It’s nearly upon us. I can hear the cups chiming. We’ve got a variety of sides to kick back and watch, including our very own. It’s the mini World Cup, but in a much better time zone. I’m flipping excited. So here’s a quick guide of what you need to know about the sides.
Oh yeah, I’ve found out doing whilst writing this, I love all the captains. They’re the true heroes here.
Their creativity. Argentina are blessed with the likes of Banini in their side. Playing as an attacking midfielder or false nine, she is a player to keep an eye on. Add on the side is built around giving Banini as much freedom as she likes, it’s her ball game and we can just sit back with some popcorn and enjoy. The midfield adjusts to this by having what looks to be two shielding midfielders protecting the centre of the park.
Defensive lapses. The reason Argentina had to play Panama to qualify for the World Cup is due to these defensive lapses. Throughout their qualifying campaign, at key moments, their defence looked messy, leaving opposition players open in and around the box. This is easily an area they will be looking at tightening up here, but will they be able to?
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cometti – If you love some last ditch challenges, all brilliantly timed and won, Cometti is the player for you. Holding the fort at centre back for Argentina, Cometti is that player who looks like they’re absolutely everywhere across the back line. Any player looking to beat her 1v1 is going to need to bring their A game.
Banini – Complete magic. A very, very special player. Banini is very likely to be given the freedom to work wherever she wants across the park, expect her to drop deep into the midfield searching for the ball. However, at her most lethal is between the lines, ball at feet and looking to feed through a player or carry the ball into the box. A player who is going to be difficult for any side to contain.
Defence and experience. Looking at a backline capable of including Riley, Stott, Erceg and Bowen, with Nayler in goals is like looking at a defensive brick wall. Add on Riley and Stott’s ability to carry the ball out of defence, providing us with defender runs for days, and this is an experienced, quality defence. This is a side consistently in major tournaments. Watch them hold teams at bay with ease and frustrate their opposition.
Qualification. The level of opponent they’ve encountered on the way to the World Cup doesn’t really aid in their preparation, nor does it allow us to properly gage where they’re truly at as a team. A bonus of their qualification is they’ve had scoring practice. However, how they will cope against a better set of opponents? Time will tell. Their busy game schedule between now and the World Cup though is going to be essential in their preparation to ensure they’re up to scratch against that next level of opponent.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Stott – Rock solid centre back, who has a flare for defender runs. Who wouldn’t want Stott playing for them? A super clever player, has buckets of experience and will form a formidable partnership with whoever winds up next to her. Add on she’s good in the air and loves to dribble, a dream centre back.
Riley – Can play anywhere on the flank. Is strong in defence and adds flare in attack by whipping in a brilliant cross. Expect whichever flank Riley is on to be the one New Zealand really look to capitalise on. Not only will she lead the side well from the flank, but her work rate means she’ll still be bombing up and down the flank well into the dying stages of the match.
Technically. They’re a side who can work the combinations, have the ball in tight spaces and show no signs of claustrophobia. Often deciding to work the ball out from the back, most of their play will be on the ground and reminiscent of ping pong with how quickly they’ll be playing the ball around. Not afraid to move their fullbacks higher up to ensure there is always an option for the player with the ball. They’re going to be hard to shut down, because they could probably find an option once the first eleven are out the window. Expect something magic.
Next level. Are Korea able to reach the next level that will see them compete and really cause damage to top ten nations. They’re able to get routine wins against sides they’re expected to win against. However against sides that step above them right now hasn’t been an easy shift. They’re looking capable of finding the back of the net on recent form, something they struggled with during the Asian Cup, remaining goalless against Japan and Australia. However, can they turn it on for a full ninety minutes against world class competition and pull out more than a goalless draw? That will be the decider for them here.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ji – Think of creative midfielders that make you both drool and gasp at the same time, think of Ji. Able to create something out of nothing, can take a shot that’ll knock your socks off outside the box and an absolute delight on the ball. Completely no doubt that if Ji is pinging, Korea will have the creativity and ability to score some eye catching goals.
Cho – A player who is super versatile, add on technically brilliant and a strong defender, you’ve got a player you really want on your side. Cho is able to influence the game from wherever she is on the park. If played at centre midfield will provide a lot of balance and ensure that the defence is well protected. Still will be pivotal if played at fullback, due to the way Korea play, Cho will still have plenty of the ball and will continue to conduct a lot of play from that position too.
Our front line. No doubt do the Matildas have a front line defences will baulk at. You’ve got a Sam Kerr who has pulled out a flipping celebration in two out of her last three games, Foord who is slowly getting onto the celebration train after bagging a bunch of goals towards the back end of the season, combined with either Raso or Gielnik, both in fine, fine form, suddenly that’s a truly world class front line. Any defence looking to shut out one forward, will only have a different, unmarked forward dancing their way past en route to goal. Let them dance I say.
New coach. New territory for the side, as they look to settle in super fast under a new regime. How will they adjust to this? With a World Cup literally knocking on the door right now, these games are going to be vital to ensure everyone is comfortable with any new ideas the new coach will be bringing in before the big dance. I’d like to also say a lack of centre back depth in the squad is of concern too. But you know, new coach, first game jitters. Totally hoping it’s a winner and a match made in heaven between Milic and the Matildas. (Their names both start with M’s, so obviously they’re already well matched).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kellond-Knight – A question of where she is going to be played under the new coach. Not getting too many opportunities to shine at defensive midfield recently for the Matildas, a punter has to hope now is her time to shine bright like a diamond in the rough position that is holding midfield. Able to control play, shield the defence and most importantly allow a really good, viable and safe passing option when the defenders are looking to play out from the back. It would be unreal if Kellond-Knight can return home into the midfield.
Kerr – Purely has to be. Playing on another planet right now, there is no doubt Kerr is a player to watch in this tournament. She can create something out of nothing. Kerr is comfortable in a side who play the long ball, quick on the transition and equally content with creating opportunities when there is a slower, patient build up around the top third. Purely give Kerr the ball at her feet, a whiff of potential and she’ll hit sixth gear before you’ve got time to grab your pre-match meal from the counter. Pure class and quality.