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The Illawarra football nursery is on show to the world with Shellharbour product Caitlin Foord lighting up the FIFA Women’s World Cup with a player-of-the-match performance for the Matildas against Denmark.

The Arsenal star scored a stunning breakaway goal to open the scoring against the Danes in the Round of 16 clash with her tenacious runs throughout the match assisting Australia to a 2-0 victory.

It was Foord’s 108th cap and 30th goal for the Matildas in an international career spanning back to 2011 when she scored on her debut against New Zealand as a 16-year-old.

Foord, now 28, will be a vital figure for the Matildas on Saturday afternoon against France in the World Cup quarter-final with fans eagerly anticipating her linking up with superstar Matildas captain Sam Kerr who is poised to make her starting return from a calf injury.

The flying winger kicked off her career in humble surroundings, playing for Warilla and Albion Park in the Football South Coast junior competitions.

Foord would spend a couple of seasons with the Illawarra Stingrays before time with the Sutherland Sharks and the NSW Institute of Sport.

These clubs triggered Foord’s professional career where she has shone in the W-League (now A-League Womens), Japan, USA and England.

Foord is inspiring girls across Australia and her exploits are driving the new generation of Illawarra talents with the likes of teenagers Sienna Saveska (Port Kembla junior) and the Dos Santos sisters, Jynaya and Indiana (Shellharbour juniors) already being recognised in the ALW and in the Young Matildas mix.

FSC CEO Ann-Marie Balliana said the association is proud to have contributed to Foord’s epic journey.

“We’re all so proud of Caitlin,” Balliana said

“Grassroots football is so important because it’s where players like Caitlin fall in love with the game and our local clubs and association should all feel a sense of pride being a small part of that journey”.

South Coast Flame board director and former FNSW Coever Academy coach Glenn Fontana was one of the first people to spot Foord’s potential.

Glenn Fontana speaking to WIN Television’s Melissa Russell. Picture: WIN Television

“Caitlin came into the FNSW Coever Academy as a scrawny 11-year-old,” Fontana recalled.

“She showed exceptional talent which was quickly identified and she was soon promoted to the elite program where she trained with the older boys.

“She continued to impress and was recommended at that time to former Matildas coach, but then FNSW Institue coach Alen Stajcic.”

Fontana said speed and control were two of Foord’s greatest attributes coming through the ranks with the same skills proving pivotal for the Matildas.

“Caitlin always had pace and she started to master her ball skills whilst in the program,” he said.

“She was lethal running with the ball and we saw that in her goal against Denmark the other night.

“She was a pleasure to coach. A very coachable kid that was always looking to learn and was a good listener. I guess this is the difference when it comes down to it on who continues to progress their football careers.”

The Matildas’ match against France kicks off in Brisbane at 5pm.

Feature by Dylan Arvela, on Twitter @dylanarvela

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