Matildas Euro-Tour Friendlies Preview

Final Matildas Euro

 

Friendlies don’t matter right?? That sounds like loser talk really hey. So in preparation for the the World Cup next year these look like must win friendlies with France and England. Even if it is simply a matter of an ego boost. Nah legit, these games will be rad and good to see how the Matildas fare against quality European sides. It’ll be an opportunity to meet these sides and an opportunity for us to get use to waking up early again for European time-zoned Matildas games.

So here’s what you need to know before the games.

(PS clearly I don’t know the French team as well as I do the Matildas or England (heck they are a side my half English side of me barracks against), so bare with me as we will grow together during the Euro friendlies to see how they’ve developed since Euro Championship 2017, the last time I really got to watch them)

 

1

Who?
The hosts of next years World Cup. They will be wanting to replicate what happened in the Euro championship last year in the Netherlands, which saw the host nation take out the ultimate gong.

Difficulties with host nations is being able to assess where they’re playing at without the riggers found in qualifiers that every other nation has to go through to get to the tournament. As such, France haven’t played a host of games really since March, their last truly competitive match being against England, where they were knocked out of the 2017 Euros in the quarter-finals. In that game they showed they are comfortable dictating play, probably should have found a few goals, but couldn’t as England buckled down defensively and took their lone opportunity of the match for the winner. The team has undergone a new coach and some personnel changes, notably my favourite French player Camille Abily retiring. They remain a side who look good with the ball at their feet, but disrupt their rhythm, don’t let them play their game and there’s a chance for an opponent to punish them.

Honestly, France for me is an anomaly. They’ve shown buckets of potential, have one of the strongest sides in the world domestically in Olympic Lyon, and whilst being the dark horses of recent tournaments, haven’t managed to live up to that potential.

Head to Head with Matildas
Cyprus Cup 2014 Aus 2 – 3 France
2014 feels like a long time, and whilst the core of the Matildas side is the same, but more experienced, France have seen some big names retire or run out of favour and form since 2014. Never underestimate France, they’ve got the player resources to fill in the gaps created by outgoing players. But this will be a very different game to that in Cyprus.

Key Players
Amandine Henry
Every good side needs that one player in the heart of the midfield, to win the ball and completely dictate the tempo of the game. The Matildas have KK, France have Henry. If Henry can see enough of the ball to really boss the game against the Matildas, it’ll be hell to play. But seeing the match up between Henry and either KK or EVE will be a delight, one to get the popcorn out I reckon.

Eugenie Le Sommer
Wanting to be dazzled by a silky centre forward? Look no further. Le Sommer is capable of pulling off the goods and creating something wonderful in attack off the back of very little. Capable of playing anywhere across the top of the line, she’s a threat from anywhere around the box. It’ll be a long night for the defence if Le Sommer turns up the heat, being more than capable of doing so.

Wendie Renard
Prior to the appointment of Diacre as coach after Euros 2017, Renard was the captain and heart beat of the French side. Since the coaching appointment, her starting spot isn’t always a given, and her chances of starting against the Matildas isn’t as high as it would have been 18 months ago. But I’ve put her name down purely because I think Renard is an absolute beast of a defender, and deadly off set pieces with her height. I’ve enjoyed watching Renard in the past and it’s just simply my wish to watch her some more as to why I’m naming her as a “Key Player”. So here’s hoping

 

2

Who?
Running red hot, as they’ve managed to slot themselves into a 3rd place ranking. Unlike France, England have been slogging away at the long, difficult process which is qualifying out of Europe. None the less, they’ve been successful in their campaign to qualify, and appear to have come out stronger now on the other end of a coaching transition if their result against a strong Wales has any sway.

Look, I’m gonna be honest. The Matildas playing against England for me personally is a whole raft of emotions. I’m clearly behind the Matildas, but having been indoctrinated since a young age to support England by my English father, I’m normally a wreck no matter the result. Still, a win against this current English side would make me a very, very happy Aussie.

This is an England side who are looking extraordinarily comfortable in front of goal in recent matches. So positive football should be on display, meaning the match is bound to be entertaining. I’ve not had the chance yet to watch a Phil Neville coached England side, so at the very least I’m intrigued to watch them first hand, rather than through the lovely (but occasionally biased, it’s ok cause I am too) tweets in my twitter feed.

Head to Head with Matildas
England 1 – 0 Matildas 2015 in a four nation tourney hosted in China
I remember watching this game on a dodgy stream on my laptop. England were freshly crowned with a bronze medal in the world cup and the Matildas were verging between finding themselves dictating play but still looking to rely on the counter against teams in the top 10. England found the goal, by memory the Matildas spent a LOT of time defending, but it was still a tight, anxiety-ridden game. Neither side have undergone the types of personnel changes as France, but both have evolved their games since 2015.

