I’ll admit to being cranky after that bronze medal match. At the end of the day that was our worst performance of the tournament, which is such a difficult pill to swallow after such a stellar few weeks.
The match only exposed things we already knew. We knew there was an over reliance on Carpenter. We knew the centre back combination of Kennedy and Polkinghorne together isn’t working in that peanut butter and jam kinda way you need it to.
We also knew we had a team absolutely gassed. Playing New Zealand first did us no favours. From the first match we couldn’t slip up, there was no ‘breather’. It was exhausting to watch. I can only imagine it was a world harder to play.
But I want to say, the revolution has arrived.
Visibility has traditionally been a difficult thing for women’s sports to gain.
Add in that international football traditionally favours European and American time zones. Suddenly, the Tokyo Olympics were in OUR time zone. OUR patch. It saw eyeballs on the tv for full matches, not just snippets found in the news or social media feeds.
That’s already had a huge impact. The day after the bronze medal match, I had one of the girls I coach say to me ‘I understand more of where to be because of watching the Matildas’.
Having millions watching five intense matches is going to have ripple effects for years to come.
I would say it’s going to spark something, but the spark has already been lit. It was a matter of fanning it.
And with the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in two years time, that fires gonna explode.
I’ve been saying this for a while, but the pieces are there. It’s exciting where Gustavsson has already taken this team across a few months.
It may not have been on display against the USWNT, but this is a team with a couple different plans on how to attack a game. Across the five games we played through the midfield, the long ball and through the flanks. It has been a delight.
The plans are only going to get better from here.
Still, the obvious was exposed in the bronze medal match. We need to blood in new defenders.
But I standby that the revolution has happened because it’s obvious this will happen.
We saw Nevin given some late minutes in the bronze medal match. She looked a natural in a back three. She used her body wisely, dropped quickly and despite a lack of immediate pace Nevin looked comfortable and released Catley further forward.
Another player in Charlotte Grant was unused during the tournament, but would be all the better for the experience of being there.
There are a handful of other defenders around the Aussie traps. Some who are climbing the ranks of the youth national teams. Others who are more experienced and deserve a crack, or another crack.
Goalkeeping-wise, the trust in starting Micah will pay off. Communication and familiarity will only get better. Micah is worth being patient for, her saves, confidence and form demonstrate that.
Moving away from defence and things are looking encouraging. There’s options with Cooney-Cross excelling and already looking old hat in the centre. Fowler was a breath of fresh air and showed more versatility.
Simon showed a new lease of life. Sure she’s not a 90 minute player. Sometimes she can fade out of a match without the ball at her feet, but there were moments of brilliance in Tokyo from the veteran.
Kerr. Nothing more needs to be said.
Yallop showed versatility, technicality and has to be the quiet overachiever of the tournament at both centre midfield and wing back.
There’s room to add in and switch out some players. There’s definitely room to develop depth. But the pieces are there.
We might need to go back to the drawing board and remember the basics after the bronze medal match. But there’s no need to scratch everything and begin again. Instead just remember the stuff that will make us go from ‘nearly’ to ‘there’.
Another football season is knocking on our door. Both in Australia and abroad. Whether the cohort of Australians remain predominantly in England, or move elsewhere will be interesting to keep tabs on. Ultimately the best options will be where they can get the best training and minutes on the park.
I can’t wait for more opportunities from the friendlies that will happen in the next year to prepare for the Asian Cup. And then? The World Cup will be here before we know it.