Gee. Ok. Losing is never easy. Particularly when it’s the semi-final and a World Cup dream dasher. It’s in this that we learn, build resilience and look eagerly for the chance to do better next time.
North Korea were very good. We suffered a 3-0 defeat against a well drilled, athletic and ruthless team. It hurts. It’s meant to, but that just shows we care and held the belief of reaching the final.
So let’s talk about the game a little.
Want to know one way to get me to finish my work early? Put a game on at 3pm, an hour before my updates are due. All so I could set my phone, streaming the match up on my desk while gazing over my work whenever play wasn’t too hectic. Sorry boss! (Disclaimer, the news still got to air and the captions were on point, so I did my job at work, just with less chatting).
We don’t need to go over a full play by play, so here’s some thoughts from the match.
There was a slight chance the last couple of matches may have shook the confidence of our keeper. Conceding two goals against Bangladesh on the counter isn’t exactly the boost you’re looking for ahead of playing North Korea. However, any fears were dashed from the early minutes. Superman like saves from Templeman proves she’s got talent. The goals conceded were all cobwebs and into the corners type stuff. Yeah, some instances where decision making wasn’t exactly spot on, but she was committed to her choices and experience will further develop this. A stunning game by Templeman.
One way to label the match from a Junior Matildas perspective is under pressure. There were challenges flying, turn overs across the park and hearts on sleeve stuff from both sides. North Korea were there to play, and capitalised on moments where there were any lapse of concentration.
The ability for North Korea to shut options down, made life difficult. On the positive, we could work the ball out of defence from a higher press. We’re halfway there though, like a half cooked roast chook because we couldn’t find the right balls to link up with the final third. The frustration evident when good ideas where played out, but players just couldn’t get on the same page.
For instance, too often when a player was running on the inside of their defender, the ball was passed to the outside. Simple things, against clever players. The type of game understanding that only develops from playing at this level. But the reason this was so evident? North Korea were dictating where our forwards were running and where our creators could pass. The pressure was thick.
This match was one for the defensive minded. Some flying tackles were had and it was glorious. Sure, the referee had a work out with how often free kicks were given, but gee, it was gutsy defending at its best.
Around the 80th minute, the game still 2 nil and a whiff of hope still ringing in the air of a comeback. North Korea punt a looping ball forward to our last line of defence. Captain Nash initially misread the ball, with the Korean forward goal side and winning the fall of the bounce. Templeman is off her line, the forward finds a way past. But. Nash. A huge recovery effort by the centre back produced THE TACKLE to stop a sure goal. Brilliant. You should watch it.
There’s still a third place match to play. Win that and we’ll finish better than ten years ago with a squad consisting of Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Alana Kennedy. What a boost that would be. Normally a third placed finish would guarantee a ticket to the World Cup. With India as the hosts, that won’t come into play this time. It would be bittersweet, but something to aim for.
For now though, we hurt a little, be very proud of the gallant effort The Kids have given and tune in for that one final match of the tournament on Saturday.