Key Players
Lucy Bronze
It takes a special player to get the world’s attention playing at full back, especially if it is for both attacking and defensive play. Bronze is this special type of player. With pace to burn and an engine, Bronze bombs up and down the pitch with more comfort than I do going to and from my fridge in a vein effort for snacks. The match up between Bronze at right back and Catley at left back (presuming Catley gets a nod in her preferred position), is going to be one to savour.

Fran Kirby
You can never bet against Kirby somehow finding the back of the net, she’s got a flaming good knack of doing so. Don’t be fooled by the English website naming her as a midfielder, Kirby is a forward with goals in the bag. Likely to be played just behind the forward, in Euro’s 2017 Kirby found a bucket of success playing just behind the centre forward, able to make runs in behind and generally cause havoc between the lines. Her pace will be a handful to manage, add on Kirby’s ability to have the ball on a string, there will either be some cracking chances or dirty tackles to bring her to a halt.

Jordan Nobbs
Someone who can pull the strings to any side she is in, Nobbs is a player to simply sit back, watch and enjoy whilst wondering if she’s got some other run down of the game going on because you’re pretty certain that ball should not have opened up the king of space it did. Her ball distribution and creativity is phenomenal, an absolute dream for anyone receiving them. Legit though, Nobbs is one of my favourite players to watch when in form. So just hope for the Matildas sake Nobbs is having an off day, or that KK reads from the same book as Nobbs to intercept those killer passes.

 

3
Who
Ok, in case you’re a noob, here goes. The Australians, AKA Matildas, are on the up. Lead by Sam Kerr’s golden boots, they’ve just been pipped at the post for the Asian Cup and the new trophy which is the Tournament of Nations this year. But other than that, we’ve had some pretty flaming good result, which see us sneak back into that bonza position of being ranked 6th in the world, which would see us seeded in next year’s World Cup (a super brilliant position to be in).

Playing these games in Europe and the seemingly, non-stop cycle that is NWSL/W-League, Stajic has kept a host of regulars out of the squad heading over for these matches. It’s similar to how Brazil and Japan continually bring less experienced sides to Tournament of Nations, to then fool you in a proper FIFA tournament when at full strength. Maybe this is just Staj doing some yoda mind tricks on the Europeans so they don’t know learn how to deal with a team that’s got Lydia Williams, Sam Kerr, Alanna Kennedy, Katrina Gorry and Emily Van Egmond? Or maybe those key players are just having a rest. Still, the side going over to Europe is strong. And for pure entertainment value, I’m looking forward to both how Staj messes around with the line up, and how the poor guy at fox sport who does the team formation graphics is sure to stuff it up once again.

Head to Head
Look, obviously I can’t scrape up any “head to heads” with ourselves… but I’m going to add here on how the Matildas will be approaching this game. The positive play of the Matildas, plus their ability to grind out a result and defend when their backs are against the wall, are things we love about this side. If we want to really show the world we’re contenders for the World Cup, then we need to turn up here and play our type of football, with quick transitions, creating a good tempo and committed defence from the front to the back. Neither France or England will sit in their box and wait for the Matildas to play, like some teams in the Asian Cup did. So this will be the perfect opportunity to work on the quick transitions, and sort out our defensive organisation that will be key to making it past the first knock out phrase of the World Cup.

Key Players
Larissa Crummer
I know, I know. We’ve got “bigger” names, and Crummer isn’t exactly going to be a shoe in depending on Stajic’s plans. BUT. I think there is potential to playing Crummer either at right back or centre back. With Kennedy not in the squad, there’s a vacancy in centre back. We’ve really not got a lot of depth there right now, as our answer in the past has been pushing Catley across to the centre and pulling Kellond-Knight out of the midfield into defence. That solution isn’t idea, so IF Crummer can pull it out along the back line, then this could be good. Very, very good. Why not test her out against some of the best national sides out?

Chloe Logarzo
Has to be the first name on the team sheet. Just purely for work rate and the spirit the Matildas are all about. Logarzo has firmly cemented her spot in the squad, with a strong Asian Cup to prove it. Doesn’t matter whether Logarzo has the ball or not, either way she will be working hard to do something positive for the side. Having not had the international exposure at club level as some other Matildas, Logarzo will be a bit of an unknown to France and England. But legit, I’m hoping Logarzo can bag a few goals here, the work rate and talent is there, so why not see her get a few.

Elise Kellond-Knight
Look, I tried hard to pick someone else. I really did. But I just can never pass up clever midfielders. And if France have theirs in Henry, and England have theirs in Nobbs, Australia have theirs in KK. Extremely clever, with simple passes that just keep the game ticking, plus the ability to play a quick ball to release the forwards on the attack. KK provides the anchor to the Matildas side. A good defensive midfielder is often overlooked, but having a player shielding the defence as well as KK with her ability to read the game is a godsend. Also, KK’s ability to rip in a quality corner or free kick with her left boot is top notch.

 

Matches

Matildas v France – Saturday 6th October, 5am*

Matildas v England – Wednesday 10th October, 5am*

*double check what time these games are on through your tv guide, as daylight saving changes things for us. ALSO both games are available through SBS and FoxSports

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