International Football

ParaMatildas: Head Coach And Top Scorer Speak

Ahead of today’s inaugural CP Women’s World Cup Final, Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from top scorer Georgia Biekhoff and head coach Kelly Stirton (17/5/22).

Above: Outstanding Para-athlete Georgia Biekhoff speaking ahead of the ParaMatildas’ World Cup Final today. Photo: Football Australia.

Georgia Biekhoff is not just an incredible footballer. She is a true inspirational all round athlete. Competing at the London 2012 Paralympics, Biekhoff won a bronze medal in the javelin and also competed in the 4 x 100 metres.

Biekhoff went into today’s inaugural Women’s CP World Cup Final as the competition’s leading scorer with an incredible 13 goals in five games. The Wollongong born star reflected on her experiences at the World Cup ahead of today’s final.

“It’s been really surreal, competing here. Playing against other women who have Cerebral Palsy (CP) like me is like a dream come true – something I’ve been waiting for many years. Seeing the younger girls step up and show what they have got on and off the pitch is amazing too.

“I was not expecting to get all those goals! I think it won’t hit me until I get home. Even watching the playbacks it’s like ‘This is a dream!’ It doesn’t feel real at all.”

The ParaMatildas were only formed as a team just a few months ago, with fundraising launched and the team then gathered in Canberra for a training camp before departure for the finals in Catalonia.

Above: Georgia Biekhoff in action for the ParaMatildas during the World Cup. Photo provided to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“It’s been a really intense eight weeks since the team was put together,” Biekhoff reflected. “The girls have stepped up and it’s been a real big learning curve for us. This is just the beginning. I’m really exciting for the future.”

The ParaMatildas’ opponents in the World Cup Final today were the USA. The two sides met each other on Sunday in the final group game. Going into the game, the nations were the only two undefeated nations in the competition. The attacker revealed how the team approached that match, and the off pitch issues which contributed to their 4-0 defeat.

“We saw the match against the USA in the group games as a bit of a dress rehearsal. We didn’t play our best game and had a couple of injuries, including myself which ruled me out of the second half. Kaitlyn (Smith – goalkeeper) had a few things going on with her asthma too. We were confident that we could play a better game against them in the final and just go out there and kill it.”

Biekhoff is quite open in her assertion that the team’s achievements in the World Cup are something that cannot be put into words.

“Making the final is surreal. That’s the buzzword on this tour. There are no words to describe how we are feeling. I know that people are sending messages to us, which is really lovely. I’m really keen to go back home and see what happens now over the next couple of years.”

Above: ParaMatidas head coach Kelly Stirton speaking of her pride in her team’s achievements. Photo: Football Australia.

ParaMatildas head coach Kelly Stirton looked back on the World Cup campaign with huge pride.

“This has been one of the best experiences of my life – my coaching life. I’ve never been in this sort of space before in terms of a World Cup or international tournament. It’s been amazing, achieving what we have achieved.

“Today is the day when it’s all sinking in a little bit. The emotions have stepped up now. It’s a massive achievement. I couldn’t be prouder of the players and the support staff. The girls have really stepped it up on and off the pitch.

“They have had to overcome some challenges. There have been moments when we’ve sat back and thought about what we have achieved and gone ‘Wow!’ We have achieved one of the biggest goals in Australian (football) history, so I’m pretty happy!”

The ParaMatildas’ opponents in the Final were familiar as the two nations only faced each other just two days ago.

“Playing the USA in the last group game was good for us,” Stirton admitted, “We knew what to expect for the Final. We know what we had to fix. We saw what they can do and the damage they can do. We know their key players now, so to have that dress rehearsal was important.”

Above: The ParaMatildas team. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

England Announce Provisional Euros Squad

This afternoon, the Lionesses revealed the long list of players from whom their squad of 23 for this summer’s European Championships will be drawn from. We find out who is in and hear the views of head coach Sarina Wiegman (17/5/22).

Above: England head coach Sarina Wiegman. Photo: FA.

Sarina Wiegman has named a 28-player provisional England squad for the 2022 UEFA Women’s European Championships.

