We’re in the knockout stage, where literally anything goes. People are saying “woof, that’s a strong side of the draw”, forgetting we actually want to beat the best in the WORLD en route to getting our grubby hands on the big prize. But my ultimate philosophy through this? Match by match. Exactly how the Matildas have been saying it in every flaming presser since they’ve been in France.
So this match hey? Norway were also runners up in their group, just being pipped to the post by France. They’ve pulled out some really good looking football, but there’s also some area to expose them. So let’s talk about Norway
NORWAY THREE THINGS
STRENGTH THROUGH THE MIDDLE
Both on paper and in reality, Norway’s strength is through the guts of the field. This is where their ball winners and creative players are. The direct style the side implements relies on this strength through the heart of the field. If Norway are going to dictate the game, it’ll be by the way they use the middle of the park that’ll be their match winner. Able to close down the space there, then open up to create something in attack.
Norway know how to play their 4-4-2 formation with the same confidence I have in knowing how to cook a decent bowl of pasta, it’s seriously second nature by this point. It’s unlikely they will be pulled out of formation. However they may be dragged to create space between the lines if the match winds up being open. In all likelihood though, if they’re feeling the heat they will shut down the area in and around the middle of the penalty box faster than I get out of work after the news is over. In this instance, there might be snippets of space at the top of the area to utilise. So keep an eye out for that.
EXPOSE CHEAP TURNOVERS
A certain type of grittiness can be found in this Norway side. They’re unafraid to challenge for those second balls and make something off that. This is where Norway look to expose their opponent on the back foot. Winning the second ball and having a one direction motive of moving forward, equals some frighteningly quick counter attacks.
HOW THE MATILDAS STACK UP
For any chance in this match, the Matildas are going to need their ball winners on the park. Why? Because Norway will look to expose the guts and that space between defence and attack on the transition. At defensive midfield is exactly where we need our ball winner.
Do we need a passer there? Of course that would be handy. But ultimately we need that player who will cut down play faster than I grab free food when offered. Without this, our already shaky defence will be stuck on whether to shut down said midfielder carrying the ball into attack, or the other two forwards sitting narrowly until the ball is played. It’ll be chaos and a mess. For the sake of our defence, the Matildas need to play a ball winner deep in the midfield, whether that is Kellond-Knight or Luik. No mids with the inclination to pull out of challenges or jump in two legged in this area please.
There would be little better than asking for this match to be the first to find an elusive clean sheet. Will that happen? Probably not. However it’ll be interesting whether Norway look to expose the Matildas fullbacks like other nations have looked to, or if they stick to the game plan of going centrally. If it’s the game plan? Then bomb forward. It could really be a match dictated by the attacking qualities of the fullbacks going forward, finding the spaces and whipping in some good crosses, asking questions of the Norwegian defence.
Only a blind person would argue Kerr isn’t in form this World Cup. I’ll claim partial blindness though, because the best is still yet to come. She’s been lethal in front of goal, but it’s also the opportunities Kerr can create out of thin air that we’ve yet to fully see. Will that come out against Norway? If it doesn’t we’ll be playing by a similar game plan to Jamaica anyway. Whip the ball into the box for Kerr.
Norway do have classy centre backs. This could be a difficult night in the office for Kerr. However the space and ability to expose Norway’s full backs, particularly if the likes of Raso and Foord can isolate the player and go one on one, is there to take advantage of. Moments on the flanks will be where the Matildas should look to win this game. Without it, just bulldozing through the centre of the park? That’s like trying to reverse park without mirrors. Like it’s possible, but only the brave and foolishly skilled will pull that one off.
Either way, it’s going to be an absolute ride. Bring on the knockout stage! May we be here in a few days time talking about the Quarter-Final (where I might possibly be hiding somewhere if it’s against England and my allegiances will be split as bad as picking biscuits over ice cream)