Well Organised Defence, Now To Solve the Kerr Conundrum

Above: Chelsea team-mates Sam Kerr and Magda Eriksson contest possession in Kalmar. Photo: Mia Eriksson.

Sweden 0-0 Australia

By Ben Gilby

A Sweden side who fielded a team which is likely to be considerably different from the one that they take to the Olympics, were held 0-0 by a well organised Australia in Kalmar.

It would also be fair to say that the Scandinavians will probably deploy a different formation and tactics when the two team meet in the Games on 24th June in Saitama.

The match was a celebration of legendary star Caroline Seger who played her 215th international match, becoming the most capped European footballer of all time, male or female.

After conceding 13 goals in their three previous games under Tony Gustavsson, the Matildas were far more solid defensively throughout. Once more they lined up with a back three, but the extra time in camp since the previous friendly with Denmark last Thursday had clearly resulted in greater understanding and solidity.

There were several changes in the Australian starting line-up as Teagan Micah made her debut in goal, midfielder Kyra Cooney-Cross made her first start and Emily Gielnik came in for Caitlin Foord.

Sweden started strongly and mustered 80% possession in the opening twenty minutes, but they found the Matildas defence hard to breach and when they did, Micah was in good form between the sticks.

This was the key difference from the previous games against Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark where Australia conceded at least once when under early pressure. The dam held and the Matildas confidence grew noticeably.

The presence of Gielnik was offering more of a threat up front and this change also resulted in Kyah Simon being more prominent in dangerous positions. She came close just after the half hour mark when Sam Kerr crossed in from the right and the Blacktown born forward hit an effort just over.

Above: Emily Gielnik, who had an influential evening for the Matildas. Photo: Mia Eriksson via @TheMatildas

However, Tony Gustavsson still hasn’t really solved the conundrum of how to use Kerr effectively. The Chelsea star was having to drop deep or come wide in a bid to gain possession. At the moment, defences are finding it all too easy to nullify her threat and the Matildas need to use the five week period between now and the Olympics to work out how to get the best out of their superstar.

Kerr never stopped trying and did come the closest to scoring when Gielnik played her in wide on the left. The Western Australian cut in and unleashed a vicious effort which crashed back off of the bar.

Kyra Cooney-Cross had a very decent first start. Once the 19 year-old starlet got up to the pace of the game, she looked calm and composed on the ball and looking to make dangerous passes. This will be the first of what will certainly be countless starts in the green and gold over the coming decade.

Ellie Carpenter was hugely impressive coming forward once more. Seger found it increasingly challenging to live with the Cowra born star’s pace.

Hayley Raso put in a sterling shift defensively as well, keeping Madelen Janogy at arm’s length for much of the game. This did though reduce Raso’s potential for trademark surging runs forward, but the Queenslander had another impressive game.

Johanna Rytting Kaneryd was prominent for the Swedes and Kosovare Asllani fired in a shot into the side netting in the second half when squaring a pass could well have resulted in a goal.

With five minutes left, a Swedish corner rebounded off the bar, but with Australia bringing more defenders on – including Laura Brock replacing Kerr, who had ice taped to her thigh – the home side couldn’t break through.

Immediate concerns surrounding Kerr seem misplaced as the striker has regularly had ice applied to the same area since hitting a hat-trick against West Ham United in December for Chelsea. Similar concerns for her FAWSL team-mate Magda Eriksson, who had to leave the pitch with ice on her calf in the first half have also been downgraded thanks to Swedish team doctor Mats Börjesson who has stated that he believes she will be fine for the Olympics.

Above: The Australia team who played Sweden in Kalmar last night: Back Row: Clare Polkinghorne, Teagan Micah, Steph Catley, Emily Gielnik, Emily Van Egmond, Kyra Cooney-Cross. Front Row: Tameka Yallop, Sam Kerr, Kyah Simon, Hayley Raso, Ellie Carpenter. Photo: @TheMatildas

Teams: SWEDEN: Falk, Ilestedt, Berglund, Eriksson, Roddar, Angeldahl, Asllani, Seger, Rytting Kaneryd, Blomqvist, Janogy. Substitutes used: Kullberg, Blackstenius, Björn, Rolfö, Curmark, Jakobsson.

AUSTRALIA: Micah, Catley, Polkinghorne, Carpenter, Yallop, Cooney-Cross, Van Egmond, Raso, Kerr, Gielnik, Simon. Substitutes used: Kennedy, Nevin, Fowler, Brock, Luik.

Attendance: 500 (Covid restricted crowd).

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