International Football

ParaMatildas Stars Honoured At Para Football Awards

Impetus’ Ben Gilby brings us all the news from the Australian Para Football Awards in the women’s categories (25/9/22).

Above: Katelyn Smith displays her Player of the Year Award today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Goalkeeper Katelyn Smith was named Player of the Year at the 2022 Annual Para Football Awards held at the Southport Yacht Club on the Gold Coast. 

A Perth native, Smith collected another piece of history on the night as she claimed the inaugural CommBank ParaMatildas Player of the Year title.  Imperious for the women’s national team in their first IFCPF Women’s World Cup campaign, Smith was awarded the Goalkeeper of the Tournament following the team’s silver medal-winning run. The 26-year-old also claimed the women’s Golden Glove for 2022 to join her trophy from the World Cup.

Above: Rae Anderson – Rookie of the Year. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Rae Anderson was awarded the Rookie of the Year honour, after her performances in the World Cup.

Eloise Northam took out the Goal of the Year Award for her sensational strike against the USA.

Above: Eloise Northam – a worthy winner of the Goal of the Year Award. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

The final awards of the night were presented by former Paralympian Kurt Fearnley as he announced the Undefeated Champions for 2022. This category acknowledges and celebrates those players who have demonstrated their “undefeated” spirit both on and off the pitch. Tahlia Blanshard collected the award for the tireless and selfless promotion of her team and as a powerful disability advocate. Her consistent efforts across social media and through public forums have helped shape conversations, break down barriers, and show the next generation that anything is possible.

Above: Tahlia Blanchard – the Undefeated Champion of 2022. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Canada Loss Underlines The Importance of Building Depth

Impetus’ Kieran Yap reflects on Australia’s defeat to Canada yesterdayWith EXCLUSIVE photos by Kris Goman at Allianz Stadium (7/9/22).

Above: The Matildas come together in the huddle before their impressive first half showing against Canada yesterday. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

“How it looked is how it felt for us” said Caitlin Foord after Australia’s 2-1 loss to Canada.

“We felt like we were dominating, we felt like us again. We felt like we were playing well and a bit unlucky not to score a couple more. We don’t have that much time together leading into the World Cup, so that’s why those moments like the first 45 are really important, that we build on that, take that momentum into the next game and learn from that second 45 as well.”

The Matildas opening half was everything supporters, fans, analysts and critics would have wanted to see. Australia were direct in their passing, defensively strong, particularly on the flanks, and attacking in numbers.

Above: Celebrations after Mary Fowler put Australia ahead against Canada yesterday. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Mary Fowler’s opening goal arrived before 10 minutes of play, and Australia created four more excellent chances in the first half along with having a penalty claim denied.

The second half was the exact opposite. Tony Gustavsson enacted some pre-planned substitutions, and Canada lifted their game to the level befitting Olympic Gold Medallists. Australia went from dominating, to competing, to hoping.

Above: Cortnee Vine (right) who had an impressive first half, looks on as Jessie Fleming drives forward for Canada. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

The most obvious change was on the right wing. Canada introduced Janine Beckie to the contest, Australia withdrew Cortnee Vine, who along with right-back Charlotte Grant had been impassable in defence and dangerous going forward.

With that partnership broken up, Canada enjoyed newfound space on the wing, and Australia became stretched more than they had been in the opening half. They were quickly on the back foot.

“We evaluated Vine at halftime,” explained Gustavsson to the media post-match. “She did a strength test, she lost 50% of strength in her hamstring and couldn’t continue unfortunately, because she had a really good first half.

“It’s frustrating because you felt the first 45 minutes was maybe the first time in a long time we’ve packaged a performance consistently. We’ve seen patches before…but this was a 45-minute complete performance when we were actually dominating Canada.

Above: Aivi Luik – strong at the back. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

“We know exactly what’s going to happen. Canada has nothing to lose, they’re going to press the shit out of us. We need to be ready for it…but I don’t think we were really ready.

“We didn’t match their speed of press with our speed of play…we didn’t play fast enough.”

It was a frustrating turn of events for Aussie fans. Although all of these friendly matches are essentially a pre-season to the World Cup, this felt like a winnable game, and the intent from the first whistle was clearly to do so.

However, Gustavsson urged fans to consider the depth that is being built. Even Matildas fans with short memories will be well aware of what has happened in the past when one a single player was missing.

Above: Clare Polkinghorne (left) marking Janine Beckie last night. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

In the past, any injury would lead to a domino effect. Clare Polkinghorne injured meant Steph Catley moving to centre-back, which meant Elise Kellond-Knight to left back which meant… you get the picture.

Once upon a time, this had reached a point where Caitlin Foord, and Kyah Simon were filling in or being experimented with as fullbacks. Although it is the role where Foord first earned her reputation, it is not where one of the nation’s best strikers should be.

Grant and Vine’s performance should be encouraging and is perhaps the most successful example of the depth building that Gustavsson had undertaken.

Australia’s right flank has long been a strength and a place of vulnerability. Hayley Raso and Ellie Carpenter can not easily be matched for speed, skill, or effort. Both players would risk serious injury to win the ball and developed a strong chemistry over the years.

Above: Charli Grant (left) put in another good shift for The Matildas. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

However, without one of them, Australia were significantly weaker. Without both of them it could be disastrous. Their particular set of skills are hard to find once, let alone twice.

The Matildas now have that set of skills four times. Grant and Vine are not at the same level as the Lyon and Manchester City stars, but against Canada, they further established themselves as senior players.

The emergence of both means that Australia can handle the loss of Carpenter and/or Raso without changing game style or tactics, that is significant.

At left back, it remains less obvious. Courtney Nevin is fast growing into a player who can deliver at the top level, and Tameka Yallop is surprisingly strong as a fullback. But neither are replicas of Steph Catley, and it requires a slight reshuffle in the absence of the Arsenal gun.

Above: Courtney Nevin – growing into a player who can deliver at the top level. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Centre Back is the one area where depth has not been increased. Alanna Kennedy and Polkinghorne remain the first choice pairing, but beyond them, no obvious understudy or successor has emerged. Although Aivi Luik was strong in both games, as she has been at club level in her reincarnation as a defender.

Gustavsson has indicated that receiving senior Matildas caps will now be more difficult as he narrows down the squad to compete for the World Cup. But another strong central defender needs to be found unless they want to change to a back three in case of injury or situation.

Naomi Chinnama excelled at the Under 20 World Cup, and Clare Hunt was possibly the best Australian defender in last season’s A-League Women’s.

Matilda McNamara has been starting regularly at her club in Denmark and Angie Beard is a versatile defender who is better out wide, but can move inside, or at least allow Catley to.

Above: Smiles from Sam Kerr at the end. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Gustavsson reiterated that seven starters from the Olympics were missing from this squad. If you add Kellond-Knight and Chloe Logarzo to that list, this was not even a nearly full strength Australian side.

But there are no guarantees he will have one at his disposal in 2023. The depth building project is essential, but questions remain if it is entirely successful. Only time will tell on that.

In the meantime, this result was more disappointing than other losses. Not because the score really matters in the big scheme of things, but just because the disparity between the first and second half was so stark.

This is why building depth is so important. Ideally, the on-field struggles that we are experiencing now should have been done years ago, a combination of a short-term senior coach and the pause on football during the pandemic denied that opportunity.

Australia has two more international windows this year. They will be used to test Australian players and tactics against different opposition from different continents.

This is all just pre-season, results don’t mean anything. But they don’t mean everything either.

Lionesses Wrap Up Qualification In Style

by Johnathan Stack at the Bet365 Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent (7/9/22)

Above: There was plenty for the Lionesses to celebrate last night. Photo: Lionesses.

It was not cold, wet, or windy, but England were on fire and certainly did the job on a Tuesday night in Stoke-on-Trent beating Luxembourg 10-0 to round off their FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers in dominating fashion. 

Goals from Alessia Russo, Rachel Daly, Beth Mead, Nikita Parris, Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp, and braces from Georgia Stanway and Bethany England saw England finish with a perfect 100% record in qualifying. 

England were in control of the match from the start and were as ruthless as they have been throughout these qualifiers as they looked to finish Group D flawlessly. They created chance after chance. 

It was a great display all around as England goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck did not touch the ball once with her hands as Luxembourg failed to register a shot on goal with the Lionesses finishing with 81% possession to boot.

Above: A big crowd at Stoke enjoyed the rampant Lionesses take on Luxembourg. Photo: Lionesses.

Ten wins from ten for the European champions in the qualifying campaign meant it was a night to remember as England took to the field for the first time on home soil since the historic triumph over Germany at the end of July.

Before the match, recently retired Lioness legend Jill Scott brought the UEFA Euro trophy onto the pitch, and England head coach Sarina Wiegman was presented with her UEFA Women’s coach of the year award in from of a home crowd of just over 24,000.

It was a great performance yet again from the Lionesses who picked up their third 10-0 win of the qualifying campaign, finishing with a goal difference of +80 with no goals conceded throughout the entirety of the campaign – extremely impressive stats that should not go unnoticed.

So, with the World Cup qualifiers, over focus and attention will now be on the new WSL season that starts this weekend, but it won’t be too long before the Lionesses return to St George’s Park for another international period as next month, they take on world champions the USA at a sold-out Wembley Stadium together with a friendly against the Czech Republic at Brighton’s Amex Stadium four days later.

Above: Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman speaks to the media after the match last night. Photo: Johnathan Stack for Impetus.

After the game, England head coach Sarina Wiegman expressed her delight with how the qualification campaign went saying: “I don’t think it could be much better than this so I’m really happy. The team has done a tremendous job coming out of the summer, everyone came in very differently, but then you play two games like this and we knew, of course, tonight we were so much better than Luxembourg but we still had to had to make the tempo of the game and keep the energy in the game that’s what we really wanted to do and I think that’s what we did for the most part of the game and 10-0 is really nice to go home with too.”

England captain Leah Williamson who provided a glorious assist for Alessia Russo for England’s second goal spoke about ending the qualifiers on a high: “It was a great campaign from us, and we always want to be better, we will look at those areas but in terms results on the pitch you couldn’t have asked for much more.” Williamson also spoke about carrying on the legacy that is being created post-Euro’s “We have set a tone and hopefully, across the WSL it will continue but every time we play an England game, we want people to come and have that experience.”

It has been a very successful summer for England who will have one eye on preparations for next summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, but will have the other eye on the upcoming task ahead as they prepare for a World Champions vs European Champions showdown.

Graphic: Johnathan Stack.

Teams: ENGLAND (4-3-3): Roebuck, Bronze, Daly, Walsh, Williamson, Greenwood, Parris, Stanway, Russo, Toone, Mead. Substitutes: Earps (GK), MacIver (GK), Bright, Zelem, Wubben-Moy, Carter, Hemp, Nobbs, England, Stokes, James, Salmon.

Scorers: Stanway (pen) 12′, 26′. Russo 18′, Daly 38′, Mead 40′, England 48′, 90+2′. Parris 59′ Toone (pen) 73′, Hemp 90′.

LUXEMBOURG (4-4-1-1): Schlime, Becker, Kremer, Lourenco, Dos Santos, Schmit, Soares Marques, Jorge, Have, Lourenco. Substitutes: Goetz, Weyer, Ludwig, Delgado, Mendes, Schon, Tiberi, Marques Abreu, Kocan, Albert.

Referee: Simona Ghisletta (SUI).

Attendance: 24,174

Above: The Lionesses squad that started the game against Luxembourg last night. Photo: Lionesses.

History Makers & Record Breakers: Wales Make Play-Offs For First Time

Wales 0-0 Slovenia

by Martin Townley at the Cardiff City Stadium (7/9/22)

Above: Post-match scenes of delight among the Welsh players. Photo: FAW.

It was an historic night in Cardiff as Gemma Grainger’s Wales side made history making it to the World Cup play-offs for the first time.  Needing just a point in front of a record crowd of 12,741 for a women’s football match in Wales, the side drew 0-0 with Slovenia.

Before kick-off as Zombie Nation blasted around the stadium, the heavens opened and rain cam hammering down on Cardiff City Stadium.  The rain didn’t damper the home crowd who belted out Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

Wales, knowing that a draw was enough to see them reach the play-offs, were cautious in their play.  They moved the ball patiently and did not commit too many players forward as they clearly were aware of Slovenia’s quick counter attacking style.

With so much on the line for both nations the game was tense, and the opening minutes showed both side struggling to get into their rhythms.

Slovenia captain Mateja Zver had the best chance of the early exchanges, latching onto a loose pass and trying a shot from the edge of the box.  Her shot was straight at Laura O’Sullivan and the Wales keeper parried it down before dropping on the ball. 

Carrie Jones out wide was Wales most dangerous player and she cut inside the box and hit a shot straight at Zara Mersnik. Jones was brought down on the edge of the box, but ref plays on.  Moments later and the same player had the ball on the edge of the box and curled a shot over the bar.  

A Rhiannon Roberts cross from the right was caught on the volley by Jones.  The effort whisked across goal where Kayleigh Green was sliding in, but she couldn’t connect. 

In the 70th minute Zara Mersnik pulled off two fantastic saves from a Jones shot then from Gemma Evans’ close range header. 

Above: Hayley Ladd in action for Wales last night. Photo: FAW.

Wales were managing the later stages of the game well with Roberts keeping the ball deep in the Slovenia half.  There was time for one last chance for the visitors however, when a ball over the Welsh defence needed Laura O’Sullivan to smother bravely. 

Slovenia couldn’t find the goal they needed, and the final whistle blew to huge cheers around the stadium. 

Wales make the play-offs for the first time after missing out in their final game in 2018, losing to England 3-0 after leading the group.  Then again in 2019 they narrowly failed after a home 2-2 draw with Northern Ireland gave the visitors a better head-to-head record.

Wales manager Gemma Grainger was delighted after the game: “I’m so pleased for the players, they deserve everything that they get. It has been an exceptional campaign. We have developed.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the players. The players need to take all the credit, the 12,000 supporters here tonight were behind us, and we fed off that. Now we want even more. We don’t mind who we get in the draw, we don’t have a preference. We will look at the play-offs as game 11 and game 12, but we can at least talk about them now.”

Wales will be in the draw for the playoffs on Friday 9th September and Grainger continued: “I am pleased for the players, for them it has been a long-time coming. In terms of growing the game and making people fall in love with the team… it’s been a special night. I didn’t let myself think about this moment, but we inspired 12,000 people, that’s incredible.”

Captain Sophie Ingle also praised the record-breaking crowd. “I’m ecstatic, we dug deep, they’re a great team, a physical team, and they battled until the end,” she said. “I don’t know how we didn’t score, but we got the result we needed. A lot of family and friends are here and the fans, over 12,000… it’s amazing.”

Teams: WALES (5-3-2): O’Sullivan, Evans, Ingle, Roberts, James, Green, Harding, Rowe, Ladd, Holland, Jones. Substitutes: Clark, Middleton-Patel, Woodham, Green, Ward, Fishlock, Hughes, Estcourt, Walters, Wynne, Fibley, Morgan.

SLOVENIA (4-3-2-1): Mersnik, Golob, Agrez, Korosec, Zver, Conc, Prasnikar, Kolbl, Erzen, Rogan. Substitutes: Galjot, Nemet, Gradisek, Rozmaric, Klopcic, Kustrin, Makovec, Krizaj, Milovic, Babnik, Vindisar.

Referee: Kateryna Monzul.

Attendance: 12,741

Lionesses Prepare For A Party In The Potteries

by Johnathan Stack at St. George’s Park (5/9/22)

Above: Lionesses’ Keira Walsh and head coach Sarina Wiegman at today’s media conference at St. George’s Park. Photo: Johnathan Stack for Impetus.

With World Cup qualification secured, the Lionesses head to Stoke-on-Trent for what is being described as a homecoming celebration.

Around 30,000 fans will descend on a sold-out Stoke City Stadium, in what will be England’s first home game since winning the UEFA Euro 2022 final and being crowned European champions.

With a brilliant 2-0 away victory in Austria on Saturday, thanks to goals from Alessia Russo and Nikita Parris confirming England as Group D winners, tomorrow night’s match will be the final game of FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying against Luxembourg.

Above: The Lionesses in training this morning at St. George’s Park. Photo: Johnathan Stack for Impetus.

Speaking on Russo starting in the number nine role against Austria, England manager Sarina Wiegman said: “We talk a lot about principles and how we want to create chances and score goals, and you want your players who can score goals the best to be in the best position at the moment the ball comes in front of goal. We really wanted Alessia to be in and around the 18-yard box when the ball gets there.

“Once in a while you go into the corner because that’s the solution for that moment, you have to do it. But you’re starting task is a little closer to the centre of the pitch. Dropping deep sometimes can absolutely be a solution if you want to get an overload or something but then someone else needs to make the run in behind.”

After the game, Wiegman was greeted by travelling England fans, and she spent time signing autographs while they chanted her name. It was an experience that she greatly valued. “It’s nice, it is absolutely nice. I think it’s all about the players. When they perform well, I’m doing well too. We work together, we work as a team. It’s always about the team but it’s nice, first of all, that the people come to Austria to watch us, they come to the stadium to cheer for us, and part I’m just part of what they cheer for.”

And even with the pressure off the Lionesses, Sarina Wiegman expects a similar result so the reverse fixture which saw England win 10-0 in the Stade de Luxembourg almost a year ago.

Above: England are put through their paces at training this morning. Photo: Johnathan Stack for Impetus.

With the match tomorrow being the first home match since the Euros success, Wiegman reflected on the incredible support that she feels that the team has from the public: “It’s really exciting and the support we have had has been great in the Euro’s and they keep coming now, so tomorrow it will be 30,000 coming to watch and we really want to show again our game and make a celebration and have a nice football game.

“This team is so eager to do well. Playing Luxembourg and it’s all done in the qualification, but we also have 30,000 people coming to watch us and that’s really exciting. As seen in training sessions and in the game played on Saturday, it’s so sharp and at such a good level, the team just wants to train and do well and do well every day in every moment that we get. I expect a very energetic team that really wants to show and with lots of goals and of course conceding none.”

With Group D done and dusted, the Lionesses head coach is expected to ring the changes with players itching to stake a claim in the starting 11 tomorrow night. Wiegman explained: “We still have one training session to do. Every player coming in very differently you might expect some changes.

“We are reviewing every game all the time, we’re reviewing what we did in camp and in training sessions on the pitch. This game will be a lot in possession, not the highest level, of course, it’s always an opportunity to show yourself and they are always competing here, competing in training and in games and also as competing at your club and as Keira (Walsh) said showing consistency in your own game for your team and getting minutes at your club which will give us all the information, we need to make the right choices.”

Above: The Lionesses are heading out for the final game of the qualification campaign tomorrow. Photo: Johnathan Stack for Impetus.

Also, in the press conference sat alongside Sarina Wiegman, was Keira Walsh, player of the match against Austria. The Manchester City midfielder is set to receive her 50th cap for England tomorrow: “If I’m in the team it’s exciting, when I was younger, I didn’t think I’d ever get to 50 caps for my country. I’ve still not even had time to reflect on the Euros so much because we’re straight back into it but I’m sure after the game probably sit down with my family at some point and reminisce on my journey in football.”

Walsh also spoke of her emotions on clinching qualification for next summer’s World Cup: “I don’t think it was a relief, I think we look forward to those sorts of games, we want to be playing in World Cup qualifiers. Austria is a good team and had a great Euros as well. We are confident in our own abilities, and we played a good game. It was just exciting to be back together after the Euros and get playing with each other again.”

Given the amazing celebrations from the Lionesses after the UEFA Euro 2022 final Walsh was asked whether the team celebrated after the game on Saturday evening: “I think it was difficult, with us being in different places in terms of club and stuff some of the girls had to go and train after the game, so we were kind of separated a little bit. But we came back to the hotel together and had post-match which was nice, (but) there were definitely muted celebrations compared to the Euros.”

Either way, there will definitely be celebrations after the full-time whistle tomorrow night which will bring the curtain down on an incredible summer not just for England but an incredible summer for women’s football in general, but up first can the Lionesses do it on a cold, wet and windy night in Stoke?

Gustavsson: It’s About Momentum

Impetus’ Ryan Miller-Woods heard from Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson ahead of the Matildas’ second friendly against Canada tomorrow (5/9/22).

Above: Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson has a lot to ponder ahead of tomorrow’s second game with Canada. Image: Football Australia.

Tony Gustavsson admitted today that he is still not sure on the availability of a number of his players ahead of their second friendly against Canada in Sydney.

“We tested some of the players in football but also afterwards some high-speed running because we have some soft tissue issues and some of the players weren’t available for the first game and we will hear later how they responded to that.

“Steph Catley is a question mark, for example, we decide that tonight, Caitlin Foord went through the training good, but we need to see how she responds tonight to that training. Those are the two ones that, Meeks (Tameka Yallop) trained fully as well and also Cortnee Vine trained fully, so hopefully, there’s some more players available for the game tomorrow but I won’t know for certain until tonight.

Above: Tony Gustavsson speaking to the media today in Sydney. Image: Football Australia.

“We looked at backup options, but we said that let’s wait for the training today because if three to four players pulled up well tonight, we don’t need it and if we do get an option that we can bring someone in, we do it, late call tomorrow just as a back-up on the bench so we have numbers at least but it doesn’t look like we need to right now cause in the training today, I actually had 19 outfield players that fulfilled the training but that includes Steph (Catley) that’s a little bit of a question mark, so it looks better going into this game than the first one.”

With the match being the first-round ball occasion hosted by the new Allianz Stadium, the Matildas head coach emphasised that tomorrow is more about building momentum for his team than a stadium opening.

“Everything is about momentum in sport, right? To get that momentum and I’ve been around in this game long enough for these 22 years to have taught me that sometimes you need a result just for the momentum and the belief around you, right? In that sense it is important.

“Internally, there’s still and I know some people might be sick and tired of me saying this but internally, we know what we have done, we know where we are and there’s a belief in the process and I don’t think that belief is going to be lost, even if we lose the game if that makes sense. I will be more worried if the game didn’t look good, you know, if performances are not there if they’re not playing the way we want to play, then maybe you can start to say ‘What’s happening here, right? But I think for the momentum, in that sense, I do think it is important and also for the outside, you know?

Above: Tony Gustavsson reflects on the importance of building momentum. Image: Football Australia.

“What we want to do is we want to inspire and these women want to fill this stadium on the 20th of July (2023), so if we can pull out a good performance, that could lead to a good result and get that momentum and the ways of positivity and then we want to fill this stadium.”

As Gustavsson highlighted, the countdown toward next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is getting closer by the day, there is no question that the heat is being turned up on the Matildas head coach and his team to get results and performances on a more regular basis.

“I mean, it might be unfair to ask for trust in the process but I understand what it’s like, I do, you know I’ve been there on the other side as well and when you don’t see what is happening on the inside and you want to see those results to get the belief but I think Sam (Kerr) and the players, they deserve all the belief that they can get and even if we happen to lose a friendly or so, I think you know, if they can feel the belief from the fans, look at those last 50 minutes against Canada from Brisbane, for example, it was the fans, carrying us through those 50 minutes and we almost scored two goals because of that energy and the belief that we can do with the ‘Never Say Die’ attitude again like we’ve done a lot of times before.

“I’d say as well that it is important to look at the whole picture and see what we’ve tried to do. Maybe I can look at the mirror sometimes and say ‘Was I overambitious’ you know, trying to build depth in the roster and at the same time played the toughest schedule in the history of this program and maybe that wasn’t the best for the belief and the trust from the outside but I was very clear with the federation (Football Australia) and with the players, what we were doing, so I think internally the patience is there to trust us, the belief is there but externally I understand the question, I do and it’s fair.”

Above: Tony Gustavsson admits he has more options in midfield and up front compared to defence. Image: Football Australia.

There has been a degree of criticism over Australia’s defence, and Gustavsson emphasised that he sees that his team are attack heavy in terms of player numbers.

“We are definitely overloaded in the midfield, there’s tons of fantastic midfielders in this country and that’s a challenge because there’s not room for every single one of them. You saw in the last game that I played a centre midfielder out wide with Kyra Cooney-Cross because she has been phenomenal in clubland (for Hammarby) when she comes back from injury and she’s been phenomenal in training, so she deserved a start. So I choose to put her out on the 11 because I know she can play out there and by the way, she had a phenomenal second half (against Canada in Brisbane).

“When it comes to Chids (Alex Chidiac), all she can do is keep focusing on what she is doing right now meaning deliver good games in clubland (for Racing Louisville), coming in here, and try to prove for me that she deserves minutes on the field but it is tough competition, it’s tough competition for her, for Meeks (Tameka Yallop), for Chloe Logarzo, for Kyra Cooney-Cross, EVE (Emily van Egmond), Mary (Fowler), you name it, you know, it’s just a few of all the world-class midfielders, we add Wheeler (Clare Wheeler) to that list as well, Mini (Katrina Gorry) who’s normally maybe an eight or 10, who plays in the six role, you add KK (Elise Kellond-Knight) to that, coming back playing games now, a bit too early to bring her into this camp, I spoke to her but hopefully, we see her in the October camp and then here you go and there might be room for three of them.”

After the performance in the first game against Canada in Brisbane on Saturday, it will be interesting to look out for what Australia can, as a whole, do differently to either get a result in Sydney.

Wales Prepare to Make History

by Martin Townley (5/9/22)

Above: Wales are hoping for plenty of celebrations tomorrow night when they could clinch a first-ever World Cup Play-Off spot. Photo: FAW.

Wales will face Slovenia on Tuesday at Cardiff City Stadium in their final World Cup Qualifier needing just a draw to secure a place in the World Cup Play-offs and will have the backing of a record crowd set be over 10,000. 

Gemma Grainger’s side stand on the brink of history and will be the first Welsh women’s side to make a major tournament play-off.  A 1-0 win away to Greece on Friday night leaves a play-off place in Wales’s own hands thanks to Carrie Jones’ goal. 

Slovenia could, with a win, overtake Wales in Group I and steal second place and a play-off place. Sara Makovec and Mateja Zver both scored as Slovenia kept their qualification hopes alive with a 2-0 win over Kazakhstan. 

When the sides met back in October last year the match ended 1-1.  Manja Rogan giving the hosts the lead with Kayleigh Green equalising two minutes after.  Shortly after scoring Green was shown a red card for a second booking leaving Wales to hold on for what may turn out to be a vital away point. 

Despite only needing a point Wales manager Gemma Grainger told BBC Sport,

“We have put ourselves in this position where we need only a point, but we’ll absolutely prepare to go and win that game because they are the standards that we have as a team. They are the standards whoever we play.

Above: There will be a record crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium tomorrow night. Photo: Cardiff City FC.

“We know what position we have put ourselves in and we know now that we will flip to Slovenia,” Grainger added.

With a record crowd at Cardiff for the game, Grainger emphasised the importance of the fans to the team,

“The fans are huge to us, we have broken the record by a long way, but we want to see more than 10,000 because they are huge.

“We have seen it with Rob [Page] and the men’s team and now it’s our turn. The fans will make the difference.”

Wales star Jess Fishlock was on the bench for the game against Greece after picking up an injury.  There is no news as yet as to whether or not Fishlock will start against Slovenia, so it’s likely that Wales will remain unchanged from the team that started against Greece. 

This game will be a tense affair with so much on the line for both teams but with the Red Wall in full force Wales at Cardiff is a tough task for any team. 

Lionesses Book Their Ticket Down Under

Austria 0-2 England

by Johnathan Stack (4/9/22)

Above: England’s Rachel Daley shows her delight after the match with World Cup qualification sealed. Photo: Lionesses.

England secured their place at next summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup with a 2-0 win away in Austria – a victory that maintained the Lionesses’ perfect record in World Cup Qualifying. 

Goals in either half from Alessia Russo and Nikita Parris sealed the group for England who only needed one point coming into this game to be confirmed as Group D winners. 

Russo was handed the number nine shirt relinquished by the retired Ellen White, in what was just her third start for England she repaid the faith in manager Sarina Wiegman’s decision to have Russo lead the line as she volleyed home from inside the area to give the Lionesses a seventh-minute lead. 

Above: Lauren Hemp and Ella Toone congratulate Alessia Russo after the Manchester United star put the Lionesses ahead. Photo: Lionesses.

England were out there to show why they are the European champions and looked comfortable passing the ball about, at times a little too comfortable with a couple of stray passes turning into opportunities for Austria and a lapse in concentration from England shot-stopper Mary Earps from receiving a pass for captain Leah Williamson saw Austria forward Julia Hickelsberger-Fuller close Earps down and put her under pressure which saw her attempt at a clearance deflect just past the post and nearly saw Austria level.

Nevertheless, England looked in control in this game against an opponent they have only beaten 1-0 on the last two occasions. The Lionesses controlled the midfield and a great pass from Bayern Munich player Georgia Stanway saw Nikita Parris score her first goal for England since last September with a great finish.

England has been dominant in the qualifying campaign, with nine wins from nine group games, 70 goals scored, and none conceded with one game left to play in Stoke-on-Trent on Tuesday.

The pressure is now off of the Lionesses who will play in the Stoke City Stadium in front of a sell-out crowd in their first game on home soil since being crowned European Champions by winning UEFA Euro 2022, 35 days ago and the Lionesses sold out friendly against world champions the USA can go ahead as planned as England won’t have to take part in the World Cup play-offs.

Above: Lucy Bronze powers in a header in Austria. Photo: Lionesses.

Speaking after the game, England head coach Sarina Wiegman said, “I’m very proud, we have done so well. From September last year till now we keep on doing well. Today was a hard game, we had some hard moments in the game, but I think we were the better team”.

Alessia Russo, who put the Lionesses ahead, spoke of her pride in the team’s mission being accomplished: “That was our main target this camp, and to have done it today is really special it’s what we have been aiming for. Now the Euros are done, it is behind us and now Australia and New Zealand is the next stop of the journey. To tick qualifying off is exciting”.

The scorer of the goal that sealed England’s qualification, new Manchester United signing Nikita Parris said “Austria gave us a tough game, they always defend well against us, and it was about us having the patience to break them down. First half Austria stayed in the game we got the early goal, but in the second half we were so much better”. 

Teams: AUSTRIA (4-1-4-1): Zinsberger, Wienroither, Wenninger, Georgieva, Hanshaw, Puntigam, Hickelsberger-Fuller, Zadrazil, Feiersinger, Dunst, Billa. Substitutes: Degen, Eder, El Sherif, Hobinger, Kirchberger, Klein, Kolb, Kresche, Nasschenweng, Schasching, Schiechtl, Wienerroither.

ENGLAND (4-2-1-3): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Greenwood, Stanway, Walsh, Toone, Mead, Hemp, Russo. Substitutes: Carter, Daly, England, James, Nobbs, Parris, Roebuck, Salmon, Maciver, Stokes, Wubben-Moy, Zelem.

Goals: Russo 7′, Parris 69′.

Referee: Iuliana Elena Demetrescu.

Attendance: 2,600.

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, 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.

Today’s Youngsters, Tomorrow’s Rockstars

Five Talents You Should Watch Out For From The U-20 World Cup

by Emmanuel Faith (2/9/22)

Above: The new U20 World Champions, Spain. Artwork: FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.

Although the FIFA under-20 World Cup wrapped up on Monday, a lot of football fans are still basking in the array of exhilarating moments of the tournament.

From Spain scoring three goals in 27 minutes, to Brazilians singing for and wrapping the player of the tournament Maika Hamano in a warm embrace, and Tarciane scoring a bicycle kick to put her team ahead against Dutch after losing a penalty, monumental moments like this would live in our hearts forever.

FIFA Under-20 World Cups have produced players that later went on to shine for their countries and this year’s edition is no exception. Having witnessed amazing talents like Christine Sinclair of Canada in 2002, Marta of Brazil in 2004, Alexandra Popp of Germany in 2010, and the Nigerian whiz Asisat Oshoala in 2014. Costa Rica has shone the lights on another amazing set of talents and below are a few you should watch out for.

1. Tarciane Karen: The Brazilian defender and captain was one of the most outstanding players of the tournament. Besides scoring three important goals and shouldering the responsibility of being the team’s designated penalty taker, her leadership qualities marshalled the Brazilian defence while contributing to the attack with her pace when and tackles when required. Little wonder the Brazilian coach Pia Sundhage mentioned in an interview that she would be glad to give her a trial time with the senior national team.

2. Inma Gabarro: How do you know a player who is going to be the football rockstar in the next couple of months? By her impressive goal-scoring abilities. Scoring eight goals in six matches was more than enough for the Sevilla attacking midfielder to pick up the golden boot and if she continues with this form, the Spanish senior team can be assured of another top-tier talent in a few years. Who knows, she might even be part of the team travelling to Australia and New Zealand.

Above: Maika Hamano (left), Inma Gabarro (centre), and Yuzuki Yamammoto (right) pose with the silver, golden, and bronze boots. Photo: FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.

3. Imuran Abiola: Despite the quarter-final exit of the African starlets at the competition, the Nigerian team were one of the dazzling teams and the 18-year-old defender was one of the stars who glistened with resplendence. Apart from her incisive contributions to the attack, providing two assists during the process, her defensive contribution in the first two matches, positioned her as one of the stars to watch out for in the nearest future. It isn’t surprising she has been called up to the Super Falcons for their friendly against the reigning World champions, the United States.

4. Maika Hamano: She plays with grace, poise, and flair. Winning the golden ball award was a deserving consolation for the Japanese striker whose immense contribution kept the Asian heroines going. While a lot of Asians haven’t been in the spotlight in Europe and WSL, we have seen the likes of Ji So-Yun and Sam Kerr of Chelsea, Iwabuchi of Arsenal, Saki Kumagai of Bayern Munich engrave their name in the frame of modern football. Hamano might be following their footsteps soon, especially if she makes it to the FIFA World Cup next year or the Olympics in 2024.

5. Yaya: The Brazilians were a handful in the tournament and the lanky midfield maestro was one of the spotlights of the young Selecaos. The way she dazzles the ball reminds you of prime Marta, or Ronaldinho, and who knows, she might be playing in the NWSL or Europe in the nearest future.

Above: The Brazilian rockstars; Yaya and Tarciane celebrate a goal. Photo: FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.

There are also astounding talents like the dazzling Dutch midfielder Liz Rijsbergen, the Nigerian midfield engine Esther Onyenezide, the Spanish forward; Slama Paralluelo among others.

The world is waiting for these talents and we can’t wait to see how far they would go. Which other amazing youngster caught your attention? Please comment below.

Gustavsson On Moving To Australia And Moving Australia Forward

Impetus’ Kris Goman heard from Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson in his Brisbane media conference ahead of tomorrow’s first of two friendlies with Canada (2/9/22).

Above: Tony Gustavsson speaking to the media earlier today. Image: Football Australia.

The Matildas are back in Australia after their northern hemisphere summer break to play reigning Olympic Champions Canada.

With less than a year until the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, a very mixed bag of results since taking over means that the pressure is really now on head coach Tony Gustavsson to pull some tricks out the bag and get some consistent runs on the board. 

The headline news of today’s media conference though is that Gustavsson has moved to Australia as of last Tuesday and is looking for a home to live in in the run-up to the World Cup. That will be a big change and give him the opportunity to have a good look at and work with the A-League players as well as the established Matildas. There’s been some criticism of Gustavsson living in Sweden so this is proof of the commitment and should quieten some of the dissent. He says it feels fantastic to finally, officially be in Australia. 

Adaptable change is what it’s all about as many players from the Olympic team are not available for this series against Canada – tomorrow at least. Obviously, Ellie Carpenter is out and Hayley Raso has not come over for this camp. Kyah Simon is also out with injury and it’s just been reported that Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord, Mackenzie Arnold, and Tameka Yallop also won’t be available. Cortnee Vine is in doubt but will be assessed tonight for a soft tissue issue. Chloe Logarzo is not quite ready yet. “It’s going to test the investment in the depth of the roster”. 

Sam Kerr will be playing and bringing her unique leadership to the matches. Gustavsson believes she’s a winner and says he loves working with her. Despite winning big awards, he reports that she doesn’t get complacent and is never satisfied, and always wants more. She continues to work on her finishing technique and that’s going great. 

The Matildas head coach feels that Canada are a great defensive team and also very strong on the break. Australia really felt that in the Olympics, they should have been in the final against Canada and now they have the chance to play that game.

Above: Canada head coach Bev Priestman speaking to the media today. Image: Football Australia

It will be quite a different Canadian team too though as defensive stalwart Olympic champions Ashley Lawrence, Vanessa Gilles, and Deanne Rose are all out for these matches. Canada head coach Bev Priestman will be trialing a few newbies herself.

Gustavsson believes his team’s strength currently is with Katrina Gorry who has come back from having her baby and playing the best football of her career. “We want to dominate and penetrate in the middle of the park and Gorry is the final piece of the puzzle in that number six role.” 

When asked directly if he thinks we can win the World Cup, Gustavsson described what they are up against. The upcoming year has five FIFA windows giving the team 46 days available together, 10 of those days will be travel days leaving only 36 days. There’ll be 11 games and pre-game sessions leaving only 10 proper training sessions.

“It’s around the corner and every minute counts.” They need to control the controllables and “want to inspire” and “will leave their heart out there.” They are going to be very aggressive and want to concede less goals. But they have to understand the difference between expectations and belief and they believe they can achieve more.

Gustavsson wants to see what he saw against Brazil and what he saw in the first half against USWNT and against NZ. “Things were working there”. He felt that his squad were pressing well, and brilliant in set plays. The challenge now is to see this in longer spurts and keep the tempo high. 

The Matildas play Canada on Saturday 3rd September. Kick-off is 2.45pm AEST in Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium. In Australia, the game will be shown live on Ten Bold and Ten Play. Overseas viewers could view the match on Football Australia’s YouTube channel depending on location. Tickets are still available.

Above: Sam Kerr in training today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

Yallop: Being Versatile Back On Queensland Soil

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Tameka Yallop in Australia’s Queensland training camp ahead of the first of their two friendlies against Canada (1/9/22).

Above: Tameka Yallop speaking from the Matildas training camp earlier today. Image: Football Australia.

The Matildas were back at Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre this morning for a second full team session ahead of their clash with Canada this Saturday afternoon. 

For midfielder Tameka Yallop, and many of the Queensland-raised team members, the venue brought back some familiar memories. 

“I was reminiscing when we drove around the ring road and all the memories came flooding back,” Yallop said.  “It’s great to be back here and back in Australia.” 

Above: Kyra Cooney-Cross in action during today’s training session. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

“Today was a good session. It’s great to have the girls all in together and it was a good vibe. We’ve been focusing on defence and attack.”

Yallop touched on the fact that she’s played in so many different positions for the national team, and hinted that she’s been experiencing something a bit different again today.

“Yeah, mostly I’ve been used in an attacking sense, but today I was more in the backline, but I relish it, I like learning new things. I don’t know what makes me so versatile, but it has helped me in my game. Learning the new positions helps me to connect with other players on the pitch – where everyone else would be.

“Obviously, we take it game by game so the first one [against Canada] is most important. It feels like time’s going fast now and to have matches like this, to really narrow down the details and focus on the finer things is really important.”

“We’ve got great focus here within the group so these games will be really good for us heading into the World Cup.”

Above: Charli Grant (centre) and Teagan Micah (right) share a joke with Katrina Gorry at training today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

Queen’s Of Europe Are Ready To Roar Again

Impetus’ Johnathan Stack was at the Lionesses’ media day at St. George’s Park for us and heard from England stars Rachel DalyAlessia Russo, and Ebony Salmon (31/8/22).

Above: England in training at St. George’s Park yesterday. Photo: Johnathan Stack.

There was a joyous sense of atmosphere around St Georges’ Park, as England start preparing for their final two FIFA Women’s World Cup Group D Qualifiers.

It has been a month since the Lionesses were crowned European Champions in the incredible UEFA Euro 2022 Final. That extra-time victory against Germany at Wembley has taken women’s football in this country to a new level of popularity. With a massive rise in ticket sales at WSL clubs as well as clubs in the FA Women’s Championship, these England players have risen to a level of stardom previously unseen.

And rightfully so, they have captivated the hearts of the nation and inspired the next generation, with England’s final qualifying game against Luxembourg in Stoke-on-Trent sold out along with the friendly against World Champions USA at Wembley in October.

Above: The England players and staff are joined by those working at St. George’s Park for a celebratory photograph with the European Championship trophy. Photo: Johnathan Stack.

Everyone was in a celebratory mood at St Georges’ Park as the England team walked out to a guard of honour from all the staff members at the training complex. There was a relaxed session put on and at the end of the session, the England players and staff were joined on the pitch with all the staff at the St Georges’ Park Football Centre for a group picture with the UEFA Euro 2022 trophy.

The squad looked in high spirits, very content posing for pictures and signing autographs with Club Wembley members who were invited to join in the celebrations.

But now it is back to business for the Lionesses, with just one point needed to secure the top spot in Group D with a difficult away trip to Austria first up, England manager and UEFA Women’s Coach of the year Sarina Wiegman will be wanting the same outcome as the opening game of UEFA Euro 2022 in which England won 1-0 at Old Trafford.

Speaking ahead of the games against Austria and Luxembourg, England players Rachel Daly, Alessia Russo, and Ebony Salmon spoke to the press and gave their thoughts on what could be a crucial game where England win the group.

Above: Ebony Salmon (top left), Rachel Daly (bottom left), and Alessia Russo (right) speak to the media at St. George’s Park. Photo: Johnathan Stack.

Daly said “I don’t think anything needs to change; we have come off the back of a successful summer. We know what we need to do, we know what Austria are about, we know what they can bring. But ultimately, we know what we need to need do, the focus remains firmly on us and what we can do and how we can control the game. It will be a tough game but one we will be more than prepared for”. 

Manchester United’s Alessia Russo, one of the stars of the Euros was clear in her assertion that focus is all now on the future: “I think for us any game it is important to go out there and perform at the highest level, these games are really important to us now. Obviously, the summer was unbelievable, but it’s done now, and as harsh as that sound, we are focused on our next games and the World Cup next summer, they are two massive games and ones that we hope to go out there and perform”. Russo said.

Houston Dash’s Ebony Salmon, in red-hot goalscoring form for her club, spoke of the advantages she believes she has playing in the NWSL: “For me, it was just about performing and obviously you can do that wherever you are, but over there I feel like I have a little less pressure on me perform not being in the WSL in the league where the majority of the squad are.

Above: Ebony Salmon has been in superb form for Houston Dash this season ahead of her re-call to the Lionesses squad. Photo: Houston Dash.

“I think being out in the US, I am able to express myself as much as I want and work on everything I know I need to work on to be here, when performances are good and performances earn a call-up I can come back here and show what I am about”.

To this point, England has been perfect in qualifying eight wins from eight matches and scoring 68 goals with none conceded including 10-0 away wins in Luxembourg and Latvia with the reverse fixture being that record-breaking 20-0 home victory at the Keepmoat Stadium being the Lionesses biggest ever victory.

So now that the women’s European Championship is done and dusted with the trophy safely at St Georges’ Park, there are two games of World Cup qualifying left. The Lionesses now have the accolade of being the reigning European champions and will be looking to finish this campaign strong as well as looking to make a statement ahead of next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Catley: Canada Pose A Great Challenge

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Australia’s Arsenal defender Steph Catley as she looked ahead to the Matildas’ two games with Canada during the international window (31/8/22).

Above: Steph Catley speaks today from Australia’s Queensland training base. Image: Football Australia.

The final members of the Matildas squad arrived this morning as the full 23-player roster assembled for the first time in Brisbane. 

Vice-captain Steph Catley was part of the latest cohort to arrive ahead of the opening match against Canada this Saturday afternoon at Suncorp Stadium.   

“I think it’s going to be an exciting game,” Catley said. “Canada have a ton of really, really talented players and a really good squad and they are obviously coming off the back of their Olympic win. 

Above: Emily van Egmond in training today Photo supplied to Impetus by: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

“To play on home soil and to get a really big crowd, I know the girls are really excited to get going.”

Australia’s return to Brisbane to play for the first time in a number of years is something that the Arsenal star believes adds extra focus to the team: “We haven’t played here for a long time and we’ve got a number of girls from Brissie and all their families and friends will be at the game. To be playing a team like Canada here – there’s not much more you can ask for.”

Catley emphasised the particular challenges that the Olympic champions will pose. “They are dynamic, they are very pacey. There’s a lot of technical talent as a lot of their players are playing in the best leagues in the world. That showed at the Olympics, they were class through the whole tournament.

“It’s a great challenge. If we can come out and take it to them in this stage in our preparations (for the World Cup), then it holds us in good stead. It will be a great game.”

Above: The Matildas in training earlier today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

Fowler: It’s Exciting To Be Back In Queensland

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Australia star Mary Fowler inside the Matildas’ training camp ahead of the forthcoming friendly with Canada in Brisbane. Image: Football Australia (30/8/22).

Queenslander Mary Fowler, her Manchester City teammate Alanna Kennedy and Sydney based forward Princess Ibini were the latest three players to join the Matildas camp in Brisbane. 

Fowler made the trek to Australia from her new home following her off-season move to Women’s Super League powerhouse Manchester City. 

