Conversion Rate An Issue As Canada Defeat Matildas

Impetus’ Kris Goman reports on Australia’s friendly against Canada earlier today and joined the post-match media conference with both Tony Gustavsson and Bev Priestman in Brisbane for us (3/9/22).

Above: Canada celebrate Adriana Leon’s goal. Photo: Canada Soccer.

Australia 0-1 Canada

The Matildas haven’t played in Brisbane for some time and 25,016 people turned out to Suncorp Stadium to watch the Matildas go down narrowly to the Olympic gold medal holders. The Canadians scored early in a pretty scrappy match where possession was not the hallmark of either team.

The Aussies kicked off and pressed hard. An early cross from Emily Van Egmond saw a header from Sam Kerr deflected out for a corner.

Canada’s first foray into the box was a cross from Nichelle Prince straight to Lydia Williams. Almost immediately after, Kerr took a long-range shot on goal that went straight to Kailen Sheridan.

After a handball from Katrina Gorry, Canada were awarded a free kick. It was initially headed away but then sent out to the right of the box to Jordyn Huitema who passed to Adriana Leon who was unmarked and in acres of space. She lined up and fired to the top left of the goal past the outstretched fingertips of Williams for the first goal of the match, sending Canada ahead 1-0 at the 12th-minute mark.

Above: Adriana Leon celebrates after putting Canada in front. Photo: Canada Soccer.

A corner taken by Gorry ends with Claire Polkinghorne’s header going over the bar and this is the story of the rest of the match. Close attempts by both sides, either missed or saved. Both keepers were kept on their toes as the attempts piled up.

Prince made one of many damaging runs through the middle, passed to Huitema who was taken out by Polkinghorne and was given a yellow right at the top of the box. A five-player wall is installed. Leon takes the free kick but buries it in the wall instead of clearing it and it’s eventually sent back up the field.

Down the other end, Gielnik managed a decent cross but Kyra Cooney-Cross can’t connect and she’s bundled off the ball by Bianca St-Georges who put in a massive defensive effort in the absence of the usual Vanessa Gilles, Ashley Lawrence, and Deanne Rose.

Gorry sent a long ball to Kerr who found herself in the clear.  Sheridan came right out and got a foot to the ball but sent it to Gielnik who tried to lob her but it went harmlessly over the top post. Fowler brought it back into the box and lobbed it to the head of Van Egmond. She was on target but Sheridan stopped it up in the corner.

Another attack had Kerr coming into the box again but she was denied once more. The Matildas launched wave after wave of attack but just couldn’t break through. Shortly after, Price gets around Gorry and shoots low to Williams who is able to get the ball in her grasp.

Above: Kailen Sheridan, who had an impressive afternoon for Canada. Photo: Canada Soccer.

Kerr gets away again and on a solo run shoots a rather weak shot that is saved by Sheridan. Another attack by Canada is saved by Williams. Australia has been playing with 10 for a short time as Kennedy has gone off injured. Eventually, Aivi Luik comes on to replace her. A Matildas’ corner bounces around before a header by Mary Fowler is easily gathered. Sheridan’s been busy today though. The finishing on both sides leaves a bit to be desired. There’s been a lot of chances but all the shots are either wide or straight to the keeper, when on target.

Things don’t really change much after halftime and, if anything, it gets more hectic. A long throw-in from Gielnik goes to Polkinghorne for a header that’s captured by Sheridan. Kerr gets a run and then passes to Fowler who slides it to Gielnik but her shot from the right hits the side netting.

Cooney-Cross strikes from outside the box but that’s straight to Sheridan who takes it comfortably. Nevin clatters Leon again and somehow manages not to get a second yellow. It’s been quite a battle between Leon and Nevin and both have hit the deck numerous times.

Prince launches an attack down the left and crosses to Christine Sinclair who hasn’t been particularly involved as yet. Her shot from near the goal line flies straight into Luik’s stomach, winding her slightly and then out for a corner.

Another run by Prince and the cross just misses the head of Leon as it flies across the face of the goal. An intercept by Prince is centred to Sinclair who shoots. It’s parried away by Williams and then cleared. Shortly after, Canada have another intercept by Prince that causes chaos in the box, culminating in a shot wide by Beckie. The next run sees Prince miss a sitter in a very unlucky attack.

Above: It was a frustrating afternoon for the Matildas and head coach Tony Gustavsson. Photo: Football Australia.

Prince is tearing holes in the defence and although she never scores she’s making significant ground each time she gets the ball. Thankfully at 75 minutes, she’s replaced by Simi Awujo and Clarissa Larisey also comes on for Leon at the same time. Australia has also replaced Gielnik with Cortnee Vine and Nevin with Tameka Yallop.

Almost immediately, Larisey gets a shot on goal that is batted away by Williams
Possession has been fairly even to this point and shots have now also come up to even after Canada has been attacking a bit more.

At 78 minutes, Larissa Crummer replaces Van Egmond. Soon after, Kerr is in the box and holds up the ball then passes to Vine who sidesteps and shoots wide. It’s so close but she couldn’t quite curl it in.

