Game One: The Best Team Lost

The Matildas sing along to the national anthem performed by the Wiggles. Picture: Twitter/Football Australia

Usually 3-nil score lines suggest a one sided affair. One that means clinging on against a team who are simply better.

That wasn’t the case on Saturday.

Again and again USWNT goalkeeper Casey Murphy pulled out top shelf saves to deny the Matildas spectacular goals. 

In the words of USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski, Murphy “came up huge”.

Foord, Kerr and Fowler all challenged the keeper from distance with cracking, delightful strikes, but to no avail. This is a keeper that reminds me of earlier games against the Americans where Hope Solo was the brick wall. It feels rude to come up against such quality sometimes.

The result for the Matildas didn’t feel like previous floggings at the hands of European opponents at the beginning of Tony Gustavsson’s tenure. It felt different. 

We played confident football. We had a plan. Even with substitutes throughout the second half everyone looked on the same page. It’s a good page of controlling play, looking for midfielders to play mint through balls into attack and wingers finding space out wide, encouraging combinations.

There’s no doubt room for improvement, particularly in defence. But the elements are there. 

The Future is Now

A hint of fear and confusion was had when the team list was out. No Alanna Kennedy or Clare Polkinghorne meant Gustavsson literally handed the keys of defence to two teenagers.

Forget the “L” plates, Coutney Nevin and Jessika Nash started in defence and showed they have what it takes to be our future centre back pairing.

Rightly a little rattled after the early goal, the duo both went on to impress. Nash’s first half performance was full of composure, comfort on the ball and a willingness to attack players to win the ball. Nevin saw out the game in the centre, to be supported by Ellie Carpenter at half time. The left footer brought back the sorely missed centre back runs, in addition to being hungry to win the ball.

Two centre backs not hesitating to apply pressure, bringing that youthful energy was a breath of fresh air.

The last ten minutes of the game, only four players would have had double digit caps in Tameka Yallop, Emily van Egmond, Hayley Raso and Carpenter. 

That would’ve been unthinkable 18 months ago.

The A-League Women’s is literally on our doorstep. Gustavsson’s trust in our homegrown players seems to only grow with each game. It’s an exciting time.

Killer Timing

A blunder seconds into the match saw an early goal conceded. Adding salt into the wound was another early goal in the second half that threw a damp towel over things for the Matildas.

There’s things to tidy up no doubt. The way the Matildas defend in the box and generally on the ball. 

A big one though is when we concede. Conceding goals is never a thing you want to do. But there’s moments that require squeaky bum times, and that’s at the start of the match and second half. 

Experience is a massive component to this. A friendly blooding in new players is a good time to learn.

Final Words

To summarise, the match is a bit like the birthday cake I made myself last week. The early mistake of not realising the red packet was plain NOT self raising flour flattens the result, but ultimately the taste and flavour is still there and right.

Bonus Fun Fact

My first ever concert was the Wiggles. My parents took my twin brother and I. Being keen Wiggles fans, my brother and I zoomed down the front with no care in the world. We were denied the full concert at the front of the stage when security took us both back to our parents. Apparently we were “lost”. Pfft, we knew what we were doing.

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