Both Fowler and Kennedy enjoyed light sessions first up with the striker enjoying the opportunity to shake out the legs following almost 24 hours of travel.

“I feel fresh. I slept all the way on both my flights and I’m buzzing right now,” Fowler said. 

“It’s nice to be back and my family’s going to come over and watch me.  Even just to be with the girls, it’s been a while since I’ve been in camp.  I think for quite a few of us as well. It’s nice to be back together.”

Above: Alanna Kennedy sees the funny side during the Matildas latest training session in Queensland. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

The second day in Brisbane also saw members of the Matildas welcomed by the Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, multiple government Ministers, and dozens of the local football community at a reception held at Parliament House. 

Palaszczuk, who was recently announced as the newest Legacy ’23 ambassador, expressed her excitement at Brisbane hosting the Matildas and what it means for the next generation of Australian female footballers. 

“I am very excited that this weekend we will be seeing the Matildas go against Canada and we are expecting thousands of fans to come out,” Palaszczuk said.

“When you see our mighty Matildas, it goes to show each one of you that you can follow your dream and your dream can be to be a Matilda one day. I am incredibly proud that sport in this state is going from strength to strength.”

Above: Matildas and Sydney FC team mates Princess Ibini (left) and Cortnee Vine during a gym session in camp. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

Grainger Announces Welsh Squad For Final World Cup Qualifiers

25/8/22

Above: Wales head coach Gemma Grainger, who today announced her squad that she hopes will take her team towards a World Cup spot. Image: FAW.

Gemma Grainger has announced a 26-player squad for her side’s key 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers against Greece and Slovenia.

Four points in the two matches will guarantee Cymru’s place in the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time, and the head coach will head into the international window with a near full-strength side. Jess Fishlock and Charlie Estcourt return to the squad after being rested for June’s friendly match against New Zealand, while Esther Morgan and Hannah Cain are absentees as they continue their recovery from long-term injuries.

Above: Cardiff City Stadium/Stadiwm Dinas Caerdydd – where Wales will play in front of the biggest ever crowd to watch the women’s national team in the Principality when they host Slovenia. Photo: Cardiff City FC.

Cymru will first travel to Greece on Friday 2nd September (KO 18:00), before a final qualifier match against Slovenia on Tuesday 6th September at the Cardiff City Stadium (KO 19:45). The match in Cardiff is already a record breaker with more than 8,500 tickets sold, beating the current attendance for a Cymru Women’s home international match (5,455). Grainger and her side are hoping to welcome more than 10,000 to the ground as the noise of The Red Wall will play a key role in getting the side through to the play-offs.

Tickets for the match against Slovenia start at only £2 (group bookings) and £4 (individual bookings) for kids, available at faw.cymru/tickets

CYMRU SQUAD FOR WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS AGAINST GREECE AND SLOVENIA:

Laura O’SULLIVAN (Cardiff City Ladies), Olivia CLARK (Bristol City), Safia MIDDLETON-PATEL (Manchester United), Rhiannon ROBERTS (Liverpool), Josie GREEN (Leicester City), Hayley LADD (Manchester United), Gemma EVANS (Reading), Rachel ROWE (Reading), Lily WOODHAM (Reading), Sophie INGLE (Chelsea), Anna FILBEY (Crystal Palace), Angharad JAMES (Tottenham Hotspur), Georgia WALTERS (Sheffield United), Charlie ESTCOURT (Unattached), Jess FISHLOCK (OL Reign), Carrie JONES (Leicester City – on loan from Manchester United), Ffion MORGAN (Bristol City), Megan WYNNE (Southampton), Elise HUGHES (Crystal Palace), Kayleigh GREEN (Brighton & Hove Albion), Helen WARD (Watford), Natasha HARDING (Aston Villa), Ceri HOLLAND (Liverpool), Maria FRANCIS-JONES (Sheffield United – dual agreement with Manchester City), Chloe WILLIAMS (Blackburn Rovers – dual agreement with Manchester United), Morgan ROGERS (Watford).

Wiegman: It’s Absolutely A Big Game

Impetus’ Ben Gilby was in the Lionesses’ squad announcement press conference with Sarina Wiegman this morning and listened to the England head coach discuss her thoughts about the selection, the looming clash with Austria, and how she sees the women’s game in the country after the incredible European Championship triumph last month (24/8/22).

Above: England head coach Sarina Wiegman speaking to the media this morning. Photo: Sky Sports.

Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman began the next chapter in the England national team’s story as she selected her first squad since July’s European Championship success.

Over the last week, the Lionesses have had to come to terms with the retirement announcements of both Ellen White and Jill Scott. Also missing from the squad announced today are the trio of Hannah Hampton, Chloe Kelly, and Fran Kirby.

Wiegman is able to welcome back Jordan Nobbs from injury and has also handed a return to the international fold to Ebony Salmon, who has been in a rich vein of scoring form for Houston Dash in the NWSL. Also back is Chelsea’s Lauren James – a first Lionesses call-up since November 2020. Sandy McIver and Katie Zelem are also given recalls.

Above: Chloe Kelly, scorer of the goal that won the Euros for England is out of the Lionesses forthcoming World Cup qualifiers with Austria and Luxembourg, Photo: Lionesses.

Speaking about the loss of Kelly, Kirby, and Hampton, the Lionesses head coach said: “They are OK, but Chloe has a small injury with her leg, it is too early for her at present. Fran – it is too early for her, she should be OK. She hasn’t had too much training, so she just needs more time. Hannah has some personal issues that she has to solve, so it is better for her at the moment that she stays with her club.”

Asked about the loss of England legends Scott and White, Wiegman was effusive in her praise for the pair: “Their impact – they have played for the national team so much. It’s disappointing I can’t work with them for longer, but I respect their decision. They are incredible, we are so proud of them and what they have brought to the game. I hope they stay in the game.”

However, the Lionesses head coach emphasised that her team has some excellent leaders to overcome the loss of the retired pair.

Above: Leah Williamson’s impact as captain at the Euros is one example of the strong group of leaders within Sarina Wiegman’s team. Photo: Lionesses.

“Leah (Williamson) grew into the role (of captain) so well. I do think that the dynamics of the team will change a bit, we will absolutely miss those two, but things will stabilise over the next few camps. We already have other leaders in the team.”

Explaining her thoughts behind the re-calls to several of the players brought into the squad, Wiegman said: “It was very unfortunate that Jordan got injured and she worked hard to get back and so we want to see her in our environment, particularly with Fran (Kirby) unavailable.

“Lauren James has played some minutes for Chelsea over the summer and we want to give her a chance and see what she can do with the national team. Ebony, over the last year and a half, has had a spot in the U23s. She has moved to Houston Dash and is a real goalscorer, so I want to see what she can do now. She has done so well.”

Above: Ebony Salmon in action in a previous appearance for England against Northern Ireland. Photo: Lionesses.

Asked by Impetus about the new set of challenges that England face with teams having extra motivation to bring down the European champions, Wiegman outlined why she believes her team are more than capable of dealing with them.

“I have noticed already that all the countries want to beat England. Now as the European Champions, everyone wants to chase you. We just want to perform at the highest level we can and do our job really well, connect as a team. We can beat all the countries, we just need to stick together. I think it’s nice that all the countries want to beat us!

“Winning the Euros was a fairytale. Expectations were high. There are so many things you hope for – that things go well. That the hopes came real was really nice.”

Above: Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman is aware of the threat that Austria pose. Image: FA.

With the first of England’s two forthcoming World Cup qualifiers being against Austria, who had a strong Euros themselves, the England head coach highlighted the stiffness of the challenge that her side will face in Vienna.

“It’s absolutely a big game. I don’t think there will be many changes compared to how they were this summer. They want to chase us, they want to qualify directly for the World Cup against us. We won’t have 90,000 people behind us, but I think we can do the job.

“After the Euros, the players were talking about qualifying for the World Cup and wanting to do well there too. Every game we are hungry to win and do well.”

Above: The strength and togetherness in the England team is a key to their present status. Photo: Lionesses.

Looking ahead to the longer term, Wiegman outlined the latest situation in regard to a potential extension to her contract as England head coach: “I have spoken to the FA, I already have a contract for three years, so we don’t have to do that conversation tomorrow. Now it is about the squad and the games. Then we will have a conversation. I am really happy that they are reaching out to me.”

Wiegman reiterated her determination for the legacy of England’s Euros success to filter down from the WSL to the next generation of female footballers.

“What we want is change. Getting a boost to the women’s game in England, Europe, and the world. We want to change society a bit. The games are sold out, the knock-on impact on the Super League is important. We collaborate well. The players are so fit, and that is not because of 11 FIFA windows, that is the work of the clubs.”

She was delighted with the recent announcement that £92,000,000 will go into funding new sporting facilities, pinpointing the importance of this development.

“The chances for little girls need to be better. The players have asked for that too. It’s good that a plan is in place to encourage little girls to play. It’s important for society and inclusion. They need to be encouraged and given facilities.”Sarina Wiegman, England head coach.

ENGLAND SQUAD FOR WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS AGAINST AUSTRIA AND LUXEMBOURG:

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps, Sandy McIver, Ellie Roebuck.

Defenders: Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze, Jess Carter, Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood, Demi Stokes, Leah Williamson, Lotte Wubben-Moy.

Midfielders: Jordan Nobbs, Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone, Keira Walsh, Katie Zelem.

Forwards: Beth England, Lauren Hemp, Lauren James, Beth Mead, Nikita Parris, Alessia Russo, Ebony Salmon.

Gustavsson: It’s Time To Draw A Line In The Sand

Impetus’ Kieran Yap was in Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson‘s squad announcement media conference for us yesterday as The Matildas prepare to play Canada next month (18/8/22).

Above: Tony Gustavsson, pictured prior to the match with Spain in June, is narrowing his focus in terms of squad selection. Photo: Football Australia.

Some familiar names return to The Matildas as Tony Gustavsson commits to narrowing his focus a year out from the World Cup.

Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord, Sam Kerr, and Aivi Luik return to the squad. They are joined by Manchester City’s Matildas trio of Hayley Raso, Alanna Kennedy, and Mary Fowler.

Kyah Simon will continue to recover from an ankle injury with Tottenham Hostpur. Likewise, Elise Kellond-Knight will remain with Hammarby in Sweden as she continues her return to action.

Above: Australia’s bright young star Mary Fowler, now of Manchester City, is back in the Matildas line-up. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Gustavsson explained to the media that the beginning of his tenure was dedicated to addressing the depth of the squad. In that time Australia have uncovered or developed Charli Grant, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Courtney Nevin, and Mary Fowler into senior players, while testing many more.  However, the focus has now shifted.

“We wanted to kind of draw a line in the sand after these 18 months,” he said at the squad announcement.

“When I started, we said ‘let’s invest 18 months in the Gap Report. Fringe players, and depth pathways. Over these 18 months, we’ve had 17 debutants. The decade before that we averaged 2.3 debutants per year. We tried to look at a larger player pool and tried different tactics against different opponents to invest in the long term and try and catch up.

“We’ve short cut the pathway for some of the players that have been jumping from clubland to national teams even a bit earlier. We’ve been using the national team almost as a development platform which it normally isn’t.”Tony Gustavsson, Australia head coach.

“We’ve tried to shortcut that based on the Gap Report.”

Above: Giving a wide variety of players international game time has had mixed results for the Matildas. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

That long-term planning has meant some painful results for fans and observers. Although Gustavsson is adamant that those inside the camp are clear about the objectives and the plan so far.

“There’s a lot of faith in the process in the (inner) circle. Meaning staff and players know exactly what we’ve done over the 18 months, why we’ve done it why we’ve had so many debutants, why we’ve played the toughest schedule in the history of this program.

“They know where we are and where we’re heading. They also know that we now draw a line in the sand now and narrow it down. That doesn’t mean everything is going to be perfect in the Canada game, but the focus starts there.”

Gustavsson used the example of the Olympic preparation, done with limited time but that ended with a playoff for a Bronze medal. He remains confident in the process.

“I understand what from outside, maybe there needs to be good results to gain back the faith, but in my opinion, it’s about good performances.”

Above: Tony Gustavsson is looking to repeat the highs of Australia’s performances against the USA and Brazil. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Gustavsson recalls some of Australia’s most impressive friendly performances. The second game against the USA and the series against Brazil were used as an example of what he is looking to achieve.

“If you can play that way,” he says, “People can see that we’re headed in the right direction.”

Most of the recent squad were not in camp against Spain and Portugal. The manager came under some criticism for prioritising the players physical and mental load over the opportunity to play against a World Cup contender. However, that decision has been somewhat vindicated by injuries and fatigue to some major stars during the Euros.

He stressed that although it will now be much harder to break into the national team, this does not mean that the door is closed to anybody.

“It’s a huge concern”

When assembling this latest squad, the condition of players remained a consideration. Some were in the middle of North American or Scandinavian seasons, while others were returning from injuries or long breaks.

Above: Charli Grant – one of the squad members coming back to Matildas duty from Scandinavian football. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“There’s a massive debate going on in women’s football when it comes to player load,” said Gustavsson. “It’s a huge concern both from club and country.

“We tried to be ahead of that discussion when we made the decision in the June window which I know caused a lot of question marks and probably some criticism as well. Based on all the expertise I have around me, we thought that was the best decision for both the short and long term, and the player well-being.”

Australian fans have been rightly excited about the return of Elise Kellond-Knight’s return to action, but Gustavsson has taken the long-term view in not selecting the midfield general.

“She could be ready to be selected. If this was a World Cup maybe we would have selected her, but it’s a year out of the World Cup now and she needs to focus and progress slowly back into international football.”

“Right now, the best thing for her, is to have consistent minutes in training and games for club to then be ready for international football.”

Above: Back at last – Chloe Logarzo’s return is a big boost for Australia. Photo: Bristol City WFC.

One name that the manager is excited to include is midfield star Chloe Logarzo. It will be almost 12 months since her last appearance for Australia. She injured her ACL in the loss to the Republic of Ireland in September of 2021.

“I love working with Chloe,” said Gustavsson. “What a player and what a character. I had the privilege to work with her in the whole Olympic tournament and then the camp after that in September when she got injured.

“The same night she got injured, I met her in the corridor of the hotel on crutches. She understood then what it was, even though she hadn’t had it confirmed in an MRI.

“She just looked me in the eyes and said ‘Tony you know what? This is going to make me a better player. I’m going to commit like I’ve never done before. I’m going to have that World Cup in the back of my head and I’m going to be back stronger than ever.’

“A player saying that the same night that they go on crutches…that says a lot about Chloe. And she brings that character into the squad. She tough, she’s mentally strong, physically strong, and she combines that with her technical skills as well.”

Above: Chloe Logarzo in action against the Republic of Ireland in the game she suffered her ACL injury. Photo: Sporting News.

Logarzo’s return to The Matildas will raise the spirits of fans as it has the manager, but Gustavsson cautions about expecting too much from her. Her inclusion is part of assimilating her back into the team with the priority being The World Cup.

“She’s still less than 12 months away from that injury,” Gustavsson said as a reminder. “She’s selected because she hasn’t been with us since we moved to 4-3-3 after that September camp and Olympics.

“I want her in to see the playbook, see the training, and meet the team again. She’s ready for training at international level, but she might not be the best prepared for too many game minutes.”

Australia host Canada in Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on September 3, and at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on September 6.

Matildas squad for Canada series:

Mackenzie Arnold (GK), Steph Catley, Alex Chidiac, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Larissa Crummer, Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Emily Gielnik, Katrina Gorry, Charlotte Grant, Alanna Kennedy, Sam Kerr, Chloe Logarzo, Aivi Luik, Clare Polkinghorne, Courtney Nevin, Teagan Micah (GK), Hayley Raso, Emily Van Egmond, Cortnee Vine, Clare Wheeler, Lydia Williams (GK), Tameka Yallop.

Lowry And Nash Reflect On Young Matildas U20 World Cup Exit

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Perth Glory’s Hana Lowry and Sydney FC’s Jessika Nash after the Young Matildas 3-0 loss to Spain today eliminated them from the U20 World Cup at the group stage (17/8/22).

Above: The Young Matildas side who faced Spain earlier today. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia’s dreams of progressing from a fiendishly tough group at the U20 World Cup in Costa Rica are over after a 3-0 loss to Spain today eliminated the Young Matildas.

Ultimately, Spain were clinical in front of goal with Julia Gabarro’s hat trick enough to send them through to the knockout phase and Australia back home.

The Young Matildas were not without their chances. Bryleeh Henry had the Green and Golds’ opening chance of the game. She was allowed to run and dribble down the left flank before moving more centrally and fizzing a strike which was claimed by Adriana Nanclares.

Australia maintained possession well and in the opening stages of the second stanza forced Spain back into their defensive half. This strong spell was highlighted by a Hunter long-range effort which was calmly claimed by Nanclares. However, just like the first half, Spain was able to head down the other end and make their chances count.

Above: Hana Lowry speaks to the media earlier today after the Young Matildas’ game with Spain in Costa Rica. Image: Football Australia.

Speaking after the game, Lowry highlighted the crushing feeling after the final whistle. “It’s disappointing to get the loss, I was emotional at the end as our journey has come to an end.”

With the Young Matildas placed in a group involving the South American champions, the European champions, and the host nation, Leah Blayney’s side had just about the biggest possible challenge they could have had and despite that, the Perth Glory midfielder is clear that Australia competed exceptionally well and have a lot to be proud of.

“I’m so proud of the girls though as we gave it our all out there and left nothing on the pitch, but couldn’t get the result. The results didn’t go our way in the last two games (against Spain and Brazil), but we’ve been playing the football that we’ve been working on for the last six months – we showcased that to the world. I’m gutted that we’re not progressing through, but proud of what we did.

“I’m proud of our resilience and how we’ve stuck together. This journey didn’t start two weeks ago, it started six months ago and we’ve showcased good football.”

Enter Jassika Nash

Above: A bittersweet experience for Jessika Nash, who made her first start of the U20 World Cup, but suffered the heartache of elimination. Image: Football Australia.

Young Matildas’ head coach Leah Blayney made three changes to the starting XI from the opening two games against Costa Rica and Brazil, with Abbey Lemon, Jessika Nash, and Charlie Rule earning starts.

There were mixed emotions for Nash after the match. “It’s disappointing to not get the result that we wanted, but look, we can take a lot away and build on it for the future. There’s so much bright talent to come through.”

Nash, who has been a burgeoning talent in the A-League Women for several seasons, emphasised that whilst this tournament is over for the Young Matildas, the squad themselves are in a really good place going forward.

“The international experience that we take away from this tournament is second to none. We can’t fault our effort, we had nothing else to give. This team are not done yet though!”

Young Matildas Pair Assess U20 World Cup To Date

In the aftermath of the Young Matildas‘ loss to Brazil on Sunday, Impetus‘ Kieran Yap heard from Bryleeh Henry whilst Ben Gilby listened to Hana Lowry‘s take on the game and thoughts ahead of tomorrow’s must-win final group game with Spain (16/8/22).

Above: Bryleeh Henry in action for the Young Matildas in their opening game at the U20 World Cup against Costa Rica. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia/Ann Odong.

In the aftermath of Australia’s 2-0 loss to Brazil, forward Bryleeh Henry was disappointed with the result, but confident it was an opportunity for the Young Matildas to learn and grow from the experience, writes Kieran Yap.

“It’s definitely disappointing,” said Henry. “We definitely wanted to come away with the win. I don’t think anybody wants to lose a game at a World Cup, but there’s a lot of positives we can take from it.

“We learned a lot from that game. We put up a good fight and I’m proud of the girls. No matter the time… we still kept fighting, we still kept trying so I’m proud of the girls. We learn from it and move on to Spain and just do the best we can. It’s a big match and we’re excited for it.”

Above: Bryleeh Henry speaking to the media from the Young Matildas’ Costa Rica base. Image: Football Australia.

Australia were kept on the defensive for much of the game against the tournament favorites. The space in midfield and along the flanks that they exploited against Costa Rica was denied by Brazil.

The South American champions pressured the Australian midfield and stopped them facing goal with any time on the ball.

It was a comprehensive performance but not a wasted opportunity according to the promising striker from Western Sydney. “I think that there’s a lot that we can take away from the game. “I think one-v-one battles we definitely needed to be a little bit better in some areas. That’s something to learn from. They are world-class players so that’s just something we have to deal with.”

That is the value of this tournament. Henry has one senior Matildas cap and two full A-League women’s seasons to her name, but the U20 World Cup offers a chance to play opposition that they might not otherwise encounter. For a group of players brimming with potential and talent, this can only be a good thing.

“It’s amazing to be getting exposure against teams like this,” continued Henry. “It’s only going to make us grow and learn from it. The score line was only 2-0, so I’m very proud of the girls and the fight we put up, and how well we did against a world-class opponent.

“I think we can take so much and learn so much (from the game). Yes, we lost but there’s so many positives and learnings we can take…we’re coming for finals.”

Lowry: “We Refocus And Go Again”

by Ben Gilby

Above: Hana Lowry speaking to the media earlier this week. Image: Football Australia.

Perth Glory’s Hana Lowry believes that the Young Matildas 2-0 loss to 11-time U20 World Champions Brazil in their last outing on Sunday could stand them in good stead in the future.

The Western Australian youngster revealed that whilst the loss was disappointing, the squad have learned so much about themselves as both a team and individuals from going toe-to-toe with the defending champions, that it will help their development.

“Yeah, look, it was disappointing to lose as we went into the game with a strong belief that we could win,” Lowry admitted. “Credit to Brazil, they have some fantastic players, and I think we struggled against them a bit.”

The midfielder outlined some of the examples of learnings from the encounter that can take her forward in her career: “It was a great experience (facing Brazil), one that not many young Australian players get the chance to do. I take from it the understanding of the quality that we’re up against and where we need to get to as an Australian side. Personally, I know what I need to improve on now to push (forward).

Above: Hana Lowry (8) shows her joy after a Young Matildas goal against Costa Rica in the opening group game. Photo: Football Australia.

“It’s about understanding how different teams play. I understood now how technically gifted that are – how to defend and how to make an impact. I’ve grown up being out here and it’s a big thing.

“Physically I need to get stronger and tactically adjust. Learning how to adjust to different teams – everyone has a different style.”

Lowry was proud of how the Young Matildas stuck to their guns in the face of Brazilian pressure. “We still tried to play our game, even when they were fully pressing us. Defensively, we conceded two goals, but they created a lot of chances but we stayed composed.”

That composure and learnings since they arrived in Costa Rica are going to be key for the Young Matildas to get the result they need tomorrow to progress from the group stage.

“We stay positive ahead of Spain, we win and we’re through. We are a very resilient group,” Lowry outined. “We can’t dwell on the Brazil result. We refocus and go again.”

Leah Blayney’s Young Matildas Ready For Brazil

by Kieran Yap (13/8/22)

Above: Young Matildas head coach Leah Blayney, who believes her team are well prepared for the challenge of Brazil tomorrow. Photo: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

It was a great result after an impressive performance when Australia defeated Costa Rica 3-1. But for Young Matildas coach Leah Blayney, work began almost immediately for the next match in the Under 20’s World Cup.  

“It was an extremely special occasion for us,” Blayney told the media on Saturday morning. “We definitely allowed the girls to enjoy the moment for a couple of hours after that. Everybody was pretty excited, but by the next morning we’re definitely turning our attention to Brazil”

Australia sit atop the group after the win, while Brazil and Spain fought out a nil-all draw the day before. Only two full days separate the games, it is a schedule some of these players are familiar with from the AFF championships, and the team are ready to play.

“The group’s pulled up really well,” continued the head coach. “We’ve had a good recovery day yesterday and back training today out at the stadium we’re going to play on tomorrow. Everyone’s just excited to get back out there and pull on that national team jersey.”

Australia versus Brazil is a familiar fixture for fans of Australian football. The meetings of these two matches have provided two of The Matildas’ most famous World Cup victories, while the regular meetings in international friendly matches are always compulsory viewing.

While there is the potential for another epic clash on Sunday morning, Blayney is not looking at the illustrious history at senior level.

“It’s very much about this Young Matildas team,” she said of the mindset in camp. “We’re aware of the players we have here and we’re aware of our opponent. We just look forward to stepping on that pitch and making sure we put on the best performance for Australia.”

“We know can play some good football. We’re fully aware of our opponent and what they bring to the table. It’s just a really exciting opportunity for our players to be on the world stage.

“Tactically we’ll look to hurt Brazil in areas that aren’t their strengths. In terms of our principles and being on the front foot and how we want to play in terms of dominating the game with the ball, you’ll definitely see that again by the Young Matildas.”

Australia scored three times against Costa Rica, but the second goal was one of the finest scored by an Australian team in a year that has included some stunners.

After winning possession, a series of one-touch passes and excellent off-the-ball movement resulted in a Bryleeh Henry finish. The forward started her run from deep and arrived right on time alongside Daniella Galic to give Australia the lead.

Above: The tight bond of Leah Blayney’s Young Matildas squad is a huge positive for them ahead of two tough group games to come at the U20 World Cup. Photo: Ann Odong/Football Australia.

It had echoes of the way Australia’s Under 23’s played at their best in the AFF Championships and was similar to Mary Stanic Floody’s sealer in the Under 18’s Final.

Blayney was as pleased as the supporters with the way events played out.

“We definitely want to make sure that our passing is accurate and our one-touch football is in place in moments where we need to be playing fast. In terms of the second goal, I’m very very happy with the build-up and very happy with the positioning of the two players in the box to finish.”

For those of us watching, it was a team moving in perfect sync. For the the head coach, it was the result of plenty of work leading up to the tournament. Blayney took charge of the Young Matildas in 2019, but this was her first competitive game in charge in three years.

During COVID, she has faced circumstances different than she might have expected in preparing the next generation of Australian stars.

“It definitely was a different challenge to keep the group connected as well as motivated. We have some really talented young players coming through our system, and it’s easy to work with them. They were all engaged and each day they just want to become the best versions of themselves.”

Although the average age of the team is just 18.5 years old, there are players with significant experience either at A-League Women level or with the senior national team.

“They’ve been tremendous,” Blayney says of her senior players. “We have a range of personalities within that group that are a true reflection of this group as a whole. In the times they’ve had to stand up when things have been difficult, they’ve done that and they’ve led by example.

“In terms of the off-the-field stuff, they’re fantastic. They run their own team bonding… it’s just a really good strong group that’s led and driven by this leadership group.”

With two games left in the group, Australia has everything to play for, but this World Cup is about more than just results.

“We’re primarily focussing on the performance, and we’ve said that from day one in this tournament,” reiterates Blayney. “We want to showcase to Australia, what Australian young footballers are about. This opportunity to play against Brazil is another moment for us to go out there and show where we’re at and where we think we can take this team.”

Euros Team Of The Tournament

Like just everyone else who adores women’s football, Impetus’ Emmanuel Faith has been enthralled by Euro 2022. Here, he reflects on the best players in each position before selecting his team of the tournament (4/8/22).

Above: England star Beth Mead with the player of the tournament, European Championship, and golden boot trophies on Sunday. Photo: Euro 2022.

Enthralling is mild to describe the recently concluded Euros. With 87,192 fans in the stadium at Wembley for the final, over 17,000,000 watching on TV in the UK alone and all sorts of other records falling by the wayside, it was a tournament that cannot be forgotten.

Full of memories, I have ruminated about the exhilarating matches and selected my team of the tournament. Since most teams played with the 4-3-3 formation, I would be sticking with that.

Goalkeeper:

Above: England goalkeeper Mary Earps making a fine save against Sweden in the semi-finals. Photo: Lionesses.

This was quite a difficult choice to make. The Netherlands goal-keeper, Daphne Van Domselaar is a really worthy candidate for the heroic stops she made against France, especially the double-saves that ensured the match was forced into extra-time. Additionally, and you can’t write off Merle Froms for being Germany’s wall. However, my slot will however go to England’s Mary Earps.

From the crucial save she made against Spain; blocking off Del Castillo’s looping shots to the crucial saves she made against Sweden in the opening 10 minutes before her team gained balance, Mary Earps has come a long way.

Defenders:

Above: Millie Bright – sensational for England. Photo: Lionesses.


Centre-back:
My centre-back pairings would be Millie Bright and Wendie Renard. There were a lot of outstanding candidates in the tournament, like the German pairing; Kathrin Hendich and Marina Hegering, and the Spanish pair of Mapi León and Irene Paredes but having a coordinator like Renard and a ball-clearer like Millie Bright is a solid foundation to win this kind of tournament.

Full-Backs:

This is also another really competitive position as there were really outstanding performers like Eve Perisset and Sakina Karachoui for France, Giulia Gwin and Felicitas Rauch for Germany, I would however stick with Selma Bacha and Lucy Bronze. Bacha’s performance against Netherlands is one of the best you would see from any 21-year-old footballer right now, and Bronze brought a perfect balance of attack and defense on the flank for the Lionesses. She knew when to stay back, be disciplined and when to wander into the other half.  Her only goal of the tournament was also crucial as it came at the time that England were struggling to extend their lead.

Midfielders:

Above: Young Player of the Tournament Lena Oberdorf. Photo: Euro 2022.

This tournament spotlighted a lot of midfield maestros. From Aitana Bonmatí who like a metronome dictated the pulse and rhythm of the Spanish team, to Grace Geyoro whose hat-trick brought Les Blues to life. Keira Walsh’s vision birthed wondrous goals and exciting pre-assists, we surely are blessed to witness these talents.

My three midfielders would be Lena OberdorfFran Kirby, and Kosovare Asslani. Winning the young player of the tournament meant you delivered an outstanding performance and Oberdorf was Germany’s shield and pivot when things got really tough. Kirby, despite coming back from illness played an important role in the hosts’ opening goal and kept on reminding everyone about how important she is throughout the tournament. Her goal against Sweden was stunning. Asslani is also another hero with exciting brilliance and trickery off and on the ball. Her ability to coordinate the Swedish midfield is also an interesting trait to have.

Forwards:

Above: Alexandra Popp – Germany’s superstar. Photo: Euro 2022.

A tournament that produced 95 goals and averaged 3.1 goals per game depicts the presence of brilliant attackers. From Alexia Russo’s brilliant back-heels to Diana Silva and Jessica Silva’s brilliant strikes, is it an European finals if there are no wonder goals from talented forwards?

My slots go to Kadidiatou Diani, Beth Mead, and Alexandra Popp. Diani’s versatility in the box is excellent – her ability to complete take-ons, dribble seamlessly and find a wonder-strike makes her an exciting talent any coach would love to start with.

Alexandra Popp needs to introduction, six goals in six games and you could say she carried Germany on her back. Despite missing the final due to last minute injury, the star cemented her name as far as strikers in modern football is concerned.

When Beth Mead didn’t make the PFA’s WSL team of the season, there were a lot of justifiable concerns, especially about how she deserved a slot ahead of Vivianne Miedema. Well, I am giving her the slot. Scoring six goals is brilliant, but creating five assists alongside the goals makes Mead the kind of player any coach wants in her starting line-up. Who else would have won the player of the tournament if not Beth Mead.

Line Up: 4-3-3: Mary Earps, Selma Bacha, Millie Bright, Wendie Renard, Lucy Bronze, Lena Oberdorf, Fran Kirby, Kosovare Asslani, Kadidiatou Diani, Beth Mead, Alexandra Popp.

Subs: Daphne Van Domselaar (GK) Irene Paredes, Mapi León, Kathrin Hendrich, Aitana Bonmatí, Kiera Walsh, Sara Däbritz, Fridolina Rolfö, Vivianne Miedema, Delphine Cascarino.

Do you agree with this line-up? Who would you add or remove? Please reply in the comment section. Feel free to select your team and share with us!

Lionesses Roar As Football Comes Home

Impetus’ Darrell Allen and Johnathan Stack reflect on an incredible evening at Wembley Stadium, with Darrell bringing the Lionesses’ perspective and Johnathan the German view as he hears from key members of the Germany squad and coaching staff (1/8/22).

Above: England lift the European Championship trophy amidst sensational scenes at Wembley last night. Photo: Lionesses.

More Than Just A Tournament Victory

by Darrell Allen

A dramatic evening which started with German star Alexandra Popp pulling out injured just minutes before kick-off ahead of a first half where England had chances, but couldn’t convert. Despite their setbacks, Germany bossed the second half, but the Lionesses showed their character with Ella Toone’s sensational goal. From there on the drama ratcheted up several more times as Lina Magull levelled with 10 minutes to go setting up extra-time. Then came Chloe Kelly to spark absolute delirium.

I look back at some of the key aspects of an incredible night at Wembley.

Scoring At A Crucial Time

Above: Ella Toone after putting the Lionesses ahead. Photo: Lionesses.

It’s a fact that when Ella Toone gave England the lead they were on the back foot in the game. After a goalless first half, Germany came out with more energy and assertiveness in the second half and should have been in front if it wasn’t for some top class goalkeeping from Mary Earps. 

Toone’s wonder goal came at a time when Beth Mead was making her way around the pitch perimeter after coming off injured so England took the lead with 10 on the field and whilst being on the back foot in the game which made it all the more extraordinary.

An England Tournament Win Is Never Easy

Above: Chloe Kelly after scoring the winning goal, with Jill Scott and Lauren Hemp in persuit. Photo: Lionesses.

Extra time in a major final which was also against Germany? It just had to be done.

England were the better team in the first half with Germany better in the second half period so extra time was perhaps the correct outcome.

Just as thoughts were turning to who would be taking penalties. Chloe Kelly poached home to win the tournament and spark wild scenes of celebration all around Wembley. 

Good game management saw England through to the end and be crowned European Champions. 

Jubilant Jill Scott

Above: After heartbreak 13 years ago, England legend Jill Scott was overjoyed to receive a winners medal last night. Photo: Lionesses.

The only player who played in the Lionesses’ previous major final, Euro 2009’s 6-2 loss to Germany final, this day meant so much to Jill Scott. 

Scott came on in the 88th minute and played to the conclusion of the final. The England legend could been seen in tears after the final whistle including when meeting Prince William in the post-match presentation. 

A hugely emotional day for all at Wembley Stadium but an especially proud one for Jill Scott.

Mead Claims Additional Triumph 

Above: Beth Mead with her trophy haul last night – top goalscorer, player of the tournament, and the European Championship trophy. Photo: Lionesses.

Little else can be left to say about Beth Mead of Arsenal. Over the course of the last month, Mead has befriended the nation and warmed the hearts of so many.

Her six goals and five assists saw her take the top scorer award and an additional accolade of player of the tournament. Of those goals, five came in the group phase including a hat trick against Norway before an important strike in the semi-final triumph over Sweden. Mead has become a national treasure all in the space of four weeks. 

The way that the Arsenal star conducted herself so positively and professionally in television interviews across the tournament has made her an icon and she has been a crucial component in making sure that England were in a position to win the tournament. 

More Than Just A Football Tournament 

Above: Scenes pre-game at Wembley – it has been an inspiring month for girls and women’s football. Photo: Euro 2022.

This victory by England will do so much for the women’s game in the country. Young girls just starting will have a much better time in society than the current crop of victorious Lionesses did growing up.

Hope will be that today’s crowd of 87,192 will inspire many to look for a domestic match near them when the Women’s Super League begins in September. 

We have been on an absolute thrill ride across the last month and that’s down to the wonderful role models of Sarina Wiegman and her fabulous team.

“We Were Close, But England Withstood the Pressure”

by Johnathan Stack

Germany’s bid for a ninth European championship crown came to a nail-biting end as the hosts of UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, England won 2-1 in extra time at Wembley Stadium.

The Germans were rocked a few minutes from kick-off as their star player at this tournament and captain Alexandra Popp who was named in the starting 11 was ruled out of the game with a muscle injury sustained in the warm-up, so Lea Schüller was Popp’s replacement in the lineup as the players took their places in the tunnel.

Above: Germany’s key player Alexandra Popp warming up pre-game – her injury just minutes from kick-off was a body blow for Germany. Photo: DFB Frauen.

In a cagey first half which saw both teams come close to scoring which a goal mouth scramble nearly led to German defender Marina Hegering giving Germany the lead, and Ellen White coming close only to see her effort go just over Merle Frohms’ crossbar.

The game then came to life in the second half as Germany were caught out by a brilliant pass from Keira Walsh who found Ella Toone who audaciously chipped Frohms to give England the lead.

The Germans were back on level terms soon after as a great move on the edge of the box saw Lina Magull tap in Tabea Waßmuth’s near post cross.

But the Germans were ultimately undone in extra time as another goal scramble saw England substitute Chloe Kelly poke the ball home past Merle Frohms from close range to win the final for England.

One positive for Germany from this tournament is the fact that 20-year-old midfielder Lena Oberdorf was named UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Young Player of the Tournament.

Above: Lena Oberdorf with the Young Player of the Tournament trophy after the match. Photo: DFB Frauen.

Germany Head Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg reflected on the agonising defeat saying: “We were close, but England withstood the pressure. Congratulations to them. We are very sad that we lost. We are in a process; it was not quite enough, so we have to do a little bit more. We grow from games like this.”

Speaking about losing her captain right before kick-off Voss-Tecklenburg said “Alexandra Popp would have triggered something against our opponents with her presence. But it just didn’t work out.”

Above: Germany head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg ponders on where it all went wrong. Photo: DFB Frauen.

Voss-Tecklenburg added: “We gave it everything we had for 120 minutes. We overcame all sorts of setbacks, including the absences of Alex Popp and Klara Bühl. We have to let it sink in and process our disappointment while still being very proud of ourselves, because it was such an evenly-matched game, one that maybe didn’t deserve to have a winner at the end.”

Germany goalkeeper Merle Frohms had this to say after the game: “It was just as tense and exciting as we were expecting. We knew that England were tough opponents, but we also knew that we have beaten tough sides before, which gave us confidence. We weren’t able to bring it to the pitch today; maybe it was a little bit of nerves but, after six games, at some point your strength starts to run out a bit.

“It was amazing to play in front of a crowd like that and to have that many fans here. Even when we arrived on the bus, they were all waiting and applauding us. That’s what differentiates women’s football a bit: they were English fans, but you could feel that they were happy to have us there and they were looking forward to the game.”

Above: Germany down and out at the final whistle. Photo: DFB Frauen.

Germany defender Marina Hegering spoke after the match: “We were unlucky to lose. Sometimes, you just need a bit of luck. We had Lina Magull hitting the post — if that had gone it, maybe it would have changed things. It really hurts right now. It was very back and forth, and we managed to silence the crowd once. It would have been great if we had managed it a second time.”

“We grew into an incredible team here, and during our pre-tournament camps. We delivered some incredible team performances, which is one of our strengths, and we can draw on that to help us to process it all.”

Germany finishes their FIFA World Cup qualification group with an away doubleheader against Turkey and Bulgaria in September.

Teams: ENGLAND (4-5-1): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Daly, Stanway, Walsh, Mead, Kirby, Hemp, White. Substitutes: Carter, England, Greenwood, Hampton, Kelly, Parris, Roebuck, Russo, Scott, Stokes, Toone, Wubben-Moy.

Scorers: Toone 62’ Kelly 110’.

GERMANY(4-3-3): Frohms, Hendrich, Hegering, Oberdorf, Schüller, Huth, Däbritz, Gwinn, Rauch, Brand, Magull. Substitutes: Anyomi, Berger, Dallmann, Doorsoun-Khajeh, Freigang, Kleinherne, Lattwein, Lohmann, Waßmuth, Schult.

Scorer: Magull 79’

Referee: Kateryna Monzul

Attendance: 87,192.

Georgia Stanway: There Was A Moment I Was Told I Wasn’t In

Impetus’ Ben Gilby was in the Lionesses pre-Euro 2022 media event yesterday and heard from England midfielder Georgia Stanway (30/7/22).

Above: Georgia Stanway speaking to the media yesterday afternoon as she revealed there was a time several months ago when she was told that she wouldn’t be in the team. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

England star Georgia Stanway revealed in the Lionesses pre-Euro 2022 Final media conference yesterday that she had been told that she was not going to be in the England team several months ago.

“To be honest, there was a moment when I was told I wasn’t. There was a moment where I was told to keep going and close the gap between me and the others. I’m not sure what changed things, what changed her (Sarina Wiegman’s) mind. There were no conversations. It was literally just down to situations.”

Stanway has been a sensation at this tournament, whilst her stunning goal against Spain in the quarter-finals took the headlines, she has been a real engine in midfield, a relentless ball of energy. It is now inconceivable that the Barrow-in-Furness-born player would not be part of this team.

Above: Georgia Stanway celebrating THAT goal against Spain in the quarter-finals. Photo: Lionesses.

“It’s been a bit of a ride, when Sarina first came into the job, I don’t think I was in favour. When she came in I was playing in defence for City and I’m a centre-midfielder. The Arnold Clark Cup was when I could actually say to her ‘This is me.’ It wasn’t really until the first game at the Euros that it felt like I was in.”

Stanway hasn’t looked back since and cannot stop beaming when asked about England’s progress in this tournament and the knock-on impact of it.

“We’re in such a good place. We’ve dominated the games we’ve played in so far. We know how special it is going to be. The stadium will be packed out, and the fans will be loving it!

“The number of people wearing England shirts with the women’s team names on is mad. It’s not women’s football, it’s not men’s football, it’s football.”

Georgia Stanway, England.

“It’s mad. We’re here and we don’t see much, but friends and family tell you. I don’t think though that we realise how big it’s been and how big it will be. It’s mad how many people recognise us.

Above: Georgia Stanway celebrating after England’s semi-final win. She’s aiming for even bigger celebrations on Sunday. Photo: Lionesses.

“We need to stop talking about how big women’s football is getting and now need to talk about how big it is. The TV figures are ridiculous now. The fans are going to be a massive part of it on Sunday.

“The fact that people are going – ‘The Lionesses are playing tonight, let’s get round the TV’ – it’s mad! The next step now is to get as many people as we can in the domestic game, we want as many people watching club as well as country.”

One of the aspects of the Lionesses being in camp for nine weeks that has not been touched upon is the lingering COVID protocols which have meant that the team have not been able to have any physical contact with loved ones for a considerable length of time. Stanway outlined the challenges that has posed for the squad.

“It’s been really hard, I can only speak to my parents from a distance, I just want to hug them. We haven’t seen our families for six weeks. This is the ninth week we’ve been in camp. People assume that because it’s a home tournament we’re seeing them all the time, but we’re not.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s Final, Stanway will be going up against a number of players who will be her new club teammates at Bayern Munich. However, the midfielder highlighted the influence of both Sarina Wiegman and Jill Scott in ensuring she is in the best possible place to be successful in the match.

Above: Georgia Stanway – playing for the little girl that wanted to be there from the start. Photo: Lionesses.

“Sarina has the experience, she’s been here and done it before, whereas we haven’t. We’ve made sure we’ve focused on ourselves. The biggest thing she has said to us is ‘Play for the little girl that wanted to be here from the start’.

“Jill doesn’t give herself enough credit for what she brings to this team. She always delivers. Off the pitch, she is the person to go to when you are down. She knows how to lift the mood. She always believed in me from the first day at Manchester City. She always told me ‘shoot! shoot! The only person who did…’ Indeed, and look what happened against Spain when Stanway did shoot!

One of the key battles in Sunday’s game will be in the midfield where the former Manchester City star will come up against the 20-year-old German sensation Lena Oberdorf.

“Yeah, the girls have told me that they are looking forward to the midfield battle between us to see who comes out on top! She is a great player. Their midfield is very good. It will be a real battle, but we’ll see who comes out on top. They can see how well we’ve done in this tournament. From the start, it was written in the stars that we would play Germany in the final. I think these are the two best teams going into the final.”

Jill Scott: It’s A Gamechanger If We Win

Impetus’ Ben Gilby was in the Lionesses pre-Euro 2022 Final media conference and heard from England legend Jill Scott, who played in the nation’s previous Euro Final in 2009 (29/7/22).

Above: Jill Scott speaking to the media today at the Lionesses’ South-West London base. Photo: Ben Gilby for Impetus.

“I’m actually gutted that on Sunday it will all be over, we’ve been having such a great time.”

Jill Scott, England.

Jill Scott is a legend of English football and an absolute stalwart of the Lionesses. With 160 caps behind her, Scott has been an integral part of the squad for this tournament, coming on as a substitute at vital times to transfer her experience to the team in order to aid them in getting over the line.

Scott first played for the Lionesses in 2003, and six years later was part of the England team that made it to their most recent major final – Euro 2009 in Finland. A game that ended in a painful 6-2 loss to Sunday’s opponents Germany.

“When you speak about the 2009 Final, we knew that Germany were ahead of us in a lot of ways in terms of where football was in their country compared to ours. It was always going to be so difficult to win that game.

“Where the game is at now, it’s a different place. I think the 2009 Final against Germany had about 15,000 people in the ground. Now there will be 90,000 on Sunday. In 2009 players had their first central contracts. Now everyone is professional in the WSL, training full-time. It’s like night and day. But we can’t forget everyone who came before us and wear the shirt.”

Above: Jill Scott in action in the Euro 2009 Final for England against Germany. Photo: Reuters.

“Now, we’ve made quarter-finals, semi-finals. A lot of money has been invested. Sunday is for everyone – people who went before us in the team. Women’s football writers often do it for the love of the game too – if we can win the tournament on Sunday, they can have their hands on the trophy too.”

