CUPPA NATIONS: MATILDAS V ARGENTINA

 

CUPPA NATIONS (3).pngWe’ve got the cuppa. I’m not quite sure what that looks like because my stream cut out the moment the full time whistle was heard, making the switch to men’s football. No they aren’t forgiven merely because it’s Sydney FC, there are other channels. Maybe have soccer on two of them when there was always going to be a medal ceremony after this one?

Anyway, what a match hey? And by what a match, I mean gee, it was as messy as me eating baked beans on toast. Lucky the Matildas had their tea towel on, tucked into their collar, covering up the mess like I normally do thanks to some handy corners and a penalty. All trumps to Argentina, they didn’t care about raining on Australia’s parade. They merely got things clicking better than they have all tournament, bit like how a curry is better the longer it’s been in the fridge (until it gets to THAT point at least).

 

THE LINE UP

This is where I tell you in case you’ve not been around for long, this was not our strongest line up. It wasn’t our weakest, but it wasn’t our strongest. Granted, in context, against Argentina, where one hand is already on the Cup, this presented a great opportunity for Ante to eyeball a couple of players. Here’s how each department faired. PS Ante, if you could bring in another centre back, that would be great hey.

 

DEFENCE
The first thing I look for these days when a Matildas squad is dropped is who are our defenders. It’s been a worrying, anxiety inducing situation going on for a while now. Our depth is not deep on paper. It showed today.

That feared was lived today. Alleway picked up a knock and had to be subbed off. Polkinghorne did not come off the bench, our only other out and out centre back, rather Simon came in at left back with Catley shifting across to take the centre. Simply speaking, this is far from ideal. This W-League season there were performances by players in this position worthy of a spot on this squad. The depth is there in theory, we just need to name them to the squad. Removing Catley from left back removes the opportunities she creates down that flank in attack. Tonight we desperately needed that other option with a higher fullback. It wasn’t going to come from the other side (we’ll get to that).

Allen receiving some game time was lovely. However, this performance wasn’t one to write home about. The first half we continued to be exposed down her flank. Whether she got caught on the ball, caught out with pace or not positioned correctly, Allen had a tough day at the office and didn’t do herself favours in sealing a seat on a plane headed for France. The second half was tighter. Rather than pushing up the field to assist in attacks, Allen sat in line with her centre backs a lot more often. Again our options going forward were limited with the fullbacks, but at least we looked ever so slightly stronger there.

Overall? Overall it was a bit of a mess. Having such a high line is like playing hide and seek with a spider in the shower, largely you’re safe because they’re more afraid of you. But ultimately it could come to bite you on the bum. The matchup between Kennedy and Jaimes was to drool at, both up for the contest to pull the wool over the others eyes. Will we see some changes for the next outing against America? I’m hoping so.

 

MIDFIELD
This was an untested midfield if I’ve ever come across one for the Matildas. From consistently having at least two of KK, Gorry, Butt or Van Egmond in the midfield to only KK was a shock to the system. The shock wasn’t the good type to really liven up our side though. Early signs, with some good pressing, were there. However they disappeared once Argentina got their foot in the door. Sure there were some master strokes by Chidiac and Harrison, but we didn’t win the game here. Too many cheap turnovers and not shutting down the ball well enough when Argentina transitioned, all showed a complete lack of experience at this level. And let’s be frank here, how many starts have either of these two players received. Combined it would be lucky to be half of the other four players who consistently play here.

Kellond-Knight was there. Did she do enough? The first half was shaky. Between her, Chidiac and Harrison, the midfield were at odds with how to deal with the quick play of the Argentines, let alone Banini’s best dancing shoes turning up to play. Moved further up the park after half time, Luik coming in for Harrison, KK chugged through a bit better, creating some nifty bits of play through the centre. Luik is a tidy player and managed to pull things a bit more together for the second half. However by this point, the wind was in Argentina’s sails and they knew the Matildas were on the ropes, despite the score line.

Last match I said Butt was the first name on my team list. This match confirms it. There needs to be experience in here and shaking up the midfield with two very fresh players is an experience we don’t need to see again this close to the World Cup. The other side of the World Cup, in the lead up to Olympic qualifiers? Do it. Go for gold.

 

ATTACK
A tough night in the office. For the first time this tournament, the Argentine defence looked to be communicating together and on the ball. After the early wake up call of Kerr’s goal, Cometti went on to have an excellent game marking Kerr out of it. Like the other sides in this tournament, the Matildas found goals due to Argentina’s lack of defensive concentration, rather than actually outclassing them to the extent the score line suggests. Two goals from a corner and the third a penalty, it’s the type of match were relief comes from the ball being in the back of the net, not the pleasure of how it got there.

One question is whether our front line can vary it up and learn how to be more creative. We’ve got players who are creative and can get up to some good mischief in and around the box, however they didn’t demonstrate it tonight. With the match often feeling stretched, going forward, there still weren’t the opportunities created in wider spaces or exposing Argentina with a lightning quick transition. When we looked to the quick transition there was too often a wayward pass or fumble on the ball thwarting them in their tracks. Or they were offside. So many offsides.

Goalkeeper substitutions at half time don’t normally pay off, however it was a masterstroke by Argentina here. The Matildas created a couple decent efforts on goal, but Garton pulled out some stellar saves for her second half performance. The only step wrong was diving the opposite way for the penalty.

Best bit of tonight? Foords goal celebration revealing a shirt that said “we love you COOPS”. This was class. If the only reason we got that penalty was for Foord to have the opportunity to reveal that shirt, it was worth it to show support for a player who’s just lost their father. So thank you.

 

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