It’s Never Goodbye To ‘Never Say Die’

Impetus’ Kieran Yap reflects on Australia’s two friendlies with New Zealand over the past five days and hails the return of the team’s famed ‘Never Say Die’ spirit along with the faith to stick to the game plan (13/4/22).

Above: Alex Chidiac in full flow in yesterday’s Australia v New Zealand game in Canberra. The Melbourne Victory star’s cameo was a major plus for The Matildas. Photo: Football Australia.

Motto’s by themselves are not enough to win tournaments, or even individual football games. But Australia’s often quoted “Never Say Die” attitude was on full display in the recent friendlies with New Zealand.

With Australia 1-0 down despite dominating the match on Friday, the clock ticked over into injury time. It looked like another barely explicable loss. But as hope flickered (and match reports begun to be filed) Ellie Carpenter teed up Emily Van Egmond for a fantastic equaliser.

The Matildas had escaped from a losing position, but they were not done yet. The players knew that they deserved a win on the balance of play. As long as there will still seconds on the clock, they remained dangerous.

Sam Kerr scored the winner with what was almost the last touch of the game. Australia had pulled off another miracle result. There are many interpretations of “Never Say Die” but in all it’s forms, it means that they are always in the contest.

The win epitomised that famous mantra. It is more than a slogan, instilling belief for the players and celebrations tinged with disbelief among fans.

But the “attitude” as Gustavsson refers to it, is nothing without talent to back it up, and talent is limited without a game plan.

What we saw against New Zealand was a combination of all the existing strengths of The Matildas culture, combined with the new football principles that Gustavsson is trying to implement.

In the pre-series press conference, Gustavsson reflected on the Asian Cup loss to South Korea. He  suggested that the team momentarily lost faith in the gameplan after going a goal down. They started to hurry, they got the ball forward in the dying moments, but they were not the clear cut chances they had created earlier in the game.

Above: The spirit was strong in The Matildas team again over the two matches. Photo: Football Australia.

Against the Football Ferns, it felt familiar. Australia dominated, and created chance after chance, but New Zealand had the lead and a goalkeeper in inspired form.

This would be the test to see if they had learned from that elimination in India. With the situation becoming increasingly desperate, the players were not. They trusted in their own technical ability, and the tactical approach. On top of that, they added their well known mentality.

Van Egmond’s goal was well taken, but expertly created. She was found in space at the top of the box and basically central. She had the goal at her mercy and the time to take her shot. This is the type of chance Australia had been creating from the opening minutes. In the final seconds, they were still creating it. There was no panic.

The combination of their famous Never Say Die mantra and an effective game plan based around chance creation over caution combined to form an irrepressible force and a 2-1 win.

Matchday pundit and Melbourne Victory captain Kayla Morrison hoped that this might be a turning point for the team. The second match reinforced this notion.

Australia were not quite as dominant. They had slightly less possession and created 23 chances on goal as opposed to Friday’s 38. This is not too surprising, New Zealand looked more determined and played with an increased intensity to avenge their close loss.

However, with an almost identical line up , Australia started the second game as they finished the first. Apart from an early effort by Hannah Wilkinson, The Matildas dominated the early chances on goal. Unlike the first game they scored early through Sam Kerr in the fifth minute.

Hayley Raso added a second with a brilliant individual effort. Her trademark pace took her into space after picking up a loose ball. Her left foot finish was delightfully curled into the bottom corner from 18 yards.

Above: Sam Kerr who scored three of Australia’s five goals in the two matches against New Zealand celebrating with her team-mates. Photo: Football Australia.

Kerr’s second and Australia’s third was the best of the lot. Van Egmond played a long pass into space, and Kerr scored expertly with the outside of her right foot at full pace.

Wilkinson pulled a scrappy goal back for the Football Ferns, and that was the last of the goals for the evening. Australia dominated in the second half and were unlucky not to score a fourth or earn a penalty.

In both games the playing style and team selections worked. The results and statistical domination point to a strong Matildas performance.

