The Matildas ground out a 2-1 win against Vietnam, with the home side mounting a true challenge as the match wore on. The late night kick off for Australia’s east coast was made even later with stadium lighting issues. So let’s keep this short and sweet with some match bites.
Feeling Flat. The energy from the restart was flat. It wasn’t just the energy, that can be explained by different elements out of the Matildas’ control, however there’s something within their control that would positively improve play. It points to the hunger to play and win the match. The Matildas instead were caught flat footed. When players like Caitlin Foord are looking for a give and go, or Sam Kerr is running at a defence, requiring a quick pass, too often play would break down because someone was flatfooted and hesitating. It’s a simple element. Maybe on this occasion a lack of fans could be to blame. But it’s not the first time the Matildas have played a match and have looked flat.
Foord is a shining light. So is Kerr, but that’s well talked about. So I want to talk about Foord. Her ability to float into the right areas across the final third, along with linking up play is world class. A few breath taking moments were unpredictable, dynamic and provided a spark up front that was lacking in large patches. While Kerr will go down as unselfish with the assist for Hayley Raso’s goal, it was the work of Foord to find Kerr through the heart of Vietnam’s defence that was the true magic of that moment.
Missed penalty. The nightmare of Rio continues to hang over the Matildas head nearly four years later. It’s not pretty. Chloe Logarzo took the punt today and it didn’t pay off. Does the side need a dedicated penalty taker? Should it be whoever is feeling most confident in the moment? It’s a complicated answer, but any penalty is looking like a lottery that the Matildas forgot to buy a ticket for.
Shaky defences. It finally caught up with us again, just like that head cold that’s lingering but hits like a train the one day you don’t won’t it to. Credit to Vietnam. They pushed and were hungry to capitalise, along with playing clever and knowing where the Matildas defence could be exposed. There’s issues there for the Matildas. Whether it’s not playing the right players, whether it’s practice, complacency or tactics, something has to give. Sure, the goal could go down as an individual error by Alanna Kennedy. However, the issues run deeper than that. Look back to last year’s Women’s World Cup, the Matildas were exposed in defence. Lessons must be acted upon, otherwise history has a habit of repeating itself.
To Flank or not to Flank. In complete contrast to game one, the Matildas didn’t use the flanks often enough. Yes, they over relied on the avenue last time out. It was interesting seeing the adjustments to play more centrally. However, with too many missed passes and space congested in the middle, there needed to be more balls to the width or simply switching play to try drag the Vietnamese defence out of shape.
Broken record moment, but where’s the box to box midfielder? If the double number tens was a trial against Vietnam, with no engine room of the number eight, then I hope it’s truly dead and buried. Feeding into the flat-footedness of play, too often there was no link between Elise Kellond-Knight at defensive midfield, and the simple pass to a fellow midfielder. Instead, both midfielders were high, in line with the forwards. Football relies a lot about lines and how to move between them. Kellond-Knight is excellent at keeping the ball moving, but too often she has to go back or a hopeful ball forward, rather than building along the line of midfield. A number eight would answer a lot of questions that issue is raising.
Tokyo. It’s been a long road, but the Matildas have qualified for the Olympics. Whether the Games go ahead as normal remains to be seen, but however it looks the Matildas have booked their spot on the plane.