The Kids Can Play: Welcome Back

It certainly feels like it’s been a long time coming since the band of the Junior Matildas was back. And even longer since we had access to being able to watch them.

And gee breaking this drought ranks somewhere between finally buying that bag of peanut m&m’s and a freshly cooked bbq breakfast with the works. AKA it ranks very, very highly in my life.

Heading into watching the replay on YouTube I already had it on good authority – the team’s coach in fact – that these kids were special. Gee am I glad that I had been fed the right information.

Rae Dower may have dropped in the weeks leading up to the Junior Matildas camp that these kids were alright. Picture: Football Australia

All round ballers

Gone are the days where football searches for the best athletes to fill our representative and national youth teams and hope to teach them the ways of the round ball game as they develop. These kids certainly know how to play.

The movement, the press, the control in tight spaces; it conjures up images of a toastie being made, with cheese oozing in all the right places. Movement, press and control are such simple ingredients much like cheese, butter and bread, but when put together in the right environment, under the right conditions there’s little that can better it.

It fills me with joy, and it should you too.

No cheap possession

From the kick off it was clear that no one was going to win possession cheaply. Players were forced to work, press and tackle to win the ball. Some of the very clever ones were able to read the play and cut it out, but for the most part, the passes were crisp and easy turn-overs were few and far between, particularly in the first-half before fatigue started to settle in.

For a while I’ve feared tackling has become a lost artform, I’m so glad this game gave me hope that it really hasn’t. Sure some fouls were given, but overall there were well-timed, clean, mouthwateringly quality tackles to win the ball.

Thow on top of this delicious salad players who knew exactly how to use their body to manipulate their marker into moving the wrong way as the ball flowed as if on a string. Delightful.

Centre back runs

To have watched the practice match and to ignore the centre back runs would be sacrilege. It would be in the same vein as wanting pineapple on pizza (and no one can change my mind, that’s disgusting).

I lost count of the number of times Karipidis sold her forward out with a tilt of the shoulders and charged into space, breaking the lines and creating something exciting. Gordon had her chances too. And Gibson in Gold had one opportunity late on that I was totally living for as she forayed forward and did a 1-2.

In a display where defences generally held up strong, to have this added dimension to their game is like adding chocolate to peanut butter. Strong tasting goodness.

Keeping track of all the important moments during the game.

Gotta mention these kids

Ok, a part of me really wishes Cassidy’s goal wasn’t the winner. I know, a strange admission given the composure she had with the finish into the far, bottom corner after moving into the optimal spot while her side lit a fire underneath Green to expose a chink in their otherwise strong armour. But hear me out.

Cassidy was everywhere. She lived rent free in the pocket of Prakash, who showed just how good she was when she did manage to find space away from Cassidy. Cassidy had the awareness of where she had to be to intercept passes and which attacker to approach and in turn provided a solidified shield for the defence. And to top it off, a good, strong defensive midfielder’s tackle, with a tiny hint of the dark arts popping up at times.

Those skills translated with ease when she had the ball at her feet. Sending passes both long and short, hitting her markers and having a second sense of where the next phase of play ought to be.

The only fault I have is that at times Cassidy may have sat a little too deep. But as I initially thought that, she popped up to score the goal, so I was the one left with egg on my face for having thought that.

Maybe it’s more stark given the Matildas woes at defensive midfield, but gosh it was a breath of fresh air and all my Christmases wrapped into one to see a young, talented number six on the field. Please no one ruin my day by saying she actually plays as a centre forward normally.

Also worth a mention was Gooch. Between Cassidy and Gooch, the Gold side had the better of the midfield and it took some proper re-adjusting at half-time for Green to find any solutions. 

Gooch floated in and out of the game a little more than Cassidy, perhaps like all the best attacking midfielders do. But she had pace and acceleration when it truly mattered, another player with really strong distribution and just generally busy when the ball was in her area. She looked like the type of player that could turn a game on its head in seconds, and she almost did on a couple occasions but was let down because of offside teammates or their poor first touch.

Half-time heroes

Kept busy in the backline in the first half, Bertolissio flourished in the second half when she was moved further up the field. Another busy player who not only wanted to attack but had a strong tackle that showed why she was playing in defence in the first half.

While Wilson was the safe hands Gold needed to keep their lead safe. There hadn’t been much to do in the first half, but there was plenty after the break and she thrived. Diving saves and a couple instances where she stood strong in 1v1 situations.

Wrapping it up

I could probably talk about this game for days, but we’re creeping up to the 1000 word mark so I’ll wrap it up. Our kids can play.

My only question now is: when is the next time we can watch them?

Post writing edit; I just had a check of where Cassidy is from and of course it’s West Australia. I shouldn’t have even needed to check, it’s almost always the West Australians that have me raving. Feel free to hook me up with the youth coaches over in WA, I’d flaming love to hear how they keep producing some brilliant stars.

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