Mate. The Matildas lost in a stunning score-your-heart-out match against the world number one, the USA. It’s a bit of an easier blow if I place world number one in front of the USA. Honestly I should be more upset with the loss. I mean, we came from a goal behind to be ahead in the second half. Time to set up shop and park the bus right? Nope. Then it looked like we could claw a draw out of the match in the dying minutes. The USA got that flaming goal that was coming instead.
Within all this, I found out I’m a pacer. For years I’ve watched my dad during an important European Championship standing up with hands on head, starting to pace the living room come the final moments of a match. Turns out I’m the same. From the time the score line was 4-3, I just had to stand up because there was no way I could sit still with everything going on. The World Cup is going to be fun. I’m now thinking I’ll have to reorientate my TV too.
There’s a lot to say about this match, but I’m probably not going to say it all here, you’ll have to shout me a cider and have a ramble with me. Instead this is going to be short and sweet, with the long and the short of it.
THE LONG OF IT: TACTICAL DIVERSITY
Since the last World Cup, I’ve been demanding for something more than a 4-3-3. And no it’s not just because it’s my least favourite formation. Up against France last year, our lack of tactical flexibility and knowledge was laid on a platter and served to the French with a bottle of Champas.
Enter Milicic. Yeah we were very much a 4-3-3 in the Cup of Nations. Rightly so, they were on our ground and games we should be dictating play in. When we want to dictate play, go with the most attacking system that everyone is comfortable.
For the USA, FINALLY WE MIXED IT UP. My prayers answered. We had a pivot two defensive midfield happening. Foord in at a false nine or attacking midfield type thing and our wingers dropping in defence and hitting the lines in attack.
On paper, this was the best move. It’s also a tactic that the Matildas ought to get comfortable with ahead of some of the big clashes of the World Cup if we make it deep into the competition like we all hope.
Having a two pivot defensive midfield to protect the defence, when those two players are on their game, is the best way to stop the opponent from linking their midfield and forwards, while providing a springboard to release the wide players forward or provide the more attacking midfielder with utter freedom to move forward.
However, today was not a day our defensive midfielders will remember for the right reasons. They were poor. Was it because they weren’t use to their new role? Was it because they were too flat footed? I’m unsure, maybe both or something else entirely. The set up was begging for massive games from Van Egmond and Kellond-Knight. However for the first time ever, I was actually happy when KK was subbed off.
The silver lining? We’ve played against the best with a new formation. Next time out, we will be more comfortable with it.
Just as good? In the presser, Milicic talked about this tactical diversity, the Matildas lack of it and wanting to improve on it. I can’t wait to see the Matildas shine with a bit more tactical nouse and prove more of a wild card to teams than the ever predictable 4-3-3 of past managers.
THE SHORT OF IT: CARPENTER, SHORT GOAL KICKS AND DEFENCE
I’m rolling my eyes at this, but Carpenter was player of the match. I can’t argue with that. She was sharp, dealt with Rapinoe well enough all night and was consistently looking deadly with overlapping runs. I didn’t see her set a foot wrong. Experience finally showed up and whilst I’ll still argue Carpenter isn’t a right back, she showed her quality and that one day she will be the world’s best. So I’ll drink to that.
New laws shouldn’t always be followed. Having a law degree I can throw the theory of laws being much more a cultural line of what’s right and wrong. Here, it should apply to the new short goal kick rule. Not clearing the box with a goal kick, is woeful. It shouldn’t be followed, thus shouldn’t turn into a real law that society accepts as a whole. The few the Matildas did? I wanted to vomit from anxiety of the US press. Mate, don’t do that to your fans please.
Our defence? We had players step up, but we were lacking. Whilst blame can’t be pinpointed completely, the Matildas really really need Catley in the starting XI. No question, no arguments, our defence relies on her ability to deal with tricky wingers. Add on, our depth is still worse than an under sevens team full of centre forwards. I won’t rant too much on this, however there is a versatile centre back sitting in Adelaide with a new Cup who should be at least sitting on a bench in the US. As it was? Our options to change it up in defence? Or heck even bring some sort of relief, with Alleway and Catley injured? It was a young centre back who wasn’t even in the best handful in the W-League centre backs (sorry for the brute honesty here), with no caps and likely out of her depth against a forward line consisting of Rapinoe, Morgan and Heath.
Defences win championships. Yup. I’m that person.