Aussie Attack Clicks But Sweden Will Punish Missed Chances

By Kieran Yap

Above: The Matildas celebrate Sam Kerr’s goal against New Zealand. Photo: The Guardian

In the five games prior to the Olympics, the question was how to best “activate Sam Kerr?”

The opening game against New Zealand and the first half in particular showed that it is about getting the best out of the entire front three.

The captain and number 2(0) scored one and set up the other but the attacking trio of Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Kyah Simon were fluid, interchangeable and versatile.

They switched positions and roles, Kerr would move out wide and Simon would move through the middle. Foord ran at the New Zealand defence aggressively while Simon would drop deep to try and create with long passes or crosses.

This was the best attacking display by the Matildas and they should have had more goals. An open header by Foord and a few opportunities to Simon are the sorts of chances that cannot go begging against Sweden and the U.S.A but the team looked dangerous in a variety of ways.

Kerr draws the ball, it is part of what makes her so prolific, but in this game she drew players and it left teammates like Raso and Foord one-on-one situations.

Above: Kyah Simon was at her creative best as part of a fluid, interchangeable front three against New Zealand. Photo: The Guardian

This sort of space was perfectly exploited for the first goal. Simon got the ball to Kerr who flicked it into the path of Tameka Yallop. The Brisbane midfielder’s run was well timed and untracked. While New Zealand were concerned with the Chelsea star, Yallop had the time to take a touch into the area and the skill to finish.

The space also existed in part because Foord held her position out on the left. The New Zealand defense was static, but it was also stretched across the width of penalty area. By the time Yallop steamed through on goal it was too late for them to react.

Gustavsson started with a front three that have played together for almost a decade. The chemistry was on full display in this game and is an encouraging sign for the rest of the tournament.

The tests continue, Australia should not be frightened of Sweden. But they will be aware that they will probably not have another 18 shots on goal and their conversation rate will matter more than it did here.

A late goal almost cancelled the celebrations and on Saturday they will have to take the chances they make. What this game showed is that they can create them.

It is too early to say that they are back to their best, but they look like they are on their way.

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