A FIFA World Cup finals on home soil presents another chance for Mackenzie Arnold to show her qualities.
The Claret and Blue faithful were accustomed to the No1’s talismanic performances between the sticks last season, although this summer’s tournament gives Arnold a chance to star on the global stage.
Her third World Cup - but her first where she heads into the tournament as the No1 - is a result of plenty of hard work across the season. She has produced a number of strong performances both in the Barclays Women’s Super League and on the international stage, now it is about taking those into a major tournament.
“It’s all starting to feel a bit more real now,” Arnold states, as the 2023 edition hosted in her native Australia and neighbouring New Zealand ticks ever closer. “I’m starting to feel like I really [belong in starting XI] and the girls are really helping with [my confidence].
“The first two [World Cups] it was a lot more about learning as the third and second choice ‘keeper. But this one, I’m in the mix and hopefully getting some game time.”
And should Arnold play it would be just reward too. The 2022/23 season was a stunning one for the Club’s longest-serving player. 27 appearances. Players’ Player of the Season. The Matildas’ stopper made more saves than any other WSL goalkeeper.
What is clear is that the performances have continued for the Matildas as well. Arnold started her country's final warm-up match and kept a crucial clean sheet as Australia defeated France.
Arnold’s 34th international appearance was the third time Australia have beaten a side in the top ten in the build up to this World Cup. A triumph over England in April, one that ended the Lionesses’ 30-game unbeaten run, shows that Arnold and company are more than in the mix ahead of the finals.
“To get results against those teams - and to get clean sheets too - it shows the consistency that we have been looking for,” Arnold enthuses. “We have a lot of confidence heading into the first game.
"Coming off the WSL season, I haven’t played in a while so it was important for me to get that performance under my belt [against France]. It helps to get a clean sheet but thanks to the backline I didn’t have too much to do.”
Arnold’s campaign kickstarts against the Republic of Ireland - a side with Hammer Izzy Atkinson in their ranks - on Thursday 20 July at Stadium Australia in Sydney. They then face Nigeria at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Thursday 27 July before Canada concludes their group-stage campaign in Melbourne on Monday 31 July.
Wins in the build-up to this tournament mean that both Australia and Arnold are in a good place ahead of their World Cup opener. Arnold agrees.
“I feel good,” the No1 states. “The last couple of months we have tried to prepare as we would for the first game of the World Cup. I think as long as we stick to our game plan and take it game by game…we’ll make a [good start to this tournament.]”