Big breathe in… big breathe out. We’ve made it. We can take a seat, take a breath and know we will see at least one more game this World Cup with the Matildas in it. Because.. WE MADE IT OUT OF OUR GROUP TO THE ROUND OF 16!! Woooo. Always the intention to get out of the group, and now each game is just as it comes. No second chances. Cannot wait. It’s what we’ve been both hoping and waiting for. So excited.
But gee what a wild ride this group has been. In fact, this last game against Jamaica is just further proof of some of the really good and really bad of the Matildas general game. So let’s dig in and have a look around.
Heads up, I know 4-1 is supposedly a cruisy win, but maybe have something sweet with you whilst reading this because some of this will be bitter yeah.
I imagine etched onto a white board in the Matildas locker room are the words “GET THE BALL TO KERR’S HEAD”. Given it provided the majority of our goals today, not the most terrible plan. Did we look to be crossing in with intent most of the time? Probably not. But in the end the gamble of punting the ball high into the box paid out. Kerr was in fine form today, absolutely deadly in and around the mixer. That’s handy coming into the knockout phrases.
There are clearly some defensive issues to iron out, BUT credit where it’s due. The youngster did well. She was definitely tested down her flank. The performance she put in showed more experience than the reality of this being her first start for the Matildas. Using her body well, after a couple early challenges where she jumped in too quickly, she delayed play or forced the ball wide and out. Overall a solid performance to be proud of and a hopeful look into the future of this Matildas side.
Ok. Here’s my bitter and I’m going to put it out there before we meet Norway (pretty certain a lock in at this point), so we can get behind the Matildas 100% by that point.
The Matildas looked lethargic. I know, harsh given a 4-1 win. But hear me out. Too often there were turnovers in the middle of the park. Particularly by the second half. Van Egmond went missing for lengths of play. Gorry showed she was rusty after coming back from injury with the amount of passes going awry. While winning the second ball was a real struggle.
Ideas moving into attack?
Forget about it! Predictability became our middle name, where it would be one or two touch, not taking on a defender and trying to whip in a cross from deep. No one was isolating defenders and hitting the byline. Too often, aka 95% of the match, the midfield was found more stagnant than a swamp. The one time Raso took on a player lead to Kerr’s third goal.
Whilst the idea of getting the ball to Kerr’s head worked this time, if the midfield doesn’t find a way to be more creative, or our wingers start to take on a players like they can, it’ll be a hell of a lot harder breaking down defensively stronger sides.
There are issues here. Who’s our best centre back duo right now? I couldn’t honestly tell you. Catley got caught out a couple times, Polkinghorne got caught out against Italy and the form Kennedy was in for Sydney FC in the W-League is MIA. The organisation is probably worse and the true culprit to the lacking form of these players. Any decision to drop deeper to compensate for a player like Shaw wasn’t made early enough. Add on too often our defenders looked isolated against a Jamaica player one on one, where support from a fellow defender or someone from the midfield went by begging. Again, a better side will expose this. Someone needs to take the reigns of this defence and martial it, because it’s yet to happen this tournament.
‘Never say die’, that’s also Jamaica. They fought until the final whistle, nearly giving us a right scare in the second half. A super unfortunate tag they’ve now got is conceding a hat trick against each centre forward they’ve come up against. However that aside, this is an exciting side. That they got a goal was marvellous, outside of my feelings for the Matildas defence. It would’ve been a huge injustice for this attacking Jamaica side to go out without a goal. Shaw again was magic, but more so this was a side who did their homework. They knew the tracking from midfield for the Matildas was lacking and looked to expose that. The first half having Shaw deeper was a failed attempt, but the substitution and subsequent goal by Solaun shows they’re a clever, clever side.
We kick back, relax as other groups wind up. Figure out how we will put a stop to Norway’s direct play. And go on a deep, deep search for some steel to reinforce our defence.