So we’re at the game with pizza, friends and of course the Matildas against the Football Ferns. It’s the main event.
A headline idea from the first half of “silencing the critics” did pop into my head, but in all honesty, the only true improvement was execution. It was a game that provided the highs early and the entertainment of the second half was in seeing a different midfield come on at the hour mark and Charlotte Grant given valuable time at right back.
Unless you made the master stroke move to stand, chant and dance with the Matildas Active for the second half, which my friend Sophie and I did. Then the final 45 minutes was the true highlight.
Like any good party, the Matildas Active drew people in like moths to a light. It certainly drew me. Seeing the magic of capos executing (and remembering!) chants for a full 90 minutes is the same type of captivating poetry of Mary Fowler putting me into an absolute spell in the first-half.
When I talk about ‘football family’ it doesn’t get any more beautiful than mid-game yelling and screaming your heart out.
The first half we had the opportunity to sit in prime seats at the half-way line that was high enough for my short-self to see while not in the nosebleed section. There I saw Sam Kerr produce two of the most Sam Kerr finishes. The first had been threatening only to finally be executed, Kerr rising high to meet the ball hit into the box with perfection. The second showing pinpoint accuracy that captivates Chelsea fans most weekends. Throw in a Hayley Raso goal, a rare Ellie Carpenter shot and Fowler being a simple pleasure to watch, there’s nothing further I could’ve added on my wish list to watch.
A blur is a better way to describe the second half. I remember Alex Chidiac’s bursting run forward into the box and that she picked out whoever was on the left flank at that point with perfection and another moment with a cross, volley, header and near miss.
Instead my focus was on my community arm-in-arm, the young girl wearing a dress, holding up the ‘Never Say Die’ banner, the crew of boys joining in and sometimes competing with us, the handful of Young Matildas, Charlie Rule, Sarah Hunter and Kirsty Fenton, dropping by and joining in on the megaphone.
Tony Gustavsson’s starting eleven is close to locked in. There’s still questions over whether Katrina Gorry can hold the defensive midfield role against a stronger opposition and we’ve not resolved the lack of pace at centreback that doesn’t include sacrificing Steph Catley or Carpenter.
It’s an experienced starting eleven, it looks very similar to iterations under previous coaches. My main hope is that recent experimentation with formations will remain in the communal memory to draw upon when needed.
Should the likes of Chidiac, Kara Cooney-Cross and Clare Wheeler get more of an opportunity? Probably. But for now it has been nice to watch the Matildas play their strongest eleven and to not have pressure of competition or a clock counting down the hours to a major tournament.
Now is the time to breathe.
If that means giving experienced players more playing time and having the next generation gain experience through substitutions and being in camp, that’s not a bad thing at this point. The starting players will all be there for 2023, there’s no need to shoot from the hip to force radical changes. We’ve had a taste of a few different options that will come to fruition in the future, but now is the time to simply enjoy the quality players that are our strongest eleven.