Scott spoke openly about the emotions of seeing such incredible support for the team throughout the competition. “We’ve seen the crowds all tournament – 70,000 at Old Trafford for the opener, 90,000 on Sunday at Wembley. It gives me goosebumps just saying it. The fans have just been amazing.

“It’s a defining moment for our sport. It’s hard when you are in it, because you just go from one thing to the next – meeting, training session, match. We don’t see the noise on the outside. Young boys and girls are coming up to us at the hotel asking for pictures.

“We wanted to inspire the nation and provide more opportunities for young girls and young boys, give women opportunities to work in the sport. We’ve ticked all those boxes so far, I think. There’s just one more box to go now!

“It’s been really difficult not to get emotional. Just seeing so many people at our games, everyone hanging around to see us. There have been a lot of special moments. We can’t thank the fans enough, these are memories we’ll take away for life. We have to have logical minds on Sunday though and focus on the task in hand.

Above: Jill Scott takes on Finland’s Maija Saari in the Euro 2009 Quarter-Final. Photo: Reuters.

“It will be a gamechanger if we win on Sunday. It’s hard because I’d be lying if I said the whole thing hasn’t crossed my mind. You can’t help but dare to dream.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s final specifically, Scott knows that Germany will give the Lionesses a challenge on a higher level to those they have faced already.

“When Germany were playing France in the semi-final, we knew both teams were fantastic and it would make a tough final. It’s another top opposition and tough game. We have to focus on ourselves. The girls have been incredible, totally out of this world.

“Germany and ourselves have been the most consistent teams in this tournament. Germany are so physical, so well drilled. They like the one-on-one duels and like to get you in on those battles as they believe they will win them. We expect a tough test, but we can take a lot of confidence in how we’ve been playing.”

Of course, with England taking on Germany, there will always be talk (and fears) of a penalty shoot-out to decide the winners. Scott is calm about any prospect of that.

Above: Jill Scott in training during the tournament. She sees Sunday’s Final as potentially “gamechanging” for women’s football in England. Photo: PA.

“We’ve had all our processes set in place for months now. I feel we’re the best-prepared team here, we’ve prepared for every possible eventuality.”

It is absolutely clear that there is no fear in this Lionesses team. There is a sense of belief in their ability and a real calmness instilled by head coach Sarina Wiegman.

“Sarina has been brilliant. She is an incredible women. She is very logical. She keeps us focused. I don’t think she realises how good she is. Against Spain, she was so calm on the sideline, she had all her processes in place. She is the driving force behind us being in the final.”

Allied to the sense of calmness is the really tight nature of the players. “We have a special group, we all get on so well. Sometimes I sit there and think: ‘God, there’s 15 years between us,’ when I think about the likes of Lauren Hemp!

“For me, playing alongside Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway for the past eight years at Manchester City, I’m just glad that the whole world is able to now see what I’ve seen for the past eight years with them. I’ve played with the best players in the world in training everyday.”

Above: Jill Scott with Sarina Wiegman, who the England legend describes as being “the driving force behind us being in the final. Photo: AFP.

“Millie Bright blocked me today in training today and nearly broke my arm. I turned round and told her to make sure she does that on Sunday. I don’t think anyone has got past her this tournament. She’s won every single header. She has been so consistent for Chelsea and now with England. She always breaks through barriers to get herself on the pitch and she is now getting her rewards. The plaudits are so well deserved.”

Looking ahead, at the age of 35, Scott knows that time is not on her side in terms of her playing career, but will wait until the dust settles after the final to make any decisions.

“I said that I wanted to give absolutely everything at this tournament. It’s taken a lot of energy over the past three months. I don’t know. I’ll see what this week looks like, and some decisions will be made.”

WAFCON: A Worthy Final And A Sign Of Things To Come

by Emmanuel Faith, Impetus’ African Women’s Football Correspondent (28/7/22)

Above: South Africa celebrate with the WAFCON trophy after defeating Morocco in the final. Photo: CAF Online.

When the hosts Morocco locked horns with the five-time finalists South Africa at the Rabat Stadium, we knew we were in for an exciting ride. Both teams were unbeaten prior to the finals, and both were set for breaking a record. Morocco trying to repeat a feat of hosting and winning, while the South Africans were committed to ending the hoodoo of the trophy evading them.

The first half was feisty, terse, and tense as South Africans played direct football, optimizing the speed and trickery of Noxolo Cesane and Seopesenwe on and off the ball. With half-goal scoring chances created in the fourth and eighth minutes, however the Atlas Lionesses of Morocco remained resilient, soaking up the pressure while hitting the Bayana Bayana on the counter. There were chances towards the end of the first half as Hildah Magaia drew a save from Morocco’s goalkeeper, while Ayane recorded the host nation’s first shot on target in the final.

The match sprung to life in the second half when Magaia connected with Seopesenwe to slot calmly into the right corner of the net to put South Africa ahead. A few minutes later, Magaia latched on a loose ball played into the box to double the lead leaving the Moroccan’s rattled. The hosts’ manager, Reynald Pedros issued directions from the touchline and it worked as in the 81st minute, Ayane connected with a beautifully laid pass from Fatima Tagnaout to get a goal back, causing the stadium to erupt in raucous roar.

South-African however defended with resilience in the last ten minutes, ensuring they laid their hands on the trophy for the first time.

Above: Zambia celebrate with their bronze medals after defeating Nigeria in the Third/Fourth Place Play-Off. Photo: CAF Online.

A day before, Zambia had beaten the Super Falcons of Nigeria by a goal to nothing to take the bronze medal. A long-range strike from Zambian midfielder, Susan Katongo hit the bar and was deflected into the net off of the Nigerian goalkeeper. It was enough to give the she-polopolo of Zambia the win.

This was the first time the Nigerian women finished outside of the top three teams since 2012. Andile Dlamini won the goalkeeper of the tournament, while Ghizlane Chebbak won the player of the tournament.

With all eyes on the FIFA World Cup 2023, there are a lot of expectations from Africa. The continent’s best finish on the global stage has been quarter-finals and they would be looking forward to equaling that record and who knows, maybe surpassing it.

Above: Morocco’s Ghizlane Chebbak, player of the tournament. Artwork: CAF Online.

For players like Grace Chanda, Ghizlane Chebbak, and Jermaine Seopesenwe, they are new names the world can’t wait to behold, while for established stars like Rasheedat Ajibade and Asisat Oshoala, who were recently crowned African player of the year for a record fifth time, they would be looking to make a better account of themselves while living up the expectations of their fans and supporters.

Let’s not forget that there is still the possibility of one or two more African nations picking up slots from the Inter-Confederation play-offs next February, and I am sure that Africans would be hoping that at least, Cameroon gets one of those slots as it increases the continent’s chances of making it to the next round.

Record Equalling Popp Sends Germany To Wembley

Impetus’ Johnathan Stack, who has followed Germany for us from the very start of the tournament, reflects on their victory over France in last night’s semi-final (28/7/22).

Above: Alexandra Popp shows her joy at providing Germany’s ticket to Sunday’s final. Photo: Euro 2022.

Germany will face England in the final of Euro 2022 after beating France 2-1 in Milton Keynes.

Two goals from player of the match German captain Alexandra Popp either side of a Merle Frohms own goal was enough to seal their passage to Wembley.

Above: Alexandra Popp (centre) celebrates for Germany. Photo: Euro 2022,

Popp’s first goal was a stunning volley from a Svenja Huth cross, and her second was towering thumping header from another Huth cross.

Popp has now equalled Michel Platini’s Euro ’84 achievement of scoring in five consecutive games at any UEFA European Championships and could break the record in Sunday’s final.

France had their chances and got a tad fortunate with their goal after Diani’s strike cannoned off the post hit the back of German goalkeeper Merle Frohms before ending up in the back of the net.

But the headlines and highlights will no doubt go to Popp who has been in blistering form this summer.

Above: Post-match joy featuring Giulia Gwinn (15), Felicitas Rauch (centre), and Merle Frohms (right). Photo: Euro 2022.

The England defence will have to play the game of their lives if they are going to stop Germany and Alexandra Popp.

Also, there is a crucial battle for the UEFA Euro 2022 Golden Boot with both England’s Beth Mead and Germany’s Alexandra Popp on six goals each.

I said in a previous article after Germany’s second group game that it looked like it will be an England against Germany final. That has come to fruition, and the countdown is on for Sunday. Who will be crowned European Champions in 2022 England or Germany? Will the Lionesses roar or be tamed by the Germans?

To read Impetus’ French editor’s view of the match (in English), click here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/28/german-efficiency-stifles-french-creativity/

Teams: FRANCE (4-3-3): Peyraud-Magnin, Karchaoui, Renard, Mbock, Périsset, Geyoro, Toletti (Sarr 80′), Bilbault, Cascarino (Matéo 61′), Malard (Bacha 46′), Diani.

Scorer: Frohms (OG) 45′.

GERMANY (4-3-3): Frohms, Rauch, Hegering (Doorsoun 81′), Hendrich, Gwinn, Däbritz (Lohmann 68′), Oberdorf, Magull (Dallmann 68′), Brand, Popp, Huth (Waßmuth 90+1′).

Scorer: Popp 40′, 76′.

Referee: Cheryl Foster.

Attendance: 27,445.

German Efficiency Stifles French Creativity

Impetus’ French editor Jean-Pierre Thiesset reflects on his nation’s semi-final against Germany last night (28/7/22).

Above: The French team in a huddle last night – their first semi-final ended in disappointment. Photo: Euro 2022.

Despite fighting to the end, it was Germany who were stronger and deservedly took their place in Sunday’s Euro 2022 Final against England.

France head coach Corinne Diacre named the same team which started the quarter-final against Netherlands.

In the first quarter, the action was end to end. There was a huge battle to win the midfield. Pauline Peyraud-Magnin was called into action in the French goal at the 19th-minute free-kick. German talisman Alexandra Popp hit another set-piece from a central position 18 meters out which the French custodian dealt with well at the cost of a corner.

Above: Pauline Peyraud-Magnin directing her defence last night. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine.

France relied on counterattacks, but they lost most of their duels as they failed to move the ball around quickly enough. Additionally, it seemed that the two extra days between matches which fell in Germany’s favour from their last eight clash with Austria saw them clearly dominating Les Bleues in the physical battle.

With 40 minutes on the clock, from yet another Germany attack, Svenja Huth’s cross was dispatched into the net by Popp for her fifth goal in as many games this tournament. Despite this, France pushed on and levelled right on the half-time whistle. A rapid-fire attack saw Kadidiatou Diani dispatch a superb shot from 18 meters which came off of the left-hand post and bounced off of the back of Germany goalkeeper Merle Frohms to make it 1-1 at the break.

Above: Kadidiatou Diani shows her joy after her shot on the stroke of half-time went into the net off of Germany goalkeeper Merle Frohms. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine.

The first half may have been difficult for France, but they were still alive. As expected, the young star Selma Bacha replaced Melvine Malard, who lacked efficiency. The introduction of Bacha sees her now out on the left with Diani as centre forward, and Delphine Cascarino on the right – her preferred position.

France remained with their difficulties to maintain possession in midfield. Bacha’s qualities were seen just after the hour mark when her shot was blocked out for a corner. Frohms worked hard to deny Renard’s header and another effort from Bacha.

Above: Selma Bacha gets a shot in on goal during the second half. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine.

Yet, it was Germany who showed their efficiency and ability to transfer chances into goals when Huth’s cross was headed home by Popp, who joined England’s Beth Mead at the top of the tournament scoring charts.

France had chances in the final stages with Bacha letting fly from the edge of the box and Clara Matéo who put the ball just over. France players fought until the end, but Germany was stronger.

Teams: FRANCE (4-3-3): Peyraud-Magnin, Karchaoui, Renard, Mbock, Périsset, Geyoro, Toletti (Sarr 80′), Bilbault, Cascarino (Matéo 61′), Malard (Bacha 46′), Diani.

Scorer: Frohms (OG) 45′.

GERMANY (4-3-3): Frohms, Rauch, Hegering (Doorsoun 81′), Hendrich, Gwinn, Däbritz (Lohmann 68′), Oberdorf, Magull (Dallmann 68′), Brand, Popp, Huth (Waßmuth 90+1′).

Scorer: Popp 40′, 76′.

Referee: Cheryl Foster.

Attendance: 27,445.

The Perfect Night

by Darrell Allen (27/7/22)

Above: The Lionesses celebrate after their incredible win against Sweden last night. Photo: Lionesses.

After all the challenges and anxiety that were involved with the Lionesses’ Quarter Final against Spain, this Semi Final night in Sheffield against Sweden was a walk in the park in comparison. 

A crowd just shy of the 29,000 mark roared the Lionesses on to success and a place in Sunday’s Wembley Final thanks to goals from Beth Mead, Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo, and Fran Kirby.

Following a tricky spell in the first half, this night was a breeze and that’s credit to how well Sarina Wiegman’s team played. 

Magnificent Mead

Above: Beth Mead – on target again and leading the Golden Boot race. Photo: Lionesses.

Beth Mead – who else – got this magical Bramall Lane night off with a beautiful goal as the first touch and swivel was superb before she finished to give England the lead.

This was the Arsenal forward’s sixth goal of the tournament and she will be hoping to be the hero again in Sunday’s Final.

It’s not just on the pitch where Mead is magnificent, in every television interview she is herself – human and genuine and that’s the reason she is so popular. A role model on and off the pitch.

Steam Engine Stanway 

Above: Georgia Stanway receives the adulation of the crowd at Bramall Lane last night. Photo: Lionesses.

Georgia Stanway, simply magnificent again, her wonderful headline extra time winning moment against Spain was followed up with a display of critical hard craft and incredible passing. 

Stanway is a player who doesn’t get enough credit, always an eight out of 10 player or better, vital to everything the Lionesses do well.

Bayern Munich’s latest signing can do headline moments but more importantly does the dirty work, ensures the defence is protected but also gets forward and tries to create opportunities. She will be a massive player in deciding whether England are successful in the final.

Russo Does The Henry

Above: Alessia Russo scoring THAT goal last night. Photo: Lionesses.

Alessia Russo’s goal was truly extraordinary. The control and the audacity to back heel the ball into the goal.

It had the air of Thierry Henry about it, one of the men’s games greatest forwards. Back on 2nd October 2004 he backheeled the ball in for Arsenal at Highbury against Charlton Athletic.

The two goals were almost carbon copies and Russo added further stock to her already amazing tournament. 

Kirby Comes to Town

Above: What a night it was for Fran Kirby. Photo: Lionesses.

What an incredible performance from Fran Kirby of Chelsea. It seemed just apt that it was Kirby who wrote the final chapter of this remarkable evening with an extraordinary lob over Lindahl in the Sweden goal.

Kirby was influential and covered every blade of grass on a night where she was simply amazing.

Incredible really for a player who missed the second half of the domestic season due to injury and illness. 

Kirby was in the mood all night and got her reward when she scored the final goal of the contest on 76 minutes. 

Get ready for a Special Sunday 

Whatever happens now, Sunday 31st July will live long in the memory as England go for glory in a home Euros at a sold out Wembley Stadium. 

Whether you are lucky enough to be at the ground or watching at home this is a day to be proud of Lionesses, proud of Football, and proud of our country. 

ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Daly, Stanway, Walsh, Mead, Kirby, Hemp, White. Substitutes: Greenwood, Carter, Hampton, Stokes, Scott, Parris, Kelly, England, Toone, Roebuck, Wubben-Moy, Russo.

Scorers: Mead 34′, Bronze 48′, Russo 68′, Kirby 76′.

SWEDEN (4-2-3-1): Lindahl, IIestedt, ,Sambrant, Eriksson, Glas, Angeldal, Bjorn, Jakobsson, Asllani, Rolfo, Blackstenius. Subs: Andersson, Nildén, Kullberg, Hurtig, Falk, Blomqvist, Seger, Rytting Kaneryd, Bennison, Musovic.

Referee: Esther Staubli.

Attendance: 28,624

Fran Kirby: Overcoming Huge Challenges To Make Euro 2022 Final

Last night, Fran Kirby produced a sensational performance in England’s 4-0 win over Sweden in the Semi-Finals of Euro 2022. It was just reward for a player who has overcome mental health challenges, injuries, and several bouts of debilitating illness to line up at Wembley on Sunday in one of the biggest games on the planet. Impetus’ Ben Gilby, who watches Kirby play regularly in the WSL at Kingsmeadow, profiles the player that Chelsea fans rightly call ‘Super Fran’ (27/7/22).

Above: The look on the face says it all. Fran Kirby after scoring for the Lionesses last night. Photo: Lionesses.

Fran Kirby is one of the most respected female footballers in the world. She’s played in and scored goals in countless big games for club and country – none more so than last night’s victory over Sweden in the Euros semi-finals. Yet in order to reach that status, she has had to overcome some major hurdles. Hurdles that occasionally re-appear and need to be overcome again.

Back in May last year, I was part of an online discussion with Kirby organised by the Women’s Sports Alliance, where the Chelsea and Lionesses star spoke openly about the challenges she has faced in her life and career. It makes her achievements all the more outstanding. It makes her one of the most inspirational female athletes England has.

“I lost my Mum at the age of 14, Kirby explained, “I didn’t allow myself a grieving space. I went to school the next day. It wasn’t until I was aged 16-18 that I noticed that things weren’t right in me.

“I didn’t understand who I was or what I wanted to be. With my Mum gone, I was growing up in a male-dominated household and we weren’t good at speaking about our emotions. We didn’t mention the word ‘Mum’ for four years after her passing.”

It was incredibly hard for Fran to chart a path forwards to overcome these difficult times. For Fran, the support of a physio at Reading FC was instrumental in her mental state’s improvement.

Above: Fran Kirby in action during her days at Reading. Photo: Get Reading.

“It’s so important to find someone that you can talk to. Quite often it’s someone who doesn’t know you all that well. The physio at Reading was older than me and I’d sit on her sofa and just cry.”

“I could see that (my mental condition) was affecting other people around me. I was becoming a person that I wouldn’t like to be around myself.”

“I stopped playing football for a year after Mum died. I knew that I would get back to football eventually. I needed to find joy in myself. At the age of 13, I had people telling me I would play for England – that was tough to hear and live up to. I had anxiety about coming back, but football was the biggest part of my life. For a long time, I knew how much my Mum wanted me to play football. Now it’s a dream that I want to have. I still have bad days and I just accept that.”

Fran has also had to battle several major injuries and health scares over the course of her career. She outlined how the mental impact of this is not quite the same as the struggles that she faced after her Mother’s passing, but that didn’t make them any easier to overcome.

The period between 2016 and 2017 saw the Berkshire-born player suffered back-to-back injuries which were hampered by slow recovery times due to problems diagnosing the exact nature of the injuries. It led to a period of around 12 months out of the game during which Kirby suffered pain so bad that she struggled to walk due to knee problems and bone edema (deep internal bruising).

bove: Fran in action for Chelsea in the 2016 FA Cup Final against Arsenal. She would soon face a tough injury battle. Photo: Zimbio.

“I went through so many ups and downs (in that period) and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I found in the end that the best thing to do was to be honest with the people around me about how I was feeling. I learned a lot about myself and took a lot of time to work things out.”

The season before last saw Kirby experience another incredibly challenging period after being diagnosed with pericarditis, an inflammation of the fibrous sac that surrounds the heart which left her with sharp chest pain, fever, shortness of breath, and general weakness.

“Mentally it was one of the craziest things that I’ve experienced in my life, Fran said. “It was a trauma. Just thinking about coming back and playing football scared me because of how I was feeling. I just couldn’t think of anything worse than getting back playing.”

“Then I got injured in my first England training camp after recovering from the pericarditis. That was possibly my biggest mental battle.”

Fran feels that it is incredibly positive that more professional sports stars are talking about their mental health battles. “We have to be honest. We’re not robots, we’re human beings. It gives the fans more of a personal relationship with you. If they can see our struggles and we’re getting through it then maybe they see that they can too if they have struggles.”

Above: Fran in action for Chelsea this season – another debilitating illness struck at the start of the year which put her Euros participation in doubt. Photo: Chelsea FCW

The relationship with fans is something that comes with positives and negatives for sports players’ mental health. “When the fans are happy with you, it’s great. When they are not, it’s hard to separate this. I try not to get too caught up in opinions of me. I don’t look at comments about my performance because it can impact you.”

In terms with how mental health is dealt with at Chelsea, Fran is hugely positive. “Emma Hayes has been amazing through everything that I’ve been through. You need to feel reassured and valued. You need to feel what you are doing for your job is important. I was still being told how valued I was and how I was part of the squad.”

Fran went into this summer’s Euros on the back of another major debilitating illness which meant that she didn’t play any football from February until the end of the season. It was touch and go as to whether she would be ready to be considered for selection for Sarina Wiegman’s squad.

The Lionesses’ head coach recognised that Kirby was ready, and the Chelsea star hasn’t looked back, starting every game, and scoring in England’s 5-0 group win over Northern Ireland before last night’s goal at Bramall Lane to seal her country’s 4-0 win over Sweden.

Fran Kirby is going to Wembley on Sunday. She’s been there before a number of times before with both club and country. Yet this time is extra special. A truly inspirational female athlete with an incredible backstory is going all out to lift one of the biggest trophies in women’s football. If anyone can do it, Super Fran can.

Above: Fran Kirby celebrating with England last night. The Lionesses are going all out to ensure there will be more good times on Sunday at Wembley. Photo: Lionesses.

Naomi Chinnama On Finding Her Feet At International Level

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Naomi Chinnama from inside the Young Matildas U20 World Cup training camp during a media event yesterday (26/7/22).

Above: A relaxed Naomi Chinnama speaking to the media yesterday. Photo: Football Australia.

After earning her first call-up to the Young Matildas earlier this year, Naomi Chinnama has gradually found her feet with the U20 Women’s National Team. 

Playing her A-League Women’s football with Melbourne City, Chinnama is emerging as one of the next generation of defenders and believes her recent exposure to international football – and potentially the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup will be an important part of her education. 

Above: Naomi Chinnama in training this week ahead of the U20 World Cup. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“This is very new for me,” she said to the media.  “My first camp was the first New Zealand series camp [in April] and definitely getting used to that environment had to happen pretty quick.” 

“I would say I definitely had to learn how to manage myself, to listen to my body and make sure that I remained disciplined.” 

Assisting with the transition from club to international youth football has been a familiar face in her City head coach, Rado Vidošić. 

Above: Naomi Chinnama driving forward in training this week. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

The A-League Women’s championship-winning coach is Leah Blayney’s assistant for this FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup campaign and his presence has helped the 18-year-old settle in over the past couple of months. 

“It’s great to have a familiar face.  It just makes the environment more comfortable.  I do think he brings a wealth of knowledge.  He has a ton of experience, and he’s definitely a valuable asset to the team.”

“It’s really great working under Leah Blayney. I think she makes us all feel like one big happy team.  She knows what she’s doing, and I definitely trust her completely.”

“We go into training feeling like we are nice and prepared. I just really like working under her. Also the rest of the staff have been really good. I know they don’t get enough credit but behind the scenes they’re phenomenal.”

Above: Proud to be a Young Matilda – Naomi Chinnama heads out to training this week. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Chinnana highlighted the challenges that the squad are having to face in the build-up to the tournament. “We had 24 hours of travel and now we need to get used to both the time differences and altitude levels, so we haven’t completely settled in yet, but we’re getting there. The first day or so we were walking around like zombies – sleeping when we were supposed to be awake, awake when we had to be sleeping, yeh, not good!” she laughed.

One positive is that the Melbourne City A-League Women player knows her teammates very well. She has been playing NSW NPLW football over the last few months with eight of the Young Matildas squad at Blacktown Spartans. “That’s kinda funny!” Chinnama laughed, “The coach must be going spare, but we’re all getting on really well here, whether we are from Spartans or elsewhere.”

The Young Matildas will commence their FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup campaign on Thursday 11th August 2022 at 12.00pm (AEST) against host nation Costa Rica. 

All of Australia’s matches will be broadcast live, free, and in HD on SBS and SBS On Demand with a full studio broadcast. 

Above: The Young Matildas training base ahead of next month’s U20 World Cup. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Five Things We Learned From France v Netherlands

by Nathan Edwards (25/7/22).

Above: France show their delight at making the Euro 2022 Semi-Finals. Photo: Euro 2022.

It took until extra time for this end-to-end heavyweight clash between France and the Netherlands to reach its conclusion when Ève Périsset converted her penalty in the 102nd minute to put an end to the Dutch’s title defence.

With Les Blues now turning their attention to a semi-final match against Germany who so often conquer this Championship, winning eight of the 12 Euros. Here are five things we learned from yesterday’s game at the New York Stadium.

French History Makers

Above: Louisa Cadamuro whose agonising miss in a shoot-out against Denmark in the Euro 2013 Quarter-Final set the trend for French defeats in the last eight of major tournaments. Photo: The Athletic.

France have made a habit of spectacularly falling short at the quarter-final stages in international tournaments, in fact, they have headed home in the last five international competitions at this stage.

It started with a penalty shootout defeat to Denmark at Euro 2013. After drawing Les Blues level in the 90 minutes from the spot Louisa Cadamuro missed the opening penalty, allowing the Danes to progress. It was followed up two years later with another heartbreaking defeat on penalties to Wednesday’s opponents, Germany. Along with these quarterfinal losses, it has repeated itself in the Olympics in 2016, Euro 2017, and the 2019 World Cup.

But with two of those exits, being at the hands of a penalty shootout, Périsset’s coolly converted spot-kick was a sweet way to put an end to Les Blues’ quarterfinal curse.

French Profligacy

Above: Kadidiatou Diani – one of a number of French attackers who couldn’t quite turn dominance into goals. Photo: Sven Beyrich/Imago.

Despite both sides being evenly ranked, France dominated the fixture peppering the Dutch backline and creating 33 efforts on goal, and the only penetrative attempt was from 12 yards.

Blue wave after blue wave attacked the Oranje defence, who managed to keep them at bay for the majority of the match. Kadidiatou Diani was the first to be denied by Daphne van Domselaar after a rapid counterattack unleashed Diani through.

Even when they managed to work their way past the Dutch shotstopper, Stefanie van der Gragt’s knee came to rescue Melvine Malard’s shot from hitting the back of the net.

Corinne Diacre’s side were deserved winners and the fact that it went to an added 30 minutes, is a credit to the robust Netherland’s defence and shoddy, wastefulness from France’s attackers.

The Dutch Wall

Above: Sensational goalkeeping from Daphne van Domselaar for the Netherlands against France. Photo: Euro 2022.

One of the reasons France failed to convert their 33 chances into more than one goal was down to van Domselaar.

At the start of the tournament, the 22-year-old was the backup to Sari van Veenendaal, but the first-choice goalkeeper picked up a campaign-ending injury against Sweden, allowing van Domselaar to step in.

And not only did she step in, but she also stepped up in big moments through the quarterfinal match. She made ten saves throughout the 120 minutes, more than her opposite number, Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, had done during the whole competition.

The most impressive save came in the dying moments of normal time, denying Wendy Renard’s header with a finger-tip save. The FC Twente goalkeeper also made two stops in quick succession earlier on in the game, flying across the goal to cover Dominique Janssen’s potential own goal and Charlotte Bilbault’s long shot.

Vivianne Miedema Felt The Blues

Above: Vivianne Miedema who played 120 minutes after missing two games with COVID. Photo: Give Me Sport.

Mark Parsons headed into Saturday’s match with the added bonus of having the country’s top goalscorer available for selection. Miedema missed the last two group stage games after testing positive for COVID-19.

But it was apparent throughout her return that she wasn’t able to be her usual-menacing self. Her underwhelming cameo saw her play 120 minutes and fire one shot off target, as France’s backline had a much quieter evening compared to the Oranje’s four.

Playing 120 minutes without having to overcome the hangover of coronavirus is difficult enough; even for one of the world’s best players, it was a step too far.

Facing Familar Foes

Above: Germany and their in-form scorer Alexandra Popp await in Wednesday’s semi-final for France. Photo: Euro 2022.

And after all, France managed to tame Arsenal’s superstar, penetrate the Oranje defence and break the quarter-final hoodoo, they will now need to do it all over again against Germany.

The Germans beat a difficult Austria side 2-0 and having an extra two days rest compared to France, they head into it with the advantage.

But it will be down to France to become the first team in this competition to score past Germany and knock out the most successful nation in this competition, in what will be a tasty battle between two old rivals.

France Bury The Hoodoo At Last

France 1-0 Netherlands

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset (24/7/22)

Above: Ève Périsset dispatches the winning goal from the penalty spot. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine.

France finally ended their run of defeats at the quarter-final stage of major tournaments by seeing off the Netherlands after extra-time in Rotherham.

France were dominant from the opening whistle. They monopolised the ball at the beginning of the match. Delphine Cascarino, outstanding all night, forced Daphne van Domselaar, the Dutch goalkeeper, into making a superb save after 21 minutes.

Above: Just one of the many superb saves made by Daphne van Domselaar last night. Photo: Euro 2022.

Within seven minutes, Cascarino was at it again with a superb shot from 20 metres which came off of the right hand post at the 28th minute. The opportunities continued to rack up for the French. The next went the way of Melvine Malard but Stefanie van der Gragt saved on her goal line – the first of a series of sensational personal interventions by the Dutch defender.

Despite the strong domination from France, mustering 12 shots, six of which were on target, there remained a lack of efficiency in front of goal – something that has dogged the team for months.

France players restart the second half as they played the first with quick passes to go forward with rapidity. Just after the hour mark, Olympique Lyonnias youngster Selma Bacha replaced Malard and she absolutely bossed the remainder of the encounter on the left.

Above: Stefanie van der Gragt – sensational defending all night long. Photo: Euro 2022.

Within a minute of Bacha’s introduction, it took another goal line intervention from van der Gragt to deny France. Bacha was involved once more with a shot that was heading in until van Domselaar pushed it away brilliantly with her hand. The Dutch custodian was called into action twice more in stoppage time at the end of the match as she repelled a Cascarino shot and a typically towering Wendie Renard header.

No goals at the end of regular time where France was not efficient enough to score despite 22 shots with 11 on target, so the game headed into extra-time.

Above: Imposing in the air at set pieces as ever – Wendie Renard of France. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine

Finally France managed to get the ball into the net as despite being originally waved away by referee Ivana Martinčić, VAR intervened to correctly rule that Dominique Janssen fouled Kadidiatou Diani. New Chelsea signing Ève Périsset stepped up to dispatch the penalty into the net.

This was an outstanding performance at times from France. Cascarino, Diani, Perisset, Karchaoui, Mbock, and Bacha who made a great appearance from the bench bringing speed and spontaneity in the game. If France can join their sensational creativity with improved ability to finish, then Germany are in for a seriously tough battle at Milton Keynes in Wednesday’s semi-final.

Above: Scenes of joy at the final whistle as France made the semi-finals. Photo: Euro 2022.

Teams: FRANCE 4-3-3: Peyraud-Magnin, Karchaoui, Renard, Mbock, Périsset (Torrent 106′), Toletti (Palis 106′), Bilbault, Geyoro (Matéo 88′), Cascarino, Malard (Bacha 62′), Diani (Sarr 106′).

Scorer: Périsset (pen) 102′

NETHERLANDS (4-3-3): van Domselaar, Casparij (Nouwen 106′), Janssen, van der Gragt, Wilms (Egurrola 115′), Spitse (Leuchter 106′), van de Donk (Brugts 72′), Groenen, Pelova, Miedema, Beerensteyn (Roord 46′).

Referee: Ivana Martinčić (Croatia).

Attendance: 9,764.

Above: The sensational Selma Bacha who was given the player of the match trophy after coming on as a sub just after the hour mark. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine.

Belgian Heartbreak But Swedes Are Better Than This

Impetus‘ Jean-Pierre Thiesset and Ben Gilby reflect on last night’s Quarter-Final tie at Leigh. Jean-Pierre rounds up the match action, whilst Ben sounds a warning to England fans stating that the Swedes are a far better team than the one we saw last night (23/7/22).

Above: Linda Sembrant hits Sweden’s last gasp winner. Photo: Svensk Fotboll.

Riddled By Major Disruptions To Preparations, Winning Was All That Mattered For Sweden

by Ben Gilby

So many issues, so many challenges for Sweden around this game. Where to start? Essentially, for me, there are two things that need to be taken away from last night’s match.

First, the news all week coming out of the Swedish camp around a COVID outbreak that claimed Jonna Andersson, Jennifer Falk, Hanna Bennison, Hanna Glas, and Emma Kullberg. The disruptions and uncertainty around the availability of players at short notice and the impact on training preparations – several had to train separately away from the main group – was immense.

Sweden head coach Peter Gerherdsson’s quote to the media on Wednesday was particularly telling:

“I think it’s more important to look at what players are available because we want to have the best players out on the pitch.”

Peter Gerhardsson, Sweden head coach.

The Swedes have one of the greatest strengths in depth of any team in this competition, but the impact of the COVID outbreak was monumental. Only making one substitution during the 90 minutes – the introduction of Bennison with six minutes to go, highlights the aspect of Sweden’s head coach having to play this match with one hand tied behind his back.

Let’s go back to that Gerhardsson quote about “what players are available”. I think it’s possible to argue that this is actually a multi-layered answer if you drill a bit deeper. Whilst we know COVID took out five players, there were others missing who you would expect to be there – Lina Hurtig and Sofia Jakobson for example.

Then, of course the iconic 200 cap Caroline Seger was just a watcher on the sidelines. This was an incalculable loss for Sweden. Seger is an absolute legend of the women’s game who just needs to stand on a football pitch to command respect and inspire her team.

Above: Johanna Rytting Kaneryd – not a recognisable name for some, but a superb player, who got a full 90 minutes last night. Photo: Svensk Fotboll.

What this did do was allow the presence of a player who may still fly under the radar to get 90 minutes of a quarter-final – Johanna Rytting Kaneryd. The BK Häcken midfielder, who only made her international debut in February 2021, is a superbly talented attacking talent and at the age of 25, you can’t help but feel she is going to get even better.

Rytting Kaneryd was my ‘one to watch’ for Sweden at this tournament amidst a squad of big-name players, and she provided some excellent moments of pace and ball control.

The selection challenges also resulted in Amanda Nildén being handed a competitive debut at the age of 23 in defence. Despite her relative young age, Nildén has been recognised as a hugely promising player for many years. The Swedish defence is notoriously tough to break into due to the calibre of players to pick from, but Nildén is a player who you can expect to see in yellow and blue for the next decade.

Above: Amanda Nildén on her competitive debut for Sweden last night. Photo: Svensk Fotboll.

Yes, Sweden had 32 shots and only scored one at the death. But when you have a team shorn of such a number of players whose availability was clouded in doubt until the last moments, tactics, build-up play and creativity avenues will never be as clear as in a normal preparation.

Of those shots, 10 were on target, and with Belgium having Nicky Evrard in sensational form in goal, it made life even tougher for the Swedes.

At the start of this reflection from last night, I mentioned two things to take away from this match. The second is a message for Lionesses fans.

Above: Sweden’s path to the Olympic silver medal included a 3-0 win over World champions USA. Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP.

Do not be lulled into a false sense of security about England’s semi-final opponents. They finished third (World Cup 2019) and second (Olympics 2021) at their last two international tournaments and are an outstanding team. That doesn’t change on the back of last night.

Sweden have massive experience, they have a head coach who knows his stuff, and with another three days of preparation to get players back on board, they will pose England an almighty threat that can potentially be far stronger than the one Spain offered.

There is a valid argument that England’s attacking style could play into Sweden’s hands. Gerhardsson’s team are masterful in defence, with adaptability throughout the midfield to not just boost their front players, but crucially to provide extra cover at the back.

Above: Hedvig Lindahl – whose quick thinking set in motion a dangerous attack last night. Photo: Svensk Fotboll.

That backline can also kickstart dangerous attacks in a flash. Last night, we saw one such example of that when Hedvig Lindahl showed quick thinking to place a rapid-fire drop kick into the midfield that ended in Stina Blackstenius putting the ball in the back of the net – a move which was eventually ruled offside.

England will have every right to be confident after seeing off Spain – but fans just beware, Sweden are going to be a very tough nut to crack.

Sweden 1-0 Belgium

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset

Above: Sweden celebrate after their win over Belgium at the death last night. Photo: Svensk Fotboll.

There was one surprise in starters, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, was preferred to Lina Hurtig or Sofia Jakobson in the Sweden team in the right forward slot.

Sweden started by putting a strong pressure on Belgium making it difficult for the underdogs players to get forward. After 10 minutes, Belgium adapted their game and their rigor allowed them to better manage the pressure.

On a fast counterattack at the 25th minute, Stina Blackstenius put the ball in the net for Sweden, but the goal was ruled offside in a very marginal call. Whilst Belgium created the odd chance here and there, it was the Olympic silver medallists who ramped up the pressure once more.

Sweden restarted with the same strong pressure, and they quickly had opportunities to score by putting more intensity in their game. As the game reached the hour mark, this combination of pressure and intensity made its mark on Belgium who began to tire.

Above: Nicky Evrard’s outstanding display earned her the player of the match trophy, but it was little consolation for a heartbreaking loss. Photo: Euro 2022.

Belgium were though inspired by their goalkeeper, Nicky Evrard, who was on fire making some superb saves throughout the game. Finally though, and in the most heartbreaking way for the underdogs, a goal arrived two minutes into stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes when Linda Sembrant forced the ball home.

It was so cruel for Belgium which produced a great effort, fighting until the end but Sweden was stronger, and I still do not understand how Sweden players were not able to score sooner with 32 shots in 90 minutes. If a team is looking for a great goalkeeper, Evrard is one who can do the job.

Teams: SWEDEN (4-2-3-1): Lindahl, Nildén, Eriksson, Sembrant, Ilestedt, Björn, Asllani, Angeldahl (Bennison 84′), Rolfö, Blackstenius, Rytting Kaneryd.

Scorer: Sembrant 90+2′.

BELGIUM (4-3-3): Evrard, Philtjens, De Neve, Kees, Deloose (Dhont 67′), Biesmans, (Missipo 88), Vanhaevermaet, Minnaert, Wullaert, De Caigny, Cayman.

Referee: Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine).

Attendance: 7,576.

Austria Out But Leave Germany Rattled

by Johnathan Stack (22/7/22)

Above: Lina Magull celebrates scoring Germany’s opening goal against Austria at Brentford last night. Photo: Euro 2022.

Germany kept their hopes of a ninth European title alive, but they had to do it the hard way in West London. A 2-0 win secured a spot in the semi-finals of UEFA Women’s Euro 2022.

Goals from Lina Magull and Germany’s player of the tournament thus far, captain Alexandra Popp, were enough to seal a place in the last four.

Popp has now scored in four games in a row during the tournament, equalling Heidi Mohr’s 29-year record of scoring in consecutive matches at a UEFA Women’s European Championship.

Ultimately, Austria were undone by Germany’s impressive pressing game. A long loose ball up field from Austria goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger was regained by Germany who quickly pounced onto the attack with Klara Bühl’s cross perfectly dummied by Popp in the penalty area for Lina Magull to send the ball into the back of the net.

Above: Alexandra Popp who got Germany’s second goal. She just can’t stop scoring this summer. Photo: Euro 2022.

Then a moment to forget in the 90th minute for the Arsenal goalkeeper Zinsberger as her error trying to play the ball out from the back gifted Popp her goal after being closed down.

The Germans were made to work for the quarter-final victory against a valiant Austria side who might count themselves extremely unlucky to lose a game, that they were in right till the very end.

Austria hit the woodwork three times and conjured up some good chances, in what was German shot-stopper Merle Frohms’ busiest games so far but she managed to keep a clean sheet yet again.

Above: Germany goalkeeper Merle Frohms had the woodwork to thank on three occasions last night. Photo: UEFA.com

Austria just lacked concentration when it mattered the most as for 90% of the game Irene Fuhrmann’s side went toe to toe with the Germans.

The German side showed championship potential in overcoming a very tricky Austria team with a ruthless ability to make chances pay.

Could nine be fine for Germany? As we get well into the busy end of the tournament, all roads lead to Wembley Stadium on 31st July.

Teams: GERMANY (4-3-3): Frohms, Hendrich, Hegering, Oberdorf, Popp(c), Huth, Däbritz, Gwinn, Rauch, Bühl, Magull. Substitutes: Anyomi, Berger, Brand, Dallmann, Doorsoun-Khajeh, Freigang, Kleinherne, Lattwein, Lohmann, Schüller, Waßmuth.

Scorers: Magull 26’, Popp 90’.

AUSTRIA (4-1-4-1): Zinsberger, Georgieva, Wenninger, Dunst, Zadrazil, Feiersinger, Wienroither, Billa, Puntigam, Hickelsberger-Füller, Hanshaw. Substitutes: Degen, Eder, Enzinger, Hobinger, Kirchberger, Kresche, Makas, Naschenweng, Pal, Schasching, Schiechtl, Schnaderbeck.

Attendance: 16,025.

Referee: Rebecca Welch.

Euro Fans Ready To Continue The Party in 2023

Kieran Yap reflects on what Australia and New Zealand have to look forward to when overseas fans come to the World Cup next year, with Kris Goman, Impetus’ Euros roving reporter getting the views of fans at the games across England about the tournament Down Under which starts in under a year (21/7/22).

Above: Coming to a state capital in Australia and New Zealand in less than a year – fans show their true colours at the Euros. Photo: Kris Goman.

Euro 2022 has given Australian and New Zealand football fans a taste of what the 2023 World Cup might bring to our shores. On the field, the tournament’s group stages have more than delivered, but the supporters and travelling fans have made just as big an impact from afar.

Australians have watched as streets packed with Orange-clad Dutch fans jump from left to right to strangely comforting pop music. We have hummed along to videos of Swedes singing ABBA songs at the pre-match pub. 

Impetus spoke to the fans, some of whom are locals enjoying a tournament in their own backyard, and some who crossed the continent to get there. Many are planning on making the much longer trek to Australia and New Zealand next year. Surnames have been removed because most have not told their families or work just yet.

Patrick from The Netherlands looks like the prototypical Oranje supporter at first glance. But the Ajax Amsterdam member of over 25 years and Victoria Pelova fan has a strong affinity for Australia.

“I always say I was born in the wrong country,” he told us. “I have been to Australia 11 times. I love it there.”

He is underselling it. Patrick has multiple tattoos, a few signifying his passion for Dutch football, then some surprises. He has a kangaroo on his upper arm, an Australian flag on his wrist, and the emblem for AFL side the Hawthorn Football Club on his other arm.

Above: Dutch fan Patrick’s Aussie tattoo. Image by: Kris Goman

“They were champions three times in a row, but now they’re shit.” He says with a laugh.

Patrick is eager to get back to Australia for the World Cup, but is not booking tickets until The Netherlands have qualified. They may be the runners-up from 2019 and boast a star-studded squad but the superfan thinks it may come down to a group game against Iceland on 6th November.

“We will have to win that game,” Patrick continued, “Otherwise, we will be second and have to be in a playoff game.”

Callum and Emily are both English, they are soaking up the atmosphere of a tournament on home soil and attending as many games as they can. It is something that the pair hope to do in Australia and New Zealand.

The expense of travel might be an issue for them, but if they make it, they will want to enjoy as much of the tournament as possible.

“I’d probably do one England game to be honest,” says Callum. “We’re planning to go to more neutral games in the same sort of area.”

Above: A colourful scene at one of the Euros Fan Parties in Manchester. Photo: Kris Goman.

Emily is optimistic about England’s chances at the Euros and at the World Cup. “I’d like to hope we can go all the way,” she says. “We’ve got a good squad. We’ve got a lot of depth now, it’s the first time England have got such a good squad so there’s no reason why we can’t go and win this.”

Krista from Austria is nearing retirement from her job as a teacher. Her enthusiasm for the women’s game is evident on her face, figuratively and literally. She lights up when she talks about her nation’s side who have become famous for their exuberant celebrations, but Krista also has a temporary tattoo of an Austrian flag on her cheek.

Krista is more than just a fan, she feels a strong sense of personal pride in the Austrian side. “The coach (Irene Fuhrmann) was my student,” she says proudly. “I told her to join a football team.

“She’s very ambitious and also, she has the heart of a lion. She is a very important person for the players. Every match is progress for them. They get better in every match. They’re loved by the Austrian population.”

Krista is basking in the rise of the women’s game. She has long been a supporter of the men’s team and the women’s side, but loves the atmosphere and personality of the Austrian side in England.

“The young girls come to the football; every match is on television. The women come and greet (the fans), its more personal.”

Above: The future is bright, the future is orange. Dutch fans pack out Bramall Lane stadium in Sheffield. Photo: Kris Goman.

Like The Netherlands, Austria will likely need to survive a playoff the make the World Cup, but Krista is confident and already planning ahead for her first visit to the host nations.

“In this form, they will win the playoff. I’ve taken away some money already to finance my adventure. I will be retired next year so it will be possible. I’m looking forward to going to Australia. i have to ask some friends to join me because it’s a very long distance. There is a friend of mine in Australia so I can visit her.”

