We’re back. This time for the big one, the Asian Cup. It was a long road to get here and what better way to start the campaign than against the powerhouse side that is Japan.
To open the campaign it’s a nil all draw. Often referred to as a stalemate, but trust me, there was nothing stale about it. Both sides looked to attack. Neither parked the bus. Good football was played. So let’s get out teeth into parts of the match.
After a couple tournaments with barely a test for the Junior Matildas goalkeeper, it was always with a pinch of the unknown how any keeper would handle an opener against Japan. Templeman rose above. Her awareness gave her an edge, meaning she was able to put her body on the line when called upon. Some big saves and knowing her angles, along with where her posts are. Barely a step was set wrong by the keeper. Add in she looked comfortable on the ball when Japan were pressing and she’s had a stunning performance.
Post match interview, she hit the nail on the head with what she had to say to the AFC YouTube stream. On her side “Go along with the best of them.” On her game “lead the girls from the back.. Put my body on the line.” And what does this result mean? “We’re a team to be reckoned with now.”
Again it was always going to be a matter of how the defence handled questions being thrown at them, following very little in the lead up to the tournament. Mihocic answered all that came her way, plus some. Defensively she was strong. Making recovery runs and tackles look like a walk in the park. The centre back was as solid in 1v1 situations as a burnt cake, however the challenges were always much more delicious (think a well cooked cake). A lot of possession went via the centre backs, Mihocic looked comfortable playing the small, simple pass and the longer one when required.
I’ll admit, this threw me post match. Seeing Beaumont on the bench, a player who has racked up the goals in previous tournaments, for a player I’ve not seen left me slightly anxious. However, Henry looked the goods. The first half saw the number nine shine. Able to chase down any loose pass, a touch more composure and she would’ve opened the scoring. Implementing a press when there’s only limited players pushed forward is a difficult task, Henry completed it well.
It’s magic to watch an Australian youth side hold possession well against Japan. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see the day, and it was a joy to watch here. Comfortable on the ball, the Junior Matildas showed how it’s possible to dominate large spells of possession.
Without the ball, there was some quality 1v1 defending across the park. The only real gap to be exposed was behind the fullback and out wide when the defence shuffled, with no cover coming from the flanks. On at least three occasions this area was exposed and if not for some good goalkeeping at the back post from the cross, it would’ve been costly. Moving from utilising the fullbacks and wings as attackers to needing them in defence is something that comes with experience. It’s an area that will need to be tweaked the deeper we get into the competition.
With the ball, we strung good combinations, looked to be patient and varied it up enough to not be super predictable when pushing forward. The first half saw a number of loose passes in the centre of the park, creating a turn over and putting the defence under the pump again. However the second half saw a tidier passing, along with safer balls played with more patience.
Thailand. It’s gonna be a baller to meet the hosts. Bring it.