Matildas can change the momentum of a match & strike when they have it

By Kieran Yap (23/2/23)

Above: The belief is strong and the trust is there in the Matildas squad. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

The Matildas have won all three games in the latest international window. They scored 10 goals, while conceding just two. But not everything went exactly to plan, and this might be the most promising thing to come from the Cup of Nations.

The opponents were chosen not just with availability in mind, and definitely not with guaranteed wins as a consideration. Jamaica will be at the World Cup, Czechia have an enviable record against top teams and Spain will be expecting to contend for the trophy.

These teams different in playing styles and posed various challenges for Australia. Against each team, The Matildas had to find a different way to win.

Long-term fans of The Matildas will know that this generation has always been capable of beating anybody. But they tended to feel either ‘on’ or not. There were sometimes miraculous exceptions, but in games like the 2018 Asian Cup semi-final and final, it was pretty clear from the kickoff that the games would be difficult. Sometimes this was due to the opposition, but it was something that could last 90 minutes or beyond.

In the last seven games, The Matildas have shown they can switch formations, personnel, and more importantly gears to change the momentum of a match, then strike when they have it.

Above: Alex Chidiac (right) in action against Jamaica yesterday. The midfielder continues to impress in the green and gold. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

In the opening match, The Matildas prepared to face a team that got numbers behind the ball. Czechia had held the US scoreless and looked organised, disciplined, and physical. It took Australia until the second half to break them down, but they remained patient, did not get frustrated or lose confidence, and ended up with the 4-0 win.

Crucial to that match was early substitutions, and positional changes. Kyra Cooney-Cross pushed higher up the pitch and Alex Chidiac was introduced with plenty of time left to play.

The two former Melbourne Victory teammates were instrumental in the win. Cooney-Cross was sensational in the opening match, and her partnership with the dominant Katrina Gorry has been a big reason for the Matildas’ upturn in form. When she receives the ball, her first instinct is to accelerate into space that she instinctively knows is there. She creates time for herself, sometimes just extra seconds to deliver long passes or knit in shorter distances.

Chidiac is the definition of a game changer. She wants to impact games, knows she has the ability to panic defenders, and accepts the responsibility that comes with her undeniable talent.

Against Czechia, she created Sam Kerr’s goal after picking up the ball in the middle, linking wider with Charli Grant then winning a 50-50 ball after it bounced free.

In the final match against Jamaica, she changed the momentum. Subbed on at halftime, Chidiac was the dominant force of the second half. Gorry’s goal had given Australia the advantage, but Chidiac kept Jamaica on the back foot at every opportunity.

Her goal was footballing perfection. The ball fell to her in the penalty box, and instead of blasting at goal, she shifted her body to take send two defenders sprawling and make certain of it in ridiculous style.

Australia now can push through a frustrating period of a match, play without the ball, and score goals regardless.

In the second match against Spain, Australia were forced to defend for longer stretches of the match but looked no less convincing. The 3-0 scoreline at halftime was slightly fortuitous, but they took their chances when they came, and could have had more.

Bigger tests await, but Tony Gustavsson’s Matildas should fear nobody right now. They visibly have confidence in themselves, the game plan, and each other. This had not come from big wins against lowly ranked, or hand-picked opponents, but it has been done the hard way, through painstaking trials and repeated baptisms of fire.

There is still room for improvement, there always will be. But if the wins against Denmark and Sweden showed what The Matildas best could look like, The Cup of Nations has proven it was no fluke.

Above: The Matildas celebrate their Cup of Nations success. They have now won seven matches in a row, including victories over Spain, Sweden, and Denmark. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

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