Krista has been a fan of the women’s game for decades, and actively encourages young girls at her school to take up the sport. “You have to promise them a good atmosphere, so they come. If you train them and give them self-confidence, they will play for 10 years and have fun.”

Callum is from a town near Manchester, he has coached in the women’s game for almost a decade. He is at the Euros as a fan, but as a youth coach he saw some of England’s current stars take their first steps in the game

“I’ve delighted in coaching Georgia Stanway, Kiera Walsh, and Ella Toone. Many were about 13 and 14, they were always brilliant. I remember the first session with Georgia, she was outstanding. I went up my dad and said I’ve just seen a female Thierry Henry.”

He hopes to continue the Euros momentum to the World Cup where he intends to take the scenic route to games. “I’ve got a lot of friends in Australia, so I’m looking to going out there and soaking up some sun and football. I might hire a camper van and get no sleep.”

Above: Dutch fans gather and march together to the match venue. Photo: Kris Goman.

The lifelong football fan has been a regular at stadiums for most of his life, but the matches at these Euros have felt different. “The atmosphere, like the one last night was just electric. I go a lot of men’s matches and this was ten times the atmosphere of that.”

For now, Australians and New Zealanders watch on in anticipation and slight envy at the celebration of football underway in England. But it will not be long before it is happening in the host nations.

Right now, if the Lionesses have their way, football is coming home. Soon it will be coming here. The fans across the world, old and young are already planning for it.

WAFCON Update: Records Fall As Final Line-Up Confirmed

by Emmanuel Faith, Impetus Women’s Football Correspondent (21/7/22)

Above: Joy for Nesryne El Chad of Morocco as the host nation clinched a place in the final in front of a record crowd. Photo: CAF Women.

It is not just the European Championships that are seeing attendance records fall left, right, and centre. Crowds are at all time highs in the WAFCON, with a superb attendance of 45,562 who trooped to watch the semi-final between hosts, the Atlas Lionesses of Morocco, take on the holders, the Super Falcons of Nigeria, at the Rabat stadium, setting the record for the highest number of attendees for a female football match.  We can safely say “this is our time” as far as female football is concerned.

The last part of our tournament round-up (https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/13/wafcon-group-stage-round-up/) saw us reveal the quarter-finalists, so this is where we pick up the story.

QUARTER-FINALS:

Senegal vs Zambia
The last eight opened with the She-polopolo of Zambia taking on the Teranga Lionesses of Senegal. The first half was compact and both teams had a cagey approach, doing their best to avoid conceding first, something that they both achieved in the first half.

However, Zambia’s defense was broken when they conceded a free-kick that was taken by Mbayang Sow. The Senegalese defender sent a looping ball into the box which was directed into the net with a towering header from Nguenar Ndiaye.

The Lionesses didn’t lead for long as a sloppy goal-keeping from the Senegalese goal-keeper gave Avel Chitundu a chance to equalise. The match went to penalties and two misses out of four meant Senegal were out, meaning that they were going to have to rely on the continental play-offs to have a sniff of playing at the World Cup next year.

Above: Celebrations for Zambia whose win over Senegal clinched a place at the 2023 World Cup. Photo: CAF Women.

Morocco vs Botswana

The hosts Morocco faced The Mares from Botswana in the second quarter-final. History was on the line as neither side had ever made the semi-finals before.

The game opened up quickly as Mssoudy Sanaa put Morocco ahead after converting a brilliant freekick played in by Fatima Tagnaout in the third minute. The lead was cancelled just four minutes later with Keitumetse Dithebe’s brilliant solo freekick.
Yasmin Mrabet restored the hosts’ list after nodding in a looping cross from Fatima Tagnaout, a goal that was sufficient enough to take them to their first semi-finals and clinch their World Cup ticket.

South Africa vs Tunisia
An early goal from the South African striker, Jermaine Seoposenwe gave her team an advantage and was later enough to send last year’s finalist to a consecutive semi-final as both teams couldn’t find the back of the net again despite creating an array of chances.

Above: Nigeria celebrate their victory over Cameroon. Photo: CAF Women.

Nigeria vs Cameroon
This was undoubtedly the most anticipated quarter-finals. It was a battle of the heavyweights and with 48.4% of the action areas played in the midfield, the quality and intensity didn’t disappoint. It was Nigeria who progressed thanks to a brilliant header from Rasheedat Ajibade after skilful build-up play from Ngozu Okobi and Ifeoma Onumonu. The Super-Falcons keep their recent unbeaten streak against Cameroon.

SEMI-FINALS:

Dramatic. Frenetic. Athletic. These are words that describe the two semifinal matches. The first semi-final was a match-up between Zambia and South Africa. The Zambians played their hearts out despite having less possession. The majority of the action was in the middle third of the pitch – 51.2% – showing how cautious both teams were about conceding. It looked to be almost certain that the match was going to extra time until the Ethiopian referee Lidya Tafesse awarded a penalty kick to the South-Africans for a collision between Martha Thembo and Jermaine Seoposenwe at the edge of the box.

Above: The semi-final Morocco and Nigeria saw a record crowd for a women’s match in Africa. Photo: CAF Women,


More drama was to come in the second semi-final match between the title holders Nigeria and the host Morocco. The first half started on a smooth trajectory, and accelerated in pace and intensity, with both teams creating half-chances, however, neither was able to break the deadlock.

The second half opened with chaos when the Super-Falcon’s midfielder Halimatu Ayinde was shown a red card for stamping on Rosella Ayane of Morocco. Despite the reduction in number, the Falcons played with the same intensity as they had done before and took the lead from an own goal from Yasmin Mrabet after the ball was spilled from a curling cross made by Rasheedat Ajibade and redirected by Ifeoma Onumonu’s brilliant header. The lead was short-lived as Mssoudy Sanaa was at the right place at the right time to slot in a loose ball spilled by Chiamaka Nnadozie.

The match was balanced and despite the inequality in number strength, the Falcons maintained their intense tempo until Rasheedat Ajibade was shown a red card for a stomp on the Moroccan defender, Zineb Redouni. There were diverse opinions about this decision as there was a similar incidence in the first half where Ohale was stomped but nothing was done.

“Morocco won the match but the Super Falcons won our hearts” was the trending message after the match, as the Super Falcons played with nine players for more than 50 minutes, taking the match to extra time and penalties before losing out thanks to Ifeoma Onumonu’s missed spot-kick.

The final is set as the host will be playing last year’s finalist, while Super Falcons would hope to beat Zambia and get the bronze medal, a consolation for their outstanding efforts so far.

Lionesses Have Answers For Spanish Inquisition

by Darrell Allen (21/7/22)

Above: England joy after the sensational comeback win over Spain in Brighton last night. Photo: Lionesses.

Following the total breeze of Group A which saw three wins, 14 goals, and none conceded, the Lionesses faced their first major test for some time. What a test it was as Spain were outstanding for 70 minutes of this contest and nullified any England threat.

Lauren Hemp and Fran Kirby two of England’s greatest forces were well shackled on a night of great challenge for the host nation. As it their wont, Spain were there to frustrate and England hearts sank when Gonzalez scored nine minutes after the interval.

It looked a game too far for Beth Mead also as the Arsenal star struggled to get into this contest and was substituted accordingly on 58 minutes. 

However England found a way as Ella Toone popped up on 84 minutes and Georgia Stanway became the nation’s latest icon with an extra time rocket to set up a semi-final date in Sheffield on Tuesday.

A Tactical Masterclass 

Above: The true value of Sarina Wiegman as Lionesses head coach was seen last night. Photo: Lionesses.

In all seriousness, Spain were heading through, they had done the ultimate job on England. Being difficult to play against, they frustrated the hosts and got the goal they needed. England were on the floor, hopes of progression in this tournament were disappearing before their eyes.

It was the perfect away performance by Spain. Had Sarina Wiegman not been present they may very well have probably progressed. However, we saw the true masterclass of all proportions as Wiegman rang the changes and got them absolutely spot on.

Toone and Russo were the most influential of the lot and the latter found the former and England were level.

Georgia Stanway then had the stage all to herself as she glided towards goal and was walking on water it seemed, as she stroll through an open door and promptly blasted in to win the tie.

Wiegman’s substitutes were key and they absolutely delivered to get England back in the game.

The Kelly and Greenwood Influenc

Above: Chloe Kelly – an influential substitute. Photo: Lionesses.

The other substitutes from Wiegman who deserve a mention are Chloe Kelly and Alex Greenwood 

Kelly replaced the out-of-sorts Mead just before the hour and was superb from the moment she was introduced. Greenwood replaced Rachel Daly on 84 minutes and promptly assured the back line.

These tweaks restored some assurance and provided calmness as the pair were superb across the remainder of the action.

Russo Pushing to Start

With three goals in the two matches against Norway and Northern Ireland, Russo is beginning to give Wiegman a true selection dilemma. These are the thoughts Wiegman will have to have between now and Tuesday and come to the solution best suited for the semi-final to come.

Brilliant Bright 

Above: A masterful performance by Millie Bright last night. Photo: Lionesses/

Player of the match and rightly so was Millie Bright. The Chelsea stalwart was influential in ensuring Spain were limited to just the one goal. 

Bright commanded the defence all evening and when your backs are against the wall it is often defenders who make the headlines. The Derbyshire-born star was outstanding and will be required again on Tuesday when an equally tough challenge awaits against Belgium or Sweden. 

Superb Stanway

Above: Georgia Stanway celebrates her sensational strike. Photo: Lionesses.

A player for the biggest of moments and greatest of occasions is Georgia Stanway. That penalty back on 11th July against Norway saw England off to a flyer in that 8-0 demolition. 

Last night was just the same as Barrow-born Stanway delivered in the biggest moment, a 96th-minute stunner of a strike measured at 57.23 MPH and from a distance of 23.2 yards that ended up hitting the net in 0.83 seconds from the moment Stanway connected with the ball, was an extraordinary moment to send England into the Semi Final.

Sweden or Belgium Await 

Following sealing the Semi Final place, thoughts now turn to who England will face the winners of the Sweden against Belgium Quarter Final which takes place at Leigh Sports Village on Friday night. 

Sweden will be favourites, but Belgium surprised some by qualifying from their group. They will fancy themselves causing another upset.

Teams: ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Daly, Walsh, Stanway, Mead, Kirby, Hemp, White. Subs: Greenwood, Carter, Stokes, Scott, Parris, Kelly, England, Toone, Roebuck, Wubben-Moy, Russo.

Scorers: Toone 84′, Stanway 96′

SPAIN: (4-1-4-1) Panos, Battle, Parades, Leon, Carmona, Bonmati, Guijarro  Abelleira, Cardona, Gonzalez, Caldentey. Subs: Gallardo Núñez, Aleixandri, Andrés, Guerrero,  del Castillo,Sarriegi, Ouahabi, García, Pereira, García, Pina, Rodríguez Rivero.

Scorer: Gonzalez 64′.

Referee: Stephanie Frappart.

Attendance: 28,994.

Life On The Road At The Euros

Impetus’ Kris Goman is our roving reporter at the Euros. She is travelling the length and breadth of England watching matches at just about every venue possible. With the group stage now at an end, she reflects on the opening few weeks of the event (20/7/22).

Above: One of Kris’ favourite moments from the tournament the atmosphere created at Brighton when England crushed Norway 8-0. Photo: Kris Goman.

So I’ve been here nearly three weeks and seen nearly half of the group stage matches. The only teams I didn’t see play were Finland, Northern Ireland, and Belgium. I’ll see Belgium as they are through to the quarters but now won’t see the other two unfortunately.

It’s been a great tournament so far. Fairly well run, although I can think of quite a few improvements. The stadiums have been great but each time it’s a bit of a surprise as to where I’ll be sitting. I’ve got a range of cheap tickets and expensive tickets. The more expensive ones have, on a couple of occasions, meant I’ve ended up in a suite with extra catering and a free drink and pretty good seats.

Other cheaper tickets have meant I’ve ended up with the gods looking down from on high and I expect that’s where my tickets for tonight’s first quarter final will be, unfortunately. I really should have spent more money for the quarters and semis but when I bought the tickets I wasn’t even sure if I could go.

Above: The Dutch fans’ fun bus. Photo: Kris Goman.

All the games have been great but the ones that really stick out are the ones where the fans are really engaged. Netherlands definitely have the best fans. They bring this huge orange bus with them that leads the fan walk. They have DJs on board and a cranking sound system and everyone knows all the words to all the songs. Many are chart hits but I don’t know if they’ve changed the words to be about the team or if it’s just the dutch version of the songs, as I don’t speak Dutch.

The passion is contagious and super fun and many of the fans dress up. They are really well organised. They even hand out flags to everyone following the bus and get them back afterwards. I think the Matildas supporters have a long way to go to reach this level of enthusiasm but I know we could get there with a bit of organisation and maybe some financial support.

The next best fans are the Icelandic fans. They have block booked a lot of tickets and look fantastic in their blue, red and white. What is noticable is that they are here for the women and almost all the fans have women players’ jersey on, not jerseys of male players which is often the case with other teams. They are here for the woman.

Above: Iceland fans doing the Thunderclap during their nation’s game with Italy at Manchester City Academy Stadium. Photo: Kris Goman.

I heard the Icelandic Prime Minister was here and saw some people that looked like Mayors walking around too. They are passionate, have a small band leading the chants and again they are well organised, have great chants and of course, the world-famous, Thunderclap.

The next best are the English fans just from the sheer weight of their numbers. Less organised as there’s so many of them, but there’s power in numbers and with a rich history and tradition, they know what to do. If anyone starts a chant, they all join in. ‘Sweet Caroline’ is de riguer at the end of the match and with each goal and win the calls of “It’s coming home” get louder. One I particularly like is “Beth Mead’s on fire, your defence is terrified, Beth Mead’s on fire, your defence is terrified, naa, na-na, na-na naa-naa, na naa-naa, na na” to the tune of ‘Freed From Desire’ by Gala.

The atmosphere at Brighton the night they demolished Norway 8-0 is something I’ll not forget for a long time. I’m on my way to Brighton again, as I write this and am expecting something similar tonight against Spain as the knockout stages commence.

Today marks a year until the start of the World Cup in Australia and that should be the Euros on steriods. There’s certainly some improvements they can make and I hope that starts with the stadium food. I’ve been going to a match every day so most of my main meals have been at the stadiums and the sausage rolls and pies are wearing a bit thin.

Above: The Academy Stadium, Manchester – the venue with the best food so far…Photo: Kris Goman.

Manchester Academy had slightly better food with a pulled beef roll and where I’ve lucked into the premium seats including hospitality, there’s been a half-decent pizza and some quite good chips but other better food on offer too. What’s noticable is the food and drinks of the sponsors and this limits healthy options when the sponsors are Pepsi, Heineken, and Doritos.

One thing I find weird that won’t be an issue in Australia is not being able to drink beer in your seats. No alcohol is allowed to be consumed in the stadium so it all needs to be drunk where the kiosks are. This is law in England to limit drinking so it’s great we don’t have these problems in Australia. Not to that extent anyway and never in the women’s game.

What has been good is access to the players and given the rise of Covid again, it’s been a little surprising. I’ve been able to get autographs and photographs from quite a few teams. Iceland, Italy, France, Austria, Norway, and Spain have all been good. The Danish players wanted to sign but were stopped by their management but did take photos.

This was a bit surprising as they’d just been knocked out so there wasn’t as much at stake while the Spanish players who were still in the tournament were signing everything. The English team wouldn’t sign anything but Beth Mead and Hannah Hampton were taking photos but most of the rest of them went straight to the bus after the match. I guess they are here to win and aren’t taking any risks at this stage.

Above: Austria and Norway line-up at Brighton. Photo: Kris Goman.

Anyway, it’s onward and upwards as I try to get around to all the remaining matches via train. It’s a challenge right now as many services have been cancelled after the exceptionally hot weather yesterday and the day before. To make matters worse, there’s a train strike on the 27th which will affect the second semifinal at Milton Keynes.

I’ve found a way to get from Sheffield to Milton Keynes but I won’t be the only person and I expect significant delays. Thankfully all the games are at 8pm but I’m going to need most of that time to get there as will most people.

It’s generally been fairly easy to get around by train despite having to go from Sheffield or Manchester to Brighton or vice versa numerous times. I am wondering how it will be done in Australia and New Zealand with the vast distances between host cities. It’s just not possible to drive or get the train but I guess it will depend on the schedules. And flying will be expensive so I hope they release the schedules with plenty of time to plan and book ahead. I guess we’ll know in October when the tickets go on sale.

Regardless, this has been a fantastic experience and I can only recommend people buy as many tickets as they can to the World Cup and throw themselves into the tournament and the experience. I know I will.

One Year Milestone Marked By World Cup Hosts

by Kieran Yap (20/7/22)

Above: The Women’s World Cup – the tournament starts in a year’s time today. Photo: USA Today.

Australia and New Zealand have started the 365-day countdown to the Women’s World Cup with the unveiling of the Unity Pitch in Sydney, along with some other big announcements for football fans.

Landmarks across the two nations’ host cities were lit up in lights to celebrate the fast-approaching tournament. The Sydney/Gadigal, Harbour Bridge and Aukland’s/Tāmaki Makaurau,  Sky Tower joined Wellington’s/Te Whanganui-a-Tara Parliament House and numerous other locations in the visual celebration.

In another huge announcement, FIFA revealed that the first tickets will go on sale to the public on 6th October. Prices will begin at $10 (£5.75) for children and $20 (£11.51) for adults.

At the launch of the Unity Pitch, FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura had one more surprise. Although discussions are still underway, there is a possibility of massively increased prize money for the 2023 World Cup.  The hope is that it will be as high as $100 million for whoever lifts the trophy next year.

“Today is a great day in the build-up to the ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup,” said Samoura at the ‘One Year To Go’ event

“The excitement at the lighting ceremony in Hamilton/Kirikiriroa and the enthusiasm around women’s football here at Barangaroo Reserve for unveiling of the Unity Pitch, is wonderful and this support and passion will make the FIFA Women’s World Cup truly unforgettable.

Above: Youngsters gather at the event in Sydney today marking a year until the 2023 World Cup starting. Photo: FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023/

“This competition will provide a platform to inspire and unite through the power of women’s football and FIFA, together with the host countries, looks forward to welcoming players and fans from around the world and going Beyond Greatness together in 2023.”

Created with the tournament’s colourful livery in mind, The Unity Pitch it will be open to the public and local football groups until 24 July.  

Following that it will tour each of the tournament’s nine Host Cities over the next year. A Unity Pitch will be gifted to both Host Countries, Australia and New Zealand, as part of FIFA’s commitment to leave a lasting legacy in the region.

Joining Samoura at the unveiling was Matildas’ star Ellie Carpenter and FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman.

“Today is a hugely exciting milestone,” said Bareman. “And with qualifications taking place around the world for the competition, more community spaces for women and girls to play football, and tickets about to be released, FIFA is hugely excited to see women’s football go Beyond Greatness in 2023.”

Fans can register for access to tickets at Register Interest (fifa.com)

Artwork: FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

Iceland Exit Despite Late Drama

Iceland 1-1 France

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset (19/7/22)

Above: Iceland’s Karólína Lea Vilhjálmsdóttir in possession at Rotherham last night watched by France’s Charlotte Bibault (14). Photo: Euro 2022.

Whilst France were already qualified for the Quarter-Finals, there was still plenty to play for in this the highest of groups at Euro 2022.

Iceland, like their opponents, were unbeaten and knew that a win would guarantee a spot in the last eight. The superb Icelandic support would also be keeping one eye on goings on some 40 miles to the west where group rivals Belgium and Italy were facing off at the same, with both nations capable of making it through as well.

This was a game at Rotherham bookended by goals. France opened the scoring within 47 seconds when Malard connected with her left foot on a pass from Matéo; this was the new fastest goal in the tournament. Malard had replaced Marie-Antoinette Katoto in this game as central forward after Katoto ruptured her ACL.

Above: Melvine Malard (12) celebrates her early goal and references injured team-mate Marie-Antoinette Katoto. Photo: Euro 2022.

Despite their large domination during the first half, France were unable to add to their lead. Sandy Baltimore was culpable not always making the right decision in offensive positions.

It must be said, the extreme heat – temperatures were still at 36c when the match kicked off at 8pm – had an impact on the game, and understandably so.

At the very end of the match some 12 minutes into stoppage time, Iceland obtained a penalty, awarded by VAR, and Dagny Brynjarsdóttir converted to seal a draw

The draw was no good for Iceland. As Belgium won 1-0 against Italy, it is the Red Flames who join France as qualifiers for the quarter-final from this group. Despite ending their campaign unbeaten, Iceland are out.

Above: Disappointed Agla Maria Albertsdóttir (17) and Hallbera Gudny Gísladóttir thank the Icelandic support after the match. Photo: Euro 2022.

Teams: FRANCE (4-3-3): Peyraud-Magnin, Bacha (Karchaoui 63′), Renard, Tounkara, Torrent, Matéo, Bilbault (Palis 46′), Toletti (Geyoro 63′), Baltimore, Malard (Sarr 79′), Diani (Cascarino 46′).

Scorer: Malard 1′.

ICELAND (4-2-1-3): S. Sigurdardóttir, Gísladóttir (Gunnlaugsdóttir 60′), I. Sigurdardóttir, Viggósdóttir, Árnadóttir (Jensen 88′), Brynjarsdóttir, Gunnarsdóttir (G. Jónsdóttirat 60′), Vilhjálmsdóttir, Albertsdóttir (Andradóttir 81′), Thorvaldsdóttir, S. Jónsdóttir (Gudmundsdóttir 60′).

Scorer: Brynjarsdóttir 90+12′.

Referee: Jana Adamkova.

Attendance: 7,392.

Germany Popp To Milton Keynes For Three More Points

by Johnathan Stack (17/7/22)

Above: Germany celebrate after Nicole Anyomi scored her first international goal against Finland last night. Photo: @DFB_Frauen

Alexandra Popp continued her rich vein of form as she scored her third goal in three games as Germany maintained their 100% record at UEFA Euro 2022.

A great crowd of over 20,000 fans packed into Stadium MK, to watch one of the most ruthless teams in this tournament. Even though Germany head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg rung the changes and rested players with a view towards the quarter-final clash with Austria it was still business as usual.

It took a while for Germany to get up to speed, for most of the first half they were definitely going through the gears. With a place in the knockout stage of the competition already secured, perhaps, half-heartedly there was an expectation of seeing a different German team to the one we saw in the first two games.

Above: Alexandra Popp (right) shows her delight after scoring. Photo: Euro 2022.

But even with rested players, it was job done with the outcome still the same. Three points, three more goals, and a third clean sheet. Goals from Sophia Kleinherne, Alexandra Popp, and Nicole Anyomi made sure Germany go into the quarter-final stage as one of the most dangerous teams at UEFA Euro 2022.

What makes Germany one of the most dangerous teams and a genuine threat to the other most dangerous team in the tournament? Here is my analysis from watching Germany throughout this competition.

Pressing Teams Into Mistakes

Their pressing game is absolutely blistering, from the off the German front three get right at the defence and apply immediate pressure, they apply relentless pressure. Being backed up by the midfield three who will pick up the loose passes and stray balls, the Germans have been so good at getting that quick turnaround when regaining possession.

Above: Sophia Kleinherne (right) captured after scoring her first international goal for Germany. Photo: @DFB_Frauen.

One minute you think you are playing out from the back and moving up the pitch then all of a sudden you are severely on the back foot.

An Eye For Goal

Germany have been scoring goals they currently have the second biggest number of goals at UEFA Euro 2022 with nine. With that relentless pressure if not a case of if Germany is going to score it is when Germany is going to score. They have had 63 attempts on goal so far so have definitely brought their shooting boots with them.

Total Shutout

Merle Frohms has kept three clean sheets during the group stage and has made some great saves on the times she has been called upon. With Kathrin Hendrich and Marina Hegering at the heart of the defence this team has got through the group games relatively untroubled. Germany have dealt with the opposition in front of them accordingly and has been defensively impressive.

Up next for Germany it is back to the Brentford Community Stadium in West London as they take on Austria in the quarter-finals on Thursday. Austria is the Group A runner up having knocked out Norway in a knockout place decider. Expect Germany to be back to full strength minus Lea Schüller who is in isolation. Now the real tournament begins for Germany. It is go hard or go home from here on out.

Above: Germany celebrate another win and another clean sheet at the end of last night’s game in Milton Keynes. Photo: @DFB_Frauen

Teams: FINLAND (4-4-2): Talaslahti, Heroum, Pikkujamsa, Kuikka, Koivisto, Engman, Alanen, Summanen, Kollanen, Sallstrom, Kemppi. Substitutes: Ahtinen, Auvinen, Myllyoja, Oling, Rantala, Rantanen, Sainio, Tamminen.

GERMANY (4-3-3): Frohms, Lattwein, Hegering, Doorsoun-Khajeh, Kleinherne, Popp(c), Huth, Däbritz, Gwinn, Dallmann, Bühl. Substitutes: Anyomi, Berger, Brand, Freigang, Hendrich, Magull, Lohmann, Schult, Waßmuth.

Scorers: Kleinherne 40’, Popp 48’, Anyomi 63’.

Referee: Emikar Caldera.

Attendance: 20,721.

Focussed Lionesses Have Only One Aim

by Darrell Allen (16/7/22)

Above: England see a chance go narrowly wide against Northern Ireland at Southampton last night. Photo: Lionesses.

There was talk in the build-up to this Group A finale against Northern Ireland about how many changes Sarina Wiegman would make to her team. Wiegman, of course, was struck down herself with Covid 19 but the team remain unchanged. 

This shows the single-minded focus that the Lionesses are approaching this tournament with. This game in all seriousness meant very little. England had won the group. Northern Ireland were out there was nothing on this match other than the enhanced pride that comes when two UK nations meet, as well as continuing confidence and momentum. 

An unchanged lineup for a game of this nature shows England’s intentions and the respect Wiegman has for the tournament and opposition.

Above: Alessia Russo – regular chances across the group stage saw her rewarded with goals last night. Photo: Lionesses.

Beth Mead would have been one of many who were delighted by this and she responded by adding the second of the five scored on the night in her quest for the golden boot.

As you would expect from a Northern Ireland side strong in character and determination, Kenny Shiels’ side put up a brave fight all evening but England and their class saw them claim a comfortable win.

Arjan Veurink

Above: Arjan Veurink leading the post-match discussions last night. Photo: Lionesses.

With Wiegman struck down with Covid, it was down to her assistant Arjan Veurink, the former FC Twente women’s and Netherlands assistant to take charge of affairs at St Mary’s on Friday night. 

The unchanged team responded in spectacular fashion with another masterclass in goalscoring and finishing off an opponent. Veurink certainly enjoyed the evening.

Kirby Kicks Things off

Above: Super Fran – Kirby’s form in the tournament is making her struggles of the past few months a distant memory. Photo: Lionesses.

To the credit of Northern Ireland, they were superb in the opening phases and it wasn’t until the 41st minute that their brave resistance was broken. 

It required something special from a special player. That person was Fran Kirby who got this particular night off the mark.

Just as the game looked like it was heading to a goalless first half, a magic moment from Fran Kirby came.

The ball bounced to the Chelsea star on the edge of the box and she curled a shot brilliantly into the top right corner.

Kirby has well and truly come to this Euros party and that’s another incredible prospect as we head into the knock-out phase. Let’s not forget that this is a player who went into the tournament with very little recent game time due to a debilitating illness.

The Perfect Group A

Above: It wouldn’t be an England game at the Euros without Beth Mead scoring. Photo: Lionesses.

Well done England, that’s the group phase of a high-pressure home Euros complete with relative ease.

The most crucial part was negotiating the opening night against Austria in front of a huge crowd without a slip-up. They did that thanks to a Beth Mead goal; things have been a breeze ever since. 

The 8-0 demolition of Norway in the second game made the rest of Europe open their eyes to what England could deliver this summer if they weren’t aware already. 

With last night’s win maintaining a 100% record both winning and continuing the team’s run of clean sheets in addition to the fact that Beth Mead has already scored five goals, the prospect of England taking the trophy and Mead taking the golden boot are very possible. 

Admittedly, there are far tougher challenges ahead, but strap yourselves in for a special couple of weeks ahead. 

Denmark Or Spain 

Next up will be a return to the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton and that will be against Denmark or Spain. They face off this evening at The Brentford Community Stadium. 

A win for Denmark means they will face England but any points for Spain will mean it is they who will face the Lionesses on the South Coast on Wednesday night. 

Above: Scenes of joy in Southampton post-match. Will there be similar sights at Wembley on 31st July? Photo: Lionesses.

Teams: NORTHERN IRELAND (5-4-1): Burns, McKenna, Nelson, Robson, Vance, Holloway, Wade, Rafferty, Callaghan, McGuiness, Furness. Subs: Hutton, Mc Carron, Flaherty, Burrows, Caldwell, McDaniel, Wilson, Andrews, McGuinness, Magee, Turner.

ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Daly, Walsh, Stanway, Kirby, Mead, Hemp, White. Subs: Greenwood, Carter, Hampton, Scott, Parris, Kelly, England, Toone, Roebuck, Wubben-Moy, Russell.

Scorers: Kirby 40′. Mead 44′. Russo 48′, 53′, Burrows (OG) 76′. 

Referee: Esther Staubil.

Attendance: 30,785.

Billa Breaks Passive Norway

Austria 1-0 Norway

by Jorge Ceron (16/7/22)

Above: Nicole Billa heads the winning goal for Austria. Photo: Euro 2022.

Norway, many people’s dark horses to advance deep into the competition ended a nightmare week in the tournament with elimination at the group stages at Brighton.

Despite being beaten 8-0 by England a few days earlier, the Norwegians started as slight favorites in Brighton against Austria, who were semi-finalists in 2017.

Going into the game, Austria needed only a draw to progress, so one would think that the Norwegians, having the obligation to win, would go with everything from the first whistle, but it was not until the 15th minute that they approached the Austrian goal through Barcelona’s Caroline Graham Hansen, whose shot was deflected away.

There was a real feeling of tension about the game, logical perhaps due to the winner-takes-all situation in terms of qualifying for the Quarter-Finals. Austria had the first opportunity when calling for a penalty when Nicole Billa entered the area and fell, but it was never fatal, although the VAR did check it, the result of that play was the first corner kick of the game.

Above: Norway’s Guro Reiten (left) puts in a challenge. Photo: @OEFB1904.

With 12 minutes on the clock, Laura Feiersinger’s shot looked about to enter the net, but ended up against the bar. The first serious warning from the Alpine nation. The minutes passed and Norway continued to show themselves as a very passive team, perhaps still remembering the eight goals against a few days ago.

Indeed, it was Austria who kept Norway’s backline busy. Just over 10 minutes before the break, after an excellent build-up, Billa’s shot was repelled by Norwegian goalkeeper Guro Pettersen.

But the die was cast, and Billa headed in superbly a precise pass from Verena Hanshaw and scored the first goal of the game. The first precise blow had already been given. Something major needed to happen from the Norwegians in the second half after they ended the opening 45 without a single shot on goal.

Above: Nicole Billa celebrates her match winner for Austria. Photo: Euro 2022.

The second half began like the first. The Austrians going on the attack and Norway passive, knocked out. In the first 20 minutes of the period, Austria had shots on goal, and two crosses into the area, although nothing to worry about, while Norway had only one shot very wide by Ada Hegerberg.

Precisely in the middle minutes of the second half, Norway had its best moment, having several crosses into the area, but they only stayed at that, crosses into the area that nobody could finish off, or shots deflected.

In the final 20 minutes, Austrians responded and Lisa Makas received the ball totally alone in front of the goalkeeper, but that loneliness appeared to unnerve her, and her shot the ball passed under the goalkeeper, flirted with the post, and went to a corner kick.

In the last 10 minutes, the Norwegians remembered the need for goals and went on the attack, although without much technique, or luck, or anything. Five corner kicks were the sum outcome of their attacks, and the most dangerous move for them arrived a minute into stoppage time which the goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger saved brilliantly.

The game ended, and Austria deservedly beat Norway 1-0, qualified for the quarterfinals, and their ‘prize’ is called Germany.

Above: Austria celebrate post-match at Brighton. Photo: Euro 2022.

Teams: AUSTRIA (4-1-4-1): Zinsberger; Wienroither, Wenninger, Schnaderbeck, Hanshaw, Puntigam, Hickelsberger-Füller (Makas), Zadrazil, Feiersinger, Dunst; Billa (Georgieva).

Scorer: Billa 37′.

NORWAY (4-2-3-1): Pettersen, T.Hansen, Bergsvand, Mjelde, Blakstad (Haug), Syrstad Engen, Maanum (Boe Risa); Eikeland (Ildhusøy), Graham Hansen, Reiten, Hegerberg.

Referee: Kateryna Monzul.

Attendance: 12,667

No Fireworks, Just Progress On La Fête Nationale Française

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset, Impetus French Editor (15/7/22).

Above: Belgium goalkeeper Nicky Evrard saves at the feet of France’s Ouleymata Sarr (18) last night as Julie Biesmans attempts to intervene. Photo: Euro 2022.

France did what they needed to in edging past Belgium to qualify for the Quarter-Finals in Rotherham last night.

It was not a fireworks display from Corinne Diacre’s team on Bastille Day, the French national holiday and France sealed their qualification with difficulty. Furthermore, there was very bad news as the excellent Marie-Antoinette Katoto had to leave the pitch with a sprained right knee after 17 minutes. It will not be clear for a few days if she will be able to be back on the pitch for the Quarter-Finals.

Above: Kadidiatou Diani celebrates her goal for France against Belgium last night. Photo: Euro 2022.

France dominated this game but lack efficiency in attack; this is not new, and it is a little bit worrisome for future games in this competition. Throughout qualifying and in friendlies Diacre’s charges have struggled to turn possession and territory into goals, and as the opposition gets tougher, problems may arise.

The group concludes on Monday when France take on an Iceland side who know that a win will guarantee a spot in the last eight. Elsewhere Italy face Belgium with the winners of that game needing France to take something against the Icelandic side.

Teams: FRANCE (4-3-3): Peyraud-Magnin, Karchaoui, Renard, Tounkara, Périsset, Toletti (Matéo 66′), Bilbault, Geyoro (Palis 90’+1), Cascarino (Malard 90’+1), Katoto (Sarr 17′), Diani (Bacha 65′).

Scorers: Diani 6′, Mbock 41′.

BELGIUM (4-2-3-1): Evrard, Philtjens (Deloose 59′), De Neve (Tysiak 70′), Kees, Vangheluwe (Minnaert 46′), Biesmans, Vanhaevermaet (Delacauw 59′) Cayman, De Caigny, Dhont (Eurlings 78′), Wullaert.

Referee: Cheryl Foster.

Attendance: 8,173.

Dower Reflects On “Depth Of Talent” In Junior Matildas Squad

15/7/22

Impetus hears from Junior Matildas head coach Rae Dower as the squad for the AFF U18s Championship is announced and Ben Gilby highlights the Western Australian contingent (15/7/22).

Above: Junior Matildas head coach Rae Dower. Photo: AFC.

Junior Matildas Head Coach Rae Dower has finalised her squad to compete at the AFF U18 Women’s Championship 2022 in Palembang, Indonesia.

Australia will take 28-players to face Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Philippines in Group B of the tournament commencing on 22 July 2022.

The selection of the final squad for this tournament follows four camps over the past six months, involving more than sixty players, with a further six players promoted up and in contention for selection in the Young Matildas squad for the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup 2022.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to travel to Indonesia to participate in the AFF U18 Women’s Championship, which will be the CommBank Junior Matildas’ first competitive matches since September 2019,” Dower said. 

This tournament will be the Junior Matildas’ first international activity since their involvement in the 2019 AFC U16 Women’s Championship where they finished fourth in the tournament three years ago. It also marks the final Australian Women’s National Team to re-commence international action. 

Above: Ella Abdul Massih, who played A-League Women football for Western Sydney Wanderers last season and is part of the Junior Matildas squad named today. Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers.

“As a coaching unit, we’re delighted with the depth of talent within this age group. The technical quality and game awareness of the players was of a very high standard, and they’ve maintained that level when back with their respective clubs, which presented a welcomed headache when selecting the final squad.”

Rae Dower, Junior Matildas Head Coach.

Football Australia’s commitment to the national youth teams has seen the appointment of additional staff to the Junior Matildas’ support and technical ranks over recent months, with this AFF tournament being their first overseas tournament as members of the National Teams Program.

“This AFF U18 Women’s Championship gives all but four players their first experience in travelling overseas, which in itself is a great life lesson. Combining that with being in a full-time football environment, with the heat and humidity of Indonesia, it will provide the players with invaluable insight into what to expect in the future when competing in tournaments and qualifying through the AFC pathways,” Dower explained.

“I would like to acknowledge the collaboration between Football Australia and the coaching and support staff at both Member Federations and clubs for their tireless work in preparing this age group for Australian honours, and I have no doubt this group of footballers will do everyone proud in Indonesia,” Rae Dower concluded.

Above: Georgia Cassidy – the Hyundai NTC player is in great form in the NPLW WA this season. Photo: Football West.

Among the squad are two outstanding talents of Western Australian football. Zara Board has played regularly in goal for Subiaco this season in the NPLW WA. Her distribution is consistently impressive as is her command of the box for one so young.

Hyundai NTC prospect Georgia Cassidy has been part of a hugely promising side in the NPLW WA this season. The NTC are playing a highly technical brand of rapid pass and move, which has seen Cassidy at the forefront of some impressive performances this season. Her team-mate Tanika Lala, an outstanding player with pace, power and goals can also be regarded as a potential future member of this squad.


JUNIOR MATILDAS SQUAD

NamePositionClub / Member Federation
Ella ABDUL MASSIHDefenderNSW Institute / Football NSW
Isabella ACCARDODefenderFootball Victoria NTC / Football Victoria
Josie ALLANForwardNewcastle Jets / Northern NSW Football
Tegan BERTOLISSIODefenderNSW Institute / Football NSW
Zara BOARDGoalkeeperSubiaco AFC / Football West
India BREIERForwardNSW Institute / Football NSW
Daisy BROWNForwardFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Georgia CASSIDYMidfielderHyundai NTC / Football West
Alana CORTELLINOForwardFootball Victoria NTC / Football Victoria
Leah DE OLIVEIRAForwardNSW Institute / Football NSW
Jonti FISHERMidfielderFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Tahlia FRANCOGoalkeeperNSW Institute / Football NSW
Charlie GIBSONDefenderFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Erin GORDONDefenderNSW Institute / Football NSW
Aimee HALLGoalkeeperNSW Institute / Football NSW
Shay HOLLMANMidfielderNSW Institute / Football NSW
Zoe KARIPIDISDefenderNewcastle Jets / Northern NSW Football
Maya LOBOMidfielderNSW Institute / Football NSW
Megan MIFSUDDefenderNSW Institute / Football NSW
Silver Bell MORRISDefenderFootball Victoria NTC / Football Victoria
Ella O’GRADYForwardFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Avaani PRAKASHMidfielderNSW Institute / Football NSW
Sienna SAVESKAForwardNSW Institute / Football NSW
Mary STANIC-FLOODYMidfielderNSW Institute / Football NSW
Peta TRIMISForwardNSW Institute / Football NSW
Chloe WALANDOUWDefenderNewcastle Jets / Northern NSW Football
Grace WILSONGoalkeeperSA NTC / Football South Australia
Adelaide WYRZYNSKIForwardNSW Institute / Football NSW

Shadow Players

NamePositionClub / Member Federation
Lily BARBERMidfielderSA NTC / Football South Australia
Margaret BARRETTForwardFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Jasmine BLACKGoalkeeperNSW Institute / Football NSW
Aleeah DAVERNMidfielderFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Ellen GETTForwardFootball Queensland-QAS / Football Queensland
Claire SCARPINForwardSA NTC / Football South Australia
Hayley WELLINGTONDefenderSA NTC / Football South Australia

Hawkesby and Dawber Dominate As Matildas Bow Out With Big Win

Australia U23 6-0 Malaysia

by Kieran Yap (13/7/22)

Above: Chelsie Dawber (27) celebrates with former Adelaide United clubmate Matilda McNamara after scoring against Malaysia. Sarah Hunter and Amy Sayer (19) are also in shot. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia’s Under 23’s AFF Women’s championship is over, but it ended in style. Mel Andreatta’s team needed a thumping win to have a chance of making the semi-finals and delivered a 6-0 result against Malaysia.

With Thailand and the Philippines facing off at the same time. Australia needed the Philippines to maintain its perfect record to leapfrog Thailand. It was sadly not to be, with that result going 1-0 against the hosts.

This was, however, Australia’s best outing in a string over constantly improving performances. After a tournament where team selection had sometimes been affected by illness, Andreatta was able to name a full squad and bench to face Malaysia.

Chelsie Dawber started alongside Sheridan Gallagher and Amy Sayer in attack. Mackenzie Hawkesby, Sarah Hunter and Leah Davidson formed an attack minded midfield. Jamilla Rankin partnered Matilda Mcnamara in defence, with Chelsea Blissett and captain Charlotte Grant on the flanks.

Australia’s midfield dominance was evident from the start. It was not just that they had the majority of possession. It was forward moving and quick-passing. They shifted the ball with quick triangles and spread it wide to the attackers and roaming fullbacks.

Grant was often seen moving inside to link play. She has been favourably compared to Ellie Carpenter in her career. On this occasion, she was moving like England’s Lucy Bronze.

Above: Another excellent performance by Charli Grant for the Matildas. Photo: Football Australia.

The opening goal came after Grant, Hunter, and Hawkesby linked up in the middle. Hunter aimed a well-placed lofted pass over the defence towards Dawber. The Chicago Red Star striker still had plenty to do when she received the ball against the touchline. She controlled it and cut inside, burying it from the tightest angle.

Australia’s second was an individual work of art. Malaysia could only partially clear a corner kick and the ball bounced to the right corner of the penalty area. Hawkesby collected it and shifted it past the defender with one touch, then shot with her second.

The strike was practically unsavable. A straight arrow into the top left corner of the net that few keepers could reach from a standing start. Most players would have opened up the angle by cutting inside. Hawkesby did the opposite and unexpected. She found the space amid a sea of players and with perfect technique.

Dawber had her second. Another incisive midfield move resulted in a header crashing off the cross bar from close range. Dawber swept home the rebound and after 24 minutes the Aussies were 3-0 up.

It was almost four just a minute later. Hunter’s perfect through ball for Dawber’s well-timed run created panic for the Malaysian defence. She was brought down the and referee instantly pointed to the spot.

Australia’s relentless momentum was momentarily paused however when Nural Mazlan made a strong low save from the resultant penalty.

Above: Chelsie Dawber (27) after scoring again against Malaysia. Photo: Football Australia.

The second half added another three goals.

Hawkesby got her second after smooth interplay around the penalty area. Amy Sayer was given time to turn, and she slipped a pass behind the off-side trap. Hawkesby was racing into the space and flicked it past Mazlan with one touch to make it 4-0

Andreatta turned to the bench and brought on Princess Ibini, Daniella Galic, and Ella Tonkin for Hunter, Dawber, and Blissett.

Ibini impacted the game almost immediately. A signature solo run on the left presented Hawkesby with the easiest of finishes from point-blank range. Ibini’s dribbling had taken her past two defenders and the final ball was on a platter, but it was another well-timed move from the Sydney FC midfielder who arrived perfectly on time and with poise. 5-0

The sixth and final goal came from a defender. Matilda McNamara stayed up after a corner kick and Tonkin’s deep curling cross was met by the Adelaide United centre-back with a strong header.

It was a dominant, entertaining, and faultless performance from Australia’s Under 23’s. While they may be disappointed to miss out on a semi-final, this tournament has shown the value of the Under 23s and the pathways being developed to the senior squad.

Above: Mackenzie Hawkesby, the Matildas’ hat-trick hero. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia’s best young players were able to either match or outplay the senior squads of the region, either excelling or meeting expectations on each occasion. The loss to Thailand was unlucky and the opening game against the Philippines was a big task against the home side.

Importantly, their performances improved steadily and dramatically throughout the tournament. 16 year old’s like Caitlin Karic and Alexia Apostolakis had the opportunity to show what they might become in future. Mackenzie Hawkesby, Sarah Hunter, and Amy Sayer were able to demonstrate that they can play and dominate at senior international level.

Charlotte Grant’s run as captain was excellent. She stepped up for the senior Matildas against Spain and Portugal and carried that form into the AFF Championships. She was constantly involved in every possible piece of play. Opposition players were clearly wary of her and had few answers.

Grant’s powerful athleticism has been known for some time, but her passing and off-the-ball movement was exceptional. She was virtually an extra midfielder at times.

Leah Davidson and Jynana Dos Santos were both creative and impressive in midfield and Sheridan Gallagher scored the best goal of the tournament so far.

Defensively, Australia were not exposed to the sort of attacks that higher-ranked teams might throw at them, but whoever was selected controlled the game well and played the ball out from the back quickly.

Above: Mel Andreatta, who led the Matildas U23 squad for the tournament, has got a number of positives to take from the experience. Photo: Football Australia.

The goals conceded were either unlucky, scrappy, or the result of international inexperience, such as the Thailand equaliser from near halfway. Nothing that cannot be put down to a learning opportunity.

