12 months ago, it all came together.

There is so much experience we can draw on from our 2017 Tournament of Nations championship-winning series.

It wasn’t just winning the Tournament of Nations that we took back to Australia; it was also the collective belief, that we all knew we were capable of matching it against any team in the world.

Lydia Williams takes a selfie with the Matilda fans.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 16: Lydia Williams of Australia takes selfies with fans after Australia defeate Brazil 2-1 during the women’s international match between the Australian Matildas and Brazil at Pepper Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)

It really gave us a quiet confidence that as long as we go out there, and believe in each other and believe that we can win the game. Any game. Which I don’t think we’ve had that before.

It was like a weight off our shoulders when we beat the United States; getting that win, it was more relief than elation, if I am being 100% honest.

As a team, we knew what we had just achieved. We were truly the underdogs and it really shocked a lot of teams and the fans and the people and now we actually have to defend our title, which again is a position we haven’t been in before.

Rarely have we ever played in a series, tournament or World Cup where we’ve been the “hunted”. So we head into this week’s Tournament of Nations thinking, “okay, we’ve actually got a target on our back”.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 06: Lydia Williams #1 of Australia with the ball against Germany in the Women’s First Round Group F match at Arena Corinthians on August 6, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

Funnily enough though, it doesn’t actually feel like that.

There hasn’t been a lot of hype for us over here in the US, which has been kind of nice, so we’re not getting a lot of pressure as we would if the Tournament of Nations were in Australia.

So we’re still approaching our campaign with that underdog-mentality, which our country is famous for, as we look to defend our title.

I think the good thing that we’ve had is that we’ve recently gone through the Asian Cup, and while we feel agonisingly short to Japan in the final, I still feel that as a team we took another giant step forward in our development.

And unlike Brazil and the US, they haven’t gone through their qualifications, or had a recent tournaments that they’ve had to compete in recently.

So I think that actually puts us at a bit of a good spot; whilst we haven’t had any time together after Jordan, we’ve kind of gone through the hardest part and qualified for next year’s World Cup, while also experiencing the emotional up and downs of high-stakes football.

And as mentioned, we do have confidence in one another; this group has come so far in the last 12 months. It’s exciting to be together again.

After Jordan, we all went our separate ways. Some of us headed to America for the NWSL duties, while others travelled to Europe and other parts of Asia.

We’ve spent some time apart, but we’ve all be keeping tabs on one another. Excitingly, everyone has been performing really well at their own respective clubs.

Personally, I’m feeling really strong heading into the tournament. Slightly anxious, but tons more excitement, while all my focus is locked in on the task at hand.

Lydia Williams

I’ve been playing for Seattle Reign for the last four months now, but I’m excited to being putting my favourite jersey on.

It’s not secret I love playing for Australia, and with the girls around me.

Last year, I wasn’t getting much game time as I recovered from a long-term knee injury, whereas this year is a completely different challenge.

I’ve been managing my loads and playing regular football; so keeping that consistency is of greater importance, to ensure I can perform to the best of my ability, and be the goalkeeper Australia needs.