I know. I am a dopey ancient Athenian rugby player, philosopher and basketballer. What the hell would I know about football. I don’t care if you think I am an idiot. It’s my web site and I am going to have my say on the big Matildas game against Brazil at Newcastle on Tuesday night, even if I do get it all wrong.
Good news for Tildas
Sam Kerr just loves to sniff out a goal. She’s fun to watch! Most see her as outstanding now but, for me, I can see her getting even better! In truth, she hasn’t yet reached the stage where she is taking full advantage of the extraordinary amounts of great ball that is heading her way. While her performance in game two against the grumpy Brazilians grabbed a lot of attention there was something else that caught my eye that bodes well for the Matildas in the future.
Brazil’s head grump, Marta, is not a total fool. She had been watching the Matilda wing backs rip shreds out of the Brazil defence through launching attacks from the very back with their powerful overlapping runs for consecutive games. Ellie Carpenter, for example, had been constantly creating offensive overload on the right-hand side of the pitch… all the way to Brazil’s goal line. The offensive width she provides cannot help but to draw defence away from the goal mouth leaving Kerr and fellow forwards with oodles of room to wreak havoc. Marta noticed Australia’s tendency to allow defenders to range up field.
It took a few games, but Marta eventually came up with a strategy. “If Carpenter is going to play forward then I will make runs into spaces she vacates,” she thought. This approach took exactly one minute, in game three, to bear fruit. With Carpenter caught way out of position, Marta put her team up 1 – 0 with a withering run and terrific cross for Fabiana only moments after the time keeper had started the clock. Ouch. That wasn’t the end of it. Australia’s high pressing defenders were caught out several more times in the first half. Kerr’s cracking header just before the break, while a great goal, provided a flattering half-time score of 1 – 1.
For me, the most exciting thing about the Matildas performance on Tuesday, was the way they responded to Marta’s threat in the second half. It would have been easy for Australia’s backs to turn defensive (and negative) to counter Marta. They didn’t! Carpenter and Catley bravely stuck to the game plan of thrusting forward at every opportunity… but worked their arses off to get back and defend hard when the Brazilians swung into counter attack. They were fearless in pushing forward. As a result, the Australian forward line and Gorry (in her attacking mid-field role) found themselves with the ball and space they needed to annoy the crap out of the Brazilian back line and negate their opportunity to throw Marta into effective counter-attack. In the end, it was only a soft penalty scored by Marta that made the result respectable for Brazil. The second half was nearly all Matildas after a nervous first half.
Stuck to their guns
The Matilda game plan was brave and smart! They refused to be intimidated. The Australians were determined to play the game on their own terms and even a goal from a woman who may still be just about the best player on the planet (in the first minute of the game) was not going to put them off. Huge congratulations, to the Matildas… and especially the talented Ellie Carpenter, who, for me, came of age on the night! She may have made some blues but it was her guts to stick to the script that enabled the Golds to play as well as they did. Special congratulations, too, to Coach Stajcic, for enabling the Matildas to execute their system so well thus bringing the Aussie women to this exciting point in their history. They have done away with U.S.A. I can’t wait for Germany, Canada, England and France to get the same treatment!