It’s been a couple days, I’ve caught my breath and have just cooked cauliflower bake for the first time ever. Now is as good a time as ever to throw my mind back to the semi final.
And just in case you were wondering, there was room for improvement, but my cauliflower bake was delicious.
A new rhythm
One of my favourite ways to watch a football match is with music. It might be that I’m not always a fan of the commentary. But a vivid memory of my youth was watching the EPL highlights on a Monday night with my Dad, with one headphone in my ear listening to my mp3 player.
Football and music for me go hand in hand, particularly when done well.
The beat, the flow, the rhythm.
For a long time, the Matildas rhythm was stuttery. The pieces were there but often we weren’t quick enough transitioning out of defence.
To be frank we often looked like that cassette that was stuck in the car cassette player, playing the same song over and over again. Pass, pass, pass between defender and goalkeeper. Lob the ball forward, hope someone can whip it into an isolated Kerr’s head.
On repeat. It wasn’t fun.
This Olympic campaign, we’ve finally got the knife to the cassette player, yanked out the old tape and have fresh tunes pumping.
That wasn’t more apparent than against Sweden.
We were looking for the sweeping diagonal balls to switch the point of attack and spread Sweden’s organised defence. We held the ball waiting for pressure, and released it quickly forward when faced with pressure. We were looking for the layoffs, passes and combinations. We had players willing to pull the trigger, in particular Fowler coming off the bench giving goalkeepers nightmares.
Our defence included two set lines behind the ball. We looked organised. With Catley and Carpenter in the back three, we had pace mixed with Kennedy’s aerial dominance.
The two wing backs played out of their skin. Not only providing width and an option forward, but keeping Sweden’s wingers at bay.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s room to grow. I mean the aim is to install a bluetooth system so that we can change the beats freely. But over such a considerably short time, this is progress and that’s what counts.
Yallop deserves a mention all by herself.
Both Polkinghorne and Luik sitting on the bench was a head scratcher for me initially. Trying to figure out if that meant going to a back four, or who would take Catley’s position at left wing back if she was in the back three. I should’ve had no concern though. Yallop is the versatile treasure that is a national icon.
The same player who has led the forward line for Brisbane Roar as a false nine during long patches of the W-League side being unable to secure the services of an out and out forward. The player who loves a shot and to attack.
That player took on a role that is predominately suited to a defender. In comparison Raso has had more experience playing defensively, starting out her Matildas’ life as a makeshift fullback.
Yallop was simply everywhere.
The midfielder seemed totally undaunted by the task of keeping Jakobsson at bay. Just ask the USWNT how big a task that can be after the wounds she inflicted in round 1.
In attack, Yallop was buzzing. Providing an option wide and whipping in balls that often went begging across the face of the goal.
Obviously a key element of Yallop’s game is her passing.
The stats don’t lie, she’s clocked in a passing percentage at 85 percent. That is ridiculous. Outright ridiculous. Those aren’t passes back and forward between defender and goalkeeper. The statistic covers a range of passes, from simple to clever and forward thinking. Absolutely insane.
I’m here to see more of Yallop. Maybe the secret is to only playing her for an hour. Maybe that brings out her 100% and gives an option to change the game up elsewhere with the substitution. But for that hour she’s on the field, she’s one of our best and most consistent performers.
Of course it’s bittersweet to be knocked out in the semifinal.
We could almost smell the midday savs that would be cooked on grand final day. It was all so much closer when Kerr’s goal was dismissed, rightly or wrongly. (I’ll claim robbed, but I need better angles and replays for a non-emotional assessment).
Being in the bronze medal match is far beyond what I expected at the start of the tournament. My expectation was to clinch a victory against New Zealand and anything beyond tight games against Sweden and the USWNT was a bonus.
But we’re here. We meet our American friends who will be desperate to go home with silverware. They do have the experience of what it means to win it too.
If you think this game will be a repeat of the last 15 minutes of our final group game against one another, you’ve got another thing coming. This is going to be fast paced, heart on the line, spread out affair with some tired legs.
It’s going to be special.
This match will be won mentally. Physically you can’t blame both teams being pretty closed to gassed with how crammed the schedule has been.
The Matildas have played smart this whole tournament. It’s been a joy to watch. Here’s to a repeat of smart play and clinching a bloody medal.