The Miracle of Montpellier. What an absolute roller coaster football is. It was a game where even my non-football loving mum messaged me afterwards, having seen the news, saying it “looked like an absolute corker”. Something a bit special. It’s the type of match that is unforgettable.
What a comeback.
When the Matildas fell two goals behind, despite playing some of their best football in a LONG time, a feeling of devastation was only kept at bay because of one thing. A whisper of “never say die”. Knowing the game isn’t over until the fat lady sings, was all that kept the far, far, far off dream alive on the half hour mark.
But when the Matildas found some luck of the green, and a helping hand from the local VAR team, what a bonza! The stuff of dreams.
So, honestly this is a game to watch, and watch again if you haven’t. So let’s not do a blow by blow here. Instead here’s a break down across the park of how things looked.
With Polkinghorne out, I’ll admit, it was slightly panic stations. But boy, despite my better judgement, having KK in the back was what we needed. The left side was our strong side. KK moved the ball forward well, and got the best out players around her. I was starkly reminded why she’s my favourite player for the Matildas, no matter where on the park she goes. Catley was equally strong at centre back. Our goals? Both these players made minor mistakes to lead to them. Frustrating? Yes. End of the world? Glad it wasn’t.
Our right side was messy in defence today. After shouting the praises of Carpenter against Italy, I’m now back seated in my chair. Carpenter looked exposed defensively, with Brazil’s game plan clearly to continue flying down her flank. It looks like Raso is slightly more defensive than Gielnik, so maybe that switch didn’t help her as much. But still, the young fullback couldn’t move forward often enough because she kept getting blazed defensively.
What we need to learn in defence? To flaming jockey. So often in our challenges across the park, players were jumping in. Particularly in trying to stop counter attacks, we just kept jumping in. What we need? To jockey a little and delay the play. More of that needs to happen if we progress deeper into this competition.
An absolute masterstroke having Logarzo back in the midfield. Logarzo showed the reason why she’s been the heart and soul of this side, in a performance where she was the engine room in midfield. Gosh. It was spectacular. The Matildas actually found some grunt in the midfield, and I’m so flaming proud.
Equally as good? This was probably the best performance Van Egmond has had both as a number six and in a long time for the Matildas. She was that step deeper than against Italy. But more importantly, her passes were generally in good areas and reaching players. The link up play with KK down the left was particularly pleasing, with simple pass on simple pass. Could our passing generally have improved in midfield? Yeah. But was it better and progress? Yes.
Between the three midfielders it was a good day in the office, despite what some commentators might say. We were actually winning the ball, a totally different reality than the against Italy. One area we could improve on? Playing the ball more centrally to build an attack. We seem to have an aversion to it. With a player like Yallop who can link up with Kerr through the guts of the park, it’s something we should add to our belt. Having said that, Brazil had more numbers in the middle of the park than the line up at Maccas drive through on a Friday night. So it was definitely congested there.
Moving Foord further up the park, and seeing Gielnik on meant we were pinging on both sides of the field. Foord was more involved in the game on the wing in the first 20 minutes than the entirety of her spell at midfield for either Italy or the Netherlands. While Gielnik reminded us how good she is. Her ability to pick out certain runs, create space and run at players with the ball is something to behold. Switching to put Raso on shows the depth we have in this area.
Centrally. Of course there is Kerr. She’s yet to find the absolute pinging form to set this tournament alight yet, but there were moments of good play when she wasn’t trying to milk a penalty. Seeing Kerr switch with Foord, and out wide was good areas, that changed the composition of our attack. The switch is probably the most dangerous while we continue to play through the flanks.
However, if the ball could get to Kerr’s feet, with the forward in front of the defence, facing goal, that is when we will see some of the best from Kerr. Otherwise she’s just chasing wild crosses with her head in the same way I chase the free food at work. Aimlessly, with some lucky moments.
In my preview I said beating Brazil meant we could beat the best. Getting a win here, in the manner the Matildas did, shows they’re world beaters. How good. Bring on the rest of the World Cup now.
I really want to add this bit extra too, because this was the changing point for me. It was the moment where I didn’t mind what the score was going to be. It was barely 15 minutes into the game. A niggly challenge on Van Egmond saw the ball go out of play near the coaches technical area. Ante Milicic, who I was still cursing out for his starting XI, was at the edge of the area and asked EVE “are you ok”.
That one question from our head coach, “are you ok” means the same to me as this wild, wild win. During press conferences, talking about Polkinghorne and other injured players, Milicic has said continually “we owe a duty of care to these players”. Hearing what he said from the sidelines, in the heat of the match makes me believe Milicic will look after these players before anything else. Including putting out his strongest starting lineup. That for me is more important and special.
Player safety must be prioritised. To have a coach who yells out “are you ok”, early in the match to check in with players? I’ll put down my pitchfork I was holding up at 2am because of that.