Olympic Semi Preview: Australia v Sweden

By Kieran Yap

Above: Kyra Cooney Cross and Madelen Janogy battle it out when the two nations met in the group stage last week. Photo: Getty Images

Focus on Australia:

Australia played the long game. They used the pre-tournament matches to experiment with new systems and tactics and altered their game to fit each group stage opponent.

An opening win against New Zealand and a cautious, tactical draw against the USA was enough to get them into a quarter final where they defeated Team GB in one of the games of the tournament.

The Matildas tactical flexibility has been a key reason why they have reached the semi finals. They played their familiar 4-3-3 formation and attacking game plan against New Zealand to secure an early win, but changed to a counter-attacking more careful style against Sweden.

Against the USA, they showed they are willing to temper their instincts and play for the result they needed and take fewer risks with less to gain.

In terms a key player for Australia in the Games, it is hard to go past Sam Kerr. The Matildas captain has scored five goals so far and would have had six had her penalty kick been an inch to the left.

Above: If Sam Kerr celebrates another goal for the Australia tomorrow, she will become the Matildas’ all time leading scorer. Photo: Getty Images.

She has been a threat in every game and used the attention given to her to open up spaces for her teammates. A flick on to Tameka Yallop set Australia on their way against New Zealand and her presence allowed Alanna Kennedy a clear header to score against Team GB.

This is not a player that opposition defenders ignore yet she still finds a way to impact the game when it matters.

Focus on Sweden:

Sweden are many people’s justifiable tip to win Gold. They have barely missed a beat since the tournament began and at times look unbeatable.

Australia’s 4-2 loss to them in the group stages showed that they can be scored against. Scoring enough times while stopping them is the big challenge and nobody so far has been able to.

Sweden need to stop crosses coming in. They can prevent passes to Kerr and Foord by dominating the midfield but it only took two good balls into the box to concede twice in the group game.

Kerr can beat most defenders in the air and managed to do so against the highly regarded Magdalena Eriksson, her Chelsea team mate to score her first last week.

Above: Stina Blackstenius (11) and Fridolina Rolfö (18) two of Sweden’s most dangerous players so far. Photo: Getty Images.

If Australia gets Catley, Simon and Foord on the ball in wide areas it could spell trouble for Sweden.

The tactical battle:

To win the game, Australia need to defend deeper than they did in the group game against the Swedes. Sofia Jakobsson was allowed to get into too much space and time behind the Australian defence. This is inviting scoring chances and The Matildas will need to balance attack and defense much more carefully than they did in the group stages.

Fridolina Rolfö has to be marshalled closer attention than before. She was another that was very damaging and cannot be given the opportunity again.

Tony Gustavsson will have learned from the previous loss, but much of this game will depend on player fitness. Sweden has a deeper squad than Australia and The Matildas are coming off a gruelling, exhausting 120 minute game.

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