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Matildas’ World Cup finals bid reaches fever pitch in Hunter

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Organisers are anticipating Wheeler Place and the Maitland Regional Sportsground will be awash with “green and gold” again on Wednesday night.

The two “live” sites have proven a massive drawcard for local Matildas fans as the national squad continues its fairytale run in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

And, following the Aussies’ heart-stopping penalty shootout victory over France at the weekend, it’s expected more people will descend upon the Hunter venues on 16 August to witness the side’s semi-final clash with reigning European champions England at Stadium Australia.

A Matildas’ triumph over their long-time foes would elevate them into the decider, for the first time, against Spain on Sunday 20 August.

But, a loss will pit the Tony Gustavsson-coached outfit into a 3rd v 4th battle with Sweden.

While most hotels, pubs and clubs throughout the region are preparing to host huge numbers, the main family-friendly spots to watch the Tillies – and Hunter products Emily van Egmond and Clare Wheeler – in action are Wheeler Place and the Maitland Regional Sportsground.

The Newcastle CBD locale features pre-game insights from ex-Matildas and entertainment from special guests Nick, Jess and Ducko from HitFM from 7pm.

Meanwhile, at Maitland, council will set up a big screen, with a free community barbecue available.

Gates open at 7.30pm.

Entry to both locations is free.

Matildas goalkeeper and quarter-final hero Mackenzie Arnold admitted the girls were overwhelmed by the support throughout the country.

“They have really grown with us throughout the whole tournament,” the player of the match said.

“From the first game, it has grown and grown.

“Even outside the stadium, seeing the support we’ve had all over the nation has been unreal.

“They have been like the 12th man player for us.

“The legacy we wanted to leave throughout this World Cup to inspire a generation, we have done more than that.

“In fact, we’ve done more than what we thought we would accomplish.

“However, we are not done yet but to see the reaction we have received from the whole country.

“This is only the beginning and there is a lot more to come.”

The semi-final kicks off at 8pm.

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