Cathy Freeman surprises Matildas before World Cup tilt

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Cathy Freeman has surprised the Matildas in camp to give some key advice on how to handle the pressure in their own bid to make history at the Women's World Cup.

Many players, including captain Sam Kerr and Indigenous stars Kyah Simon and Lydia Williams, have cited Australian athletics legend Freeman's incredible gold medal 400m run at the 2000 Sydney Olympics as a defining moment of their childhoods.

Last Wednesday, while preparing to play France in Melbourne, players entered what they thought was a tactics meeting with coach Tony Gustavsson -- only to be stunned when Freeman appeared in the room.

"We plodded all in there, sat down on our chairs and he mentioned that whilst these types of tournaments require a lot of tactics, it also requires a lot of belief and a lot of heart and so we were gonna take a little bit of a turn and do something a bit different'," veteran defender Aivi Luik told reporters on Tuesday.

"They played about a three-minute highlight reel on YouTube of the moment of Cathy Freeman's race and by the end of it, there was a lot of emotion going around in the room.

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"When they turned the lights on, we turned around and there she was.

"It was a huge surprise to us. A lot of girls were very emotional."

Players freely asked questions of Freeman in a meeting Luik likened to a chat with a friend.

"She's such a down-to-earth girl, she's amazing. I still can't believe that happened," the 38-year-old said.

'"Because a couple years ago we were going through some questions about who your sporting hero is and why -- and over half the team said that Cathy Freeman was their hero.

"The staff because of that tried to get her in and bless her heart, she came in.

"She doesn't do a lot of public speaking, but she did that for us."

Much like Freeman in 2000, the Matildas will feel the pressure, support and expectation of a nation behind them at the World Cup.

"(Freeman) talked about how she dealt with pressures because obviously she had the weight of the nation on her shoulders and she was just one -- and we're a whole team," Luik said.

"... We came away from that feeling a little bit of a weight off our shoulders and just completely inspired.

"My takeaway from what she told us was that we know who we are, we know why we do this, and whilst we want to perform and give results for others outside the circle, at the end of the day you believe in yourself and you do it for yourself.

"All athletes do what they do because they love the sport and so to not lose track of that, and that gives you the confidence to go out there and do your job."