Was the AFF Women’s Championships a successful tournament? The players and coaches would have loved a semi-final and on the strength of their play, they deserved one.

But in terms of providing a valuable and essential development step for the next generation of Matildas, this was a highly encouraging run of games. They looked good, and will still get better.

Teams: AUSTRALIA U23: James, McNamara, Rankin, Hunter, Grant, Davidson, Hawkesby, Gallagher, Sayer, Blissett, Dawber.

Scorers: Dawber 13’, 24’. Hawkesby 20’, 66’, 68’. McNamara 82’.

MALAYSIA: Mazlan, Soberi, Jumillis, Mailu, Singh, Azmi, Justine, Zainal-Abidin, Nordin, Azizan, Aidi.

Referee: Cong Thi Dung (Vietnam).

Attendance: TBC.

Germany Glide Past Spain And Into The Quarter-Finals

by Johnathan Stack (13/7/22)

Above: Germany show their joy at Brentford last night after defeating Spain. Photo: Euro 2022.

The Brentford Community Stadium was the scene for Germany’s second group game against Spain. Going into this Group B encounter, one goal split the sides in the table.

Germany head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg was forced into making a change to the side that breezed past Finland, as striker Lea Schüller tested positive for Coronavirus yesterday, so Alexandra Popp was brought into the side and took the armband.

This was a big game in West London, with both teams going for a quarter-final spot. If the Germans had put the whole tournament on notice after matchday one, they have certainly put their names in the hat as favourites after tonight’s win.

They looked very good, especially defensively, and have kept back-to-back clean sheets in this tournament thus far while scoring goals in the process.

It must not have been easy in the Germany camp in the last 24 hours, with one of their key players being sent into isolation, they came out and put on another impressive display.

Carrying on from the Denmark game, the Germans came out pressing putting Spain under pressure and it definitely paid off as three minutes into the game Sandra Panos was hustled and harried into making a monumental error trying to play the ball out from the back. Her pass was straight into the path of Klara Bühl who got around Spain centre-back Irene Paredes to send the ball into the back of the net.

Above: Alexandra Popp shows her joy after scoring her second goal in two games this tournament. Photo: Euro 2022.

Germany doubled their lead when skipper Alexandra Popp headed in from a corner in the 37th minute. She is certainly making the most of this tournament having missed out in 2013 and 2017 by bagging her second goal of Euro 2022.

Spain brought Merle Frohms into action into the second half but failed to conjure up anything of significance. Next up for Germany is Finland then the runner-up from Group A – either Austria or Norway in the quarterfinals.

The way that Germany is playing they look like they could make it a ninth European Championship title and the way the host England are currently playing all roads may well lead to a final between the two sides at Wembley Stadium on 31st July.

Speaking after the game Germany coach Voss-Tecklenburg said “Our game plan worked and Bühl’s goal played into our hands. Based on our willingness to defend and the way in which we played, I have to pay the team a huge compliment. It was incredible. This team is prepared to be disciplined on the day and are completely invested. That feels good.” 

Voss-Tecklenburg will be looking to get her tactics right and make a clean sweep of Group B against Finland on Saturday in Milton Keynes. She will also be keeping a close eye on her squad and hoping she doesn’t lose any further key players to Coronavirus.

Above: Germany after the game dedicating the win to their stricken teammate Lea Schüller. Photo: @DFB_Frauen.

Teams: GERMANY (4-3-3): Frohms, Hendrich, Hegering, Oberdorf, Popp, Huth, Däbritz, Gwinn, Rauch, Bühl, Magull. Substitutes: Anyomi, Berger, Brand, Dallmann, Doorsoun-Khajeh, Freigang, Kleinherne, Lattwein, Lohmann, Schult, Wassmuth.

Scorers: Bühl 3’ Popp 36’.

SPAIN (4-5-1): Panos, Batlle, Paredes, Leon, Ouahabi, Aleixandri, Guijarro, Bonmanti, Caldentey, S.Garcia, L.Garcia. Substitutes: Gallardo, Rodriguez, Andres, Guerrero, Gonzalez, Del Castillo, Cardona, Sarriegi, Abelleira, Carmona, Pereira, Pina.

Referee: Stéphanie Frappart.

Attendance: 16,037.

WAFCON Group Stage Round-Up

Impetus’ new African Football Correspondent Emmanuel Faith and Blaise Ogutu provide us with all the details from the group stages of the Women’s African Cup of Nations (WAFCON) African’s continental international competition (13/7/22).

Above: South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana, whose loss from injury in the group stages is a major blow for the Banyana Banyana. Photo: CAF Online.

It is quite a busy summer for female football, with Euros being at the frontline, and CONCACAF championship ongoing which also doubles as the region’s world cup qualifier. However, there is a lot of excitement going on in the Northern part of Africa as far as female football is concerned. Morocco is hosting the WAFCON – the first time a North-African country would be hosting the competition, and it has lived up to its expectations.

Above: An enthusiastic group of fans at the opening game. Photo: CAF Online

Group A:
To say the hosts dominated the group would not be an understatement. From becoming the first country to win their first three matches, to outstanding individual performances displayed by their captain Ghizlane Chebbak, the Atlas Lionesses have sent a warning to the rest of the continent with their almost flawless delivery of gracious football.

Morocco kicked off the tournament with an easy 1-0 win over debutants Burkina Faso courtesy of a goal by Ghizlane Chebakk in the 29th minute. The Atlas Lionesses comfortably steam-rolled through the group with another two wins afterwards; a 3-1 win over Uganda saw them through to the next stage. They also earned a 1-0 win over Senegal.

The Senegalese picked up the second qualification slot from the group after winning two matches and narrowly losing to the host. They haven’t been convincing so far as two of their three goals have come from penalties. The Zambian team would be a great test of their quality as they seek to book a World Cup ticket for 2023.

Burkina Faso and Uganda drew in their final group game, a result that helped neither of the teams get out as one of the best third-placed teams.

Above: Morocco captain Ghizlane Chebbak with teammates in celebration against Senegal. Photo: CAF Online

Group B:

After playing a goalless draw in their match against Cameroon, the She-polopolo of Zambia edged out the Tunisian women by a goal to nothing before thumping Togo by four goals to one to secure the top spot in Group B.

The Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon had a struggling start after two draws but an early goal from Michaela Abam and another one in the closing moments of the final game from their captain, Ajara Nchout, ensured they booked a slot in the quarter-finals while they would be facing the current holder of the championships, the Super-Falcons of Nigeria.

Winning a match was sufficient for Tunisia to progress to the quarter-finals, they would however have to improve a lot on their performance to have any chances of eliminating the athletic ladies from South Africa.

Above: Zambia’s Avell Chitundu celebrates a 90th-minute winner against Tunisia. Photo: CAF Online.

Group C:

Opening the tournament with a victory over uncoordinated Nigeria was a perfect way to make a statement, but going on to secure three wins (the only team to do so asides the host country) could be a shadow of things to come for South Africa‘s Banyana Banyana women.

Two second half goals by Jermaine Seoposenwe and Hildah Magaia were enough for South Africa to put away the Super Falcons who got their consolation goal in added time but it was too little too late to get an equalizer

While losing their major playmaker, Thembi Kgatlana, to an injury might be a slight dent to their performance, they would have their gaze on booking a consecutive world cup ticket when they meet Zambia in their next match.

Despite losing the first match to South Africa and losing their star player to injury, Nigeria’s Super Falcons had the highest number of goals scored and the highest goal difference during the group stages. The coach has explored different alternatives in the forward-line, however it is the Atletico-Madrid feminine attacking midfielder, Rasheedat Ajibade that has stepped up the most, having two goals and two assists in their last two games.

A quarter-final against Cameroon would be a challenge to relish for the nine times continental champion as they keep their focus on securing a ninth consecutive World cup ticket.

With a brilliant display in their opening match, Botswana picks the second best-losers ticket to earn their spot in the quarter-finals, where they square up with the hosts. That performance saw them produced the highest goalscoring game of the tournament so far defeating Burundi 4-2. The Mares put on a show with a brilliant brace from Refilwe Tholakele.

Above: Celebratory dance for South Africa after scoring against Burundi. Photo: CAF Online.

QUARTER-FINALS

The knock-out round kicks off today with hosts Morocco facing Botswana, and Zambia clashing with Senegal. The following day sees Cameroon entertain Nigeria who will be without star striker Asisat Oshoala for the rest of the tournament. The other game on Thursday features a north vs south clash as South Africa battles Tunisia at the Stade Prince Moulay Al Hassan without prolific forward Thembi Kgatlana who was injured in the final group game.

An entertaining knock-out phase lies ahead of us in the African Cup of Nations and we’ll be looking forward to more brilliant football from Morocco.

Artwork: CAF.

Lionesses Bare Their Teeth Whilst Austria Set Up Final Game Decider

Impetus’ Darrell Allen and Jorge Ceron round-up on a dramatic evening of action in Group A. Darrell reviews England’s sensational demolition of Norway whilst Jorge’s reflects on Austria’s game with Northern Ireland which sets them up with a chance of a Quarter-Final berth (12/7/22).

Above: The sheer joy of the Lionesses was reflected around the whole of the English women’s football family after last night’s stunning result in Brighton. Photo: Lionesses.

England produced arguably their greatest ever performance last night in Brighton to demolish Norway, one of the potential tournament winners 8-0. I reflect on the key aspects of the victory below.

Perfect Penalty 

Georgia Stanway lifted The American Express Community Stadium off its feet in the most perfect way with a superbly struck penalty to give liftoff to this extraordinary night in Brighton. 

Everyone watching collectively held their breath when the ball was placed on the spot but the no-nonsense Stanway from Barrow-in-Furness was the coolest person in Brighton as she thundered her penalty into the top corner and we had take off on this night of fairytale proportions. 

Super Six

Above: Lauren Hemp jumps for joy last night. Photo: Lionesses.

Following the opening verse from Stanway, England went on to dismantle Norway before the interval.

Lauren Hemp had a nervous wait from VAR but she was comfortably onside and her smile said it all when the goal was given. 

England went on to produce one of their greatest performances as braces from Beth Mead and Ellen White ensured that England led by six at half time. 

This was a performance, a display of footballing brilliance, and a battering for Norway of seismic proportions.

Mead Motivation 

Despite a wonderful team performance, there is only one name on the lips of every England fan right now and that’s Beth Mead.

The Arsenal striker is making so many friends across the country who she will never even meet. Mead added to her first-half brace by completing her hat trick in the second half.

Like on Wednesday when a Mead goal won the points against Austria, she stole the show again with a hat trick and superb performance to take the headlines in a wonderful team performance down on the south coast.

Beth Mead is an inspiration to a nation in need of feeding off positivity, and you sense there is plenty more to come before July is out.

Above: Beth Mead who is having a staggering tournament. Photo: Lionesses.

Safe Second Half

It wasn’t supposed to be this easy, but with every passing minute, it was a joy that football fans rarely experience, a walk in the park some may call it.

Those six first half goals meant it was set up for a safe second half with no worries for England.

Russo made it seven before the inspirational Mead rounded off the scoring on an extraordinary evening. 

However, Sarina Wiegman will be most pleased with the clean sheet and the attitude shown in maintaining responsibility and ensuring Norway did not find the net. The perfect night for England in all departments of the pitch. 

Brilliant Brighton 

Above: England captain Leah Williamson shows her post match joy. Photo: Lionesses.

Top marks to Brighton and everyone who attended last night’s game at the American Express Community Stadium. 

The atmosphere was brilliant from start to finish, of course helped by the rampant performance from England but take nothing away from the 28,847 spectators, they were superb. 

It was noticeable that Norway supporters were on their feet at the end of the game applauding England and that shows the respect everyone has for each other in the women’s game.

Freedom Friday 

This wonderful night meant England secured their place in the Quarter Finals and are already confirmed as winners of Group A.

This sets up Freedom Friday where England face Northern Ireland in Southampton knowing the job of qualification is complete. However, this will be like the final for Northern Ireland who will be heading home after the match, so they will be going all out to make a real statement.

Sarina Wiegman may try a few different personnel but she will allow no let up to the extraordinary performance of the Norway game. The standard has been set and the thought of what could lie ahead between and 31st July is something for all fans of women’s football in England to enjoy. 

Teams: ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Daly, Walsh, Stanway, Mead, Kirby, Hemp, White. Subs: Greenwood, Carter, Hampton, Stokes, Scott, Parris, Kelly, England, Toone, Roebuck, Russell

Scorers: Stanway 12′ (pen), Hemp 15′, White 29′, 41, Mead 34′, 38′, 81′, Russo 66′.

NORWAY (4-2-3-1): Patterson, T.Hansen, Thorisdottir, Mjelde, Blakstad, Engen, Boe Risa, Saevik, G.Hansen, Reiten, Hegerberg, Subs: Sonstevold, Bergsvand, Skogland, Ildhusoy, Eikeland, Bjelde, Maanum, Terland, Skinnes Hansen, Josendal, Haug, Mikalse.

Referee: Riem Hussein.

Attendance: 28,847.

Austria See Off Northern Ireland To Set-Up Qualifying Decider With Norway

by Jorge Ceron

Above: Katharina Schiechtl celebrates the first goal for Austria. Photo: @oefb1904

On a day in which the eyes of the world were taken by the spectacular 8-0 win by England over Norway, the game between Austria and Northern Ireland was also played, a key match for both team’s hopes to stay alive in the tournament, since the the nation that lost would be saying goodbye to the competition early.

The Austrians went into the game in Southampton as slight favourites, and with the better of the two matches in the World Cup qualifiers between the two nations which ended 3-1 in their favour in Vienna, and ended 2-2 in Belfast.

From the beginning of the game an Austrian dominance was shown, and before the tenth minute, Barbara Dunst had already had the first clear opportunity for the Austrians, and those dressed in red and white did not allow the Northern Irish to cross midfield. The dominance continued continued with striker Nicole Billa, who has had very few opportunities in the tournament, putting a shot that wide.

It was from a free-kick in the 18th minute that barely deflected in off of the Werder Bremen defender Katharina Schiechtl that the Austrians put themselves in front on the scoreboard. It took until the 41st minute for the next chance to arrive. It came via an error from Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns in clearnign the ball, but she produced a good save from Dunst.

Above: Katharina Elisa Naschenweng hits Austria’s second. Photo: @oefb1904

At the beginning of the second half, aware that with this score they were almost eliminated, Northern Ireland put pressure on Austria, but the Green and Whites could trouble the Austrian defence.

After failing to take advantage of any opportunities, Austria controlled the remainder of the game and their best moments came. From the 80th minute, they earned three corner kicks, and had a shot on goal, before the second goal came in the 88th minute through defender Katharina Elisa Naschenweng of Hoffenheim.

Austria know they only need a draw against Norway to qualify for the quarter-finals on Friday. Norway need to bounce back from the huge scars of their loss to England in order to deny the Austrian side.

AUSTRIA (4-1-4-1): Zinsberger, Schiechtl, Wenninger, Schnaderbeck, Aschauer, Puntigam, Dunst, Zadrazil, Höbinger, Füller, Biller.

Scorers: Schiechtl 19′, Naschenweng 88′. 

NORTHERN IRELAND (4-4-2): Burns, Holloway, McFadden, Nelson, McKenna, Wade, McCarron, Furness, Vance, Callaghan, McGuiness.

Referee: Emikar Caldera.

Attendance: 9,268.

Group D Reflections

Impetus Jean-Pierre Thiesset looks back on yesterday’s opening round of matches in Group D at Euro 2022 and saw his own nation produce a statement-making start (11/7/22).

Above: France’s first-half hat-trick hero Grace Geyoro. Photo: Euro 2022.

Belgium 1-1 Iceland

Iceland had just about the better of this match played at the Academy Stadium in Manchester.

Above: Berglind Bjorg Thorvaldsdottir celebrates after putting Iceland ahead. Photo: Euro 2022.

Backed by their superb fans who created a great atmosphere, Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir, whose long throw-ins are a real weapon, Karolina Lea Vilhjalmsdottir (who made some decisive passes), and goalscorer Berglind Bjorg Thorvaldsdottir were the pick of the crop. Indeed, Thorvaldsdottir could have made things even better for Iceland if she had not missed a penalty in the 32nd minute.

Apart from the last 20th minutes of the game, after having scored from a penalty, Belgium did not show a lot – which is frustrating for them as a win would have gone a long way to enabling them to qualify for the Quarter-Finals.

Above: Justine Vanhaevermaet levels the scores from the spot for Belgium. Photo: Euro 2022.

Teams: BELGIUM (4-2-3-1) Evrard, Philtjens, De Neve, Kees, Vangheluwe, Biesmans, Vanhaevermaet, Cayman, De Caigny, Dhont (Eurlings 78′), Wullaert, (Kerkhoven 90+3′).

Scorer: Vanhaevermaet 67′ (pen).

ICELAND (4-3-3): Sigurdardottir, Gunnlaugsdottir, Arnadottir, Viggosdottir, Atladottir, Gunnarsdottir (Albertsdottir 86′), Brynjarsdottir, Vilhjalmsdottir (Johannsdottir 90’+2) – Jonsdottir, Thorvaldsdottir (Gundmundsdottir 72′), Jonsdottir.

Scorer: Thorvaldsdottir 50′.

Referee: Tess Olofsson.

Attendance: 3,859.

Above: There was so much for France to celebrate last night. Photo: Euro 2022.

France 5-1 Italy

France produced a superb performance, especially in the first half to comprehensively defeat Italy in Rotherham.

The opening period, in which they scored all of their five goals saw the French beating two records: the largest score in first half in a Euros game, and the first time that a player had scored a hat-trick in first half in a Euros match – an honour that went to Grace Geyoro.

Ahead of kick-off, there were a few questions asked of Corinne Diacre, France coach, about her selection. For example, she put in Aissatou Tounkara instead of Griedge Mbock in central defence with Wendie Renard (Tounkara played in the last two games with Mbock as Renard was not ready to play) and left out Amandine Henry in midfield, but the show put on by France players demonstrated that so far that she seems to have made the right decision.

Above: Delphine Cascarino making it 3-0 for France. Photo: Euro 2022.

Of course, in the second half, the momentum slowed and Italy gained more possession, but overall Diacre’s team showed that they do have the quality to potentially win this competition.

France completely asphyxiated the Italians in the first half, producing a very good performance with a superb performance of precise and quick passing to advance using all their players.

Teams: FRANCE (4-4-2): Peyraud-Magnin, Karchaoui (Baltimore 88′), Renard, Tounkara, Périsset, Toletti, Bilbault, Geyoro (Dali 67′), Cascarino (Malard 67′), Katoto (Sarr 77′), Diani (Bacha 78′).

Scorers: Geyoro 9′, 40′, 45′. Katoto 12′, Cascarino 38′.

ITALY (4-3-3) Giuliani, Boattin, Linari, Gama, Bartoli, Caruso (Piemonte 74′), Giugliano (Simonetti 46′), Galli (Rosucci 46′), Bonansea (Di Guglielmo 81′), Girelli (Giacinti 58′), Bergamaschi.

Scorer: Piemonte 76′.

Referee: Rebecca Welch (England).

Attendance: 8,541.

Matildas Clinch Win To Keep Qualification Hopes Alive

Australia U23 4-1 Singapore

by Kieran Yap (10/7/22)

Above: Australia celebrate Winonah Heatley’s early goal that put them ahead against Singapore today. Photo: Football Australia.

The Australian Under 23’s defeated Singapore’s senior side 4-1 in a dominant performance amid torrential rain in Manila.

Australia needed a big win to give them a realistic chance at second place. Thailand and the Philippines look like they will proceed to the semi-finals. However, Australia’s next generation of stars looked at home at international level and have been improving throughout the tournament.

After a 4-0 win over Indonesia, Mel Andreatta rotated the squad again. Chloe Lincoln started in goal, Naomi Chinnama came into defence with Winonah Heatley, Chelsea Blissett, and Alexia Apostolakis.  

Katie Godden started up front in her first appearance of the tournament, and Paige Zois joined up with Hana Lowry and Sarah Hunter in midfield. Abbey Lemon and Caitlin Karic started in the wide areas.

It took only 10 minutes for Australia to open the scoring. Zois’s corner kick swung in from the left and Heatley nodded home from a few yards out. It was a dangerous ball in, with swerve and precision. Heatley rose highest and the captain got her side off to a perfect start.

A few minutes later, it was another corner kick and another goal. This time it was Hana Lowry on set-piece duty from the other side. Sarah Hunter was the target, and her header crossed the line by the barest of margins.

Australia had both goals from set-pieces, but they were also dominating in central midfield. Alexia Apostolakis was used in the unfamiliar left-back role and spent much of her time in the attacking third. She was unlucky not to score but tested the Singaporean keeper with a good first-time shot.

Mel Andreatta made some changes in the second half. Charli Grant, Sheridan Gallagher, Jyana Dos Santos, and Daniella Galic were introduced over the next 45 minutes. All would make an impact with Gallagher adding a shooting threat while Galic pulled the strings in attack.

Above: Perth Glory’s Hana Lowry celebrates her goal. Photo: AFC.

Hana Lowry added a third goal when she tapped home from another corner. It was a simple finish, but the Perth Glory playmaker had created the chance with a terrific through ball that nearly set Apostolakis through on goal.

Grant added an extra threat on the right, she combined with Karic to make for a frighteningly quick and direct wing. A long run from the senior Matildas right back beat multiple defenders but the move was blocked by a swarming Singaporean defence. It was a reminder of what she can do at her turbo-charged best.

Sheridan Gallagher made it 4-0 with a spectacular goal. Chinnama started the move with some good defensive work that led to an attack. After a rushed Singapore clearance and some aerial ping-pong, the ball was well controlled by Jyana Dos-Santos. She held it up well and created some space for herself before playing back to Zois who found Gallagher on the left flank.

The Western Sydney Wanderers striker cut inside and from about 25 yards out, she hit an unstoppable shot into the net. After coming close earlier in the half, and some other near misses against Thailand, Gallagher had her goal, and it was worth the wait.

Australia were in cruise control. But as the conditions became wetter, the chances dried up. Singapore scored a late consolation goal in bizarre circumstances.

Nur Umairah Hamdan took a free-kick from near the halfway line. The flight of the ball and the bounce deceived Lincoln who was off her line. Australia’s goalkeeper had been confident and untroubled until that 88th minute, but could only catch the ball over the line. It was a frustrating end to an otherwise strong performance.

Australia has one more game to play on Tuesday against Malaysia. They will want to end the tournament on a high note and most players will want to head to the Under 20 World Cup in strong form.

So far, they have spent the AFF Women’s championship in a state of steady improvement despite massive squad rotations, player unavailability, and senior opposition. A big win in what might be their final game in Manila is a deserving way to bow out.

Above: The Matildas team that started the match with Singapore today. Photo: Football Australia.

Teams: AUSTRALIA U23: Lincoln, Hunter, Heatley, Chinnama, Godden, Lowry, Lemon, Zois, Blissett, Apostolakis, Karic.

Scorers: Heatley 12’, Hunter 16’, Lowry 46’, Gallagher 70’.

SINGAPORE: Kusumawati, Mastura, Umairah, Fatin, Syazwani, Nadhra, Dhaniyah, Stephanie, Putri, Izzati, Claire.

Scorer: Umairah 88’.

Referee: Supiree Testomya (Thailand).

Attendance: TBC.

Talaslahti Looks Ahead To Denmark Clash

Impetus’ Jean-Pierre Thiesset was in Finland’s media conference today and spoke to goalkeeper Katriina Talaslahti (10/7/22).

Above: Katriina Talaslahti in action for Fleury in France’s D1 Arkema this season. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Finland’s young goalkeeper Katriina Talaslahti recognises the importance of Finland’s game against Scandinavian rivals Denmark in Milton Keynes on Tuesday with both sides having lost their opening Group B games.

“We are going through how Denmark play to be ready for this next game. We will have two training sessions before next game.”

Despite going down 4-1 to Spain in their opening game, Finland goalkeeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela put in a good performance, but Talaslahti is champing at the bit to get a chance to start for her country on Tuesday.

Above: Katriina Talaslahti speaking in today’s media conference. Image: Jean-Pierre Thiesset.

“I am one hundred percent ready. I already played a lot of important games with my club (Fleury in D1 Arkema, France’s premier league). The next game will be a tough game, but I will definitely be ready and I will be able to show my skills and help my team to win and this is all that matters.

“You feel more confident when you have some games under you. It will be a huge step to go on the pitch and help the team win.”

Talaslahti ended the media conference by addressing the fantastic travelling support that the Finns have.

“Yes, it is great to see that so many fans followed us. It brings us motivation and happiness, and obviously, when you are in the stadium it is nice to see these white and blue colours, and the people that are supporting us.”

With Four Goals And Three Points Germany Mean Business

by Johnathan Stack (9/7/22)

Above: Lina Magull celebrates after putting Germany ahead against Denmark last night. Photo: Euro 2022.

Fans at the Brentford Community Stadium were given a show as it was a day for goals and Germany did not disappoint as they stamped their mark on UEFA Women’s Euro 2022.

Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s side put on an awe-inspiring display in West London as they got their bid for a ninth Women’s European Championship title underway and put their name in the hat for contention.

Throughout the game Germany was dominant and Voss-Tecklenburg got her tactics spot on, the relentless pressing game from Germany was immense, forcing Denmark into mistakes and loose passes.

It paid off exceptionally, early on with Germany hitting the woodwork three times in the opening 15 minutes, and the deadlock was broken in the 21st minute with the player of the match Lina Magull charging down an attempted Denmark pass from defence to latch on and smash the ball home to give the Germans a 1-0 lead.

The midfield three and front three for Germany were causing a lot problems in the final third, we have all heard the phrase ‘attack is the best form of defence’ and Germany showed us how it is done.

Above: Svenja Huth of Germany (9) battles with Denmark’s Rikke Madsen at Brentford last night. Photo: Euro 2022.

Schüller, Bühl, and Huth were all over the Denmark defence harassing them from the get-go, and that is what won Germany the game, being backed up by Oberdorf, Däbritz, and Magull – their determined attitude caused Denmark to finish the game with just 42% possession as well as 68% pass accuracy.

Germany did not let Denmark into the game at all, they put the pressure on time and time again regaining possession in a totally ferocious performance.

Germany came into this match off the back of thrashing Switzerland 7-0 in their only warm-up game to this tournament, there were slight doubts amongst the German media after the World Cup qualifier defeat to Serbia, but I think those doubts can be forgotten about because Germany just swept aside a Denmark team who have won four out of their last six matches.

Second-half goals from Lea Schüller, Lena Lattwein, and Alexandra Popp who got on the scoresheet in her 115th appearance for Germany with her first goal in a European Championship after missing the last two tournaments through injury.

Germany needed this opening win; it will certainly calm a few nerves for sure and bring a lot of confidence into the camp. But also, this victory will put the rest of the teams at this tournament on notice. Germany has arrived at UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 and arrived in stunning style.

Germany is off to the start they would have hoped for and got what they wanted; they go top of Group B ahead of Spain on goal difference heading into matchday two where they will play Spain at the Brentford Community Stadium on Tuesday before finishing Group B in Milton Keynes against Finland next Saturday.

Teams: GERMANY (4-3-3): Frohms, Hendrich, Hegering, Oberdorf, Schüller, Huth, Däbritz, Gwinn, Rauch, Bühl, Magull. Substitutes: Anyomi, Berger, Brand, Dallmann, Doorsoun-Khajeh, Freigang, Kleinherne, Lattwein, Lohmann, Popp, Schult, Wassmuth.

Scorers: Magull 21’, Schüller 57’, Lattwein 78’, Popp 86’.

DENMARK (3-4-3): Christensen, Ballisager, Sevecke, Troelsgaard, Harder, Veje, Junge, Madsen, Thomsen, Bruun, Svava. Substitutes: Bredgaard, Gejl, Gevitz, Holmgaard, Holmgaard, Kühl, Larsen, Nadim, Nielsen, Sørensen, Svane, Thrige.

Referee: Esther Staubli.

Attendance: 15,746

Spanish Strategy Defeats Fast Starting Finns

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset (9/7/22)

Above: Lucia Garcia Cordoba wheels away in delight after scoring for Spain. Photo: Euro 2022.

Spain overcame a shock early goal concession to overcome Finland by the comfortable-looking scoreline of 4-1 at Stadium MK, Milton Keynes.

Having to overcome adversity is a theme of Spain’s Euros. As well as having to overcome that early Finnish strike, they were also having to balance the lost of leading players Jennifer Hermoso and 2021 Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas.

Above: Wild celebrations for Finland after Linda Sällström’s early goal. Photo: Euro 2022.

This match, played in front of a crowd of just under 17,000 was historic as it was the biggest audience to watch a group stage match not involving the host nation in the tournament’s history, and the crowd were treated to a dramatic early goal which was the fastest scored in the Euros for 27 years as Linda Sällström put them ahead with just 52 seconds played.

The Spanish used two different strategies to impose themselves on the game – the usual tiki-taka of short passes amidst a quick game. It must be emphasised that Finland that were very well organised, keeping their 4-4-2 strictly in place.

Despite their adherence to the tactical set-up, Finland were not able to stem the flow of Spanish possession, as they gained 78% possession overall). Praise is due to keeper Tinja-Riikka Korpela. The Tottenham Hotspur player put in an outstanding performance to limit the number of goals that Spain scored.

So, good start, for Spain, but given the events later yesterday in Brentford, they will need to improve if they want to win against Germany to grab the top spot in Group B.

Above: Mariona Caldentey scores Spain’s fourth from the penalty spot. Photo: Euro 2022.

Teams: FINLAND (4-4-2) – Korpela, Koivisto, Pikkujämsä, Westerlund, Hyyrynen (Kuikka 67), Öling (Rantanen 87), Alanen, Summanen (Ahtinen 84), Engman (Sainio 46), Franssi (Danielsson 84), Sällström.

Scorers: Sällström 1′.

SPAIN (4-3-3): Panos, Ouahabi (Garcia 60), Leon (Mapi), Paredes, Batlle, Guerrero (Aleixandri 60), Guijarro, Bonmati (del Castillo 78), Caldentey, Gonzalez (Cardona 78), Cordoba (Pina 86).

Scorers: Paredes 26′, Bonmati 41′, Cordoba 75′, Caldentey (pen) 90+4′.

Referee: Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine).

Attendance: 16,819.

Rapid Fire Start From Sayer Seals First Win

Australia U23 4-0 Indonesia

by Kieran Yap (9/7/22).

Above: Four-goal Amy Sayer in possession for the Matildas U23s against the senior Indonesia side yesterday. Photo: Tiebreaker Times/Angelo Rosales.

Mel Andreatta made some changes in the third game for Australia’s Under 23 squad. With a game every two days and an Under 20 World Cup weeks away, rotation is important. Illness in the camp also may have forced some selection decisions.  Happily, for the representative squad at the AFF Championships it was not all bad news and the night ended with the first Aussie win of the tournament.

Caitlin Karic, Hana Lowry, Paige Zois, and Daniella Galic were brought into midfield and attack. Jessika Nash, Alexia Apostolakis and Ella Tonkin joined goalkeeper, and captain Sally James in defence.

Up against Indonesia, and in need of a boost to their goal difference. Australia took only 10 minutes to open the scoring.

Above: Melbourne Victory prospect Paige Zois, seen here in action for the Junior Matildas, made her first appearance of the AFF Championships campaign. Photo: Football Australia.

Amy Sayer continued her fine form at the tournament. For the second game in a row, she made it one-nil.  After Australia cruised through midfield, Sayer was played into space by Leah Davidson. With plenty of time and space, the Stanford University attacker made no mistake. She rifled a shot into the top corner from just inside the box.

The Sayer show continued. Just two minutes later she had her second. A ball wide to the right flank found Karic who accelerated and crossed low into the six-yard box. Any touch would have caused an issue for the Indonesian goalkeeper, but the ball found its way to Sayer at the far post who adjusted her body to hit it home on the half volley.

The same combination made it 3-0 in the 15th minute. This time, Karic stopped and made space for the cross with a shift of the feet and a slight change of pace. Her cross beat three defenders and Sayer had the easiest of finishes.

Above: Bianca Galic, seen here in here Canberra United days, linked up superbly with Amy Sayer against Indonesia. Photo: Canberra United.

Sayer’s fourth came just before halftime. She received the ball at the edge of the box and cut inside deftly. So far in this game, she had displayed power and timing. On this occasion, she showed some of the light touch that makes her one of Australia’s most promising prospects.

She created the space for herself and on her left foot, she struck from 18 yards to make it 4-0. It was an incredible individual performance by the former Sydney FC prodigy. But it would be the last of the goals for the day.

Australia could not add to the scoreboard in the second half. A justifiable penalty claim was denied in the 55th minute and Galic tried her luck from outside the box, but Indonesia did not concede again.

Above: Sally James, who captained the Matildas on her first appearance in goal at the AFF Championships against Indonesia. Photo: Football Australia.

The AFF is a tough, intense sprint of a competition. Australia have their first win but still lag behind the Philippines who currently have a perfect record with second place in the group far from certain.

Singapore are the next opponents tomorrow. The side lost 7-0 to the hosts in their second match and if Australia can field a strong side another big win is a possibility.

Teams: AUSTRALIA: James, Nash, McNamara, Tonkin, Galic, Davidson, Sayer, Lowry, Zois, Apostolakis, Karic.

Scorers: Sayer 10’, 12’, 15’, 43’.

INDONESIA: Prihatini, Rumbewas, Safitri, Ramadhani, Wrtipo, Suandi, Kayla, Kartini, Maeshyaroh, Nadila, Awi.

Referee: Aung Seinn Cho.

Attendance: 62.

Above: The Matildas U23 squad gather ahead of today’s game with Indonesia. Photo: Football Australia.

How Spain Cope Without Alexia Putellas

by Nathan Edwards (7/7/22)

Above: Alexia Putellas’ loss is huge for Spain, but offers a golden opportunity to others. Photo: Jose Luis Contreras/DAX Images/NurPhoto.

As Jorge Vilda readied his Spanish side for the Women’s Euros, it all looked positive. La Roja’s first outing in preparation for the Championships quickly squashed the worries about goal scoring, after questions rose due to Jennifer Hermoso’s injury ruled her out of the Euros.

They thwacked seven goals past an inexperienced Australian side that struggled to deal with the European’s obstreperous midfield and they built on that impressive performance, with a draw against Italy.

Alexia Putellas burst in front of her defender to drag Spain level, 23 minutes from time, a scenario we have seen so often for club and country, but Vilda’s star has been snatched out of his summer plans.

The World Player of the Year had her Euro dream shattered by an ACL injury, on the eve of the tournament. On Wednesday Putellas vowed “to finish what she started” but Vilda and his side will need to conjure up a plan to replace one of the world’s best.

She is key. She personifies the way Spain wants to play, the way they should play. She can pick the ball up in the tightest of spaces and once she has escaped through the smallest gap, she can flex her array of passes. She has it all from deadly set pieces to intelligent movement to double up against a defender, she is irreplaceable.  

But if anyone has the resources to replace her rare talents, it is Spain.

Above: Mariona Caldentey, one of Spain’s options after the loss of Alexia Putellas. Photo: Joaquin Corchero/Shutterstock.

The Iberian country are fortunate enough to have one of the best squads in the tournament, which is flooded with Putellas’ Barcelona teammates and Vilda isn’t short of options when it comes to picking replacements.

Two of her colleagues are Patri Guijarro and Aitana Bonmati, who play alongside her in the midfield. The two stabilisers in the trio allowed Putellas to be at her creative best and whoever comes in will also have that security of two of the best to rely on.

One option for Vilda is Mariona Caldentey. The 26-year-old normally operates in the front three but has shown the ability to pick up Putellas’ position in midfield. In the Primera Division, she has 13 goal involvements in 15 appearances, showing that she is able to hold up Putellas’ immense output, and if Vilda does opt to move the forward further back, then he has a myriad of options to fill that newly vacant left-wing spot, such as Claudia Pina or Lucia Garcia.

That may be a risk and the ready-made replacement would be Irene Guerrero who made the most of her audition, scoring two late on against the Matildas. Despite the brace, she doesn’t have the threat in front of goal that Putellas or Caldentey possess, but she is an intelligent football who given the chance would add a different dimension to Spain’s style, offering more stability in their defensive structure.

Along with Putellas’ undoubted quality on the pitch, the 28-year-old was a leader and had experienced it all, which is invaluable for a Spain side that has struggled when the pressure starts to build. The lack of experience within this squad had already weakened by Hermoso’s absence, and they will now look to the likes of Irene Paredes, Guijarro and Esther Gonzalez to help guide this youthful Spanish side to La Roja history.

Spain were one of the favourites for the Euros, with their golden generation starting to shine, headed by Putellas but as Vilda celebrates his birthday on the eve of their opening game, the present on the top of his list is an injury-free win against Finland in Milton Keynes.

And after that, he will then be able to assess how he can keep the mood positive in his squad even without the mercurial Alexia Putellas.

Matildas Clinch First Point Of AFF Championships

by Kieran Yap (7/7/22).

Thailand 2-2 Australia U23

Above: Amy Sayer (19) focuses on the ball during Australia’s game with Thailand on Wednesday. Photo: AFC Asian Cup.

If you are a Matildas fan, you know that Thailand are not to be taken lightly. In January, the two senior teams met at the Asian Cup. Australia fought out a 2-1 win, but it brought back flashbacks of the notorious 2018 meeting. That Asian Cup semi-final was determined by penalties, and only following a late Alanna Kennedy equalizer.

Thailand has sent their senior squad to the AFF Championships in Manilla. So it would be a point of interest to see if how the Under 23 Matildas would fare against an opponent that historically matches Australia.

Chelsie Dawber came into the line-up, replacing Princess Ibini who was rested after playing in both friendlies in Europe a fortnight ago.

Dawber’s impact at centre forward was obvious early. Her quick control and pass helped provide the opening chance. Amy Sayer was slipped through by the Chicago Red Star and finished with one-touch beyond the goalkeeper.

Australia had hit the scoreboard early against Thailand for the first time in years. Seven minutes of play had passed.

Mel Andreatta’s team soon had a second goal. Abby Lemon’s surging run up the left and after a few step-overs she cut into the box and was brought down to win a penalty.

Mackenzie Hawkesby, stepped up to convert and make it 2-0 in the 25th minute.

Before half time, Thailand pulled one back. With five minutes left, a hopeful ball forward was lofted out of defence. The Australian keeper was outside the box and positioned to come out to clear, but Kanyanat Chetthabutr skilfully lobbed Whyman as she scrambled back.

Above: Chelsie Dawber (27) in action for Australia against Thailand. Photo: AFC Asian Cup.

With the result in the balance, both teams went on the attack. Sheridan Gallagher had a good chance to extend Australia’s lead but her shot skipped agonizingly wide of the post.

Thailand’s eventual equaliser was spectacular. Ploychompoo Somnonk received the ball 30 yards from goal. There seemed to be no danger as Australian defenders got quickly behind the ball. She took a touch and sent a rocket of a shot into the top corner to beat Whyman again.

Both sides looked for an equaliser, but despite Australia going close with an end-to-end move that finished with an Ibini cross, the game ended level. Australia’s representative squad was held to a draw by the 2018 tournament winners.

It was a bright start for Australia’s Under 23’s that was foiled by a sensational goal, but they have their first point of the tournament. Captain Charli Grant was on the end of a bruising challenge in the second half, and with less than 48 hours before the next match, Australian fans will hope that there was no injury.

Australia’s representative squad meets Indonesia on Friday evening at 6pm AEST.

Teams: AUSTRALIA: Whyman, McNamara, Rankin, Hunter, Heatley, Grant, Hawkesby, Gallagher, Sayer, Lemon, Dawber.

Scorers: Sayer 18′, Hawkesby (pen) 26′.

THAILAND: Thongmongkol, Saenkhun, Philawan, Utchai, Somneuk, Panyosuk, Rodthong, Pram-Nak, Pengngam, Waenngoen, Chetthabutr.

Scorers: Chetthabutr 41′, Somneuk 60′.

Referee: Bui Thi Thu Trang.

Attendance: 207.

Above: The Australia U23 team that faced Thailand on Wednesday. Photo: Football Australia.

Lionesses And The Tournament Start With A Bang

Impetus’ Kris Goman and Darrell Allen focus in on different aspects of England’s opening night win over Austria at Euro 2022. Kris is our nationwide roving reporter at games the length and breadth of England and she highlights the fans-eye experience from Old Trafford, whilst Darrell reviews the on-pitch action (7/7/22).

Above: England celebrate Beth Mead’s opening goal. Photo: Lionesses.

The Fans-Eye View At Old Trafford

by Kris Goman

So, after a long, long trip from Sydney to Manchester, I found my way to Old Trafford. This ground is literally the stuff of legends and I’d been looking forward to this on so many levels.

It’s a decent walk from the tram station and you go past Old Trafford Cricket Ground, home of Lancashire CCC which is much closer to the tram stop. Along the way, there’s a heap of touts selling match scarves, hats, and flags and numerous food vans are set up selling burgers, fish and chips, pies, hot dogs, etc. 

In the car park opposite is the fan event. I gotta say it’s a bit of a disappointment. It’s really just a lot of people queuing and set up mostly for kids, with the exception of the bars, which have the longest queues. It seems mostly face painting, kicking balls, entering competitions, and having your photo taken. There’s nothing for sale except the from the bar, so a quick walk around was more than enough.

I was on the hunt for souvenirs and the UEFA vans were around the ground along with more food vans. I’d seen from the map there were three vans and my entrance was further around in the Alex Ferguson stand. Despite being there quite early (three hours before kick-off) the queues for the first van were very long. I checked out the merch and then went to the next van which only had a couple of people lining up.

Now, to the merch. I can’t begin to describe how bad it is. The one half-decent t-shirt which had all the flags of the nations involved and is dark blue, was only available in kid’s sizes. The single black t-shirt is only available in women’s sizes. The only t-shirt in men’s sizes that might possibly fit a larger lady is white. I don’t do white t-shirts. And the design was terrible. In fact, all the designs are terrible. It’s a women’s comp so it’s important to have pink over everything, right?!

It seems the main colour for the comp is dark purple which is quite nice but the logo is a pale pink and light blue and it’s insipid. All the volunteers are in this dark purple and it looks really good but there’s nothing like this for sale. I bought a grey hoodie but again the logo is terrible in the pink and blue and you can barely see it on the hoodie. The match scarf was the dark purple colour and this was quite good but why don’t they have a t-shirt like this, for the love of God?

Above: Scenes outside Old Trafford ahead of kick-off. Photo: Kris Goman.

The guy at the stand told me they had a bigger range online. Well, that’s great but I’m travelling around the country for matches and can’t really get something delivered. And I’m certainly not the only one. Please, whoever is doing the marketing for the World Cup don’t make this mistake. How hard is it to have all designs in all sizes, have plenty of darker t-shirts, stop making everything pink, and have all stock available at all sale sites? I would have spent a lot more. Just saying.

Anyhoo, rant over and it’s time to queue to get inside. I get in a queue and I look over to the slightly shorter queue next to me and move to that. Two people in front there’s a familiar outline and it looks like Hayley Raso. As she turns, it’s definitely Hayley and she’s with Manchester City teammate Ruby Mace. It’s an opportunity too good to miss so I say g’day. They are both lovely, impressed I’ve come from Sydney, and Hayley notices the Aussie signatures on my Arsenal cap. They let me take photos with them and then I get to the end of the queue again. No one else seems to recognise them, which I find amazing, especially in Manchester although Ruby has her hair quite different from when she’s playing.

We squeeze through the skinniest turnstiles I’ve ever seen into the area under the stands. There are multiple kiosks selling pies, crisps, sweets, drinks including beer. I haven’t had a beer since I’d arrived and was looking forward to enjoying the match with a beer instead of being on the field and taking photos. So, one Heineken please. They pour the giant can into a giant cup and I ponder whether I should have got two so I don’t have to come back. I walk towards the stadium entrance and notice the sign that says no alcohol in the stadium. I back up, thinking, “That’s weird”.

Some people walk by me with beers so I wait to see what happens. They get turned around and told it’s an offence. They all got two beers each. So now everyone is standing around in the foyer area drinking their beers and I’m very thankful I only got one. More and more people buy beers and get turned around. It’s like a comedy, remembering England are playing Austria which is a big beer-drinking nation. And there’s a lot of people buying two and clearly no one is mentioning it at the bar.

I finally finish my giant beer and go into the stadium proper. It’s magnificent. Proper rectangle stadium with grass-like carpet. Every seat is a good one but mine are particularly good. I’m in row QQ which I thought might be far back but it’s right near the entrance and only about ten rows from the pitch at the top of the box. Perfect and just where I like to sit. I’ve bought two tickets and couldn’t find anyone to take the other ticket after my partner couldn’t come so I’ve got plenty of room as I’m also at the end of a row. I don’t need to ask anyone to get up and can get to the loos and kiosk quickly and easily.

The crowds are pouring in and I’m pretty close to the Austrian supporters. Given the tickets were a ballot and I had no choice in seat selection, I’m very happy. People dressed in white come onto the pitch for the opening ceremony and they all get given flags or hold a big circle of material. Just before it’s about to start and after the team warmups they head onto the field. They start their routines as the players come onto the field and line up for the national anthems.

