Another win in the pocket, and qualification to the u16 Asian Championships. No matter how that happened, it’s a good day in the office.
Would one call this was a sterner test? Probably. A result where the Junior Matildas could only put one in the back of the net suggests so. Vietnam brought the elements of frustration we found from the previous tournament, however honed and consistent in them, with technique and discipline to match this next level. Part of it was absolute gold to watch. Another part was akin to watching paint dry.
THE LINE UP
Ok, so to start off with, the lineup on the stream and the reality of the line up, were odd-socks type of mismatched heaven. So dreams of having the actual lineup down in my notebook to refer to went out the window in the first minute. The reality of the line up, without knowing the actual names of players due to the quality of the stream and shirt names forever being too small, was one that should’ve been fruitful in attack. Comparative to Iran, the Matildas fullbacks were very high, where a foray to the front line was as often as I grab that taunting chocolate bar at the Woolies checkout. It happened a bit.
Despite the fullbacks pressing higher than a pre-teens squeaky voice can go, the defence didn’t look super vulnerable. Even when both fullbacks pressed forward, there was always a defensive midfielder shielding the defence deep. Vietnam were on the ball, whilst in defence their attacking midfielder was often on this player. When the Matildas were in possession, they struggled without having that option so freely as previous matches.
The Matildas centre forward for much of the game, particularly the first half, dropped very deep to find the ball. Vietnam played with three centre backs, leaving our centre forward with less space than a cat squeezing into a cardboard box. Whilst the wingers were there, they even created some good combinations at times, they were often left without options, seeing a sea of red in the box, when it was time to release the ball.
Winning the turnovers in the midfield. With Vietnam looking to play very direct, and feed the ball to the player waiting on the line of the Matildas defence, these turnovers were essential. Not only did it prevent Vietnam really gaining an advantage through a quick transition, but it also meant we saw a lot of possession. Being able to pin a team in their own half for any spell is good, to pin them in their own half for most of the game is quality.
Defence wins game. This game was a grinder. Whilst there were a couple moments at the end of the match where the Matildas goalkeeper went off her line and didn’t collect the ball, leading to peach opportunities for Vietnam to sneak in an equaliser, overall it was a good outing by the defence. Faced with a Vietnamese direct, aggressive, one-eyed approach in attack, the Matildas defenders were careful not to jump into the tackle and looked to delay, delay, delay to ensure there was plenty support around by the time the Vietnamese forward could gain any real opportunity.
Our patience. So often the Matildas were trying to force the issue and pull off a pass that was simply never on. Mere possession of the ball doesn’t equal gifted opportunities. Opportunities are created. Against a well disciplined defensive unit of Vietnam, those opportunities need hard work, perseverance and creativity out of your eyeballs to create and find the space to get a good chance in on goal. Unlike our previous outing against Iran, so often we forgot how to recycle the play. Add on some of the technical side of passes just not hitting their mark, and it was a frustrating night.
Vietnam clearly arrived with a game plan, to suffocate the Matildas centre forward of space, put bodies in and around the box and cut out the option to pass back to the defensive midfielder to recycle and create play. It worked. The Matildas didn’t know how to adjust for lengths of play. Adjustments at half time did help. However it was always going to be a difficult task against such a well disciplined outfit. Where before the Matildas have used the flanks and balls into the box from wide areas to drag out a defence and find opportunities, without a real dominating centre forward, as Beaumont has been so often, it was difficult until she was subbed in. Add on players simply not willing to flood the box as much as previously, due to playing a better opponent who could capitalise on that, goal scoring chances were skimmer than skim milk.
Oh the joys of technology hey. We’re truly blessed and lucky to be in a time where we can sit back in our living rooms in Tasmania and watch our under 16 national team play all the way over in Laos. Still, how frustrating that in a tight game the stream drops out for the only goal in the match. I was a mixture of chanting “all we are saying is give us a goal” and falling asleep (it’s been a long week and it’s only Tuesday ok), when suddenly my stream skipped ten minutes and the score said 1-0 to Australia. I thought it a lie, and merely someone had bumped the wrong button in a studio somewhere. But on the full time whistle, the heartfelt celebrations of the Kids and a check on Twitter, despite what the ground announcer said, Australia had indeed scored during the leap in time to seal the goal. I’ve no idea who scored it, nor how it occurred.
I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark though and say that the substitution to bring Beaumont onto the field, meant someone was FINALLY on the last player and could handle the heat of three centre backs, thus she was instrumental to the goal. I have no actual facts to back this up with, so please, whoever scored the goal, we all love you and I’m sure it was flaming stellar and drool worthy.
Oh I’ve just read it was Janos! A finish at the back post. Wonderful!
A late night beauty on Thursday night as the Junior Matildas take on the hosts, Laos. Kick off is 10.30pm.
Both photos taken by Jen Willmott