-wall series lays bare the heart, soul and perseverance that've gone into the current phenomenon that has all of Australia talking and barracking, and also supporting women's sport. No one gets to the final four in a World Cup and becomes national darlings overnight, as everyone in this insightful and sincere doco's frames constantly stresses. In fact, celebrating the Matildas right now without stepping through everything that Kerr and her teammates have gone through first would feel incomplete — so, without watching this series — is a bit like hitting the crossbar while taking a penalty kick.

Check out the trailer for Matildas: The World at Our Feet below:

Matildas: The World at Our Feet streams via Disney+.

Published on August 14, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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