Above: A smoke-filled Old Trafford ahead of kick-off. Photo: Kris Goman.

On each seat in the Alex Ferguson stand is a bit of coloured plastic for us to hold up just before the national anthems to obviously form a graphic of some sort. Fireworks start going off as well as flame throwers. The fireworks cause a fair bit of smoke. In fact, they cause so much smoke, at one stage it’s hard to see the field. Not sure they did a dress rehearsal of this part. It’s actually hilarious as we now can’t see the other side of the pitch, the performers, or the teams. We hold up the plastic bits but I’m genuinely not sure if the cameras can even see the stand, let alone the image we are making. Being part of it means you have no idea what it looks like. I’m going to have to watch a replay to check it out.  Eventually, the smoke clears, the anthems play and the starting whistle goes.

It starts out quite frantic and Austria get an early attack in before England settle in and take ownership of the game. The Beth Mead goal sees the stadium erupt and the euphoria is tangible. First goal of the Euros and turns out the match-winning, three-point scoring goal too. It’s up my end so I get to see all the celebrations. Lauren Hemp is also on my side in the first half so I get to witness her runs up close and personal. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve seen all these players, except Rachel Daly, play live and it’s thrilling after watching so many hours on TV and on my phone.

Above: Austria players thank their fans after the match. Photo: Kris Goman.

The match ends with jubilation for the English fans, which includes me. Players from both teams do a lap of the field but aren’t signing autographs, unfortunately. The Austrian players spend quite a bit of time in my corner with the Austrian supporters who’ve been vocal throughout the match despite being outnumbered significantly. But it’s been a great atmosphere and very friendly crowd with no ill will either way. And that’s what I love about women’s football. There’s a genuine comradery regardless of who you go for and you never feel unsafe or threatened.

The walk back to the tram station is a long slow one as nearly 69 thousand people disgorge. But it’s well organised and we all get to where we’re going eventually.
It was a great start to this tournament and bodes well for the progress of the English team in front of their home supporters. 17 matches to go for me.  

A Winning Start

by Darrell Allen

As far as tournament openers go that was a job very well done by England. Three points, a clean sheet, and success against a very hard-working Austria side who were set up to frustrate and spoil the opening night party. 

They didn’t succeed and this was a vital win for Sarina Weigman and her team to shape their destiny with three points to start their home Euros the right way and live up to their Group A favourites tag.

With the opening night assignment dealt with successfully hope will be confidence and momentum now grows and England can go all the way in this tournament. 

IT’S AN ARSENAL AFFAIR 

Above: Beth Mead celebrates her goal. Photo: Lionesses.

Beth Mead the Arsenal forward who was the hero. She scored the opening night’s only goal to make it 15 in 15 for herself when she picked up Fran Kirby’s perfect ball, controlled beautifully, and finished well over club teammate Manuela Zinsberger. VAR subsequently confirmed the ball had crossed the line to the relief of Mead, the record crowd for a European Championship match of 68,871 and the 3.9 million watching on BBC One. 

MAGIC MILLIE

The player of the match for me was magic Millie Bright of Chelsea. Last night she was on the finest of form.

After Leah Williamson got away with a sloppy pass early on in the game, Bright seemed to take ownership of the back line with her calm but authorative way to ensure there was no repeat.

England settled after the goal and Bright with Williamson alongside was an absolute rock in ensuring Austria only huffed and puffed but couldn’t blow the England House down. 

The Chelsea star didn’t do anything wrong all evening with vital blocks and headers made on the limited occasions when Austria did get the ball in the box.

The Bright and Williamson partnership being on song will be critical if the trophy is to be won on 31st July.

A SAFE PAIR OF HANDS 

Above: Mary Earps – a safe pair of hands for England. Photo: Alamy.

Mary Earps loved the opening night in the city where she plays her domestic football for Manchester United. The beaming smile in the build-up and as the teams took to the field just emphasised this.

The defence kept her relatively well protected but Earps was required late on to superbly deny Barbara Dunst an equaliser. 

HOME PRESSURE HANDLED WELL

An expectant crowd but a supportive crowd was in attendance on the night as a strong 68,871 was in attendance to get the tournament underway. 

Austria started as the better side and there were nerves early on but the crowd roared them through the difficult moments. Once Mead opened the scoring, there looked little to worry about as despite not finding a second goal the night was dealt with in a calm and mature way.

The crowd would have liked a second goal and that will inevitably be required in greater tests to come but this is tournament football and it’s about winning games and this was the perfect way to start.

I said in my previously published preview that If England got through the opening night unscathed they would go on to win it and that’s part one done. 

England won’t play in front of a crowd of that size again until the final at the earliest so they have proved already pressure can be dealt with ahead of matches in smaller stadia to come.

NEXT UP NORWAY

Focus now switches to the second group game on Monday night when England face Norway at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton. 

The task against Norway promises to be the greatest assignment of the group stage on paper as they boast an array of talent including former Ballon D’or winner and Olympique Lyonnais striker Ada Hegerberg.

However, with Weigman’s philosophy and the extra day recovery between the opening night and Norway only playing 24 hours later against Northern Ireland, the odds will once again be in England’s favour, and there is no reason why they can’t get another three points on the board.

PLAYER IN FOCUS – FRAN KIRBY

After the recent few months that Fran Kirby has had, it was wonderful to see her start this opening night assignment against Austria and she well and truly justified Sarina Wiegman’s decision to take her to the tournament. 

The Chelsea hero lit up this game for the 64 minutes she was on the pitch to the joy of the Old Trafford crowd. 

Kirby’s highlight was when she displayed technical genius to pick out Beth Mead with a superb diagonal pass which found Mead who finished to get the game’s opening goal.

The hope will be for the nation that this form continues up to and including that 31st July date at Wembley Stadium. 

Above: The England team that started the game against Austria last night. Photo: Lionesses.

Teams: ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Daly, Stanway, Walsh, Mead, Kirby, Hemp. Subs used: Kelly, Toone, Russo.

Scorer: Mead 16′.

AUSTRIA (4-1-4-1): Zinsberger, Weinroither, Wenninger, Schnaderbeck, Hanshaw, Puntigam, Dunst, Zadrazil, Feiersinger, Naschenweng, Biller. Subs used: Georgieva, Höbinger, Hickelsberger-Füller.

Referee: Marta Huerta de Aza.

Attendance: 68,871.

CONCACAF Women’s Championships: First Group Stage Review

Impetus’ man in Mexico is Jorge Ceron, and he brings us all the details from the initial group stage action in Monterrey (7/7/22).

The CONCACAF women’s championship has begun, and by the end of last night, all the participating teams had already played their first game of the tournament.

There is a lot at stake in this tournament. There are eight participating teams, divided into two groups. Group A consists of Mexico, United States, Jamaica, and Haiti, while in Group B are Canada, Trinidan and Tobago, Costa Rica, and Panama. The venue for the tournament is Monterrey, Mexico and there are two host stadiums, the BBVA Stadium, and the Universitario Stadium.

This tournament provides four direct tickets to the 2023 World Cup, the tickets will be obtained by the nations who finish first and second in each group, in the same way the third-placed nations in each group will have access to the World Cup repechage, which will take place in February 2023 in New Zealand and they will have another chance to qualify for the World Cup.

This tournament serves as a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, the champions will have their ticket secured, and will be accompanied by the winner of a match between the second and third place nation in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

Above: Alex Morgan, scorer of two goals for the USA against Haiti. Photo: Jam Media.

The tournament began at the Universitario Stadium, and was opened by one of the favorites, the United States team, a team that without putting their foot on the accelerator, beat Haiti 3-0, with two goals from Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave) and one more from Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC).

After that match came the arrival of host nation Mexico, a team that arrives with great hopes of returning to a World Cup. They took on Jamaica. An early goal after eight minutes froze the local team, and the fans as Manchester City’s Khadija Shaw scored. The coach of Mexico had surprised before starting the game with a line-up that had not been common in previous games.

Above: Khadija Shaw pictured after scoring Jamaica’s goal against Mexico. Photo: Jaime Lopez/Jam Media.

Before the end of the first half, the hosts looked set to equalize on a couple of occasions, a shot that hit the post that was ultimately then misplaced, and a long-distance shot by Carolina Jaramillo that the Jamaican goalkeeper surprisingly caught. Jamaica missed a penalty and there is nothing more to say, Jamaica won 1-0, but the Caribbean could easily have won 3-0 or 4-0, the Mexican team had no ideas in the second half, and they were not even close to equalize the game, time passed, and Jamaica with some of its players who compete in the FAWSL, the Scottish league, and in the United States gained a victory that cannot be a surprise. They simply played their best football.

Mexico are on the ropes now, and it is necessary to win their second game against Haiti to have any hope of qualifying for the World Cup in Australia New Zealand 2023. In Group B, Costa Rica and Canada, as expected are dominant from the off. Costa Rica dispatched Panama 3-0 with Canada comfortable 6-0 winners against Trinidad and Tobago.

Euro’s Preview: England

By Darrell Allen (6/7/22).

Above: The Lionesses team that started their recent friendly against Belgium in Wolverhampton. Photo: @Lionesses

England line up for Euro 2022 with a strong squad of 23. The headline makers being Steph Houghton from her absence and Fran Kirby for her inclusion.

From head coach Sarina Wiegman’s demeanour in her press conference announcing the squad, it was clear she wanted to include Houghton, but time was against them.

In my opinion, she has got this decision spot on, Kirby is a player who could win England the Euros. Houghton has had an incredible impact on the game in this country but Wiegman is right to go with her best available selection.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City)

Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal).

Midfielders: Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jill Scott (Aston Villa, loan from Manchester City), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal).

Forwards: Bethany England (Chelsea),  Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City),  Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Manchester United), Ellen White (Manchester City).

The Head Coach:

Above: Lionesses head coach Sarina Weigman. Photo: FA.

Sarina Wiegman took over England in September 2021 over a year after her appointment was officially confirmed due to seeing out her existing commitments with the Dutch national side. Wiegman, who is unbeaten in the England job, had a playing career that included a spell alongside superstars Mia Hamm, Kristie Lilly, and Carla Overbeck at North Carolina.

Wiegman won 104 caps for the Netherlands, scoring three goals between 1987 and 2001. She additionally won the Dutch Cup (KNVB Cup) with KFC ’71 in 1987 and 2001 with Ter Leede where she also won two Dutch championships in 2001 and 2003.

Her coaching career began at Ter Leede in 2006 before moving to Den Haag in 2007 to lead them in their first campaign in the new Dutch Women’s Eredivisie. She remained there for seven years, winning the league in 2012 and the KNVB Cup in both 2012 and 2013. Wiegman became only the third woman to take the full KNVB coaching licence in 2015.

After becoming interim head coach of the Netherlands national side in 2015, Wiegman was appointed as assistant to Arjan van der Laan who came in to take over the top job. van der Laan’s tenure lasted just over a year, before he was sacked and Wiegman took charge on a permanent basis.

Her first test was a home European Championships just over six months later, and the team went through the competition unbeaten, defeating Denmark 4-2 in the final. Wiegman would subsequently go on to lead the Dutch to the 2019 World Cup Final.

Euros History:

Above: The two captains, Anette Börjesson for Sweden and England’s Carol Thomas (right) shake hands before the second leg of the 1984 European Championship Final at Kenilworth Road, Luton. Photo: Peter Robinson/Empics Sport.

England have previously reached the final twice. The first appearance came in the Championships inaugural tournament in 1984 when, after defeating Denmark 3-1 on aggregate, they went down 4-3 on penalties to Sweden in the final after the two games ended 1-1 on aggregate.

Three years later, a fourth-place finish was achieved. A 3-2 loss in extra-time to Sweden was followed by a 2-1 defeat to Italy in the play-off. England were semi-finalists in 1995 before a barren spell.

The second final appearance came in 2009, when after seeing off Finland (3-2) in the quarter-finals and Netherlands (2-1) in the semis, Germany were too strong in the final, as England went down 6-2. In the last tournament in 2017, they reached the Semi-Final with France seen off 1-0 in the Quarter-Finals before current Lionesses head coach Sarina Weigman directed her Dutch side to a 3-0 win in the last four.

Qualifying:

England qualified automatically as host nation.

Strengths:

England boast a squad full on talent with multiple options from the bench. This was demonstrated most notably in the recent warm-up match against Belgium when Wiegman was able to bring on Chloe Kelly, Alex Greenwood, and Rachel Daly, and all three had a massive impact on the game.

Development Areas:

The team have a habit of missing chances to finish off opponents.

Key Player:

Above: Ellen White – penalty box predator extraordinaire. Photo: Lionesses.

Ellen White. The Manchester City forward is capable of scoring any type of goal from acrobatic volleys to the simplicity of a tap-in. When Ellen White is up top you always have a chance. 

Player To Watch:

Lotte Wuben-Moy. The Arsenal defender is in fine form and heads to her first major international tournament keen to make a mark.

Prediction:

Winners. Talent in abundance and multiple options from the bench. Coping with home pressure might be their biggest hurdle, but if they get through the opening night unscathed and with three points, I’m confident they will win it.

Group Fixtures:

6th July: Austria, 8pm Old Trafford, Manchester.

11th July: Norway, 8pm Amex Stadium, Brighton.

15th July: Northern Ireland, 8pm St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton.

Impetus has previewed a different nation every day over the past 12 days. Click below to read the previously published articles:

FRANCE – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/25/euros-preview-france/

AUSTRIA – by Jorge Ceron: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/26/euros-preview-austria/

GERMANY – by Johnathan Stack: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/

ICELAND – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/28/euros-preview-iceland/

SPAIN – by Nathan Edwards: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/29/euros-preview-spain/

FINLAND – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/30/euros-preview-finland/

NETHERLANDS – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/01/euros-preview-netherlands/

SWITZERLAND – by Ellie Ramsauer: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/02/euros-preview-switzerland/

BELGIUM – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/03/euros-preview-belgium/

SWEDEN – by Ellie Ramsauer: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/04/euros-preview-sweden/

NORTHERN IRELAND – by Abi Ticehurst: – https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/05/euros-preview-northern-ireland/

Analysis: Charli Grant’s Array Of Defensive Qualities

https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/05/analysis-charli-grants-array-of-defensive-qualities/

Euros Preview: Northern Ireland

https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/05/euros-preview-northern-ireland/

Scrappy Loss For Matildas In Opening AFF Clash

Australia U23 0-1 Philippines

by Kieran Yap (4/7/22).

Above: The Matildas U23 side that started today’s game against the senior Philippines side. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia’s Under 23 side lost 1-0 to a determined and organized Philippines side amid torrential rain in Manila.

Sarina Bolden was credited with the goal in the 60th minute. But it may have been an own goal that lopped over Jada Whyman. It was a scrappy defensive moment in a game where both back lines were mostly untroubled.

Australia’s squad was made up from a combination of the Under-20’s Young Matildas side and members of the senior squad that faced Spain and Portugal, although only Charli Grant featured in those matches of the players on the field.

Mackenzie Hawkesby was named alongside her Sydney FC teammates Princess Ibini and Sarah Hunter. Sheridan Gallagher led the line, and Matilda McNamara reunited with ex-Adelaide United teammate and the night’s captain, Grant.

The Philippines started with their strongest available senior squad. Five of the players from the meeting at the Asian Cup in January were in the starting lineup. They may have improved with Oliva McDaniel in goal since then.

It was an open game, even if it looked hectic at times. Australia’s midfield was able to get on the ball and pass it with ease, but time on the ball became a struggle the closer they got to the Philippines’ goal.

Australia’s best effort of the first half came when Grant beat a defender on the right flank and fired a shot at goal that found the side netting.

Up the other end, Whyman was rarely troubled, but neither was McDaniel with the home side defending in numbers.

Above: Jada Whyman, back in goal for the national side against the Philippines. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

The second half saw changes to both sides. The Philippines being given a boost by theirs. Katrina Guillou eventually made way for Isabella Flanigan, but while she was on the pitch, her pace and direct style tested Jamilla Rankin and Winonah Heatley.

The goal came on the hour mark, and it felt unlucky. Whyman leapt back but could not prevent the ball looping over her head from a set-piece that was deflected off Bolden more than directed.

Chelsie Dawber and Daniella Galic were among those brought on by Mel Andreatta to strike back, but although McDaniel began to be tested slightly more, the breakthrough never arrived.

The Philippines goalkeeper was forced into an incredible double save from a Galic shot that was parried into Sheridan Gallagher’s path. Remarkably, she was able to push that second effort away.

It was not the start that Australia would have wanted. But it is an intense week ahead with another four games between now and July 12.

Sarina Bolden may have been credited with the goal, but the real hero of the evening was twitter user @Thai_real who discovered a way for Australian fans to watch.

Despite Football Australia’s best efforts to organize an online feed or local broadcaster, It could not be accomplished in time. The rights for the tournament are currently controlled by the PFF governing body. It is being broadcast on pay-TV networks in the host nation, and viewing arrangements will hopefully become easier.

The matches will not. Australia’s Under 23’s will next face Thailand’s senior squad on Wednesday evening. The familiar foes often give the full-strength Matildas a test and they will be likely to serve up another.

There is likely to be some improvement from the Aussies throughout the tournament. They looked at their most dangerous with overlapping fullbacks, particularly Grant who was busy all evening in her first outing in the armband.  

Above: Sarah Hunter, who started Australia’s first game at the AFF Women’s Championships. Photo: Sydney FC.

Much of the focus since arriving in Manila has been on recovery, particularly for those who arrived from Portugal. With more time together in camp, they should be able to play with more fluidity.

Thailand vs Australia will kick off at 9pm AEST with a broadcaster still to be determined.

Teams: AUSTRALIA U23: Whyman, McNamara, Rankin, Hunter, Heatley, Grant, Hawkesby, Gallagher, Sayer, Ibini, Blissett.

PHILIPPINES: McDaniel, Randle, Sawicki, Long, Bolden, Miclat, Frilles, Madarang, Quezada, Guillou, Cowart.

Attendance: 1,405.

Euros Preview: Sweden

by Ellie Ramsauer (4/7/22)

Above: After finishing third and second in their last two major tournaments, Sweden are going all out to win the Euros. Photo via: Chester Standard.

They are one of the strongest teams in the world. Peter Gerhardsson’s side has some outstanding defenders, superb creative attackers, and at least two goalkeepers in their squad that just about every other nation would love to have. Semi-finalists in the World Cup and beaten finalists in the Olympics in their last two major tournaments – Sweden are arguably well set to take a step up and win.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Hedvig Lindahl (Atlético Madrid), Jennifer Falk (BK Häcken), Zećira Mušović (Chelsea)

Defenders: Jonna Andersson (Hammarby), Nathalie Björn (Everton), Hanna Glas (Bayern Munich), Amanda Ilestedt (Paris St-Germain), Emma Kullberg (Brighton and Hove Albion), Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea), Amanda Nilden (Juventus), Linda Sembrant (Juventus)

Midfielders: Caroline Seger (Rosengård), Elin Rubensson (BK Häcken), Filippa Angeldahl (Manchester City), Hanna Bennison (Everton), Kosovare Asllani (Unattached)

Forwards: Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (BK Häcken), Olivia Schough (Rosengård), Lina Hurtig (Juventus), Sofia Jakobsson (San Diego Wave), Stina Blackstenius (Arsenal), Fridolina Rolfö (Barcelona), Rebecka Blomqvist (Wolfsburg).

The Head Coach:

Above: Sweden Head Coach Peter Gerhardsson. Photo: PA Images.

Gerhardsson took over as Sweden Women’s manager in 2017 following the European Championships of that year. He already has experience with the Swedish national team in a major tournament as he led the squad to third place in 2019’s Women’s World Cup and the silver medal at the Olympic Games last summer. He brings the Swedish team a wealth of experience in football and coaching, having previously coached a number of Swedish teams in the first tier of the Men’s Swedish league, including taking BK Häcken to Swedish Cup success in 2016 as well as the Sweden U17 Men’s team.  

Euros History:

The Swedes have only won the competition once before, in 1984, the first-ever Women’s European Championships when they defeated England over two legs. However, they do have a record to be proud of in this competition as they have previously finished runners-up an additional three times (1987, 1995, and 2001), as well as a number of other semi-final appearances (1989, 1997, 2005, 2013). Their last Euro appearance was not as successful as previous displays, having exited the competition in the Quarter-Finals. 

Qualifying:

The Swedish team topped Group F in qualifying for the tournament. Out of the eight games they played in qualifying, they won seven and drew one. The only team they dropped points against was Iceland who finished runners-up in the group. Sweden scored an impressive 40 goals in their qualifying campaign, while only conceding two. This record proves that they are a force to be reckoned with this summer.

Strengths:

This Sweden side has a number of top players, playing at the highest level in a number of European leagues. They also come off the back of a very successful Olympic Games campaign where they won silver after a penalty shoot-out defeat to Canada in the Final. Considering the fact this is an extremely similar squad, the players will be filled with confidence as they look to avenge that defeat last year.

Development Areas:

There will be significant pressure on this side due to the expectations and reputation of the squad. They will also be ones to watch and opponents will set themselves up so they will be hard to break down. We will learn a lot from their fiendishly tough opening match against the Netherlands at Bramall Lane.

Key Players:

Above: Magdalena Eriksson – one of the world’s best. Photo: Chelsea FC.

Magdelena Eriksson: Currently regarded as one of the best defenders in Europe, Eriksson will be a vital asset to this Swedish side and their quest for a European trophy. Coming off the back of an extremely successful season with Chelsea, in which they were crowned champions of the highly-competitive FAWSL, Eriksson will be filled with confidence and ready to go for the Swedes. Her club boss Emma Hayes, who has heaped continuous praise on the 28-year-old throughout her time at Chelsea, highlighting her character and footballing intelligence.

Caroline Seger: A legend of Swedish football. Captaining them again is the highly experienced Caroline Seger. Having made her debut for Sweden in 2005 in the Algarve Cup, just before her 20th birthday, she has gone on to earn 299 caps for the national women’s side, making her the most-capped European international of all time. Having previously shared the captaincy with Lotta Schelin, she is now the sole captain, following Schelin’s retirement from international football. Seger will be keen to better Sweden’s results at their last two major trophies and be the player lifting the trophy at the end of the tournament.

Fridolina Rolfö: Injuries have plagued Rolfö throughout her career, perhaps inhibiting her early career progression and recognition. However, last year she shone at the Olympics and proved to everyone why she had earned such a prestigious move to Barcelona for the 2021/22 season. After playing consistently this season in the Primera Division, Rolfö will certainly be one to watch at this tournament as she hopes to help the Swedes lift the coveted European trophy for only the second time ever.   

One To Watch:

Hanna Bennison is the youngest player in the Swedish squad heading to England. The young international from the small town of Lomma, Sweden, made her debut against the USA at the age of just 17. There has been significant hype around the teenage star, and the attention, and praise, earned her a big-money move to Everton last year. Bennison was a regular starter in the Everton team, making 22 appearances and earning young player of the season.      

Above: Everton and Sweden’s young star Hanna Bennison. Photo: Svensk Fotboll.

Prediction:

Semi-Final.

Group Fixtures:

9th July: Netherlands, 8pm, Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

13th July: Switzerland, 5pm, Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

17th July: Portugal, 5pm, Leigh Sports Village, Leigh.

Impetus is previewing a different nation every day between now and the start of the European Championships. Click below to read the previously published articles:

FRANCE – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/25/euros-preview-france/

AUSTRIA – by Jorge Ceron: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/26/euros-preview-austria/

GERMANY – by Johnathan Stack: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/

ICELAND – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/28/euros-preview-iceland/

SPAIN – by Nathan Edwards: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/29/euros-preview-spain/

FINLAND – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/30/euros-preview-finland/

NETHERLANDS – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/01/euros-preview-netherlands/

SWITZERLAND – by Ellie Ramsauer: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/02/euros-preview-switzerland/

BELGIUM – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/03/euros-preview-belgium/

Euros Preview: Belgium

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset (3/7/22).

Above: The Belgian team that started the match against England in Wolverhampton last week. Photo: Belgian Red Flames.

The Belgium women’s national football team is known or nicknamed as the ‘Red Flames’ and currently stand in 20th place in FIFA Women’s World Rankings.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Nicky Evrard, Diede Lemey, Lisa Litchfus.

Defenders: Laura Deloose, Laura De Neve, Sari Kees, Davina Philtjens, Charlotte Tison, Amber Tysiak, Jody Vangheluwe.

Midfielders: Julie Biesmans, Feli Delacauw, Marie Minnaert, Kassandra Missipo, Justine Vanhaevermaet.

Forwards: Janice Cayman, Tine De Cainy, Elena Dhont, Hannah Eurlings, Davinia Vanmechelen, Ella Van Kerkhoven, Sarah Wijnants, Tessa Wullaert.

The Head Coach:

Above: A relaxed Ives Serneels in training. Photo: Royal Belgian FA.

Ives Serneels, a Belgian native is 49-years-old and has been in charge of the Red Flames since June 2011. Serneels was a defender throughout his playing career which was spent playing for Lierse SK (where he won the Belgian First Division, FA Cup and Super Cup), Westerlo (winning the Belgian FA Cup once more), Denderleeuw, and KFC Dessel Sport in Belgium. He began his coaching career at his final playing club in 2003 before also going on to lead Bercham Sport and both Lierse SK’s youth and women’s teams. Serneels led Belgium to their first European Championships in 2017.

Euros History:

It is only the second time that Belgium have qualified for the Euros. Their first time was the previous competition in 2017. They began with a 1-0 defeat to Denmark before gaining an excellent win over Norway. Defeat to big rivals the Netherlands in the final group game, 2-1, ensured that Belgium went out at the group stage after finishing third.

Qualifying:

Belgium qualified by winning Group H after recording a record of seven wins and one loss – a 2-1 defeat away to Switzerland, who finished second. The qualifying campaign included 9-0 and 6-0 wins over Lithuania and 6-1 wins over both Romania and Croatia.

Strengths:

With their key players having played domestic competitions outside of Belgium, they are a true group who are very well organized and will fight until the end.

Development Areas:

There is a lack of depth in terms of top-level international experience. Several players will play in the Euros for the first time: Lichtfus, Kees, Tison, Tysiak, Vangheluwe, Delacauw, Minnaert, Missipo, Vanhaevermaet, Dhont, Eurlings, Wijnants, and Van Kerkhoven. They need to gain in maturity against opponents who are used to playing at the highest level both domestically and internationally.

Key Players:

Above: Janice Cayman in action for Olympique Lyonnais. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Janice Cayman: 33 years old, 124 caps, 47 goals, Belgium ‘Soulier d’Or’ winner in 2021. Playing her club football in France with Olympique Lyonaise, Cayman won D1 Arkema Championship, and UEFA Women Champion’s League in 2022. She mostly plays in attack for Belgium but can also play in defence as she did several times with Lyon.

Tessa Wullaert: 29 years old, 99 caps, 50 goals. Wulleart has experience playing as a forward for two of Europe’s top clubs – Wolfsburg (2015-2018), and Manchester City, England (2018-2020). She is now back in Belgium playing for Anderlecht.

Laura De Neve: 27 years old, 44 caps, two goals. De Neve has played for Anderlecht since 2012 and now has an important partnership with Tessa Wulleart for both club and country.

Tine De Caigny: The young star of Belgian football. De Caigny is 24 years old, with 62 caps and 26 goals. She plays for Hoffenheim in Germany. The Belgium ‘Soulier d’Or’ winner in 2020, she continues to progress year after year.

Above: Tine De Caigny – Belgium’s young star. Photo: Royal Belgian FA.

One to watch:

Hannah Eurlings. At just 19 years old, she holds 15 caps already, and has four international goals to her name. Eurlings has played her club football at Leuven since 2019. She is a young forward player with a lot of potential according to her teammates.

Prediction:

With Belgium in a group along with France (third FIFA ranking), Italy (14th FIFA ranking), and Iceland (18th FIFA ranking), Belgium will have hopes of finishing second and making the Quarter-Finals. Personally, I think they can do it and that their key players are good enough to produce an outstanding performance against Italy which will be the key to getting out of this group.

Group Fixtures:

10th July: Iceland, 5pm, Academy Stadium, Manchester.

14th July: France, 8pm, New York Stadium, Rotherham.

18th July: Italy, 8pm, Academy Stadium, Manchester.

Above: Hannah Eurlings, Belgium’s 19-year-old attacker seen here in action against Armenia. Photo: Nico Vereecken/Photo News.

Impetus is previewing a different nation every day between now and the start of the European Championships. Click below to read the previously published articles:

FRANCE – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/25/euros-preview-france/

AUSTRIA – by Jorge Ceron: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/26/euros-preview-austria/

GERMANY – by Johnathan Stack: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/

ICELAND – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/28/euros-preview-iceland/

SPAIN – by Nathan Edwards: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/29/euros-preview-spain/

FINLAND – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/30/euros-preview-finland/

NETHERLANDS – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/01/euros-preview-netherlands/

SWITZERLAND – by Ellie Ramsauer: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/02/euros-preview-switzerland/

Andreatta and Stajcic Speak Ahead Of AFF Opener

Impetus’ Kieran Yap was in the head coaches media conference for the AFF Women’s Championships today. Ahead of Australia’s opening game tomorrow against the Philippines, he heard from Matildas U23 head coach Mel Andreatta and Philippines head coach, and former Matildas chief Alen Stajcic (3/7/22).

Above: Mel Andreatta, who is leading the Matildas U23 representative team at the competition. Photo: ABC.

Australian Under 23’s manager Mel Andreatta is excited to be leading the team into the AFF Cup in Manila.

Australia will face off against the Philippines on Monday night at 9pm (AEST) in the first game of an intense schedule of group games that will take in five games in eight days.

“We’re excited to be here and thank both AFF and the PFF for hosting this tournament,” Andreatta told Southeast Asia’s football media.

“We’re excited to be building on newfound opportunities for these players to gain important experiences in international football against the best Southeast Asian nations in football.”

With both a Senior World Cup and an Under 20’s tournament in the near future. This tournament is another important development step for Australia’s rising talent.

Above: Charli Grant – one of those players who have come directly from the senior Matildas camp in Spain and Portugal at the AFF Championships. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia has traditionally sent an Under 20’s squad to the AFF Championships. But in an effort to improve player pathways, for this event they have formed an Under 23 side. Senior Matildas assistant Andreatta will take the reigns as head coach, with Under 20’s manager Leah Blayney in support.

Of the squad, only Charli Grant was part of the Asian Cup campaign. But she will be joined by a group of players who were in the most recent senior camps in Spain and Portugal. Larissa Crummer, Matilda McNamara, Amy Sayer, Winonah Heatley, Mackenzie Hawkesby, Princess Ibini, and Jamilla Rankin have travelled directly from Portugal to Manila.

Andreatta says that the focus in early sessions has been on recovery for those players, and she is optimistic they will be available for the first match.

“That’s been a big priority for the travel and arrival in the Philippines,” she said of the recovery program. “They’re looking good, we had a start-up session yesterday, so on the ground they’re looking good. “We’ll train today and work with our SSSM team to ensure that they’re in the right physical condition to be available for selection in the first game

“As we spoke about in the FIFA window, for these players, it continues to be the same focus, to build that important international match experience against top opponents. That’s what we’re looking forward to seeing here at AFF and bring their qualities and performing against Southeast Asia’s best teams.”

Above: Philippines head coach Alen Stajcic, who knows the Australian squad very well. Photo: Adam Aidil/Asian Football Confederation.

Although The Philippines is sending their senior team to the tournament, manager Alen Stajcic is not taking Australia lightly.

“Australia’s probably got a lot more depth than most other countries in Southeast Asia,” Stajcic said about the rematch from the Asian Cup group stage. “They’ve been ranked in the top 10 for the last 10 years. They’re there for a reason that they’ve been one of the stronger nations in the region.

“No doubt they’re probably still one of the favourites for this tournament regardless of who they’ve brought. Age isn’t really the issue, its really the quality on the pitch,” he said to dismiss the idea that younger players would make easier opponents.

“I’ve seen a lot of those players grow up including some of the 16-year-old’s that they have in the squad now. I think some of the 16-year-old’s they have in the squad are as good as any of the kids that have come before them.

“Young Daniella Galic and Alexia Apostolakis are two of the best talents in south-east Asia at the moment. I’m not underestimating them. I think they’re a very good squad, and probably the favourites to win this tournament. It’s going to be a good experience for our team

Above: Alexia Apostolakis of Western Sydney Wanderers, one of the youngest members of the Australia U23 squad, but she is highly rated by Alen Stajcic. Photo: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

“There’s no such thing as ‘not full strength’, every game is full strength. It doesn’t matter who’s out there, it’s an international fixture… it’s two nations competing against each other, everyone wants to learn but everyone wants to win.”

Mel Andretta has a strong squad at her disposal. Along with the recently anointed senior Matildas, she has selected some of the best young players in the country.

Chelsie Dawber has joined the squad on the back of her best-ever season with Adelaide United and having flown in from her season with Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL.

Hana Lowry, Caitlin Karic, and Paige Zois are some of the most highly rated attackers in Victoria and Western Australia. This tournament represents an important step for the players and the overall strategy of the national team.

“Last time we were involved was in 2018,” said Andreatta. “For us its continuing to build a bank of tournament experience for these players and get those important match minutes in international football, and to help these players gain experience in world cups and future Olympics games and beyond.

“We’ve seen in the past that many players who’ve been involved in AFF have gone on to experience selection in such tournaments. We’re hoping for the same in this tournament and of course being an Australian team, we also want to perform and do well alongside that.”

Above: Perth Glory’s Hana Lowry, one of the young stars of the Western Australian game is part of the Matildas U23 squad. Photo: Hana Lowry Instagram.

Euros Preview: Switzerland

By Ellie Ramsauer

Above: The Swiss national team. Photo: Frank Haug.

Switzerland go into the competition minus key player, Alisha Lehmann who has withdrawn from the squad for mental health reasons. This is a major blow for Nils Nielsen’s side. The Swiss squad has little experience of playing at a European Championship, which may harm them when coming up against other, more experienced nations.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Seraina Friedli (29/FC Aarau), Livia Peng (20/FC Zürich), Gaëlle Thalmann (36/Real Betis Sevilla).

Defenders: Eseosa Aigbogun (29/Paris FC), Luana Bühler (26/Hoffenheim), Viola Calligaris (26/Levante), Rahel Kiwic (31/FC Zürich), Noelle Maritz (26/Arsenal), Lara Marti (22/Bayer Leverkusen), Rachel Rinast (31/Grasshoppers), Julia Stierli (25/FC Zürich), Ella Touon (18/SGS Essen).

Midfielders: Sandy Maendly (34/Servette), Sandrine Mauron (25/Eintracht Frankfurt), Géraldine Reuteler (23/Eintracht Frankfurt), Coumba Sow (27/Paris FC), Lia Wälti (29/Arsenal), Riola Xhemaili (19/SC Freiburg).

Forwards: Ramona Bachmann (31/Paris Saint-Germain), Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic (31/FC Barcelona), Svenja Fölmli (19/SC Freiburg), Fabienne Humm (35/FC Zürich), Meriame Terchoun (26/FC Zürich).

The Head Coach:

Above: Nils Nielsen, Switzerland’s head coach, previously in charge of Denmark where he led them to the previous Euros Final. Photo: Wikipedia.

Nils Nielsen is a Dane who previously managed the Denmark Women’s National Team. He had an impressive tenure with the ‘Red and Whites’, most notably leading them to the final of the 2017 Women’s Euros in the Netherlands. Before he was appointed as manager of the Swiss National Team, he also worked as assistant manager of the Chinese Women U20s team, helping them to reach the U20 FIFA World Cup.

Euros History:

Switzerland have only appeared at one European Championship before. This was the 2017 Championship hosted by the Netherlands. This, unfortunately, was a rather unsuccessful campaign as they didn’t make it past the group stage, winning only one game at the tournament, which was a 2-1 win over Iceland, who finished bottom of the group.

Qualifying:

Switzerland finished runners-up in Group H behind a strong Belgium team. This outcome put them into the play-offs where they drew the Czech Republic. The first leg was hosted 500 miles east of Switzerland at the Letní stadion, where a late penalty converted by Ana-Maria Crnogorčević earned the Schweizer Nati a 1-1 draw.

The return leg, played out at the Stockhorn Arena in Thun, was another 1-1 draw. Czech Republic’s Svitková scored the opening goal early in the second half, but this was soon cancelled out as Sow scored just eight minutes later. The game then went into extra time, but neither team was able to get the winner. Switzerland then went on to qualify on penalties, defeating the Czechs 3-2.

Strengths:

Switzerland has a number of players who play at some of the biggest clubs in the world, including Arsenal, PSG, and Barcelona. Equally, the squad contains several players who have played together for a number of years from youth teams until the present day, and have gained invaluable experience in this time. Likewise, their manager, too, has experience in previous major international women’s tournaments.

Development Points:

The loss of Lehmann will hit their creativity, along with a lack of top-level international tournament experience.

Key Players:

Above: Swiss superstar Ramona Bachmann. Photo: Swiss FA.

Ramona Bachmann, a striker who has made over 120 appearances and scored over 50 goals for the Swiss national team, will be key to Swiss success at this tournament. Previously playing at English side Chelsea, where she got the winning goal in the 2018 FA Cup Final, Bachmann sealed a move to PSG in July 2020 where she has stayed until now.

Ana-Maria Crnogorčević. An ever-present in the Switzerland team since her debut in 2009, contributing 61 goals during her international career. Crnogorčević is currently at Primera División side Barcelona. The 31 year old, who can play as a striker or right wing-back, has not always got the game time she deserves at Barcelona, however, this is a player who can shine for Switzerland on the international stage.

One To Watch:

Riola Xhemaili has made a name for herself in recent years, after making her debut for Basel in Switzerland’s top league, aged only 15. Performances in her home country earned her a move to SC Freiberg in Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga, in which she has established herself as a key player. This is the young star’s first major tournament and she is hoping to leave her stamp on it.

Prediction:

They have been drawn a particularly hard group, so getting out of the group stage will be difficult, but Switzerland have a talented squad and an experienced manager so my prediction is Quarter Final.

Group Games:

9th July: Portugal, 5pm, Leigh Sports Village, Leigh.

13th July: Sweden, 5pm, Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

17th July: Netherlands, 5pm, Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

Impetus is previewing a different nation every day between now and the start of the European Championships. Click below to read the previously published articles:

FRANCE – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/25/euros-preview-france/

AUSTRIA – by Jorge Ceron: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/26/euros-preview-austria/

GERMANY – by Johnathan Stack: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/- https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/

ICELAND – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/28/euros-preview-iceland/

SPAIN – by Nathan Edwards: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/29/euros-preview-spain/

FINLAND – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/30/euros-preview-finland/

NETHERLANDS – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/07/01/euros-preview-netherlands/

Andreatta Confirms Final U23s Squad For AFF Championships

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from coach Mel Andreatta and defender Charli Grant as Australia’s squad for the AFF Championships was announced today.

Above: Mel Andreatta, who will lead the U23 Matildas side in the AFF Women’s Championships this month. Photo: Football Australia.

Head Coach Mel Andreatta has finalised Australia’s U-23 Representative Team to compete at the 2022 AFF Women’s Championships in Manila, Philippines.  

Australia will take 28 players to face the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia in Group A of the tournament commencing on 4th July 2022.  

The tournament is full of rapid fire matches, with group games coming every other day – and players will have little time to rest or prepare for the next game making it a real challenge.

Despite the obvious welfare issues, Andreatta sees nothing but positives for the squad, and expressed her anticipation of facing the best nations in the South-East Asian region and the opportunity ahead for the team.  

“It’s an exciting time and to be preparing for an international tournament is something I’ve been really looking forward to. I know this group of players are too,” Andreatta said.

“The 28 players that we’ve selected are some of our brightest young prospects in Australian football.  They have been selected as players that have performed strongly in the A-League Women’s season and then have moved into different environments and continued to perform consistently.  

“They have shown qualities that we’d like to see tested at the next level and potentially identify a player for the 2023 World Cup.”

Above: Mel Andreatta sees this tournament as a vital stepping stone towards potential World Cup squad selection. Photo: Football Australia.

All but two members of the squad are aged 23 and under with Larissa Crummer and Matilda McNamara selected. Six members of the squad have recorded full senior international appearances with eight players participating in the recent June FIFA Women’s International Window in Spain and Portugal with the CommBank Matildas.  

A further 15 players were featured in Leah Blayney’s Young Matildas squad that took part in the recent two-match international series between Australia and the Junior Football Ferns last month.  

“Tournaments like this I think are crucial in continued the development of footballers gaining invaluable knowledge of playing in tournament mode against top nations,” Andreatta added.

“Gaining vital match minutes, in the best possible environments, is something that we’ve known for a long time now is critical for the development of a player.  Through this tournament, in addition to the recent Matildas and Young Matildas camps, we are providing the next generation of footballers more chances to build their bank of competition experience.   

“There’s a lot that gets me excited about this group and their quality. These players have shown some unique qualities that we think could add to what we already have and create more depth and competition in the extended Matildas squad.  

“I’m eager to see these players take this opportunity with both hands and really test themselves against the best in South-East Asia.”  

Above: Charli Grant speaking about her selection for the U23 Matildas squad for the AFF Women’s Championship. Photo: Football Australia.

Charli Grant, who was one of the major plusses in last week’s international window senior games for the Matildas against Spain and Portugal is one of those who made the final squad and believes the opportunity has come at the right time for her.

“It’s really exciting to be part of another tournament and test myself against teams like the Philippines and Thailand.

Despite playing in the majority of her club side Rosengård’s pre-season Swedish Cup matches, Grant has been generally used as a substitute in the latter stages of Damallsvenskan matches, and the South Australian sees this month’s competition as a great chance to experience regular 90 minute action once more. Her selection therefore is a positive both for her personally, and for her club to be reminded of what she is capable of.

“It’s really important (for me) to get match minutes in my legs. It will be nice to have that experience.

“I’ve played with some of these girls before for Young Matildas, so it’s great to build those connections again – but it’s great to see the younger generation come through and see what they have got to offer.”

Despite being just 20 herself, Grant will be one of those players that that younger generation will be looking up to – it’s a sign of how far she has come in such a short period of time. Yet one can’t help but feel that the best is yet to come for Charli Grant.

Australia will kick off their tournament against hosts the Philippines on 4 July at Biñan Football Stadium in Biñan. 

NAMEPOSITIONCLUB / MEMBER FEDERATION
Alexia APOSTOLAKISDefenderFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Chelsea BLISSETTDefenderLions FC on loan from Melbourne City FC / Football Victoria
Naomi CHINNAMADefenderBlacktown Spartans on loan from Melbourne City FC / Football Victoria
Larissa CRUMMERForwardCapalaba FC / Football QLD 
Leah DAVIDSONMidfielderAPIA Leichhardt on loan from Melbourne City FC / Football Queensland
Chelsie DAWBERForwardChicago Red Stars / Football South Australia
Jynaya DOS SANTOSForwardFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Daniela GALICMidfielderFootball NSW Institute / Football NSW
Sheridan GALLAGHERForwardIllawarra Stingrays / Football NSW
Katie GODDEN Forward DePaul University / Windlesham United 
Charlotte GRANTDefenderFC Rosengard / Football South Australia
Mackenzie HAWKESBYMidfielderSydney FC / Football NSW
Winonah HEATLEYDefenderSydney Olympic / Football QLD 
Sarah HUNTERMidfielderAPIA Leichhardt on loan from Sydney FC / Football NSW
Princess IBINI-ISEIForwardAPIA Leichhardt / Football NSW
Sally JAMES Goalkeeper Blacktown Spartans / Capital Football 
Caitlin KARIC ForwardFV Emerging Matildas / Football Victoria 
Abbey LEMONForwardBlacktown Spartans / Football NSW
Chloe LINCOLNGoalkeeperCanberra United Academy / Capital Football
Hana LOWRYMidfielderBlacktown Spartans on loan from Perth Glory / Football West
Matilda McNAMARADefenderAdelaide City FC / Football South Australia
Jessika NASHDefenderBlacktown Spartans / Football NSW
Jamilla RANKINDefenderBlacktown Spartans / NNSW Football
Cushla RUEDefenderSydney University FC / Football NSW 
Amy SAYERMidfielderStanford University / Football NSW
Ella TONKINDefenderNorthern Tigers / Football SA
Jada WHYMANGoalkeeperSydney Olympic / Football NSW
Paige ZOISMidfielderBulleen Lions on loan from Melbourne Victory / Football Victoria

Euros Preview: Netherlands

by Kris Goman (1/7/22)

Above: Netherlands lift the trophy at the end of the 2017 European Championship Final. Photo: AFP.

The defending champions and World Cup runners-up go into the tournament with a coach facing his first major international tournament and on the back of a chastening 5-1 loss to hosts England. Yet, if any team can overcome this and threaten to go all the way, it is the Netherlands.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Sari Van Veenendaal, Barbara Lorgheyd, Daphne Van Domselaar.

