Ahhh Europe. With your football loving people. Also time differences. Whilst it could’ve been worse with a 3am start, I didn’t get in from soccer club presentation night until just after midnight, so coming off the back end of little over 3 hours sleep is still keeping the lack of sleep thing, well it’s keeping it a thing.
Anyway to the match!!
The Line Ups
Team line ups announced, and in my notes from the looks of who’s in there are two queries. Firstly Crummer in the backline, knew this was going to happen, happy even, but first start against quality opposition so one to keep a tab on. The next is having both Butt and Simon in the midfield. So essentially two attacking midfielders, against a side who act like a python, loving to play with the ball but also suffocating without it and always looking to go forward a mile if given an inch. Sometime I wish initial thoughts aren’t always on the money..
France meanwhile come out with 3 in the back, stacking 5 in the centre of the park (again remember, we’ve got two midfielders who love playing at the number 10 and only one who sits to shield the defence), and two up top. If you were wondering if that formation can be a winner, just watch this game with a notebook and take notes on deftly clever this is up against Australia’s 4-3-3. Kudo to the French coach, she totally outplayed us on the whiteboard from the start.
How It Stacked Up
France never really had to be too terribly worried about how going one on one defensively with the Matildas quick forwards, because the ball rarely made it that far until the dying stages of the match, or slightly earlier through Carpenter bombing down the right flank sparingly (though stunningly) in the second half. The five in the middle just killed it.
There wasn’t a moment’s hesitation from the French side, even when Henry got injured very early through a tackle deservedly a yellow by Crummer. Their a side who will always look comfortable with the ball because they live and breathe it. Today though it was just as much what they did without it. So well disciplined, hungry to turn it over and ensuring that first touch was positive, often a pass into the gap between the lines to the likes of Thiney or Le Sommer who often put through the dazzling Majri, in behind the defence. It just caused havoc honestly.
The first half saw Crummer start on the right, and it was a baptism of fire into the world of fullbacks. So often the defense got caught, dragged in where the ball was at, not noticing the orchestrated move was going on off the ball, in the background, with Majri 5 yards minimum ahead, still onside, miles of space and the ability to put in a threatening cross that is better than your mum’s home cooking is good. A neutral only needed a bucket of popcorn (or a cup of tea because it was 5.30am) and to sit back enjoy. A Matildas fan is scrambling to see what the costs of flights are to get the likes of Kennedy, Van Egmond and Gorry to Europe and whether it’s possible to get them there before the second half kick off.
Things settled in the second half. Don’t let the two goals conceded in the second fool you in thinking the first half was better. It wasn’t. Crummer shifted to the other flank and Carpenter was able to be just that bit more disciplined to shut down that mile of space Majri found to maybe half a mile the second half.
But oh boy. France could have had a riot if they’d taken all their chances. Some of the finishing on display will need to go down in the highlight reels of “how to miss an empty net”, so we got lucky. Trouble was, we just didn’t want that second ball. Once the touch to disrupt the French play happened, no one was there, hungry for the follow up, to pounce and gain the upper hand for the Matildas. Instead, we were up against a side hungry to impress their home fans, wanting every ball and honestly deserving every rebound and second chance they got. Even the first goal, a result of Arnold palming the cross just out of the mixer and Le Sommer smashing it home to the empty net, was a because we were sleeping and forgot the second ball is more important than seeing the first chance end. Majri did beautifully to create that opportunity and get the cross in to start that attack, but it was Frances hunger that decided it, seeing the ball go in for the first.
Whilst you could pick apart our defence, and at times we were poor, looking like the second choice composition defence it indeed is without Alanna Kennedy and Lydia Williams at the helm, it was the midfield we lost. Up against it, numerically our 3 against 5, was always going to be a big task. The early flag of having two attacking midfielders in Simon and Butt should have been ringing red. We just didn’t take control of it. During the Asian Cup I was questioning our ability to dominate the midfield against good opponents, and whether we really utilise our best assets. Well here, our midfield was more the missing link, that just wasn’t gonna happen. It went missing.
The way France play, with their quick combinations linking the midfield and central attacking players, then finding the space for a quick ball down the flank to Majri or Diani, means we need (read NEED) at least a box to box midfielder to support Kellond-Knight, if not two. What we had tonight wasn’t that, and we paid for it on both ends. France were able to easily dictate play, whilst shutting down the possibility of releasing the ball to any of the Matildas top three, forcing both Foord and Logarzo to come back deep. Even when we had 1-2 forwards back helping in defence, there was very little in making a quick transition happen and give the French defence anything to worry about.
The second goal for France was magic. It came right as the Matildas were getting a whiff of potential upfront late in the game. An arrant pass from the Matildas midfield (story of the match) saw Le Sommer gain the ball with plenty of space. Driving forward, towards the backline, Le Sommer did the super human. With pinpoint accuracy she found the far bottom corner of the net, low and hard from a distance. It was even better on the replay. If you’re going to put icing on the cake, that’s definitely one way to do it.
There was a glimpse of hope in the second. We got organised. Dealt with France’s movement better and moved the play out of our back third to a bit further up the park. Further, we actually got an opportunity going forward once a goal down. As mentioned, Carpenter proved our most attacking player until the 80th minute with her bombing runs down the flank. Further the addition of Fowler and Gielnik saw a quality combination, that actually poked fun at France having a back three. The pair combined right through the heart of the back three, and if it wasn’t for clever goalkeeping by Bouhaddi, Fowler could well have her first goal in green and gold, and pulled the score to one all.
We can’t play both Simon and Butt in a game we aren’t dominating with 65-70% of possession at least. It just doesn’t work.
The team who comes out the hungriest will be hard to beat, even if they’re having a shocker in front of goals, which France did at times.
Crummer at fullback. For me there are still question marks. Anyone against Majri today would’ve looked poor (and did). Further sitting on a yellow not even 10 minutes into the match is going to hold any defender back from a challenge. It’s possible with some practice and time (of which it would need to be a full W-League season in the position minimum), Crummer could be ok there. Her positional sense at times today was off, but strong in the tackle and pace, so not a complete write off yet. But we really don’t want any injuries to force Crummer to be there full time for the World Cup matches right now.
We’ve got England Wednesday morning Aussie time. It’s gonna be stella mate. Will be interesting to see how the Matildas stack up against another quality side.
Matildas v England
5am Wednesday 10th October