Back down the other end and Cloe Lacasse brings it into box and sidesteps Williams but then missed an open goal as Williams recovers. It’s like ping pong with the ball back and forth and Vine brings it near the goal line and gets it back to Kerr who also missed to the right.

A Charli Grant intercept is sent to Fowler and her shot goes high in an injury-time effort. Gorry gets a late yellow after a collision with Lacasse. A final rush in sees it out for a corner as Kerr closes. The corner results in a big save by Sheridan as she tips Kerr’s header over the bar. Despite a concerted effort by the Aussies towards the end, nothing goes in. There’s been plenty of chances at both ends but it’s all a bit rushed and there’s been very little composure on the ball. It felt like a very fast-paced game and despite the loss, it was exciting to watch with plenty of action.

Above: Canada head coach Bev Priestman and goalscorer Adriana Leon speaking to the media after the match. Image: Football Australia.

In the post-match press conference, both coaches, Bev Priestman and Tony Gustavsson agreed it was scrappy. Priestman said that came in the challenges but she was happy with Canada’s possession and said the game was at the highest level with two top teams.

Canada’s head coach spoke highly of St-Georges who missed the Olympics and had a tough time getting back into the team. She said she “had an incredible mindset to do anything to stop the ball coming into the box”. Despite a depleted team that would normally see Gilles step up, St-Georges did that tonight.

Priestman was very pleased with their commitment and togetherness to make their country proud. They “got down to business”.  Kailen (Sheridan) was their number two keeper and has stepped into (Steph) Labbe’s spot and her presence tonight was the best she’s seen. “She did some incredible saves.” They had two debuts, a dynamic midfield, and were electric in terms of passing. They did what was asked and had a front six in many ways. She was happy with what she had seen.

She spoke about this being a trial run for the World Cup – to do the prep, the flights, suffer the jetlag, see the hotels, the grounds, the fans, the traffic. “These learnings make a huge difference”. We want to “use the learnings and deliver when it matters.”

Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson and Katrina Gorry in the post-match media conference. Image: Football Australia.

Australia head coach Gustavsson said it felt like chaos and the aggression was in regaining possession. “We tried to be aggressive but made technical mistakes today. The tempo is very fast right now so decision-making is important. We were reactive in defensive actions so there’s work to do to be more compact and how fast we move the ball. We tried to play the same way as against NZ but Canada are ranked much higher. We created a lot of chances to score, which was difficult to do.”

He said he was sitting with the stats. 26 to 21 box entries. It was even possession, pretty even shots. It was decided on the conversion rate and “that’s what we need to work on. “Sam is world class goal scorer. Other days she scores a hat trick.” It wasn’t one of those days. “I won’t make a big deal of it.”

She also needs final passes so she doesn’t have to do a lot of work on the ball. The final pass and how we set her up. “Mini (Katrina Gorry) is hardest on herself. She’s a phenomenal quarterback. The physicality she brings in. She doesn’t hesitate.” Gustavsson also revealed that he thought “Mary (Fowler) struggled in defending a bit today. Her attacking was phenomenal and she can spin on a dime and shoot from distance. “We were not intense enough in the first half.”

Reflecting on the impact of Charli Grant and Cortnee Vine, the Matildas head coach said: “It was a great opportunity for Charli and Cortnee. Charli doesn’t shy away from a challenge. We came into this window with a different mindset. Grant is getting great chances against world-class players. The last 15 minutes you saw that never say die attitude.”

With Australia already hit by injuries, Gustavsson revealed that the prognosis for Alanna Kennedy, who went off with a hamstring injury is not immediately positive, saying “She might not come back too fast from that.”

Despite the outcome on the day, Australia’s head coach was positive looking ahead to the second match between the two nations in Sydney. “We can beat Canada, I know we can. We can beat the best team in the world, if we play at the level we know we can play at.”

Above: Katrina Gorry speaking after the final whistle with daughter Harper. Image: Football Australia.

Gorry said it was nice to be back in Brisbane and play at Suncorp Stadium but was disappointed with the loss. “They are just red jerseys,” she said of the Canadian team, “and I just play my game and intercept as much as possible. It’s a balance sometimes and I get too far forward. I need to get on the ball more. I’m still learning and building, playing different formations and I need to find spaces on the field. I’m enjoying the position.”

Teams: AUSTRALIA: Williams, Nevin, Polkinghorne, Grant, Van Egmond, Fowler, Kennedy, Gielnik, Gorry, Kerr, Cooney-Cross. Substitutes: Micah (GK), Whyman (GK), Luik, Vine, Yallop, Ibini-Isei, Crummer, Wheeler, Chidiac.

CANADA: Sheridan, Zadorsky, Grosso, Huitema, Sinclair, Prince, Beckie, Leon, Bianca St-Georges, Fleming, Sura Yekka. Substitutes: D’Angelo (GK), Proulx (GK), Quinn, Scott, Schmidt, Carle. Awujo, Lacasse, Larisey, Levasseur.

Scorer: Leon 12′.

Attendance: 25,016.

Above: The Australia team that faced Canada in Brisbane today. Photo: Football Australia.

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