These were not perfect performances. The team clearly needs to work on finishing and the two goals conceded were preventable. However these two matches showed the best of what we know about The Matildas and the strongest indication of what they could become.

Their individual skill controlled the games, the tactical discipline created the wins. The Never Say Die attitude made it possible when hope looked lost.

Motto’s by themselves are not enough to win tournaments or even individual football games. But Australia’s often quoted “Never Say Die” attitude was on full display in the recent friendlies with New Zealand.

With Australia 1-0 down despite dominating the match on Friday, the clock ticked over into injury time. It looked like another barely explicable loss. But as hope flickered (and match reports begun to be filed), Ellie Carpenter teed up Emily Van Egmond for a fantastic equaliser.

The Matildas had escaped from a losing position, but they were not done yet. The players knew that they deserved a win on the balance of play. As long as there will still seconds on the clock, they remained dangerous.

Above: Sticking with the game plan brought rewards for Australia this time round. Photo: Football Australia.

Sam Kerr scored the winner with what was almost the last touch of the game. Australia had pulled off another miracle result. There are many interpretations of “Never Say Die” but in all its forms, it means that they are always in the contest.

The win epitomised that famous mantra. It is more than a slogan, instilling belief for the players and celebrations tinged with disbelief among fans.

But the “attitude” as Gustavsson refers to it, is nothing without talent to back it up, and talent is limited without a game plan.

What we saw against New Zealand was a combination of all the existing strengths of The Matildas culture, combined with the new football principles that Gustavsson is trying to implement.

In the pre-series press conference, Gustavsson reflected on the Asian Cup loss to South Korea. He suggested that the team momentarily lost faith in the game plan after going a goal down. They started to hurry, they got the ball forward in the dying moments, but they were not the clear-cut chances they had created earlier in the game.

Against the Football Ferns, it felt familiar. Australia dominated, and created chance after chance, but New Zealand had the lead and a goalkeeper in inspired form.

This would be the test to see if they had learned from that elimination in India. With the situation becoming increasingly desperate, the players were not. They trusted in their own technical ability, and the tactical approach. On top of that, they added their well-known mentality.

Van Egmond’s goal was well taken but expertly created. She was found in space at the top of the box and basically central. She had the goal at her mercy and the time to take her shot. This is the type of chance Australia had been creating from the opening minutes. In the final seconds, they were still creating it. There was no panic.

Above: Clare Polkinghorne connects with the Matildas fans this week. Photo: Football Australia.

The combination of their famous Never Say Die mantra and an effective game plan based around chance creation over caution combined to form an irrepressible force and a 2-1 win.

Matchday pundit and Melbourne Victory captain Kayla Morrison hoped that this might be a turning point for the team. The second match reinforced this notion.

Australia were not quite as dominant. They had slightly less possession and created 23 chances on goal as opposed to Friday’s 38. This is not too surprising, New Zealand looked more determined and played with an increased intensity to avenge their close loss.

However, with an almost identical lineup, Australia started the second game as they finished the first. Apart from an early effort by Hannah Wilkinson, The Matildas dominated the early chances on goal. Unlike the first game, they scored early through Sam Kerr in the fifth minute.

Hayley Raso added a second with a brilliant individual effort. Her trademark pace took her into space after picking up a loose ball. Her left foot finish was delightfully curled into the bottom corner from 18 yards.

Kerr’s second and Australia’s third was the best of the lot. Van Egmond played a long pass into space, and Kerr scored expertly with the outside of her right foot at full pace.

Wilkinson pulled a scrappy goal back for the Football Ferns, and that was the last of the goals for the evening. Australia dominated in the second half and were unlucky not to score a fourth or earn a penalty.

In both games, the playing style and team selections worked. The results and statistical domination point to a strong Matildas performance.

These were not perfect performances. The team clearly needs to work on finishing and the two goals conceded were preventable. However, these two matches showed the best of what we know about The Matildas and the strongest indication of what they could become.

Their individual skill controlled the games, the tactical discipline created the wins. The Never Say Die attitude made it possible when hope looked lost.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: