Just like the vision of the pre match huddle of the Junior Matildas, where they all had their eyes closed taking in a couple deep breathes, let us do the same here. *Eyes closed* BREATHE… BREATHE…
It was a wild one. Two all against Bangladesh. Trust me, Bangladesh came out and fought fiercely for a spot in the next round. The draw was a thriller, leaving anyone watching with now fingernails left. In the end, it’s the result the Junior Matildas required to carry on in the Asian Cup.
Here’s everything you need to know about the match.
THE FIRST HALF
From the kick off, finding composure was like finding a singular chocolate cookie in a crammed cookie jar full of regular biscuits. It was difficult. Simple passes went awry, the usual grace and composure shown by this side was MIA.
Add in, Bangladesh did their homework. With plenty of numbers defending behind the ball, the Junior Matildas struggled to get the type of leverage their forward passes have produced so far this Asian Cup. The lone goal of the first half was a result of Bangladesh doing their homework, and knowing exactly how to unlock our defence. (More on the goals below).
While the Junior Matildas were denied one close to the opener in the 20th minute, the opening goal seemed to be a rattler. It took until the last five minutes of the half for the side to shake off the disappointment of conceding the first. A couple long range efforts were all that were mustered and were the product of being unable to find an answer against a solid defence.
THE SECOND HALF
Talk about nail biters in the second half. The anxiety amped up as Bangladesh looked to give little away early. While some more composure was found across the park for the Australians, it was still difficult work to find a way back. Chances were still too often limited to long range efforts.
Then there was the five minute thriller, with goal, upon goal, upon goal.
How we all survived that period is beyond me. After this, the game both opened up and shut down. The ball made found a way into the area more. However, some good goalkeeping and narrow misses saw the match finish a thrilling two all draw. MATE.
20’ Tohura Khatun. The Junior Matildas had a high line, with yards of space to capitalise. A long ball over the top by Bangladesh, forced Miranda Templeman to run for her life. Unfortunately the keeper could do very little as Tohura hit the ball first time with striking accuracy.
77’ Claudia Mihocic. A corner provided the lifeline. A bit scrappy, but who doesn’t love a defender goal? In the right spot, put it in the back of the net and bingo, a game was on our hands.
78’ Tohura. There was absolutely no time for breathing. Bangladesh hit a ball deep from the kick off then send it long, over head to their talented number ten. Showing composure for days, Tohura bagged her double.
80’ Paige Zois. Showing hints of a lethal shot from range against Thailand, this was Zois’ time to shine. Space opened up for her, thirty yards out and a stunning strike to bring the game level. The type of goal you dream of while practicing, produced at the biggest moment.
Hana Lowry. Throughout the tournament Lowry has been a player to watch. A super smooth customer, who can wriggle her way out of tight spaces with ease. There was a moment in the 80-something minute where she came within inches of putting the icing on the cake, cracking a shot towards the far corner. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The number 10’s vision on the ball, to play a pass, shoot and drift between the lines were all on show in a difficult match.
Tohura. Have to give kudos to the Bangladesh forward. She worked tirelessly upfront. Capitalising on many loose passes, showing the type of composure of seasoned forwards. Her speed and hunger gave her team the edge that nearly won the match for them.
All sorts of emotions at play after the match. Templeman was clearly crying, which made me (and probably anyone else watching) cry in return. It was just that type of heart on your sleeve match.
Mihocic fronted the cameras to admit a draw wasn’t the pre-match game plan. Honest in her reflection,the defender admitted the side were “patient throughout the game”, going down as “definitely much to learn from the game”.
Taking the “great feeling scoring” into measure, the mantra of teamwork makes the dream work rung out in what Mihocic had to say. “The main focus was to get back into the game.. (the goal) gave us a bit more positivity… we pushed through to the whistle”
While the success of a match is usually decided on the result, there’s little doubt the Junior Matildas are going to learn from this experience. With the next step looking a mountain in a likely match up against North Korea, they will need every lesson in the book to seal a passage to the Final.
So it’s a semi final at 11 oclock AEST on Wednesday. A win? A spot in the World Cup. A loss? We hold our heads up high and continue to build and support these players.