Defenders: Aniek Nouwen, Stefanie Van der Gragt, Meral Van Dongen, Lynn Wilms, Caitlin Dijkstra, Dominique Janssen, Damaris Egurrola.

Midfielders: Jill Roord, Sherida Spitse, Danielle Van De Donk, Victoria Pelova, Jackie Groenen, Kerstin Casparij, Marisa Olislagers

Forwards: Lineth Beerensteyn, Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens, Renate Jansen, Romee Leuchter, Esmee Brugts.

The Head Coach:

Above: Netherlands head coach Mark Parsons. Photo: Rico Brouwer / Soccrates

Mark Parsons is a 35-year-old English coach who has spent his entire professional career coaching women. He spent six years at the helm of Chelsea Women Reserves before moving to the United States where his career flourished.  He was with DC United Women U20s and Washington Spirit Reserves before taking the head job at Washington Spirit in 2013, leading them to the playoffs in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. At the end of 2015, he took the head coach role at Portland Thorns where he really made his mark.

In 2016 he won the NWSL Shield but lost in the final to Western New York Flash. He was awarded the NWSL Coach of the Year that year. In 2017 Thorns won the NWSL Championship, beating North Carolina Courage in the final 1-0. In 2021 they won the NWSL Community Shield and in 2021, the NWSL Challenge Cup.

He accepted the Netherlands National Team Head Coach role in May 2021 but continued to coach the Thorns until the end of the season, splitting his time between the two teams, before moving back to England. That’s clearly been a challenge and he’s quoted as saying that the coaching is easy, “the difference is the time, which now means you have to be unbelievably efficient. The detailed planning has to be immense, I am still learning how to be more efficient”.

Being on the right side of the pond now and being available full time should make that task a little easier but with the Netherlands being the current Euro title holders, the expectations are extremely high. The recent thrashing by England means there’s still a lot of work to do and he’s said, “We will not be ready at the beginning of this tournament to win it. But the idea is we don’t have to be ready to win it at the beginning, we just have to be good enough to beat Sweden and Portugal and Switzerland.” Meeting Sweden first means he’s really going to have his work cut out for him.

Euros History:

Above: Netherlands fans celebrate their nation’s victory at the 2017 Euros. Photo: John Thys/AFP.

The Oranje Leeuwinnen (Orange Lionesses) come into this tournament as the reigning title holders from the 2017 Euros under Sarina Wiegman. This tournament was last held in the Netherlands in front of a home crowd. They’ve made it to the finals twice, before bowing out to England in the semis in 2009 and not making it out of the group stages in 2013. They made the round of 16 in the 2015 World Cup, losing to Japan, and the finals of the 2019 World Cup, losing to the all-conquering USWNT. They lost again to the USWNT in the quarter-finals at the 2020 Olympic Games.

They are currently ranked fourth in the world and the 2017 Euros win is their only major tournament win, but it changed the way their country looked at women’s football. The team are genuine superstars now and recognised in the street in their home country. One of the enduring images of the 2017 Euros is the thousands of Oranje fans bouncing side to side down the street. The scenes in Utrecht as the squad travelled through the city on canal boats was something to behold. A sea of orange is an understatement.

Lieke Martens won Player of the Tournament and went on to win UEFA Best Women’s Player of the Year and FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. Sarina Wiegman also was named FIFA Coach of the Year. But the biggest honour was to be made Knights of the Order of the Orange Nassau presented by King Willem-Alexander for those who have “earned special merits for society”.

Qualifying

The Netherlands have qualified convincingly for this tournament, winning every match along the way with the following results: Turkey: 3-0 home, 8-0 away, Slovenia: 4-1 home, 4-2 away, Estonia: 7-0 home, 7-0 away, Russia: 2-0 home, 1-0 away, Kosovo: 6-0 home, 6-0 away.

Strengths

The Netherlands is a small country but has a rich footballing culture and history. That is now extended to the women’s team and they are now a powerhouse in the women’s game. The concept of total football, popularised by coach Rinus Michels with Johan Cruyff as the main exponent, is tailored to the women’s game.

There’s been a conscious decision to invest in the women’s game at all levels and it’s paying big dividends. Dutch culture is much more accepting of women’s football than most other countries and they’ve invested in the amateur leagues, raising the standard overall. Just this month the Dutch football governing body, KNVB, agreed to equal pay between the men’s and women’s national teams and it will go into effect from 1st July 2022 in time for the European Championship.

As for the team themselves, there is still a solid core from the last Euros and they have strengths in every area – goalkeeping, defence, midfield, and up front. They are quite a tall team so have an aerial advantage often. They are technical, fast, and know each other well. Combined with significant depth, they are a force to be reckoned with. The clubs they play for reads like a who’s who of the top Euro teams.

Development Areas

The one missing key is the time with the new coach and his systems. In the match against England they were exposed in defence. With Miedema not playing, although they scored first, they looked a little lost once they went behind and never recovered. Once Spitse missed the penalty, it was all over for the Dutch. Maybe they need to toughen up a little mentally but England was able to split the defence and deliver a good hiding. They’ll need to recover from that and change tactics to succeed at this Euros.

Key Player:

Above: Dutch superstar Vivianne Miedema. Photo: Instagram.

With a team full of superstars, it’s hard to pick just one but Vivianne Miedema has to be that person. The Arsenal striker has scored more goals for her country than any other person, men included. At only 25 years of age, she’s scored 92 goals in 109 caps. She holds a slew of goal-scoring records and is the top scorer in the FAWSL. Sam Kerr is arguably her only rival in the women’s game.

One to Watch

There’s a heap of players to watch but I’m going to say Danielle Van de Donk, mostly because I love watching her. She’s a feisty little nugget and won’t back down from any challenge. She’s guaranteed to get a few yellows but also create chances and may even sneak in a goal or two. Another reason to watch is that she’s just back from an ACL injury that kept her out of most of her first season with Olympique Lyonnais and she’s raring to go. 

Keep an eye on Lieke Martens too. Another playmaker who’s just left Barcelona to play with PSG. Anything can happen when she’s got the ball.

Prediction:

The Netherlands should go deep in this tournament and get through to the final. It should be the Netherlands and Sweden that make it out of Group C but of course anything can happen at these sorts of tournaments so expect some upsets.

Group Fixtures:

9th July: Sweden, 8pm, Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

13th July: Portugal, 5pm, Leigh Sports Village, Leigh.

17th July: Switzerland, 5pm, Bramall Lane, Sheffield.

Impetus is previewing a different nation every day between now and the start of the European Championships. Click below to read the previously published articles:

FRANCE – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/25/euros-preview-france/

AUSTRIA – by Jorge Ceron: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/26/euros-preview-austria/

GERMANY – by Johnathan Stack: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/- https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/

ICELAND – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/28/euros-preview-iceland/

SPAIN – by Nathan Edwards: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/29/euros-preview-spain/

FINLAND – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/30/euros-preview-finland/

The Players Needed A Rest

Impetus’ Kieran Yap reflects on a challenging week for Australia, and considers what can be taken from two tough encounters against Spain and Portugal (30/6/22).

Above: The Matildas team that started the game against Spain. It was a very tough game to watch. Photo: Football Australia.

I’ll be honest. From a Matildas perspective, it has been a flattening week. I am sad that they lost 7-0 to Spain, I am slightly disappointed that they could not defeat Portugal, and I am sad that the manager’s future is under question. But in the end, this might be a small price to pay to avoid calamity. The players needed a rest.

Finding opportunities to play European opposition is increasingly difficult. They play competitive internationals almost all year round. Between World Cup qualifying, and Euros there is little opportunity for exhibition games on the continent. Australia, like the USWNT can only meet them on their terms, which is rare.

It is unfortunate that this came at the end of the European season. Had the available window been in April. It would have been easy for our English-based guns to jump on a quick flight, battle it out with Spain and Portugal, then fly back to club land. But the Netherlands and Mexico had already organized to play the Spanish in that international window.

The result of this was players reaching the end of a tough couple of years, and needing a break.

Since 2020, the core group of familiar Matildas has moved across the world during a pandemic, adjusted to a new league, played in an Olympic Games, an Asian Cup (Both under strict quarantine rules), then completed very demanding European seasons.

Above: Sam Kerr – who was able to return to Western Australia for the first time in over two years after being given a much-needed rest after a relentless few years. Photo: Kris Goman for Impatus.

In between this, they have attended national team camps, and flown back to Australia to play the USA, Brazil, and New Zealand. A rest in the middle of all of that might have helped, but a rest at the end of all of that would still have been required.

This particularly applies to star striker Sam Kerr. It is true that her Chelsea teammates have continued to play internationals. But unlike them, she has been separated from her family in Perth for almost two years. In the time since she moved to Chelsea in early 2020, she has played 40 times for the club and 20 times for Australia, often for 90 minutes.

The facts are, she is not alone. This is the first real chance for an off-season in some of these players’ entire careers. Before they moved to Europe, players like Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord moved from W-League to NWSL and back.

The senior players that did make the squad for Spain were ones that had spent an entire 2020/21 A-League Women’s season at home. Emily Gielnik, Clare Polkinghorne, and Tameka Yallop all have spent slightly less time abroad than the others, with Katrina Gorry only relatively recently moving to Norway.

They still had something left in the tank for Portugal and Spain, but may need a breather before 2023.

Above: Princess Ibini, one of the top A-League Women players in recent seasons, scored the Matildas’ only goal of this international window. Photo: Football Australia.

It is true that some foresight may have prevented an inexperienced squad being called upon. But that might have taken planning around fatigue over a year in advance. If anybody was to be asked how they will be feeling physically and mentally next June, it would be a guess at best.

In essence, the scheduling of the Spain game was a gamble. If our top players had been available, it was a great opportunity to test themselves against the best. As it happens they were not, so others were called upon.

In stepped some of the best up-and-coming players on the verge of national team selection. It was always a big ask to throw them into a contest with the world’s greatest side, and the question being asked is, what was to gain?

Only time will tell on that, but some important players have their first caps, and Jamilla Rankin will probably now be even better prepared for the Under 20 World Cup in August.

None of this makes 7-0 easy to watch, but this was a line-up of eleven players that had never played together as a unit. The thrashing against Spain was poor, but both the manager and players were clear on the objective coming into the match, and it was not to win at all costs.

This was not Spain’s best side, and this was not Australia’s best side. The frightening thing about this game was not the score, or the performance. It was the gap between the very best domestic players and international football. Although we all knew it was possible, it was still difficult to watch in real-time.

Above: Charli Grant – her performances were a major plus in this international window. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

These games were not a write-off. Out of it, we have determined that Charli Grant really is ready for international level. She was exceptional across two 90-minute games for the first time in her Matildas career.

Emily Gielnik has struggled for form for club and country in the past year, and her performance against Portugal should give her a boost of confidence. If Gielnik can find her best form she adds a new dimension to Australia’s attack.

However, as frustrating as the two matches may have been, there was no point pushing players mentally and physically. It has been a tough two years for almost everybody on the planet. The senior Matildas have spent more time than most of us in quarantines, and in airports travelling anywhere and everywhere but home.

They have been doing press conferences in masks and spent Olympic games trapped in hotels, while the rest of us yell advice from our couches and go back to bed as soon as the game is over.

They needed a rest. if the price of longevity in this team is a bad loss in a meaningless friendly. That seems affordable.

Above: Australia’s Courtney Nevin in action against Portugal. Photo: Football Australia.

Euros Preview: Finland

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset (30/6/22).

Above: Finland celebrate qualifying for the European Championships. Photo: Emmi Korhonen.

The Finland women’s national football team is known or nicknamed as the “Boreal Owls” (Helmarit in Finnish). They are currently 28th in FIFA’s Women’s World Ranking list.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Katriina Talaslahti, Anna Tamminen, Tinja-Riikka Korpela.

Defenders: Elli Pikkujämsä, Tuija Hyyrynen, Emma Koivisto, Anna Auvinen, Nora Heroum, Natalia Kuikka, Anna Westerlund.

Midfielders: Ria Öling, Olga Ahtinen, Juliette Kemppi, Emmi Alanen, Jenny Danielsson, Essi Sainio, Eveliina Summanen.

Forwards: Adelina Engman, Heidi Kollanen, Sanni Franssi, Linda Sällström, Amanda Rantanen, Jutta Rantala.

The Head Coach:

Above: Anna Signuel, Finland’s head coach pictured during her time in charge of Scotland’s national team. Photo: Wikipedia.

Anna Signeul, 61, from Sweden has been Finland’s head coach since 2017. Her 20-year club career saw her make 240 appearances in the Damallsvenskan, but although called up for several Swedish national squads, never earned an international cap. Signuel began coaching in 1981 whilst playing at IK Brage. She additionally went on to coach Strömsbro IF (twice), IK Sätra, and Tyresö FF at club level. Between 1994 and 2006, Signuel took charge of Sweden’s U16 and U18 squads before being appointed as Scotland’s head coach in 2005 where she remained for 12 years.

She had great success with the Scots, taking them to the play-offs for Euro 2009 and qualification for Euro 2017. During her spell in charge, which also saw Signuel take responsibility for the development of the women’s game at all levels, Scotland were ranked 20th in the world, their highest ever standing. She left to take over as Finland’s head coach in 2017.

Euros History:

Above: The Finland team that made the semi-finals at the 2005 European Championships. Photo: Alamy/Action Images.

Three previous appearances in Euro: 2005, 2009, and 2013. Their best result was a semi-final place in 2005.

Qualifying:

Finland topped Group E with seven wins and a draw. The only game they failed to win was a 1-1 draw against qualifying rivals Portugal. They also earned two 1-0 victories over Scotland en route.

Strengths:

Finland’s players have nothing to lose and will fight as a team. They have always had an excellent team spirit. There are few star players, but Finland plays very uniformly and in an organized way, which is typical of all Finnish national teams in different sports. There are also a lot of experienced players who have almost all known each other for a long time.

Development Areas:

Most players have little international experience at the highest level. Only a few players played in one of the strongest championships in Europe. Most of the players play in Sweden, a few in England and only two players play in Finnish league.

Key Players:

Above: Finland’s former Chelsea player Adelina Engman. Photo: Suomen Palloiitto.

Adelina Engman, Forward, 27 years old, Hammarby IF, Sweden. Ten goals in 77 national team games, Engman spent two years in the FAWSL with Chelsea where she scored three goals in 13 games before departing for Montpellier.

Linda Sällström: Forward, 33 years old, Vittsjö GIK, Sweden, 12 goals. 115 games played in Finnish National team. She played 12 games in D1 Arkema in France’s top league with Paris FC in 2019/20 and scored 4 goals.

Ria Öling: Midfielder, 27 years old, FC Rosengård, Sweden, 57 games played in Finnish National team.

Anna Westerlund: Defender, 33 years old, Åland United, Finland, 141 games played in Finnish National team, this is more than any Finnish football player in history.

Natalia Kuikka: Defender, 26 years old, Portland Thorns FC, USA, 67 games played for the Finnish National team.

One To Watch:

Above: Katriina Talaslahti preventing Ada Hegerberg scoring for Olympique Lyonnais at Fleury. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Katriina Talaslahti, 21 years old, with one cap so far, is a hugely promising young goalkeeper. Talaslahti played with Bayern München from 2017-2019 before joining Olympique Lyonnais in 2019. She moved on to Fleury in 2021 where she established herself as their as number one goalkeeper. With Fleury this season, Talaslahti kept 11 clean sheets in France’s top flight D1 Arkema as the team finished fourth as well as making the semi-finals in France Cup against Paris Saint-Germain.

Speaking exclusively to me, just over a week ago, a very calm Talaslahti said: “I feel good and excited, and I think it will be a very interesting trip and tournament. You never know what is going to happen in a tournament and it is very nice to be in the group. I hope I will play in the Euros, and I will train hard to be a starter. We are in a hard group, and it will be difficult, but we will play our best and see what is comes.”

The young Finnish goalkeeper is ready to take the starting position during the Euros if head coach Anna Signuel gives it to her.

Prediction:

Finland are in a very difficult group with Germany (4th FIFA ranking), Spain (7th FIFA ranking), and Denmark (15th FIFA ranking). I do not think that they could do better than third and for that they will have to provide an outstanding performance against Denmark. It is difficult but it is possible as Katriina Talaslahti, Finland’s goalkeeper, used to say.

Group Fixtures:

8th July: Spain, 5pm, Stadium MK, Milton Keynes.

12th July: Denmark, 5pm, Stadium MK, Milton Keynes.

16th July: Germany, 8pm, Stadium MK, Milton Keynes.

Impetus is previewing a different nation every day between now and the start of the European Championships. Click below to read the previously published articles:

FRANCE – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/25/euros-preview-france/

AUSTRIA – by Jorge Ceron: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/26/euros-preview-austria/

GERMANY – by Johnathan Stack: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/- https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/27/euros-preview-germany/

ICELAND – by Kris Goman: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/28/euros-preview-iceland/

SPAIN – by Nathan Edwards: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/29/euros-preview-spain/

Euros Preview: Spain

by Nathan Edwards (29/6/22).

Above: Spain – one of the favoured nations at this year’s competition. Photo: GOAL.

With the groups set out and the squads revealed, the Women’s 2022 Euro Championship has started to take shape, and for Spain, there is a quiet optimism surrounding the camp heading into the competition.

In recent seasons, Spain have had huge success at club level, with Barcelona building on their 2020-21 treble-winning season by winning their 14th consecutive league title unbeaten this season. Within La Blaugranes there is a strong Spanish core, that La Roja coach Jorge Vilda has the luxury to choose from.

In his provisional squad for the Euros, which is held in England, Vilda has called upon 10 Barcelona players including, Ballon d’Or winner, Alexia Putellas.

Originally the former Spanish youth team coach announced 11 Barcelona players in his squad, but lethal striker, Jennifer Hermoso will miss the tournament due to a knee injury.

Her absence meant that Claudia Zornoza returned to the squad, after the Real Madrid midfielder was notably omitted from the squad, with 18-year-old Salma Paralluelo, who made her Villarreal debut in January against EDF Logrono, rewarded with a first senior call-up.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Sandra Panos (Barcelona), Lola Gallardo (Atletico Madrid), Misa Rodriguez (Real Madrid).

Defenders: Irene Paredes (Barcelona), Maria Leon (Barcelona), Leila Ouahabi (Barcelona), Andrea Pereira (Barcelona), Ivana Andres (Real Madrid), Ona Batlle (Manchester United), Laia Aleixandri (Atletico Madrid), Olga Carmona (Real Madrid), Sheila Garcia (Atletico Madrid), Ainhoa Vicente Moraza (Athletic Club).

Midfielders: Alexia Putellas (Barcelona), Mariona Caldentey (Barcelona), Patri Guijarro (Barcelona), Aitana Bonmati (Barcelona), Irene Guerrero (Levante), Nerea Eizagirre (Real Sociedad), Teresa Abelleira (Real Madrid), Claudia Zornoza (Real Madrid).

Forwards: Lucia Garcia (Athletic Club), Esther Gonzalez (Real Madrid), Marta Cardona (Real Madrid), Amaiur Sarriegi (Real Sociedad), Athenea del Castillo (Real Madrid), Claudia Pina (Barcelona), Salma Paralluelo (Villarreal).

The Coach:

Above: Jorge Vilda, Spain’s head coach. Photo: AFP.

Jorge Vilda has experienced all levels of the Spanish women’s national team, first managing La Roja’s under 17 for five years, where he led his country to two victorious Euro campaigns, before taking charge of Spain’s under 19 in 2014, the same year he was nominated for FIFA’s Women Coach of the Year. In 2015, he succeeded Ignacio Quereda as the senior women’s head coach and has established many of the players he worked with at youth level as regular inclusions within the squad, including Putellas, Lola Gallardo, and Patri Guijarro. His greatest success with La Rojas, so far, was in the 2020 She Believes Cup, beating England to finish second to the United States, with the 40-year-old looking to go one step further in this international competition.

Euros History:

Despite being touted as contenders for the tournament, Spain’s pedigree within the Women’s Euros isn’t rich, reaching their sole semi-final 25 years ago. Since that defeat to Italy, they have only managed to get to two quarter-finals, both of them coming in the last two editions of the tournament.

In recent years Spain have found huge amounts of success domestically, with Barcelona Femeni filling their trophy cabinet with league and cups over the past decade, as well as finding prosperous talents and turning them into some of the world’s best. Despite all this success at club level, La Roja have struggled to replicate that form internationally, and are often seen as perennially underachievers and unable to turn domestic triumphs into national glory.

But as Euro 2022 draws closer, Jorge Vilda’s side head to England quietly confident and with the aim to go further than they ever had before, and create some more moments, like these three, in Europe’s most prestigious competition.

Spain 2–1 England, European Qualifier First Leg Play-off, 8th September 1996 – Although not technically a Euro’s match, but a play-off match, that if victorious would help La Roja take a step closer to an inaugural Euros campaign.

But before they caught a flight to Sweden, they first entered the field at Montilla, in Southern Spain, to face England, who already had some European pedigree, after featuring in the tournament that presided the 1997 edition. Despite the European experience and prize on the line, Spain were not fazed and struck first through Prieto Ibanez, eight minutes in.

The early goal put Spain on their way, as they gained a grip of the first play-off game, Ibanez struck again the other side of the break, with Hope Powell halving the deficit with 26 minutes to go. Spain won on home soil and flew to England to hold onto a draw that saw them reach their first Euro competition.

Spain 1 – 0 Russia, European Championship Group Stage, 5th July 1997, After battling past England, Spain were handed France, Russia and Sweden in Group A. La Roja’s maiden game against Les Blues, ended in a draw, followed by a narrow defeat to European regulars, Sweden, which balanced the group nicely for Spain, knowing a win against Russia, would see them through to the knockout stages at the first time of trying.

Above: Veronica Boquete – Spanish legend who scored against England in 2013. Photo: Minas Panagiotakis.

Manager Ignacio Quereda lined up a similar team to their match against England, and saw a similar result in Karlskoga, as Maria Parejo got the sole goal of the game to send Spain through to face Italy and pick up their first victory in the Euros.

England 2-3 Spain, European Championship Group Stage, 12th July 2013 – Since that defeat to Italy in 1997, Spain’s senior women’s side had botched multiple opportunities to get to the Euros, until 16 years later when they returned to Sweden to pick up their first win in the tournament since the turn of the century in dramatic fashion.

After eight minutes, Eni Aluko dragged the Lionesses level, after Veronica Boquete opened the scoring four minutes earlier, and it wasn’t until 81 minutes after the former PSG player’s early strike, that the game found a new lease of life.

The clinical Jennifer Hermoso reacted quickest to Silvia Meseguer’s deflected shot to fire in, only for England to fight back with one minute left on the clock. Anita Asante cushioned the ball into Laura Bassett’s path to guide it in, but La Roja wasn’t knocked back and three minutes into added time Putellas header sent Spain fans into pandemonium after a 16-year absence from the tournament.

Similarly, to their 1997 campaign they reached the knockout stage but fell short once again and this time became the victims of a stoppage-time winner by Ada Hegerberg and Norway.

And heading into this tournament Vilda will be hoping to create more history by coaching them to a first Euro knockout victory in England this summer.

Qualifying:

Although they have underachieved on the international stage, La Roja flexed their muscles in the qualification phase, winning nine and drawing one as they comfortably finished top of Group D, six points clear of the Czech Republic. They racked up some big results on their way. Esther Gonzalez and Hermoso both scored five goals as they whacked Azerbaijan 13-0 away, whilst also beating Moldova 19-0 over two games. The five-goal haul by Barcelona’s striker saw her finish as the side’s top goal scorer in qualification, as Vilda will need to find a solution to replace Hermoso’s goalscoring talent.

Strengths:

The side line-up in a 4-3-3 formation that allows them to dominate possession, in the classic ‘tiki-taka’ style. With this, they are going to be one of the most enjoyable teams to watch, and with Putelas, Gonzalez, and Claudia Pina the Spain squad is full of entertainers.

Development Area:

The fact that their top goal scorer in qualification will miss the tournament is the biggest area of concern for Vilda. It will be difficult to replace what Hermoso offers, not just with her threat in the final third but, collecting 91 caps for Spain, the striker offers a wealth of experience, and the Spanish fans will be hoping that the Barcelona core can transfer their winning mentality over across to the national team.

Key Player:

Above: Spain’s superstar Alexia Putellas. Photo: Jose Luis Contreras/DAX Images/NurPhoto.

Alexia Putellas. Currently UEFA Women’s Player of the Year, Putellas has been the instrumental focal point in Barcelona’s dominance. The midfielder has all the traits needed to succeed in the middle of the park, dictating play, whilst also having a killer instinct when it comes to playing a defence-splitting pass or when she finds herself with an opportunity to score. The 28-year-old is also deadly from set-pieces, with the ability to combine her powerful strikes with precision, she will add an extra advantage to Spain’s attack.

One To Watch:

Claudia Pina. One of Putellas’ teammates at Barcelona, Pina returned from her loan spell at Sevilla last season, ready for the challenge at Barca, which she has battled successfully. Injuries to Mariona Caldentey and Lieke Martens gave the 20-year-old a pathway into the starting line-up and she has impressed. 15 league goals along with 11 assists is an impressive return for any professional, and there is more to her game than just these stats.

The diminutive midfielder is always busy searching for areas to become a goal threat, and being a forward player her ability to keep control of the ball in tight areas helps Barcelona and Spain function. This will be her first senior tournament with La Roja and after a successful breakout season, Pina will look to build on that in England.

Prediction:

Semi-Finals. Drawn in the group of death, against Germany, Finland, and Denmark, it will be an early test for Vilda’s side but if they manage to fight their way through, then La Roja will be confident they can beat anyone. The teams they are likely to face in the quarter-finals are Norway or England, and with the English crowd, Vilda will be keen to avoid the Lionesses – although to do that they are likely to have to win the group. With the squad flooded with talent, though, Spain will be looking forward to what could be a fruitful tournament for them.

Group Fixtures:

8th July: Finland, 8pm, Stadium MK, Milton Keynes.

12th July: Germany, 8pm, Brentford Community Stadium, London.

16th July: Denmark, 8pm, Brentford Community Stadium, London.

Gustavsson: Post-Portugal I’ve Got Answers

Martin Townley and Ben Gilby heard from Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson after last night’s 1-1 draw with Spain (29/6/22).

Above: Tony Gustavsson addresses the media from Portugal last night. Photo: Football Australia.

Prior to the Matildas’ double header in this international window against Spain and Portugal, head coach Tony Gustavsson said that he needed answers. 

His side was without a large number of established stars meaning his focus was to be on training and performances during the camp. 

Last night’s 1-1 draw with Portugal saw Princess Ibini score her first international goal just after halftime. Gustavsson was impressed with her contribution coming on from the bench – not just in terms of the goal, but also what she offered with her runs.

“Princess Ibini, who comes off the bench, has some unique skill sets. What we’re pleased with her is that she committed to run without the ball in this camp, both in training and in the game. 

“We knew what she can do with the ball. We’ve seen that in the A-League. She also commits to run more without the ball balls defensively, and in behind the back find like the goal today, for example, was a run empty run on the back post 30, 40 metres to score that goal.”

This camp however was not just about giving experience to new players as the Matildas coach also admitted that he was learned more about his wider squad.

“It’s not just about the new and younger ones. We tested (the others), playing Clare Wheeler in different roles to get answers on those players. We tested some of the backline players that have been with us for a while both in the back five and a back four both on the left and right-hand side. So, in that sense, I think we’ve gotten a lot of answers.”

“I’ve got a lot of answers on the individual players for sure. Not just from games but from training. We’ve seen some players perform good at clubland. And we have gotten an answer that some of their performances club land have been challenging to bring to the Matildas training environment because everything here is much faster.

“This is so much faster even though the tempo in the training camp this time around have not been the same as it normally is due to the lack of a lot of key international players. But still, it’s been a huge step for a few of them. But we think it’s good that they got exposed to it.

Despite feeling he has some positive answers Gustavsson, has faced criticism from some quarters for a lack of a consistent tactical approach and stating some of his players are not up to speed with international football.

Above: Lessons learned and answers gained according to Tony Gustavsson. Photo: Football Australia.

“I’m trying to be as consistent as I can with the players available in camp. In this second game, we went back to normal 4-3-3. We tried to be brave on the ball even though we knew it was going to be difficult and challenging against Portugal.

“I think they dominated us with the defending and not with the possession, but we tried to play out through that pressure and I thought we saw a lot of technical mistakes.

“We wanted to try to be ourselves in that sense more in this game even though we knew it was a tough game against Portugal

“I think what surprised me a little bit today like I said is that we struggled in the centre of the park with some of the more experienced and technical players that took too long on the ball and get dispossessed a lot.

“The Portugal aggressive pressing was better than our passing in that central area. So, I would like to see us improve in that sense.”

Gustavsson went on to say that with experienced players missing he didn’t have a team on the field that matched Australia’s ranking of 12th in the world. 

“Again, I think it’s the result that a lot of people think just looking at the rankings and look at the teams would say it’s a 12 ranked team against a 20-something ranked team that should win this game.

“What I ask then, is did we have a 12-ranked team on the field today? “That’s not to criticise the players. It’s where they are at and the lack of experience that we have in this team.”

When questioned about how this could affect the confidence of the players Gustavsson was quick to defend his methods. “I’m not criticising the players. But I’m saying that what I even said was, it’s unfair to expect these players to come out and win against Spain.

“I think it’s unfair because they’re coming from an environment where they’re not ready for it. And it’s not saying hey, you’re bad, you’re not good enough. It’s saying the environment you’re in right now has not made you ready for this type of international top-level football. But we brought you here because we think you can get ready for it, and when you get this experience and bring that back home to training.”

Wales And Ferns Share The Spoils

Wales 0-0 New Zealand (in Pinatar, Spain)

by Martin Townley (29/6/22)

Above: Combative action between Wales and New Zealand yesterday. Photo: PhotoSport NZ.

Wales and New Zealand played out a goalless draw on a sunny evening in Spain.  In a competitive encounter, both teams created chances despite not being at their best. 

Indeed, the Football Ferns could have taken the win through Grace Jale late on if not for a fine save from Laura O’Sullivan in the Wales goal. It was a New Zealand side who fielded some of the young stars from Wellington Phoenix’s inaugural A-League Women season with the Jale joined by team-mate Kate Taylor on the bench.

A goalless first half saw a combination of shaky play and chances. New Zealand enjoyed more spells of possession, but Wales always had opportunities.

The first chance of the game came from a quick Wales counterattack.  Kayleigh Green found Rachel Rowe on the left.  Rowe played the ball across the six-yard box but the advancing Ceri Holland, but she could not connect. 

Annalie Longo could have put New Zealand ahead after a poor defensive pass from Hayley Ladd.  Ladd played the ball across her own box gifting possession to Longo but under pressure, her shot went off a Welsh player and wide. 

Rhiannon Roberts found Angharad James with a cross from the right.  James struck the ball from the edge of the area, but her effort was deflected and never a danger for Esson’s goal.

Above: Wales captain looks on in Pinatar as her team faced New Zealand. Photo: FAW.

Sophie Ingle began to try and pull the strings for Wales putting a sublime pass into Natasha Harding to set her though but pulled her shot across goal. 

The Ferns had two great opportunities to go ahead before the break. First, Perth Glory’s Liz Anton who latched onto the ball on the edge of the box and unleashed a shot that looked to be heading into the top corner.  O’Sullivan was across goal to push the ball over the bar and keep the score at 0-0. 

Soon after, Katie Bowen found Meilayla Moore free who headed over the bar when if she had headed down would have likely given her side the lead.

New Zealand began the second half quicker than their opposition, making crisp passing moves and forcing Wales to play in their own half. 

Above: Possession was keenly contested in Pinatar. Photo: PhotoSport NZ.

Gemma Evans was forced to concede a corner as Sydney FC star Paige Satchell was working towards the box.  From the corner, Wales tried to clear but the ball fell to Rebekah Stott who fired a shot over the bar. 

Ceri Holland had a chance for Wales after an error let her in.  Seeing Victoria Esson slightly off her line she went for a lob, but the keeper made an easy save. 

New Zealand were looking the better side and a good cross in from the right forced Laura O’Sullivan to punch away.  With the keeper out of position, Olivia Chance fired at goal but Roberts was back to clear. 

With time running down, New Zealand almost took the win as Jacqui Hand met a cross from the right from Grace Jale with a bullet header.  O’Sullivan reacted quickly with a fine save putting the ball over the bar.

Teams: WALES: O’Sullivan, Roberts, Ladd, Evans, Rowe, Sophie Ingle, James, Jones, Harding, Green, Holland. Substitutes used: Green, Morgan, Filbey, Woodham, Wynn, Ward.

Above: The Welsh team that started the match against New Zealand yesterday. Photo: FAW.

NEW ZEALAND: Esson, Anton, Bunge, Moore, Stott, Bowen, Chance, Steinmetz, Longo, Satchell, Wilkinson. Substitutes used: Green, Taylor, Hand, Jale, Hassett, Rennie.

Above: The Football Ferns side that started against Wales. Photo: NZ Football.

Gustavsson And Grant Reflect And Look Ahead

Ahead of tonight’s friendly in Portugal, Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Australia’s head coach Tony Gustavsson and Charli Grant who put in an impressive performance in difficult circumstances against Spain on Saturday (28/6/22).

Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson facing the media today. Photo: Football Australia.

“It Surprises Me That People Are Surprised”: Gustavsson On Reaction To Spain Loss.

Listening to today’s pre-game media conference with Tony Gustavsson ahead of the game with Portugal, two key elements came to the fore.

Frustration, and a desire to re-set people’s mindsets.

Frustration that he was not able to field the sort of team he originally wanted to against Spain. Frustration that people haven’t quite understood the reality of the situation he and his players faced. There was also a desire in his words for those around the women’s game in Australia to focus on developing a stronger platform or pathway for players to come through who are more prepared for the increasing challenges of international football.

“It has surprised me that people are surprised (by the result against Spain). If you follow the women’s game, see where Spain are, and what they have done, if you look at their scorelines against Scotland (8-0) and you look at the team that we brought to play them, it surprises me that people are surprised. That’s where we are, and we need to be OK to see the truth here, and keep investing, keep believing, and want to improve.

“I as a coach always want the best team available when we play the best teams. When we realised what would happen for this match, I had to decide whether I say as a coach ‘no, we have to have everyone available regardless’, or I look at the longer-term issues. So then you change perspective for the camp. You think about how we can get benefits from it.

“It’s about looking at the depth of the roster in terms of where we are now, and then look at the players and get them the experience (so they) know what it’s like and what it takes to be ready for this level when you are next called in. Whether that means an individual training program, a more challenging environment to play in, or looking for more games for the players over a 12-month period…remember The Gap Report stated our players are not playing enough games over a year.”

Above: Katrina Gorry – one of the positives in the defeat to Spain – and an example of a player who has moved overseas to get more games at a consistently higher level. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Gustavsson reiterated his argument first raised in his post-match media conference that the second half, where the Matildas conceded six goals, saw him field a team containing “four players playing NPL and another playing college football”. Whilst at the present time this is factually correct, it is disingenuous, and easy meat for Gustavsson’s critics to pounce on.

Those playing NPL in the Matildas squad right now are all players with extensive A-League Women experience. The college footballer, Amy Sayer, has played 21 matches at W-League/A-League Women level. They are not just players he has plucked from state football and put straight from there into international football.

Gustavsson went on to be brutally honest by saying that as a result of playing a second half with these players, “You know you are going to lose, and it is a question of how many goals. It tells us where we are right now with those players and the pathway we have. We need to keep investing in these players to give them the best chance of going from clubland to international football. At the moment, that jump is too big for them.”

Effectively, the argument that A-League Women players should be more actively looking to play in strong competitions outside of the top domestic league calendar is a good one, but it has got slightly lost in the way Gustavsson chose to raise it.

The head coach then looked to raise the spectre of a necessary change in thinking about the way the whole Australian women’s football system needs to change to prepare players for top-level action.

“A senior national team should not be looking at developing players. It should be looking at the tip of the iceberg and everything else that happens in clubland and other areas of development pathways should be about making them ready for international football. That is where we need to invest and develop.

Above: Tony Gustavsson admitted he is being scrutinised and being held accountable, but also highlighted the longer-term issues in the women’s game in Australia that this camp has raised. Photo: Football Australia.

“When it comes to reputation, all I can say is that my name as a coach will be scrutinised. Sometimes, a reality check even if it hurts, can be healthy for the long term. Short term it really hurts – for players, the media, fans, coaches, and staff, but in the long run, maybe it is what we need.

“I will never stop believing in this team, but we need to be fair on what we can expect and at what time we can expect it.”

Gustavsson also recognised that he is in the firing line and emphasised that he is held accountable after every national camp.

“After each camp, we review internally. We need to think about what we learned rather than what went wrong. What went wrong is saying we failed and should have done something better, but we always discuss what we learned.”

Moving on to the next challenge, Portugal tonight local time, Gustavsson was clear that there is a lot of work to be done.

“Portugal play in a very different way to Spain, and so our preparations have involved more individual meetings with players on top of a training session. It’s all about getting the players mentally ready as well as physically ready.

Above: The Matildas training in Portugal this week. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“We have tried to look at past experience against them. We went back to 2018 in the Algarve Cup when we played them twice – a draw and a loss. We had a much more experienced team then. We have to be humble enough to realise that this will be a tough match too.

“They are peaking for the Euros, and we might see a different formation from us and tactical flexibility.”

The Australia head coach closed by addressing the challenge of filling an Ellie Carpenter-shaped hole in his squad over the coming months.

“Ellie is so professional and mature for her age. We will support her and Lyon with everything we can in her rehab. We need to look for replacements, but it’s not (about) looking for another Ellie.

“We are looking for another outside back or wing-back. We have a few options, play a back three and have wingbacks, or we look at natural replacements like Charlotte Grant. We’ve looked at Cortnee Vine. We can take attacking midfielders back into the position too. We’ll look at one, maybe two options tomorrow.”

Charli Grant: Stepping Up The Levels Of Intensity And Staying Positive

Above: Australia and Rosengård defender Charli Grant speaking earlier today. Photo: Football Australia.

For Charli Grant, opportunities to start for The Matildas have been few and far between. One such opportunity came on Saturday against Spain, and despite the intense pressure, the 20-year-old South Australian put in a great shift.

Reflecting on the experience, Grant said: “It was definitely a tough one. We knew they were one of the favourites for the Euros and it was a great chance for us to play against one of the world’s best teams. We learned a lot from it.

“They are such a high-tempo team and it taught us to make the most of every moment we had on the ball and then be focused when they are on it as you just never know what they are going to do with it. They are so technical and strategic.”

The former Adelaide United star outlined some of the factors behind her strong performance. “As a young defender, I just want to make the most of every opportunity. I had to stay so focused. I had to focus on one thing at a time – each individual thing as it happened. One tackle at a time, one pass at a time. It will definitely help me going into future games.

“It helped me massively being exposed to that sort of game. Going forward as a result, we’re only going to get better from here. We trust the process that Tony has put in for us. I know how much I have improved since I first came into the Matildas last year and my level will only go up going towards the World Cup.”

“I have technically improved and my composure on the ball has improved as well. Being around the girls in the squad has taught me to be a better defender.

“For me, coming from Adelaide United to Rosengård was definitely a step up in terms of (a more) technical (game) and a fast pace. Then going into the national team, that (move to Sweden) definitely helped me to transition. Yet playing against Spain is a whole new level! I was excited to be exposed to it, but it was definitely something that needed to be adjusted to.”

Whilst some may expect young players such as Grant to be adversely impacted confidence-wise after such a heavy loss, the defender feels otherwise. “The result was disappointing, but we can only look at what we can improve from it and put all our focus onto the Portugal game and put things right there.”

Euros Preview: Iceland

by Kris Goman (28/6/22)

Above: Iceland celebrate their qualification for Euro 2022. Photo: Iceland Review.

Iceland, placed 17th in the FIFA World Rankings, are known as Stelpurnar Okkar (Our Girls) and are a small island nation with a population of only just over 370,000 people (slightly more than the English city of Coventry or the Central Coast of NSW). The nation bats well above average in women’s football for its size. Vigdis Finnbogadottir was the world’s first female elected head of state, becoming president in 1980, and Iceland is known for its progressive feminist politics. Icelandic people use Patronymic or Matronymic surnames meaning their surname indicates the first name of their father or mother followed by dottir (daughter) or son (son). So for example, Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir is the daughter of Gunnars.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Telma Ivarsdottir (Breidablik), Cecilia Ran Runarsdottir (Bayern Munich), Sandra Sigurdardottir (Valur).

Defenders: Aslaug Munda Gunnlaugsdottir (Breidablik), Elisa Vidarsdottir (Valur), Glodis Perla Viggosdottir (Bayern Munich), Ingibjorg Sigurdardottir (Valerenga), Gudny Arnadottir (AC Milan), Gudrun Arnardottir (Rosengard), Sif Atladottir (Selfoss), Hallbera Gudny Gisladottir (IFK Kalmar).

Midfielders: Alexandra Johannsdottir (Eintract Frankfurt), Dagny Brynjarsdottir (West Ham United), Karolina Lea Vilhjalmsdottir (Bayern Munich), Selma Sol Magnusdottir (Rosenborg), Gunnhildur Yrsa Jonsdottir (Orlando Pride), Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir (Olympique Lyonnais).

Forwards: Svava Ros Gundmundsdottir (Brann), Berglind Bjorg Thorvaldsdottir (Brann), Agla Maria Albertsdottir (Hacken), Elin Metta Jensen (Valur), Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir (Wolfsburg), Amanda Andradottir (Kristianstads).

The Head Coach:

Above: Thorsteinn Halldorsson, Iceland’s head coach. Photo: Visir.

Thorsteinn Halldorsson was appointed coach in January 2021 After coaching the Breidablik woman’s team since 2014, winning the Icelandic Championship three times and making the final 16 of the Champions League in 2019. He was a successful defender prior to coaching making over 150 appearances in the men’s top division.

Since he’s been their manager, they’ve only lost to the Netherlands and the USA. Iceland have also recorded wins against the likes of Japan, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, and the Czech Republic.

Euros History

Iceland have qualified for three previous Euros, in 2009, 2013, and 2017. They made the quarter-finals in 2013 but lost all their group games in 2009 and 2017.

Qualifying       

Iceland qualified after being runners up in Group F which consisted of four other nations: Sweden, Slovakia, Hungary, and Latvia. Iceland only lost one match – against Sweden in their away match, 2-0. They drew their home match against the Olympic silver medallists 1-1. They recorded the biggest win of the group against Latvia 9-0 and Elin Metta Jensen topped the goal scoring in the group with 6 goals. Their goal difference was +20.

Strengths

Iceland has a good grassroots football scheme that inspires young girls to compete professionally. The small population means that the Icelandic people are just as interested in supporting the women’s team as the men’s, particularly when they do well.

Iceland have prolific scorers in Elin Metta Jensen, Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir. They had a high-scoring run in qualifying and still kept out the likes of Sweden with solid defence. Most of the team play in the Scandinavian and German leagues, with the notable exceptions of Jonsdottir playing for Orlando Pride in the NWSL, Brynjarsdottir playing for West Ham United in the FAWSL and Gunnarsdottir having recently left Olympique Lyonnais in the D1 Arkema for Juventus. Only seven members of the squad play for domestic Icelandic teams giving them wide-ranging experience with their European opponents.

Development Areas:

Iceland have never qualified for a World Cup and have only qualified for the Euros three times before. They’ve had reasonable success in the annual Algarve Cup but they lack big tournament experience. The pressure of this tournament could take its toll on some of the less experienced and younger players.

Key Player:

Above: Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir, a Champions League winner with Olympique Lyonnais before heading to the Euros with Iceland. Photo: OL Feminin.

Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir is the Iceland captain and most successful player. She was a regular starter for Lyon prior to falling pregnant and then having a baby last November. She played again in March and was part of the Champions League-winning team in May. She’s just signed for Juventus for next season and is a calm and strong leader. Her presence will lift the team.

One To Watch:

21-year-old Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir is making a name for herself with Wolfsburg. The team made the semis of the Champions League this year losing to Barcelona so she has some big match experience. She also won the league this year with Wolfsburg. She is fast, technical, and brave.

Prediction

France are likely to win their group but Iceland could get to the quarter-finals. Italy are becoming stronger and stronger of late but Iceland have a solid, experienced squad and it’s certainly not inconceivable they could get through. It’s unlikely they’d get any further though.

Group Fixtures

10th July: Belgium, 5pm, Academy Stadium, Manchester.

14th July: Italy, 5pm, Academy Stadium, Manchester.

18th July: France, 8pm, New York Stadium, Rotherham.

Matildas Analysis: Seven Levels Of Huelva

by Jonathan Tay (27/6/22)

Above: Post-match scenes after Australia’s 7-0 defeat to Spain. Photo: Football Australia.

It’s the 90th minute.

Claire Polkinghorne, standing near her own penalty spot, is surrounded by the youthful trio of Courtney Nevin, Taylor Ray, and Charli Grant.

Having just conceded their seventh goal, there’s a pause, as all three turn towards the veteran defender, looking for an answer.

All Polkinghorne can offer is a trudge, head-bowed, back to her position for another kick-off.

