While Katrina Gorry's recall for the Matildas was slightly overshadowed by omissions and other questions, her actual return to the pitch was unignorable. The threat of being overshadowed, however, was all too real with Australia leaving its run to victory late, scoring in the 94th and 96th minute to defeat New Zealand 2-1.
It quickly became apparent that Gorry's first Matildas appearance in 788 days would see her deployed as the deepest midfielder. Not as a traditional No. 6 but rather in a regista-style deep-lying playmaker role.
Before the game, head coach Tony Gustavsson explained that while Gorry's best position was probably as a No. 8 or No. 10, her qualities ensured that she could play this particular role.
"But she also has another unique skill set and that is she can make other players look good," Gustavsson said. "She can combine and connect with players. So therefore I also think she can be used as a No. 6 for us, a playmaking, quarterbacking six.
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"Some would say she doesn't have the aerial presence to play as a No. 6 or cover the ground, the defensive presence, but the attacking skill set is phenomenal and her smartness as well. So in any of those midfield spots, I'm intrigued and interested to see her play, but I also think we need to not put pressure on Mini. Now she needs time to get back to international level. And we need to give her that time. But I'm really happy to see her back into this national team."
With her daughter, Harper, in the stands, Gorry made it seem as if she had neither spent almost two years away from the national team nor gone through the transformation that is pregnancy and childbirth.
And while Gustavsson's message that Gorry needs and deserves patience and time is one that should be heeded, when the midfielder puts in a performance that makes it seem like she was never away from the pitch, it bodes well for what more preparation and more football will do for this next chapter in her career.
Utilising Gorry in this particular midfield configuration made even more sense once it became obvious that the Matildas would dominate possession and not require a traditional No. 6. That being said, Gustavsson was particularly impressed with Gorry's defending, saying: "Her defensive actions, the amount of duels she wins, she even wins aerial duels against [Hannah] Wilkinson. I'm not surprised how good she was attacking but the defensive performance from her was also world-class in my opinion."
Gorry's inch perfect passing, brilliant vision and fearlessness were on full display throughout the match, and that quarterbacking ability became even more evident as the match wore on, particularly in her combinations with Mary Fowler -- the most advanced midfielder -- in the second half.
But even her Player of the Match performance didn't quell the sense of deja vu many Matildas fans would have felt watching this game until the 94th minute.
In the opening 30 minutes, the Matildas had several gilt-edged chances. Football Ferns goalkeeper Victoria Esson and centre-back Claudia Bunge were integral, producing killer saves and laying important blocks and tackles.
Despite the glut of Australian chances it was Kiwi Anna Green's audacious, ridiculous, deliberate shot from out wide that broke the deadlock. It was unbelievable in every sense and in every context.
The half time stats told a familiar tale. The Matildas had 16 shots, six on target, and 71% of possession. The Football Ferns' lone shot on target found the back of the net and coach Jitka Klimkova's side took an unlikely lead into the break.
The second half saw much of the same. The chances kept coming. And missing. Fowler and Gorry began to try their luck from long range. Caitlin Foord in game No. 100 hit the crossbar.
The Matildas' dominance -- and lack of end product -- became almost comical the longer it wore on. The team was undoubtedly playing the better football and utterly dominant, a sight reminiscent of the Olympic semifinal against Sweden and the Asian Cup quarterfinal against South Korea.
There was a fear that one of those nights was about to occur in Townsville, just as it had in Yokohama and Pune. Only injury time stood between the Matildas and a first defeat to New Zealand in 27 years. A Football Ferns' win would have been daylight robbery and yet it was the Matildas who stole victory from the jaws of defeat.
When asked if he was worried or surprised by the match and the result, Gustavsson's answer was an expanded version of "trust the process."
"I'm actually not that surprised and the reason why is that I'm extremely impressed with the players' belief and mindset," Gustavsson said. "One of the takeaways we had from the Asian Cup was that we need to believe all the way in the way we want to play. I think we panicked a bit in the second half against Korea at the Asian Cup, today we kept loyal to what we're doing, they believed in it.
"The way we moved the ball, the amount of chances we created and then you add the heart and the spirit to that tactic so I wasn't that surprised but obviously very happy."
Van Egmond echoed his sentiments: "Football's a funny game, you can have 90% of the ball and maybe you don't put it into the back of the net. But if you stay loyal to the game plan like Tony said and you back the principles that we've got in place eventually it'll come together and we showed that night."
The hope here is that this performance was a step in the right direction for the Matildas. Gustavsson said as much, noting the win against Brazil felt like the start of some of the Matildas' best football, as did the beginning of the Asian Cup.
"This is part of a longer process that we inside the team have felt for a while," he admitted.
Fans of the team will hope he is right and that the wild ride that has been Gustavsson's first year in charge will begin its steady incline. For the 10,779 people in attendance, there's no doubt new fans in the stands who have experienced the never-say-die attitude of this team for the first time will be coming back for more.
Another stronger win against the Football Ferns when they meet against on Tuesday may well have all kinds of fans trusting the process that little bit more.