Leah Williamson will lead the Lionesses supported by Millie Bright and Ellen White as vice-captains while Sandy MacIver, Steph Houghton, Fran Kirby, Lucy Staniforth, and Chloe Kelly return to the squad. Also in the initial selection is Jill Scott as she works on her fitness, but Jordan Nobbs has been ruled out for the summer because of a knee injury.

The final 23-player selection is due to be confirmed in mid-June ahead of the Finals starting with England’s fixture against Austria at Old Trafford, Manchester on Wednesday 6 July in exactly 50 days’ time.

Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman said: “The Euros are getting closer, and this is a big step towards the tournament. We have a settled squad and I know we have players in our team that will give everything to make it a summer to remember.

“It is important the players have the chance to get some rest now after a very busy season before we get back to our work. We then have a series of prep camps coming up and it is important we use this time to build an even closer connection on and off the pitch.

Above: The inclusion of Fran Kirby in England’s provisional squad is a huge boost to Lionesses fans. Photo: FA.

“We also look forward to welcoming those who have been working individually and with their clubs on their fitness in the past few weeks. We are hoping to have them back on the pitch when the series of pre-camps start, so we can see where they are at.”

The Lionesses will report to St. George’s Park on Monday 30 May to Wednesday 1 June for an initial preparation period before picking up their work again at the national football centre from Monday 6 June to Friday 10 June.

The squad will then return to the home of England teams on Monday 13 June ahead of the first of three warm-up fixtures on Thursday 16 June when Belgium travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Molineux Stadium.

The second warm-up fixture will follow on Friday 24 June when the Lionesses face the Netherlands at Elland Road, the home of Leeds United. The following week will see England spend five days training in Basel including a fixture against Switzerland at the Stadion Letzigrund in Zurich.

UEFA’s deadline to submit a 23-player squad for this summer’s tournament is at 10.59pm (BST) on Sunday 26 June, after which teams are able to make unlimited replacements before their first match in the event of serious injury or illness (including COVID-19 or ‘close contact’ to a positive case).

England’s provisional squad for the 2022 European Championships:

Above: Aston Villa’s outstanding goalkeeper Hannah Hampton earns a well-deserved call-up for England’s provisional Euros squad. Photo: Ben Gilby.

GOALKEEPERS: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa), Sandy MacIver (Everton), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City).

DEFENDERS: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal).

MIDFIELDERS: Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jill Scott (Aston Villa on loan from Manchester City), Lucy Staniforth (Manchester United), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Katie Zelem (Manchester United).

STRIKERS: Beth England (Chelsea), Chloe Kelly (Manchester City), Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Manchester United), Ellen White (Manchester City).

Katelyn Smith: Living The Dream At The World Cup

With the ParaMatildas now midway through the group stage at their inaugural World Cup, goalkeeper Katelyn Smith answered Impetus editor Ben Gilby’s questions. It’s an inspirational story of bravery and overcoming barriers to join her heroes Sam Kerr and Ellie Carpenter as the list of female Australians who have represented their country at a World Cup.

Above: Katelyn Smith enjoying training with the ParaMatildas. Photo: Ann Odong – Football Australia.

“To be wearing the same shirt as them now – it’s really good. I never thought it would happen, but now it is happening, it’s just the best feeling in the world.”

Katelyn Smith on her heroes Sam Kerr and Ellie Carpenter.

It’s been a long road for Western Australia-based 26-year-old Katelyn Smith to travel in order to represent the ParaMatildas at the World Cup. She takes up the tale of her footballing journey.

“I first played football aged four or five with my brothers at the local soccer field. I played and trained right up until I was 16. I then had a break and went to athletics before returning to soccer two years ago.”

That journey has been one full of challenges and hurdles as Katelyn explained. “Playing with a disability is a challenge, particularly when playing in a mainstream setting. Being on an all-boys team as a girl makes it harder. Having the boys believe that you can do what they can do on top of having a disability on top makes it…,yeah, harder.

“I overcame it by just sticking to playing soccer and not listening to them. I blocked it all out and continued to play.”

The ParaMatildas goalkeeper, who scored a sensational long-range goal in their 12-0 win over the Netherlands in the opening game, highlighted her footballing routine in the West.

Above: Katelyn Smith preparing for the ParaMatildas’ World Cup campaign. Photo: Ann Odong – Football Australia.

“At the moment in WA, I don’t play with a team. I just train with the Cerebral Palsy (CB) team boys every second Saturday and they are really welcoming. They are really good with having girls in their team.”

The Australian team found out make-up of the inaugural World Cup squad whilst in Canberra a few weeks before the competition. Katelyn revealed how the news broke.

“We were in camp and heard the news there on the last day of camp. But, we were not allowed to tell anyone! So we had to hide it but also show it at the same time!”

Katelyn has been watching World Cups for years on TV, and it is still sinking in that she is going to be following in the footsteps of some Australian footballing icons.

“The quality of football at World Cups, both men’s and women’s is really good. Any of Sam Kerr’s goals are good – particularly her headers. As a little girl growing up, I wanted to be a Matilda. Knowing that there is a ParaMatildas pathway now too is even better. To be in the very first (ParaMatildas) team is just the icing on the cake.

Above: On the ball – Katelyn Smith. Photo: Ann Odong – Football Australia.

“In terms of who has inspired me, growing up, I liked Sam Kerr. I’m a big fan of Ellie Carpenter as well. Her coming onto the scene at such a young age really inspired me that young girls can do it.

“To be wearing the same shirt as them now – it’s really good. I never thought it would happen, but now, it is happening, it’s just the best feeling in the world.

Katelyn outlined how she thinks the team will go in Spain during the competition. “I think we will have a good chance at the World Cup. We know that America are really fast, but other than that, we don’t know too much. We’re going in to give it our best shot.”

In terms of ParaMatildas players for fans to keep an eye on during the tournament, Katelyn had no hesitation before naming one – with a huge smile on her face. “Georgia! Georgia Beikhoff has got a mean boot! As I’m the goalie, I just want to run behind the net (when she shoots) in training! She’s just got a big boot and her ball skills are incredible.”

ParaMatildas and Young Matildas World Cup News

The ParaMatildas’ World Cup campaign opens next week and Impetus hears from head coach Kelly Stirton after this week’s training camp. The Young Matildas also found out their opponents for August’s U20 World Cup and we heard the views of head coach Leah Blayney (6/5/22).

Above: The ParaMatildas pictures at their Sydney training camp this week. Photo: ParaMatildas.

ParaMatildas head coach Kelly Stirton has named a 10-player squad to compete in the inaugural IFCPF Women’s World Cup in Salou, Spain. 

Running from 11th May to 17th May 2022, Australia will commence their maiden campaign against the Netherlands on 11 May 2022 with kick-off at 12:45pm Central European time / 8.45pm AET. 

Australia’s squad features players from Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and New South Wales with two goalkeepers and eight outfield players for the five-a-side modified competition. 

Stirton expressed her delight in selecting the first squad to represent the ParaMatildas on the international stage. 

Above: The ParaMatildas in training this week. Photo: ParaMatildas.

“With the selection, this is an exciting time for these players who have been working towards this goal for the longest time.  They are ready to make history for our nation,” Stirton said.

“It was certainly a difficult process and through their efforts, the players have made this a real challenge to select the final squad.

“This is a squad with many strengths including leadership, speed, and agility.  We have a lot of girls with para-sports backgrounds meaning we have a quick squad, which is going to be a danger when we break behind those lines of defence.  Our positive attitude as a squad is also one to watch out for, we have that undefeated resilience.”

The squad ranges from the youngest team member, 15-year-old Charlize Tran to the experienced Nicole Christodoulou and Matilda Mason.  It also includes two Paralympians in Georgia Beikhoff and Rae Anderson, with Anderson recently competing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics. 

The side will be co-captained by Georgia Beikhoff and Eloise Northam with the duo handed their jerseys by former Matildas captain and Legacy ’23 ambassador, Julie Dolan and former vice-captain Moya Dodd in a jersey ceremony that included CommBank Junior Matildas head coach Rae Dower and seven Future Matildas players. 

Above: Lots to look forward to the ParaMatildas over the next couple of weeks. Photo: ParaMatildas.

“We are heading to Spain to play for each other and our country.  The players may be individuals off the field but when they are on the field, they are one.  The team has shown me that obstacles put in front of them can be overcome by working together as a team.” 

“I would also like to make special mention of the players that have helped us prepare for the tournament, especially Emily O’Sullivan and Rachel Tolson who have been here in our pre-departure camp.  All the players who have been a part of this journey are a part of theParaMatildas history.” 

After the opening clash, the pool matches will continue in quick succession with Australia taking on Japan (13 May), hosts Spain (14 May), and United States (15 May) to close out the fixtures. 

Following the round-robin stage, the top two nations will challenge for the championship while the bronze medal match will feature the third and fourth-placed teams. 

The CommBank ParaMatildas games will be broadcast on the My Football YouTube channel, while tournament match scheduling and results can be accessed here.

COMMBANK PARAMATILDAS SQUAD | 2022 IFCPF WOMEN’S WORLD CUP

Above: The ParaMatildas squad. Photo: ParaMatildas
NO.NAMEAGECITY, STATECLASSIFICATION
1 (GK)Holly SAUNDERS19Sydney, NSWFT1
2Nicole CHRISTODOULOU30Sydney, NSWFT2
3Tahlia BLANSHARD21Jilliby, NSWFT2
4Charlize TRAN15Sydney, NSWFT2
5Lainee HARRISON18Newcastle, NSWTBC
6 (GK)Katelyn SMITH26Perth, WATBC
7Eloise NORTHAM19Sydney, NSWTBC
8Matilda MASON30Canberra, ACTFT2
9Rae ANDERSON25Wamberal, NSWTBC
10Georgia BEIKOFF29Newcastle, NSWFT2

Young Matildas To Open U20 World Cup

Above: The Young Matildas squad that played New Zealand recently. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

The Young Matildas will face host nation Costa Rica to open the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica at the Estadio Nacional, San Jose on 10 August 2022. 

The Final Draw for the competition took place today at the Teatro Nacional in San José, one of the two host cities for the tournament.

Australia’s Group A schedule will see them also take on South American champions Brazil (13 August) and UEFA’s Spain (16 August).

Head coach Leah Blayney conveyed her anticipation for the tournament following the draw. 

“We’re looking forward to facing Costa Rica in the opening match at the Estadio Nacional.  What an exciting time for women’s football,” Blayney said.  “We’re going into every match respecting all our opponents and we will now prepare accordingly.”

“It’s going to be an incredible experience, already during our time in Costa Rica, the people and the community have made us feel welcome.  Returning in August and playing with this atmosphere is going to be very special.”

CommBank Young Matildas midfielder Sarah Hunter spoke about looking forward to playing some of the world’s best youth national teams in less than 100 days’ time. 

Above: Inside the Young Matildas huddle. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“The draw makes our participation in the U20 Women’s World Cup feel very real.  Knowing who our opponents are allows us to fully focus on preparation to be ready for the competition,” Hunter said.  

“Costa Rica as the host nation obviously will have strong support which will make the atmosphere electric.  Being a part of the opening match with them will be an experience for us to remember and a chance to set the tone for the rest of our tournament. 

“Australia and Brazil have a great rivalry in women’s football.  They have such rich history in World Cups, and they will present a wonderful challenge for us, particularly as it will be the first time our group will face a South American nation.

“Finally, Spain is probably the benchmark for women’s football right now so getting the opportunity to play them at a major tournament is amazing to think about.” 

Running from 10 to 28 August 2022, the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup features 16 nations drawn into four groups of four teams.  The top two finishers in each group will advance to the knockout stages, commencing on 20 August 2022. 

