The Matildas and penalties

As Impetus builds towards its coverage of the 2023 World Cup, Genevieve Henry looks at the joint host nation’s troubled relationship with penalty kicks and considers Tony Gustavsson’s options this July and August (26/5/23).

Above: The Matildas’ distraught reaction after their penalty shoot-out exit at the last World Cup to Norway. Photo: Football Australia.

We all remember the nightmare of Australia’s exit at the last sixteen stage of the 2019 World Cup; beaten 4-1 on penalties by Norway with star striker and figurehead of the team Sam Kerr missing hers in shocking fashion. 

Almost every team has a designated penalty-taker; The Matildas do too. But, unlike others, Australia’s doesn’t often score them. Sam Kerr carries her team on her shoulders, and come 2023, she’ll be carrying an entire nation’s hopes and dreams, too. This pressure clearly causes her to have a very inconsistent record of success when it comes to penalties.

Kerr has taken 11 penalties in her club career and only scored six of them. That’s a 54.5% conversion rate, which is frankly, not good enough. Considering the importance of the games she often steps up to take penalties in, this can end up disastrously. Tony Gustavsson’s team need someone who can handle this pressure. 

Above: Sam Kerr after missing her penalty in the shoot out against Norway in the last 16 of the 2019 World Cup in Nice, France. Photo: Richard Heathcote.

Unfortunately, there is no clear answer. Not enough of the current crop of Matildas players take penalties at club level to accurately assess the other options. But, there are a few people to consider.

Emily van Egmond used to take penalties for Australia from 2013 to 2019 and has actually scored more penalty goals than Kerr. While she hasn’t been playing quite as much recently, this could give her another reason to be in the squad.

Another thing to consider is the position of the player taking the penalty kick. Often, defenders and midfielders do quite well from the spot, as they are expected to stay calmer during the game, which they can carry over and apply to the penalty kick.

The Matildas have a few current defenders and midfielders that have scored penalties for Australia in the past: Steph Catley, Clare Polkinghorne, Katrina Gorry, and Chloe Logarzo. Not only could they possibly accomplish the task at hand, but we know how much these players (especially Polkinghorne) love a goal! There are many options, and any of them could do better than Kerr, by simple virtue of the pressure riding on them.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter who is taking the penalty kicks that Australia are awarded. They just need to be calm. A kick from the penalty spot is one of the easiest technical skills to master. It is also the hardest mental task to complete. The entire country is watching. Who will step up come the 2023 World Cup?

Genevieve Henry is one of Impetus’ newest writers. You can read her writers’ biography along with those of our other contributors by clicking on this link:

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: