Kieran Yap analyses Australia’s performance against the USA yesterday and sees signs of a positive future.
Pictured above: The Matildas team that took on the USA on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images.
A lot gets said about playing football in keeping with The Matildas identity.
Fans are used to brave, attacking football. We have become accustomed to taking the game to the opposition and the team pushing until the last possible second to score or get a win.
Something else we have become accustomed to, honorable losses.
Playing the final 15 minutes in search of a draw against the U.S.A was hard to watch, but not for the same reasons the final minutes of a game can be.
There was little concern that Australia would concede a later goal from an error or stroke of ill timed misfortune. They played it safe, they played it slightly dull, they played it smart.
Winning friendlies is fun. The 5-3 loss last time these two teams met was brilliant viewing as Foord and Kerr staged a late comeback against a team on the verge of becoming World Champions.
But in the final group game of an Olympic tournament and with a quarter final spot on the line, excitement was the last thing that was needed.
Head coach Tony Gustavsson has spoken of the need for cool heads in “pressure cooker” situations. These high pressure scenarios are not exclusive to high octane rollercoasters like the Miracle of Montpellier.
A mature football team, a winning football team knows how to get the result needed in the easiest way possible.
Against Sweden, The Matildas showed that they could chase and re-take a lead. Against New Zealand they showed they can take the initiative and against the U.S.A they displayed a calm headed approach to progression.
It brought back memories of the 2018 Asian Cup, Japan was in a similar position with the ball after Australia had equalized and both teams had guaranteed World Cup qualification.
That experienced Japan side, did what Australia did. They knocked the ball about in the back half to run down the clock. With bigger fish to fry they risked no injury or unnecessary exertion.
Great Britain awaits Australia in the quarter-final. Who will win is impossible to predict as both sides look to be improving.
The Matildas have always done whatever they can to get a result. The U.S.A game showed that they know what to do.