The Young Matildas were drawn out of Pot 4 which included the Netherlands, Canada, and Colombia.  The nations were placed in pots based on their previous showings at recent tournaments. 

GROUP AGROUP BGROUP CGROUP D
Costa RicaGermanyFranceJapan
AustraliaColombiaNigeriaNetherlands
SpainNew ZealandCanadaGhana
BrazilMexicoKorea RepublicUSA

2022 will mark the 10th edition of the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup with Australia set to make their fourth appearance at the youth championships, reaching the quarter-finals on two occasions (2002, 2004).  Their most recent appearance was in 2006 with Blayney a member of that squad. 

Australia will continue their preparations for the tournament next week when they assemble for a training camp in Sydney. 


COMMBANK YOUNG MATILDAS | MATCH SCHEDULE | GROUP A

Costa Rica v Australia
Date: Wednesday, 10 August 2022 (local)
Venue: Estadio Nacional, San Jose

Brazil v Australia
Date: Saturday, 13 August 2022 (local)
Venue: Morera Soto, Alajuela

Australia v Spain
Date: Tuesday, 16 August 2022 (local)
Venue: Morera Soto, Alajuela

Wales Announce New Zealand Friendly

The Welsh will be taking on the Football Ferns next month. We hear all the details and the views of Wales head coach Gemma Grainger (5/5/22).

Gemma Grainger’s Wales will take on New Zealand, next year’s joint World Cup hosts, in an international challenge match on Tuesday 28th June (KO 18:00 BST) in the Pinatar Arena in Spain.

The two sides last met in June 2019, when a Kayleigh Green goal secured the 1-0 win for Cymru in drizzly conditions at the Leckwith Stadium in Cardiff. The match will see a return to south-east Spain for Grainger’s side, after competing in the 2022 Pinatar Cup in February.

New Zealand, ranked 22nd in the world, will be hosting next year’s World Cup alongside Australia. Wales are currently sitting in second place in their qualifying group in the bid to reach the tournament down-under and will hope to secure a play-off spot with two matches remaining, away to Greece and home to Slovenia.

The Wales head coach said: “This is a great opportunity for our preparation ahead of the final qualifying round group matches in September. It is the next step in the growth of the team. New Zealand are a higher ranked opposition, and we want to continue with that mentality of challenging ourselves in different ways.”

Lionesses Announce Final Pre-Euros Friendly

Impetus has all the news of England’s final piece in the jigsaw for their European Championships preparations (27/4/22).

Above: Ellen White and the Lionesses will be off to Switzerland ahead of the Euros. Photo: The Telegraph.

It was announced today that England’s trio of warm-up internationals before UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 will conclude with a fixture against Switzerland in Zurich on Thursday 30th June.

Sarina Wiegman’s squad will take on the Swiss at the Letzigrund stadium as part of a five-day overseas training camp just before the summer finals, with the kick-off time still to be confirmed.

The European Championships gets underway the following week against Austria at Old Trafford on Wednesday 6th July – with UEFA confirming that all available tickets have sold out for the opening game.

Switzerland have also qualified for this summer’s tournament meaning all three of England’s preparation games in June will be against fellow Euros finalists. The Lionesses meet Belgium at Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Molineux Stadium on Thursday 16 June before welcoming the Netherlands to Leeds United’s Elland Road on Friday 24 June. Both matches kick-off at 8pm.

With all three Euros group matches against Austria (Manchester, 6th July), Norway (Brighton, 11th July) and Northern Ireland (Southampton, 15th July) all sold out, seats for both fixtures are already in high demand.

Above: England head coach Sarina Wiegman believes the trip to Switzerland comes at the right time for her side ahead of the Euros. Photo: The FA.

Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman said: “I am very happy to be finishing our Euros build-up with another big game, this time away in Switzerland. Before the match, it will be helpful to spend some time abroad as we step up our work on the training ground. The change of environment will come at just the right time for the squad and help focus our minds on the challenges to come.

“We will then return to England refreshed and ready to go for the opening Euros match and I am delighted to see how excited everyone already is for the summer. Before Switzerland, we hope the fans will turn out to see us in Wolverhampton and Leeds, especially with our group games sold out. We certainly can’t wait to feel their support once again.”

