Mary Fowler gives reason to believe in Australia now and in the future

BRISBANE, Australia – Any time Sam Kerr hangs up her boots – she’s 29 and widely regarded as the best striker in the world. But Australia already knows a bright future for 20-year-old Mary Fowler.

You may have noticed the rising star during the Matildas’ historic run to the World Cup semifinals, where they will face England in Sydney on Wednesday (coverage begins at 5 a.m. ET Starts at 6 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) Fowler is a sprightly striker who wears his hair in a bun and signature black gloves on his hands – She says, if for no other reason, that she gets nervous. He also had what seemed like at least 100 shots on goal blocked by France’s tenacious defense before being decided by a penalty shootout in the quarter-finals.

The most dangerous of those scoring chances found himself in front of a wide-open net in the 41st minute, but his shot deflected off the left thigh of French defender Elisa de Almeida.

„I don’t know,” Fowler said with a light laugh in response to a reporter complimenting her on an „exceptional” game. „I want to revisit it and see what I’m doing.”

France’s Elisa de Almeida saves an attempt on goal at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

France's Elisa de Almeida saves an attempt on goal at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup

Fowler was unable to finish off those chances on a subsequent penalty kick. Called on to take the Matildas’ fourth try, Manchester City nailed her shot into the left corner so powerfully you could hear her hitting the ball with her laces.

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„The venom in her shot is so hard,” teammate Ellie Carpenter said. „I can’t believe the scenes where she didn’t go in.”

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In a team that does everything it can to inspire the next generation of Australian footballers, Fowler does double duty. Her father was born in Ireland, her mother was from Papua New Guinea, and she grew up in the coastal town of Cairns in northern Queensland. He spoke proudly of his background, wanting to influence young footballers from all three countries, and has a particularly strong connection to his heritage in Papua New Guinea.

Fowler told The Guardian earlier this year He hopes to one day set up a football academy or school in his mother’s home country. Before the France game, he posted photos of family and friends supporting him from thousands of miles away.

Fowler is the youngest player in Australia’s roster and is no stranger to this. He made the squad for the 2019 World Cup four years ago as a 16-year-old. She didn’t play much then, but exploded two years later during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics when she scored a heroic goal to defeat Great Britain in extra time in the quarter-finals. Now essentially a national team veteran, he’s been called up big time this summer.

That was in part due to the calf injury that ruled Gervais out of the entire group stage, most of the Round of 16 win and the first half against France. Fowler took ownership of the attack and was relentless in the process. She is pitch ready. Everything goes through her. Australian coach Tony Gustavsson has called her his best „connecting” player, and she has a knack for creating chances not only for herself but also for her teammates.

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For example: Fowler has scored two goals so far in this tournament (including a PK), but one of his most beautiful plays was the assist on Caitlin Ford’s goal against Denmark. Fowler threaded a perfect pass that beat five defenders in the box and reached Ford, who took a touch before smashing the ball into the back of the net.

„He’s one of the most exciting players on our team,” Kerr said. „She’s 20 years old, has the head of a 30-year-old, and has been around the game for 100 years.”

„She plays beyond her years in terms of maturity,” Gustavsson added. „She understands the defensive role and with her technique she can spin a coin. Her technical skills are one of a kind. She could have two goals in the next game, I think.”

Australia vs. Caitlin Ford’s GO-AHEAD goal for Denmark | Every angle

Australia vs.  Caitlin Ford's GO-AHEAD goal for Denmark |  Every angle

As Australians get caught up in the madness of the Matildas during this World Cup, they can look to Fowler and know their team is in good hands.

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„Marie has a bright future,” Gustavson said, „but I think we have to be very careful about putting too much pressure on her right now. She’s a young player. She needs to play freely and do her thing.”

Australia will be hoping he does just that in this week’s highly-anticipated semi-final against England.

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and football for Fox Sports. He previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of „Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @leganlitman.

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Mary Fowler

Australia

FIFA Women’s World Cup

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