It’d be easy to write this match off as “the Matildas rested seven key players against Spain, the favourites for the Euros”. But there are a number of takeaways and implications for the bigger picture, on this challenging road toward the World Cup 2023.

“Controlling” the space against uncontrollable Spain

Australia Head coach Tony Gustavsson spoke in his pre-match press conference about being able to “control the game without the ball”. 

Against a possession-dominant and imperious Spain, they would have to compromise; could the Matildas control the spaces where they would allow their opposition to have the ball?

Setting up in an unfamiliar and ultra-conservative 5-4-1 formation, Australia hoped to deny the central areas of the pitch, ceding ball control (they ended with just 27% possession) and forcing Spain out wide. 

Above: The Matildas seeking to deny central areas with two defensive banks.

Though Gustavsson spoke of choosing moments to be aggressive in their press, the Matildas allowed an average of 27 passes per defensive action (their average the past year is nine).

On paper, it made sense. But this is a team boasting the peerless Barcelona midfield of Patricia Guijarro, Aitana Bonmatí, and Alexia Putellas; the system may have seemed sound, but the gulf in individual quality was immense.

The Matildas did hold La Roja at bay until the 43rd minute, but cracks appeared in their gameplan from the off. 

Less than a minute into the game, Katrina Gorry, playing as the widest midfielder on the right, lost her mark too easily, allowing Mariona Caldentey to play a defence-splitting pass through to Lucia Garcia. 

Garcia herself evaded Tameka Yallop’s unsuccessful attempt to play for offside, and her redirected shot forced goalkeeper Teagan Micah into action early. 

Spain were confident of winning their one-on-one duels throughout the game, and happy to utilise whatever space was afforded to them. Regardless of the integrity of the formation, Spain felt they were able to have their way in any match-up across the field

Here in the 38th minute, Mariona burned right-wingback Cortnee Vine down the outside. 

She promptly stood Vine up again by the by-line, before deciding to go straight through her with a nutmeg, working her way into a dangerous position in the box.

For the first goal of the match, Aitana was able to receive the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box. 

She jinked past an overmatched Courtney Nevin, conjuring the space to curl a delightful ball into the top corner.

La Roja were patient in their build-up, probing for outlets from flank to flank, and racking up 94 passes to the final third (to Australia’s 12). A continual revolving door of midfield and forward runs consistently sought to manipulate the Matildas’ shape. 

Their irrepressibility eventually wore down an inexperienced side, with the floodgates opening to little resistance in the second half.

On a wingback and a prayer

With Steph Catley rested for this international window, and Ellie Carpenter sidelined with an ACL injury, question marks surrounded the right- and left-back positions for the Matildas.

Gustavsson opted for the makeshift pair of Cortnee Vine and Tameka Yallop in a five-player defence, particularly curious given the strength of their opponents. 

It proved to be costly; Spain constantly found joy out wide on both sides of the pitch, exposing the improvisational backline, with the additional consequence of handcuffing Vine from using her pace going forwards as well.

Here in the 17th minute, a simple wall pass bypasses a ball-watching Vine.

Mariona is able to put in a great ball which is swept into the goal, however from an offside position.

In the 20th minute, Yallop again attempts a lazy offside trap.

Garcia is able to waltz onto a through-ball, with all the time in the world to find a cutback to a teammate in the box.

Things, unfortunately, did not improve when Jamilla Rankin came in on the left for her debut.

For the fourth goal of the night, Garcia is able to dart in front of the young defender unawares.

The movement catches Rankin in an inferior position, and Garcia is able to outjump her opponent and power the header home.

In reality, the cupboard was laid bare for Gustavsson, forced to work with the few options at his disposal.

However, Charli Grant, who seemed the obvious candidate to take Carpenter’s spot, and was consistently solid amidst the barrage of attacks, was preferred as the right-centre back for the night.

The wingback position is an area of real concern as the search for depth in the roster continues

New faces, same old challenges

Lost in the negativity of the result, were the debuts for Rankin and Ray; rewarded for fine seasons in the A-League Women with their first international caps.

And while promising to see new players continue to be blooded, particularly from the local Australian domestic market, criticism can be directed at the timing of the introductions.

Gustavsson spoke pre-match about this being a great opportunity to play Spain and to find “answers” to where this squad, and particularly the younger players were in their development; whether they could translate their abilities to the international level.

Realistically, however, the writing was already on the wall, those answers are already known. Against a side peaking for the European Championships, there was no need to test the hypotheses.

Questions are probably better asked of Football Australia and the relevant organisers, who espoused taking the “long-term view” in resting a host of key players for these international friendlies. 

A visibly frustrated Gustavsson explained post-match, “When we planned this match, the plan was to have our best team here.” 

“We knew 12 months ago that this was the only time this year we could go up against one of the best teams in Europe, a week out from the Euros.”

That would seem to be at odds with the bigger picture, and questions have to be asked about when this long-term view was really adopted. 

With the World Cup on the horizon, the time to align perspectives and answer questions is running out.

Euros Preview: Germany

by Johnathan Stack (27/6/22).

Above: The Germany squad line-up for their Arnold Clark Cup match against Canada in Norwich earlier this year. Photo: De Fodi Images.

The Germany squad was announced on the 18th June, and features eight players from Women’s Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg and seven from Bayern Munich.

Chelsea midfielder Melanie Leupolz will miss out on this year’s tournament after announcing back in March that she is pregnant with her first child. Also missing out is Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan as she is recovering from a torn ACL that caused her to miss the Champions League final win against Barcelona.

Not quite making the final squad were Martina Tukefovic (Hoffenheim), Maximiliane Rall (Bayern), Jana Feldkamp (Hoffenheim), Sjoeke Nusken (Eintracht Frankfurt). Chantal Hagel (Hoffenheim). Chantal Hagel has been listed as the 24th player in the squad so if any player were to drop out, she will take their place.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Ann-Katrin Berger, Merle Frohms, Almuth Schult.

Defenders: Sara Doorsoun, Giulia Gwinn, Marina Hegering, Kathrin Hendrich, Sophia Kleinherne, Felicitas Rauch.

Midfield/Forwards: Nicole Anyomi, Jule Brand, Klara Bühl, Sara Däbritz, Linda Dallmann, Laura Freigang, Svenja Huth, Lena Lattwein, Sydney Lohmann, Lina Magull, Len Oberdorf, Alexandra Popp (C), Lea Schüller, Tabea Waßmuth.

The Head Coach:

Above: Germany’s national coach, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. Photo: DFB.

Germany are led by 54-year-old Martina Voss-Tecklenburg a legend of the women’s game. During her time as a player, she played for KBC Duisburg, TVS Siegen, and FCR 2001. For the national team, Voss-Tecklenburg represented Germany 125 times. She appeared at three World Cups (1991, 1995, and 1999) as well as the 1996 Olympic Games.

Voss-Tecklenburg has fond memories of the Euros, winning the competition four times (1989, 1991, 1995, and 1997) from five attempts. In 2009 she managed FCR 2001 Duisburg to UEFA Women’s Cup (now known as the Champions League) glory before going on to lead FF USV Jena. She led the Swiss national team from 2012-2018, taking them to the last sixteen in their first appearance at a World Cup in 2015. Voss-Tecklenburg also ensured qualification for Switzerland for their first European Championships in 2017. She took over as Germany’s national head coach in 2019.

Euros History:

The Germans are no strangers to Euros glory. They are the most successful team in the tournament’s history holding the record for the most titles. They have lifted the trophy eight times – 1989, 1991, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, and 2013.

Qualifying:

Germany won eight out of eight matches in Group I as they soared through qualifying for this summer’s tournament, scoring an impressive 46 goals and conceding only one goal in the process with their biggest win coming against Montenegro which was 10-0 victory. They finished nine points clear of second-placed Ukraine.

Strengths:

Going forward Germany has an eye for goal and is a threat. Players like Magull, Freigang, and Popp scored goals regularly in qualifying and will have a goal or two in them once the tournament has begun.

Development Areas:

Despite a very strong qualifying campaign where Germany only conceded one goal to the Republic of Ireland, questions were asked of their defence after a shock 3-2 defeat in World Cup qualifying to Serbia back in April. So, if Germany is to go all the way to clinch a ninth European crown they will have to tighten up at the back.

Key Player:

Above: Lea Schüller, one of Germany’s most prominent players. Photo: Richard Callis/Sports Press Photo.

Lea Schüller. The 24-year-old was named 2021 German Player of The Year back in January. Schüller has had a great season for Bayern Munich scoring 21 goals in all competitions and bagging 11 goals in seven World Cup qualifying games for the national team.

One to watch:

Laura Freigang. The Eintracht Frankfurt forward scored 14 goals in all competitions and four during Germany’s qualifying group for this summer’s tournament.

Prediction:

Latter stages. I think Germany will be within the top eight of the tournament, so with that being said, I expect them to be anywhere from the quarterfinals onwards to the final. Germany certainly has the firepower up top, they just keep it tight in defence.

Group Fixtures:

8th July: Denmark, 8pm, Brentford Community Stadium, London.

12th July: Spain, 8pm, Brentford Community Stadium, London.

16th July: Finland, 8pm, Stadium MK, Milton Keynes.

This is Johnathan Stack‘s first article for Impetus. To read his bio, and those of the rest of our contributors, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/about-our-contributors/

Impetus is previewing a different nation every day between now and the start of the European Championships. Click below to read the previously published articles:

FRANCE – by Jean-Pierre Thiesset: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/25/euros-preview-france/

AUSTRIA – by Jorge Ceron: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/06/26/euros-preview-austria/

Grainger And Ingle: Wales Are Going In The Right Direction

Impetus’ Martin Townley was in today’s Wales media conference and heard from head coach Gemma Grainger and captain Sophie Ingle (27/6/22).

Above: Gemma Grainger at today’s media conference. Photo: FAW.

Wales manager Gemma Grainger spoke to the media ahead of her side’s friendly international against New Zealand. The match on Tuesday will take place in Pinata, Spain where the squad has been enjoying some warm weather training.

“Since we travelled out last Wednesday, we’ve had a real opportunity to enjoy some time together both on and off the pitch. “That was always the plan really to come to pinata was that we had that time, which we haven’t really had as a team before.”

This camp is the last time the squad will get together before they face Greece and Slovenia in their final World Cup Qualifiers. Wales, who are second in their group will make the playoffs if they can win the two games and Grainger is using the time to keep improving her side.

“It’s given us an opportunity to speak about some key themes that we want to talk about as a team to take on to the pitch and really continue our improvement as a team on and off the pitch.

“So, the week is a week has been great, it is hot, I think we knew it was going to be hard. There’s an enjoyment part to that when we’re not training. But then when we are training, we obviously have planned for the heat.

“It’s been quite a nice opportunity to do a different type of session, you know, a different type of coaching session, because when it is hot, we do get the opportunity to you know, to talk a little bit more whereas, sometimes in the cold, we must move things on quite quickly. So nice relaxed vibe, but preparation going well so far.”

Grainger has continued playing opposition of a higher ranking in friendly games with New Zealand ranked 22nd in the current FIFA rankings. “We’ll play a higher-ranked opposition, but what we’re hoping to get out of it is a competitive game.

Above: Wales boss Gemma Grainger emphasised the importance to her side of playing higher-ranked opposition regularly. Photo: FAW.

“We want to utilise the game to continue our progress. And with preparation for September in mind, you know, New Zealand will be an opportunity to play a higher-ranked nation. And then that will build into the September prep nicely.

With the option to use up to six substitutions in this game the Wales manager will make use of all options, believing that the squad depth she has available is exciting.

“When we had the development camp on Monday and Tuesday, we’re really starting to explore and learn more about the whole group, because what we do know is that player depth and squad depth is a real sign and correlation between successful teams.

“You know, when I look at the teams in the European Championships this summer, and the teams that people tip to win it, there’s no clear favourite, but the teams that have the best depth, there’s a good opportunity for those teams”

Grainger also praised the way the New Zealand side will play and that she is excited for the game

“You know, they like to play football, which is a credit to them, they have a real clear playing style in terms of how they want to play. They have some fantastic qualities, both in and out of possession. And they’re an opposition and we’re excited to test ourselves against”

The last meeting of the sides saw Wales win a close game 1-0 with Kayleigh Green getting the winning goal.

Above: Sophie Ingle speaking to the media today. Photo: FAW.

Wales captain Sophie Ingle spoke about the positives and challenges of how Wales’ warm-weather training camp today. 

“Yeah, it has been nice. Obviously, it’s always helps training when it’s warm weather, but it’s tough as well, because it’s a bit warmer. And, you know, we’re out of season. So that heat kind of gets to us a little bit quicker than it usually would.

“Away from football pitches, we’ve done some team bonding activities, down the beach, and just to get out the hotel and enjoy the nice weather.”

Ingle will lead Wales into their final World Cup qualifying games in September and revealed that the squad have been using this time to prepare for those games. 

“Yeah, more prep for September.  I think the girls know that. Obviously, we’ve got New Zealand to play, and they play potentially a different way to the two teams we’re coming up against, but we can still work on things for September.”

Wales beat the Football Ferns the last time the side met in Cardiff and the Wales captain reflected on what transpired in that encounter.

“I remember a lot of rain! I remember was it Kayleigh Green who scored. “It was quite an even match game. I think we were probably a little bit better in possession than them. But it could have gone either way.”

Wales are playing just one game in this window, but New Zealand travelled to Norway on Saturday losing 2-0.  Ada Hegerberg and Guro Bergsvand getting the goals.  Ingle is hoping that the busy schedule can work to Wales advantage. 

“They’ve travelled to Norway, and then got here yesterday, so hopefully they are a bit fatigued which might work in our favour. But they’re quite direct team, they’re athletic, they like to get it to their number nine, or their striker and kind of play off her.”

“We want to win, and that’s why we play football, but it’s the performance at the end of the day. We’ve worked on a few things this camp on the training pitch. That’s kind of what I want to see that comes out in this game, that the things we’ve worked out on the training pitches, we’ve been able to transfer into a game situation.”

With two big games top come in the Autumn, Ingle emphasised what making the World Cup in 2023 would mean the world to her.

“It would obviously mean the world to me and the girls if we do qualify for the World Cup. You know, not just the World Cup, we want to go on to then qualify for the next Euros and so on and so on.

“We want to put Welsh women’s football on the map. I think we’re going in the right direction.”

Euros Preview: Austria

by Jorge Ceron

Above: Action from Austria’s game with Northern Ireland. Photo: Irish FA.

Austria have assembled a squad that contains players who are more than capable of troubling the top nations. With Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger at the back, and quality from the likes of Viktoria Schnaderbeck, Carina Wenninger, Sarah Zadrazil, and Nicole Billa, the Austrians are capable of a strong tournament.

The Squad:

Jasmin Pal (Sand), Manuela Zinsberger (Arsenal), Andrea Gurtner (Granadilla Tenerife), Mariella El Sherif (Sturm Graz), Viktoria Schnaderbeck (Tottenham Hotspur), Katharina Naschenweng (Hoffenheim 1899, Verena Hanshaw (FFC Francfórt)Carina Wenninger (Bayern Munich), Sabrina Horvat (Koln), Laura Wienroither (Arsenal), Marina Georgieva (Sand)Katharina Schiechtl (Werder Bremen), Virginia Kirchberger (Eintracht Frankfurt), Jennifer Klein (St Polten), Barbara Dunst (Eintracht Frankfurt), Celina Degen (Hoffenheim 1899)Laura Feiersinger (FFC Francfórt), Lena Triendl (Sand), Marie-Therese Höbinger (Turbine Potsdam), Lara Felix, Sarah Zadrazil (Bayern Munich), Katja Wienerroither (Grasshopper Club Zürich), Lisa Kolb (Freiburg), Lisa Makas  (St Polten), Stefanie Enzinger (St Polten), Nicole Billa  (Hoffenheim 1899).

The Coach:

Above: Irene Furhmann, Austria’s head coach. Photo: Wiener Zeitung.

Irene Fuhrmann took over as national coach in July 2020. Fuhrmann is totally immersed in the direction of her national team. FOr almost 10 years, from 2011 to 2020 she was assistant to Dominik Thalhammer and was a part of Austria’s superb achievements at Euro 2017 when they reached the semi-finals.

Before that, in 2008 she was a coach for the Austrian U19 team. Most of her football career was spent at USC Landhaus Wien. The challenge for Fuhrmann and her team will not be easy, to overcome what was achieved in the last Euro, but the Austrian fans can rest easy, they are in the hands of a great coach.

Euros History:

In 2013 the Austrian women’s team came close to qualifying, but lost the playoff 3-1 on aggregate against Russia. But in 2017, they finally made it, and what a tournament they had. After getting through the group stage with wins over Switzerland (1-0) and Iceland (3-0), plus a 1-1 draw with France, they overcame Spain after a penalty shoot-out. This set up a semi-final with Denmark, which again went to penalties, but this time the Austrians were eliminated 3-0.

Qualifying:

Above: Austria’s Laura Feiersinger (black shirt) takes on Serbia’s Tirana Filipovic in their qualifying game. Photo: Imago.

Austria qualified as one of the best second-place finishers in a group. Their campaign opened with a 3-0 over North Macedonia. The second game was more complicated, but a solitary goal from striker Nicole Billa in the 12th minute gave them the second win, this time away in Serbia. The third game repeated the dose against North Macedonia, but this time away, 3-0 was the score.

The matches against Kazakhstan were the easiest matches, the first game was decided with a 9-0 in favor of the Austrians with four goals from Hickelsberger and three from Nicole Billa. In the away match they won 5-0. Those games were just training to get to the most difficult matches of the qualifying campaign against the French favorites, the first game was in Vienna, and the match ended 0-0. In the game that decided the first place in the group, Austria defeated 3-0 by les Bleus. The last game was key, since the three points would clinch qualification as one of the best second-placed nations, and it was not until the 81st minute when Nicole Billa scored the winning goal against Serbia.

Strengths:

Without a doubt, it is their defense. In all the qualifiers for the European Championship, they only conceded three goals, and all of those came in one game against the French and are currently looking to repeat that stat in the World Cup qualifiers. This defence is commanded by veteran Bayern Munich defenders Carina Wenninger and Tottenham’s Viktoria Schnaderbeck, accompanied by English Arsenal player Laura Wienroither, and a group of young defenders who play for different FrauenBundesliga teams such as Katharina Naschenweng and Celina Degen from Hoffenheim. They will seek to zero out the hosts, plus powerful Norway with Northern Ireland also in the group.

Areas For Development:

A fairly competitive and balanced team wherever you look at it, a couple of excellent goalkeepers, defense is their strong point, a young but experienced midfield, and a forward line capable of scoring goals against the best teams in the world. However, they have a tough group. Opening against the powerful English, and close against one of the favorites, the Norwegians with a must-win game against Northern Ireland in between.

Key Player:

Above: Nicole Billa – Austria’s star. Photo: AIlura/CC-BY-SA.

The player to watch for Austria is Nicole Billa: A born, lethal scorer who is at the right time, scoring goals and providing assists. The 26-year-old Kufstein striker is the main card that the Austrian team could be so strong. Billa made her debut at the age of 14 with Wacker Innsbruck, later moving to one of the most popular teams, St. Pölten-Spratzern, and from there he made the jump to the FrauenBundelisga with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in 2015. There at Hoffenheim, she had a quiet start, scoring six goals in her first two complete seasons.

But she did not lose patience, nor did the team lose it with her, in 2018/19, she scored nine goals, and for the following season, she finished as runner-up in the scoring charts of the FrauenBundesliga with 18 goals. In the 20-21 season and at the age of 25, she won the scoring title that season with 23 goals, becoming the first Austrian to achieve such an achievement in the German league. These are numbers that make their rivals in Group A worry a lot about her. Regarding the national team, Nicole Billa has impressive numbers, in 77 games she has scored 42 goals, although she has never scored a goal in the European Championship, so in this summer’s competition she will go out with everything to get her first goal.

Prediction:

It is unlikely the Austrians will have another fairytale-like Euro 2017 and it seems to me that they will go home early. They share a group with a couple of favourites. England will seek to get rid of the bad taste in their mouths of that Euro 2005 when they were hosts and did not manage to even get out of the group stage. Just a few months ago they met at Southampton, and England struggled to beat Austria 1-0, with that result the Austrians will cling to a good result against the hosts.

They also share a group with Norway, which is motivated by the return of one of the best players in the world, Ada Hegerberg. If they want to aspire to a hypothetical second round, this is the key game. Northern Ireland complete the group, and even this will pose a threat for Austria as the Northern Irish already drew against Austria in recent times.

Group Fixtures:

6th July: England, 8pm, Old Trafford, Manchester.

11th July: Northern Ireland, 5pm, St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton.

15th July: Norway, 8pm, Amex Stadium, Brighton.

Gustavsson: “This Is A Wake-Up Call For A Lot Of People”

Impetus’ Ben Gilby was in the post-match press conference which followed an experimental Australia squad’s 7-0 defeat to Spain. He heard the Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson outline how initial plans to field his strongest squad went up in flames and how he believes that deeper investment is needed to bring the next tier of players up to top international standard (26/6/22).

Above: Tony Gustavsson in his post-match media conference after last night’s 7-0 loss to Spain. Photo: Football Australia.

Tony Gustavsson went into this clash with Spain claiming that regardless of the outcome on the scoreboard, finding just one new player for his World Cup squad would be a good result. After his team’s second-half mauling by the Euros-bound Spanish, there are more searching topics for him to examine.

“I’m always honest,” he said. “When we planned this match, the plan was to have our best team here. We wanted to match ourselves against one of the best teams in the world. We knew 12 months ago that this was the only time this year we could go up against one of the best teams in Europe, a week out from the Euros.

“We would have loved to have had the strongest group here. But, at the end of the day, we had to look at well-being in a long-term way. We entered into a contract with the Spanish so the game was always going ahead.”

Above: Lots to ponder now for Tony Gustavsson and Football Australia. Photo: Football Australia.

Asked about what this result shows about the depth of the Australian game that Gustavsson has long made a point at wanting to work on, the head coach said: “We need long-term answers. It’s about legacy from 2023 and the investment after the World Cup. The answers we have now is a wake-up call for a lot of people.

“It was too fast for some players. They need to be exposed to that. I’m not saying that to criticise these players, I’m saying it to get them to where they need to be. If they are not quick enough to get into the right positions, we’re not going to win.”

Given the squad that was available to him for this match, Gustavsson outlined how he approached the clash.

“We wanted to look at this game as two forty-five-minute periods. In the first of those periods, we got answers showing that, considering the experience, or lack of experience that we had on the park, to commit to a game-plan like that against Spain, one of the best teams in the world, I was happy with the girls’ efforts and commitments. The effort in the defending – it was a good mix between high pressing and low walk defending.

Above: Katrina Gorry’s performance was one of the few positives for Tony Gustavsson last night. Photo: Football Australia.

“A real positive was Katrina Gorry. ‘Mini’ was world-class. She showed she has the tactical ability to match any player in the Spain team. If she can get in an environment where she can be forced to play at maximum speed football, it will be even better for her. This is not me saying she doesn’t play at a club where she can do this, it is about her working on it now between international camps.”

As he moved on to the plan for the second half, Gustavsson recognised that he knew it was always going to be difficult.

“The second half, we looked at different things, different players, and I want to be very clear now that it’s not about blaming players for this loss. It’s more about representing the situation that we are in right now (in terms of a less experienced squad in this international window).

“We finished the game with four players who are playing NPL and one player in college, and to expect those individual players to match up against Spain, it’s not fair for them to take that hit.

“I will take that hit as a coach. I said it from day one, we need answers. We need investment in our program, and I think this was very clear. We need to make investment and players need to get into an environment where they can thrive and be ready for international football.”

Above: Teagan Micah – has impressed when given chances for Australia and is in consistent form for her club side in Sweden. Photo: David Lidstrom.

One of several key matters to consider once the dust settles on this defeat is Gustavsson’s inability to settle on a regular goalkeeper. With Teagan Micah regularly playing well at international level when she gets a chance, and consistently at a high level for her club side, Rosengård, the time has come to give her a consistent run of 90-minute opportunities for the Matildas.

It would appear that Lydia Williams will play at least some part in next week’s friendly in Portugal to claim her hundredth cap, but with chances few and far between for her at Arsenal, and the Rosengård custodian in consistently good form, it is time for Micah to get as many minutes as possible behind her in the national team.

Euros Preview: France

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset

Above: The French national team pictured after qualifying for the European Championships. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine.

The France women’s national football team is known or nicknamed as Les Bleues (The Blue ones) and are currently placed third in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings.

The Squad:

Goalkeepers: Mylène Chavas (Bordeaux, France), Pauline Peyraud-Magnin (Juventus Italy), Justine Lerond (FC Metz, France).

Defenders: Selma Bacha (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Hawa Cissoko (West Ham United, England), Sakina Karchaoui (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Griedge Mbock (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Ève Périsset (Bordeaux, France), Wendie Renard (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Marion Torrent (Montpellier, France), Aissatou Tounkara (Atletico Madrid, Spain).

Midfielders: Charlotte Bilbault (Bordeaux, France), Kenza Dali (Everton, England), Sandie Toletti (Levante, Spain), Grace Geyoro (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Ella Palis (Bordeaux, France).

Forwards: Sandy Baltimore (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Delphine Cascarino (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Kadidiatou Diani (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (Paris Saint-Germain, France), Melvine Malard (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Clara Matéo (Paris FC, France), Ouleymata Sarr (Paris FC, France).

There are five players from both Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain in this squad; this is not surprising as these two teams dominated D1 Arkema this season. Furthermore, most of these 10 players will probably be in the starting team.

There were though some surprises. Amandine Henry (Olympique Lyonnais), in pretty good shape in the end of D1 Arkema season and scorer of an outstanding goal in Champions League Final, is not in the squad. According to a lot of people who follow women’s football, it is only because she spoke out against Corinne Diacre in previous years in the media.

Some players not selected are easier to explain in my opinion. Eugénie Le Sommer, Olympique Lyonnais, is still a great player but she had not played a lot this season and was never in the starting team when she came back to Lyon from her loan at OL Reign in USA. Goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi of OL Reign then Olympique Lyonnais this season has only rarely played when she came back from USA, apart from when Christiane Endler was injured. Perle Morroni, Olympique Lyonnais, lost her starting place in Lyon team for Selma Bacha.

The Head Coach:

Above: France head coach Corinne Diacre. Photo: Picture Alliance.

Corinne Diacre, 47 years old, has been in charge since 2017. She spent her entire playing career with Soyaux. She earned 121 caps for France, scoring 14 goals, and appeared at the 1997, 2001, and 2005 European Championships. Diacre also scored the goal that ensured France’s first-ever qualification for the World Cup of 2003.

Diacre’s coaching career saw her as Soyaux’s manager and assistant to the national side and notably, in 2014 she took charge of men’s second-tier side Clermont Foot. This was the first time a woman had led a men’s team in the top two divisions of a European league. She left the role in 2017 to take over the head coach position for the French Women’s National Team.

Controversy has followed Diacre with selections for the national side and some players have spoken openly in the media to question her decision-making.

Euros History:

France have appeared six times in the European Championships. They first qualified in 1997. Their best results came in making the Quarter-Finals in 2009, 2013, and 2017.

Qualifying:

France topped Group G with seven wins and a draw. They did not concede a goal throughout. The campaign included wins of 12-0, 11-0, and 7-0 over Kazakhstan (first scoreline), and North Macedonia (remaining two scorelines). Austria was the only team to prevent France from winning when they earned a 0-0 draw.

Strengths:

Most players have a lot of international experience either with France national team or with their club side. France has several top players capable of outstanding performances and they played more and more like a team over the last few months.

Development Areas:

They need to be more efficient in attack and be able to keep the ball in midfield.

Key Players:

Above: Wendie Renard, who remains one of the world’s top defenders. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Wendie Renard who has a lot of experience as centre-back and is devastating in the air, particularly from corners and free-kicks close to the goal. There is also Marie-Antoinette Katoto who was the top scorer with 18 goals in D1 Arkema this season. Selma Bacha has been outstanding. As well as putting in a superb personal display in the Champions League Final, she took the honour of providing the some of the most assists in the competition with nine. This is on top of seven assists this season in D1 Arkema, a competition that she scored also three goals in.

Above: Ella Palis in action for Bordeaux against Olympique Lynnais. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

One To Watch:

Ella Palis. 23 years old of Bordeaux, with four caps in the midfield. Palis has been selected in almost all the junior national squads and was the captain of France’s U19 team during the U19 Euros in 2018. She has made a lot of progress this year and could be a new key player of France team

Prediction:

France should finish top of Group D as they are facing nations in Italy, Iceland, and Belgium who are below them in the rankings, although it must be said Italy has made a lot of progress in recent years. Personally, I think France could go far in this summer’s tournament and reach the final.

Group Games:

10th July: Italy, 8pm, New York Stadium, Rotherham.

14th July: Belgium, 8pm, New York Stadium, Rotherham.

18th July: Iceland, 8pm, New York Stadium, Rotherham.

Five Star England Destroy Dutch

England 5-1 Netherlands

by Darrell Allen at Elland Road for Impetus (25/6/22).

Above: Beth Mead in celebration mode after scoring against the Netherlands at Elland Road. Photo: Lionesses.

The Lionesses overcame an early setback to come from behind and see off the Netherlands in superb style at Elland Road.

The Dutch took the lead through a beautifully placed header from Lieke Martens but their joy didn’t last long. A Lucy Bronze equaliser before halftime was followed by a second-half brace from Beth Mead and further goals from Ella Toone plus one from Lauren Hemp. 

The game was an enjoyable watch throughout as the 19,365 battled the UK-wide travel problems of the week to ensure a fantastic atmosphere for the Euro 2022 warm-up match at the home of Leeds United. 

A slow start from England saw them caught out when careless passing allowed the Netherlands to take the lead. A corner from Sherida Spitse found Martens who headed past Mary Earps at the far post. 

Above: Netherlands joy after Lieke Martens put them ahead at Elland Road. Photo: Oranje Leeuwinnen.

This was a contest which saw England wear their new orange away kit and the Netherlands playing in white. Confusion and disappointment didn’t last long as the Elland Road crowd got behind the team in superb style.

Lucy Bronze somehow found the net when her cross evaded Netherlands keeper Sari Van Veenendaal to level the scores. It was one of those that clearly was not meant as a shot on goal, but came at a very welcome time in the game. 

The Dutch were given a lifeline when Alex Greenwood brought down Danielle Van de Donk in the area and the penalty was awarded at the conclusion of a VAR review. 

Van De Donk was unable to restore the visitors’ lead as her penalty struck the post, in the last of any noteworthy action for the Netherlands. 

Lauren Hemp by her own standards had been quiet in the first half but came to life when she ran down the wing and found Beth Mead who got the ball and slid in to finish at the back post. England led within a minute of the penalty miss.

Above: Lauren Hemp, who would go on to score a great goal herself, was the provider for Beth Mead’s first goal. Photo: Lionesses.

Toone, like Mead also a substitute on the evening was next to find the net when her shot went through the hands of Van Veenendal into the corner in what was a very poor mistake from the Netherlands keeper. 

The fourth was quick to follow as Bronze stormed down the right and found Toone who saw her shot hit the post but come back for Lauren Hemp to finish wonderfully with a volley to put the game out of sight.

Mead rounded off the scoring and made it a brace for herself when she finished well from inside the box. Alessia Russo almost added a sixth but her ferocious strike hit the bar. 

A further plus point on the evening was the inclusion of Fran Kirby, her first start for many months as she continues her recovery from recent injury and illness setbacks.

A night of so many positives and which ended with a lap of appreciation from the players. With the Euros beginning on 6th July, there is so much anticipation and excitement for the tournament, especially with England on such fine form. 

There is one final warm-up match for England with Sarina Weigman’s team visiting Switzerland in Zurich this Thursday at 5.00pm UK time. 

Above: Rachel Daly and Millie Bright together after the match. Photo: Lionesses.

Teams: ENGLAND: Earps, Bronze, Bright, Greenwood, Daly, Williamson, Walsh, Kelly, Kirby, Hemp, England. Substitutes: Stokes, Hampton, Stanway, Toone, Wubben-Moy, Mead, Parris, Russo, Scott, Roebuck, Carter. 

Scorers: Bronze 32′, Mead 32′, 90′. Toone 72′, Hemp 74′.

NETHERLANDS: Van Veenendaal, Wilms, Van Der Gragt, Nouwen, Janssen, Groenen, Pelova, Spitse, Roord, Beerensteyn, Martens. Subs: Van Dongen, Miedema, Van De Donk, Jansen, Dijkstra, Van Domselaar, Leuchter, Casparij, Olislagers, Egurrola, Brugts, Lorsheyd.

Scorer: Martens 22′.

Referee: Sandra Braz Bastos.

Attendance: 19,365.

Roberts Reflects And Relishes Opportunities With Wales

Impetus welcomes Martin Townley who will be covering Welsh women’s football at both club and international levels for us. He was in Wales’ media conference yesterday to hear from Rhiannon Roberts ahead of the game against New Zealand in Spain (25/6/22).

Above: Rhiannon Roberts in yesterday’s media conference. Photo: FAW.

After a fantastic season with Liverpool, Rhiannon Roberts is with the Wales national team for a friendly against New Zealand.  The match, which will be Wales’s final preparations before the final World Cup Qualifiers in September, will take place on Tuesday 28th June in Pinatar, Spain. 

Roberts was part of the Liverpool team that won the FA Women’s Championship this season and she reflected with the media about what an amazing season it had been. 

“Yeah, it was unbelievable. It was a great season, you know, Matt (Beard) came in and he’s brought in good people staff, and players, and we’ve gelled well. It’s just such a cool group of players to be in. I think that’s what got us on the over the line.

“It was just a fantastic season, winning the league obviously, with the players that we’ve got, it’s just brilliant. You know, it’s nice to win the league, but winning with a good group of people as well is even better.”

The training camp and match with New Zealand will be the last camp before Wales head into two vital World Cup qualifying matches against Greece and Slovenia.  Winning both would see the Welsh team make the World Cup play-offs for the first time.  Roberts believes that this is a great chance for the squad to work on areas they need to improve on.   

“It just gives us a chance to improve on certain points that we want to work on. And obviously, get together as a group. Otherwise, it’d be a large gap without seeing everyone.

“I think there’s always excitement for every camp that we come on, to be honest. So, I don’t think that really changes so much. The environment stays the same. And then it’s just the fact of taking one game at a time. And yeah, hopefully we can get to the next level. But yeah, it just one game at a time.”

Above: Rhiannon Roberts in action for Liverpool. Photo: Liverpool FC Women.

Wales beat New Zealand 1-0 when the sides last met in Cardiff, but the Football Ferns higher ranking will provide a good test for Gemma Grainger’s side.

“It just gives us a chance to prove ourselves against a higher-ranked opponent. And yeah, just work on things that we need to work on.  We want to compete against the higher nations. So, it’s just another test for us. And hopefully, we can give them a good run.”

Before the World Cup Qualifiers, the Euros will take place across July, Wales narrowly missed out on a play-off place and Roberts believes it will drive on the Welsh players. 

“I think he just gives you an odd drive to go and achieve in the next tournament and better yourself.  Just do better than you did in the last game all the time.  It’s a tough one obviously to watch. It’s tough, but you know, at the end of the day, there’s nothing you can do about it that, it’s out of your control now. So, our focus is the next one. And hopefully qualifying for a World Cup.”

Roberts is joined in Spain by Helen Ward, and she opened up on how the two have helped each other keep going over the years. 

“She has helped me settle in this team so well, we are stuck at the hip a little bit.  She’s just a warming person. She’s just a comfortable person to be around.  We just help each other mentally. And, yeah, I tried to keep her going for the last couple years, to be honest. I certainly can’t change my roommate; I can’t do it to myself. But yeah, she’s just a great person to be around.

“She’s, like the mother of a group, the person everyone turns to, and everyone goes to and that you can rely on. So, she’s just an all-around great person to be honest.”

Martin Townley‘s writer biography can be seen along with those of our other contributors here: https://impetusfootball.org/about-our-contributors/

Gustavsson Looking For Answers Over Results

Impetus’ Jonathan Tay was in Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson‘s media conference for us yesterday. He reviews the squad selections and aims for the tough two games ahead (25/6/22).

Above: Tony Gustavsson in the media conference yesterday. Photo: Football Australia.

“We need answers.”

That was the recurring catch-cry from Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson, speaking ahead of Australia’s friendly against the almighty Spain in Huelva.

“It’s actually been really good. One of those camps you want to get a lot of answers: you want to look at different tactics, different players. It’s been a very hectic preparation, with a lot of new players,” he summarised at his pre-match press conference. 

Whilst the Swede’s focus has been fixed more so on his own squad’s training camp and process, he understands the daunting task of facing La Roja. Spain come into Saturday’s game gearing up for European Championships and are just over two weeks out from their first group game against Finland.

“Someone asked me, why are you playing such a tough opponent when you don’t have all your best players available. Well, it’s a great opportunity to actually play one of the best teams in the world, with [this] roster to get answers.”

“I always expect us to step up on the field and give it 100, that’s the Aussie mentality. So far a lot of players have been really good in training and showed me that they want to be a part of the competition for the World Cup 2023. But at the same time, they’ve got to be humble and understand that it’s a big game and a big opponent, both Spain and Portugal.”

Princess Ibini-Isei spoke from camp earlier in the week about wanting to be a fast tempo, high pressing Matildas team. And whilst Gustavsson agreed, he was more measured in his approach, particularly against a side boasting nine players from Champions League-winning FC Barcelona.

“We never want to change who we are; we want to be that team who’s on the front foot, to be aggressive and physical. But at the same time, you need to be able to manage games. We need to understand that there’s going to be parts of this game where our pressing is not going to be at the level to be able to steal the ball from them – their passing is just amazing. 

“[We] need to be humble enough to say “Okay, we might not be able to choose whether we have the ball or not, but maybe we can control where they have the ball”. I think that’s a major part of this game plan for us: can we take that step when we can’t press, can we still control the game without the ball?”

With plenty of stand-out performers both locally in Australia and overseas, Gustavsson has the task of answering the question: who can step up and prove to be a legitimate candidate for the Matildas squad going forward, and beyond that, the home World Cup next year?

“I’m curious to see where we sit,” he continued. “We need to have a little bit of a different perspective going into this game in that sense. It’s not just about winning a game. It might be losing a game, but winning a player; meaning if we can find even just one more player in the depth, in the roster going into World Cup ‘23, it’s worth every minute in this camp.

“The number one thing is: can they bring the qualities that they have in the local leagues to the international level. Not just playing international football, but top international football.

Above: Tony Gustavsson in yesterday’s media conference – where he outlined that losing a match but gaining a new player for the World Cup squad was a result from tomorrow. Photo: Football Australia.

“How quick the decision-making is, physically how fast can they run, how quickly can they pass the ball, the first touch, adjust to the tempo. When you talk to players coming into this environment and ask them what is the difference, they say, “I don’t have time, there’s no time”, that’s the biggest step. 

“So that’s the analysis as a coach; how quickly can they adjust to the higher tempo when everything is quicker and faster.”

With a number of his core rested, including captain Sam Kerr, there are plenty of opportunities available across the two fixtures; 14 of the 24-player squad have less than 10 caps, with six potential debutantes on board.

An area where the Australia head coach continues to search for answers is the midfield, particularly in the number six or holding midfield position, where there has been a lot of experimentation throughout Gustavsson’s tenure, with mixed results. 

“We have a lot of different players with different playing styles who could play in that Number Six role. We were really convinced going into the Asian Cup that we wanted to look at ‘Mini’ (Katrina Gorry) in that midfield role; unfortunately she couldn’t [compete in] the Asian Cup for us.

“But then when she came in against New Zealand, Mini, who normally plays as a 10, an attacking midfielder, I had a conversation with her. I said I really want to look at you as a six, to be that playmaker, a little bit like (Andrea) Pirlo, if I could compare to someone, that playmaking number six, and I think we all saw how phenomenal she was in that role. 

“But I also want to be clear: ‘Mini’ can also be used as an attacking midfielder; she has different tools as well where she can unlock a team and she can link the forwards in the way that few players can.

“So I think right now, in this situation where I want to give players a fair chance, we’ve got some new recruits into this camp, and a few of them are looking sharp in training as well, we’ll see where we end up with that and where their form is come the World Cup. 

“I actually honestly think it’s going to be one of the toughest spots to break into this roster because we have tons of really good midfielders, and that’s going to be a tough decision moving forward.”

Three newcomers are also vying for spots across the middle of the pitch, Jacynta Galabadaarachchi, Mackenzie Hawkesby, and Taylor Ray. Gustavsson had positive words of feedback for all of them, on the cusp of their possible first international caps.

“With ‘Hawkes’ (Hawkesby) she’s a box-to-box player who always gives 100. Her running game and her commitment, her willing attitude and her work rate – in that top tempo team that we are, we need players to drive up and down the field, to press, track back and she has those attributes.”

“[Ray] is what we call a true number 6. She’s very good in her positioning, at reading the game. She also connects players with her passing game. 

“I’m impressed by how much she scans (the field), which I always look for when I’m scouting players. I see how many times she turns her head, scanning for information; she does that consistently throughout any game. Especially at a young age, she plays very maturely.” 

Passing Statistics vs All Midfielders (A-League Women 21/22, minimum 800 min) [data: Wyscout]

“When it comes to “Gala” (Galabadaarachchi), she’s a completely different player; her one-v-one is unique, her quickness on the ball, her first touch. 

“She’s very brave on the ball, even in this camp and this environment, she’s asking for the ball all the time, and I love that confidence that she wants the ball on her feet to take players on.”

The Matildas head coach tempered expectations though, reiterating that playing time would have to be earned, even with the number of key players who are missing.

“I’ve said it before, we also need to be mindful of not just throwing out caps for the sake of throwing out caps, they need to be deserved. It’s one thing to be selected to be in this environment, and another thing to earn a cap. So we need to be mindful of looking at who actually earns that.”

One player who will almost certainly make an appearence is Lydia Williams, in line to notch up her 100th international cap.

He didn’t guarantee it would happen tomorrow, but asked what he thinks has gotten Williams to this point, Gustavsson beamed, “She has all the ingredients needed to be a true professional footballer. Not just the football qualities, but its more about “Lyds” as a person. 

“How she handles adversity on the field, how she makes people around her better. It’s not just about making saves when the shot comes. You see how much she means to the other players. 

“For example, seeing how well she integrates the new players getting used to camp, welcomes them, prepares them. She’s an amazing ambassador for this team, and for the game. It’s a privilege as a coach to be celebrating her 100th cap.

“[The goalkeepers] are doing such a phenomenal job supporting each other. It’s a tough competition right now; its not a clear 1, 2, 3 goalkeeper situation – that spot is up for grabs – and they’re all pushing each other every single day in training. 

“I know ‘Macca’ (Mackenzie Arnold) and Teagan (Micah) are looking forward to celebrating her getting her 100th because that’s the support we have in this team. 

“Whether that’s going to be this weekend, or Tuesday, or maybe an upcoming camp, we’ll see.” he deadpanned, with hopefully more answers coming Saturday.

“My Favourite Team To Play For!”: Rested Williams Ready For 100th Cap

Impetus’ Kieran Yap was in today’s Australia media conference for us and heard Lydia Williams reflect on her time with the national team ahead of her hundredth cap, and the benefits of playing in Europe (23/6/22).

AboveLydia Williams in action for AustraliaPhoto: Football Australia.

As her 100th cap approaches, Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams is excited for the future and appreciative of a past filled with highlights.

She is expected to reach the milestone in the upcoming fixtures against Spain and Portugal. Goalkeeper is perhaps the most individual position on the field. But when asked about her journey she spoke glowingly about her long-term teammates and the growth of the game itself.

“To be honest I wouldn’t have dreamt that I would come this far,” Williams told the media. It’s just an honour and a privilege.

“I think I’ve been around for everyone’s first cap so that’s kind of awesome to me seeing how everyone’s developed. Seeing Australian football develop from not a whole lot of press to now, (where) we have the opportunity to host a World Cup and being a part of that whole process. For me, that was really special and definitely a feeling you could ever replicate.”

Williams has been in the national setup since 2007, but made the starting position her own at the 2015 World Cup. It was the tournament that Australia achieved their best-ever finish. The run to the quarter-finals is still one of her fondest memories. Particularly the thrilling, tense, and skilful win over Brazil in the round of 16.

“It was our best (finishing) position,” reflects Williams, who made some crucial saves in the 1-0 victory. “It was just a really good game, no one really believed in us. There were only a few hundred Aussies there supporting us. Doing that in the style that we did off that preparation was really special.”

Williams first entered the Matildas setup at the age of 15. She is now one of the most experienced players in the squad for these friendly matches and has enjoyed seeing the new faces adapt to the national team.

“They’re getting exposed to what playing for the Matildas is like. We definitely need more people coming through. It’s exciting to see what we’ve produced in training.”

In particular, she had praise for those players who had become national team players relatively recently but were taking on more responsibility in camp. “Seeing them step up has been really nice. They’ve come into camp over the last year or so and kind of been a regular, right now at this camp they’re in a senior role.

Above: Lydia Williams traini