Another tournament is upon us, more time zones to figure out and early morning rises, with the odd skipping of a lecture to catch the whole match (I swear it’s only one lecture though guys and they’re recorded). It’s Tournament of Nations time and the Matildas have a title to defend! Gee it sounds so good to say we’ve got a title to defend.
Firstly to get the logistics of how to watch the games sorted for you. As with all Matildas games right now, Fox Sport have you covered (even if it’s with an American commentator, hello Fox Sport if you need an Aussie commentator give me a call yeah). BUT there is another way! At least there was one for the first match and here’s hoping it’ll continue for the rest of the week. The other way is through the MyFootball app. If you’re a Telstra mobile customer, you’re sorted, free football for you. If you’re not, find someone who is (hello Dad if you’re reading), or it’s $5 a week, with month deals to make it cheaper and I do believe a two week free trial. I’ve not tried the app but there was no “Optus Sports Twitter Meltdown” this morning, so I’m going to guess it works swell.
So today’s game. Brazil. With the frustration of the Asian Cup fresh in my mind, I decided to not go in with super high hopes. Yeah we could win this game, we’ve beat them in the last three encounters, but I wasn’t willing to hedge bets as we’ve not been a side super in form despite what results and a second place finish in the Asian Cup might tell you. I was still excited though because no matter what, watching the Brazilians play football is always a good thing, add on the fire and passion of the recent matches between the side and you’ve got yourself something worth waking up before the sun for.
To start with the team sheet, Steph Cately was recently ruled out of the Tournament, meaning Elise Kellond Knight is found back out at left back, placing Emily Van Egmond at holding midfield. Honestly I’m not normally an advocate of this happening, however the pair both put in solid displays, so there’s no point arguing this is how we will set up when Cately is out injured or filling in at centre back.
Our corners bring me solace. During a time in modern football where goals from open play can be hard to come by, as teams defend in blocks and are difficult to break down, set pieces are deadly. The Matildas are good at them. My early game nerves were settled after the first corner of the match taken by Kellond-Knight found the back of the net after Poliana’s defensive headed wound up being one that every forward wishes was in their repertoire. I was skeptical of Kellond-Knight’s earlier free kicks, which were ok but not quite on the money, but this corner put to bed any issues I was having. Thirty minutes later, we get a buffer of two goals, through another corner. This time Emily Van Egmond took it from the other side, and despite the Brazilian keeper making a mess of things and some luck, the ball was excellent. We know how to score off corners, even when the going is tough getting a goal from open play.
Talking about goals from open play, Sam Kerr’s was stellar. Kerr set up some neat chances for other players during the match, but it was her goal that made the real difference to this game. To put the game beyond reach, Kerr got the Matildas third, after a sweet ball from Tameka Butt put her in behind the defence, through on goal. Kerr simply smashed it into the net. The other magician for this game was no doubt Marta. Pure magic at times, and through sheer persistence set up Brazil’s lone goal for Poliana to bury.
Our defence was solid. No clean sheet but lots of positives. Our defence played confidently out of the back throughout the match, made some big challenges and played their line well, dropping when Brazil gained possession and pressing higher when the time was right. For me, from a tactical perspective, couldn’t ask anything more from our defence (even if I still think Carpenter was caught out a few times and isn’t ready to be our starting right back yet).
Professional fouls. Many would say they have a place in football, many would say it wrecks the game, it all depends on how you view it. Either way, the Matildas raked up the professional fouls at times today, especially when Brazil looked dangerous, about to counter. If this is a way we intend to play, and most teams will use it at some point, we definitely need to be smarter with them. Pulling a players shirt from behind right in front of the referee is going to be a yellow card every day of the week. Professional fouls are like diving, it’s an art, if we don’t figure out how to do it properly (preferably sparingly) in the right circumstances then we shouldn’t be attempting them at all.
Our game was solid, if not spectacular. There aren’t too many other point to bag out over. Some of the Brazilians are always going to be difficult to mark one v one with their footwork, we won’t always control play but we dealt with that as they came. We maybe could have seen the game out and not let Brazil put the gas on in the second half at stages, but Brazil inevitably will attack at points in the game. Our ability to score from open play is still a challenge, but with Sam Kerr we will get the goals necessary even if we don’t sort that out right away. There’s still time before the World Cup in France next year after all.
Finally, special mention here to the ref. The reffing was ace. It’s rare to mention the referee when they are doing a good job, and whilst she had quite the job on her hands today, Christine Unkel performed marvellously dealing with the fiery temperaments from both sides. Didn’t set a foot wrong, even without VAR.
Brazil 1 – 3 Australia
United States 4 – 2 Japan
USA v Australia – Monday 9am
Japan v Brazil