Kieran Yap analyses Australia’s 3-2 desperately disappointing 3-2 loss to the Republic of Ireland and shows how the Young Matildas class of 2019 are starting to make their mark in the senior side. He also argues that less game time in upcoming friendlies for Sam Kerr will be to everyone’s benefit in the future.
Above: Sam Kerr denied in Dublin on Tuesday night. Photo: Getty Images.
Australia’s 3-2 defeat to the Republic of Ireland contained some sadly familiar moments. Free kicks were given away in dangerous areas, set pieces were dealt with poorly, heart stopping defensive errors occurred and the stark difference between the team with and without Ellie Carpenter is starting to look worrying.
Tony Gustavsson was unable to hide his disappointment with the performance. Australia have lost by larger margins and have been beaten in more important games but this seemed to hurt more. It was the first game that the team had not improved in.
This does not mean there were no signs of a positive future.
Five players from the 2019 Young Matildas Asian Cup side were in the squad. Three of them started, Mary Fowler, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin.
All three played important roles in the match. Nevin struggled for pace against a tireless and quick Ireland team but in possession she was comfortable. Her long pass from deep led directly to Australia’s first goal, it was Catley-like in its precision and vision.
For the past four years, Australia has lacked real depth at left back. Nevin has grown to become an option now. She will play much better games for The Matildas but her emergence and the first appearance of Angie Beard could put an end to players being used well out of position to fill that role.
It is on the right that solutions must be found. Clare Polkinghorne, Emma Checker and Charli Grant all were trialled, but against Katie McCabe it was always going to be difficult. Grant is the only one of the three who plays full back at club level and will surely get more opportunities.
In the midfield, Kyra Cooney-Cross played perhaps her best game at senior level for Australia. She looked enthusiastic in the pre-Olympic freindlies and comfortable in Tokyo but this was the first time she showed that she could play 90 minutes in midfield at international level.
She was composed in possession, unafraid of the physical contests and was always available to her teammates. She is a midfielder who can take possession under pressure and make the right decision. Her shot on goal whistled over the bar but the way she made space for herself was impressive.
Then there was Mary Fowler. Two years ago in Nepal, she was the star of that Young Matildas side. She looks now to be evolving into a genuine star of the senior team.
Fowler’s two goals were the obvious highlights but her ability to twist and turn into space where none reallty exists is what sets her apart. Fowler is more than just technical ability or athleticism. She looks like a player who knows what she will do before she gets the ball.
Her last three goals for Australia have all appeared slightly fortuitous. The long range strike against Team GB took a deflection as did her second goal against Ireland. Her first strike of the night wiggled under the goalkeepers grasp.
Obviously these goals have an element of luck, but Fowler creates that good fortune. She hits the ball hard, on target and most importantly without hesitation. Defenders have little opportunity to block properly and goalkeepers have been caughty by surprise.
In the space of two years, Nevin, Grant, Cooney-Cross and Fowler have gone from an Under 19 Asian Cup to exchanging passes for The Matildas.
Even after a disappointing result, there is much to look forward to.
It’s Tara Time
Sam Kerr needs a rest. Her Olympic heroics and sensational Chelsea season was rewarded with a fortnight off and she has shown no signs of slowing down since her return. However, some extra time at home with her famous cat Helen in the next international window could do her and Australia a world of good long term. Even superheroes need a break.
If the next matches are to take place in NSW as planned, Newcastle Jets striker Tara Andrews should be considered at centre forward.
She is on the radar after appearing at the Talent ID camp earlier this year and was in excellent form in the last W-League.
More importantly, Andrews is a different type of striker. She is a powerful finisher but can also link up play and hold up the ball. She has the attributes and abilities to change a match.
When Australia is next struggling to break down a team as they did against Ireland, Andrews brings new tactical possibilities.
Tony Gustavsson loves a “game changer” why fly our weary strikers half way around the world when we have one at home already?