England last travelled to Switzerland on 10 June 2017, just before the previous UEFA Women’s European Championships played in the Netherlands, running out 4-0 winners in Bern.

The Swiss are 19th in the FIFA world rankings, meaning England’s three European Championships warm-ups are against teams in the global top 20 with Belgium 20th and the Netherlands, the defending champions, fifth.

Above: Switzerland star Ramona Bachmann will pose England a threat in their June friendly. Photo: @Bachmannr10

It’s Never Goodbye To ‘Never Say Die’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

France Qualify For World Cup But Concerns Ahead of Euros

Jean-Pierre Thiesset summarizes France’s last two games for Women’s World Cup qualification (13/4/22).

Above: Delphine Cascarino pictured after scoring France’s winner against Slovenia yesterday. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine.

Wales 1-2 France – April 8, 2022

France won away from home 2-1 against Wales at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli in front of a record crowd of 4,553 fans for a women’s football international in Wales.

If we look only at the statistics of the game, we will say that France largely dominated this game (71% possession, 19 shots, 548 passes with 81% successful) but it was not as easy as it seems for France. On the contrary, the constant pressure of the Welsh and the use of counterattacks at every possible opportunity could have allowed Wales to score after both 12 minutes and 70 minutes after bad clearances from Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, the French goalkeeper, from corners.

Above: Wales’ togetherness resulted in a great effort from Gemma Granger’s team against France in Llanelli. Photo: FA Wales.

Additionally, there could have been a penalty for Wales at the 58th minute after a foul on Jess Fishlock whose run was ended just inside the penalty area. Unfortunately for Wales, there is no VAR in Women’s World Cup qualification games, and the referee gave only a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.

For France, there were a lot of opportunities but a lot of shots off target (just near the posts or just over the crossbar) due to a disturbing lack of efficiency of French strikers. So, overall I would say that France deserved to win but it was too close to a very disappointing result with the Euros in England coming up soon. With such a lack of efficiency, France can not hope to win against stronger teams in games where they will have fewer opportunities.

Goal for Wales from Sophie Ingle (71) on a shot from 18 meters. Goals for France from Wendie Renard (31) on a header at the second post on a corner from Sandie Toletti from the left side, Marie-Antoinette Katoto (57) who gained the ball from the Wales goalkeeper who did not clear the ball quickly enough.

France 1-0 Slovenia – April 12, 2022

Above: Delphine Cascarino on the ball for France against Slovenia in Le Mans. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine.

France won 1-0 at home against Slovenia at Le Mans in front of 7,000 fans. Again, in this second game, the statistics may make us think that France had an easy game (70% possession, 606 passes with 82% successful, 22 shots with 8 on target), but the scoreboard tells us something else.

Slovenia could have led 2-0 at halftime. After nine minutes, a shot from 25 meters from Mateja Zver needed Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, who was not on her goal line, to make a great save to put the ball over the crossbar.

Slovenia had another chance after 43 minutes when Peyraud-Magnin took the ball from the feet of Lara Prasnikar on a counterattack. In the first half, Slovenia played very low in their part of the field, and they proceeded with counterattacks. France were wasteful in their passes, made a lot of technical errors, and suffered again from a lack efficiency in front of the goal. There shots near the posts, over the crossbar, and directly in the arms of Slovenia goalkeeper, Zala Mersnik.

The second half started stronger for France with more fluidity in their game and they scored quickly, at the 48th minute from Delphine Cascarino who put the ball in the net at the back post with her right foot on a back pass at ground level from Clara Matéo with her left foot from the left side. After this goal, it started to be more difficult for Slovenia players, but France were still not able to score another goal. Goal for France from Delphine Cascarino (48).

So France have qualified for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, but nobody is really reassured for the Euros in England given that they could have lost both of their last games, and that it seems that they still not have solved their lack of efficiency in front of the goal.

Above: The French team pictured after their win over Slovenia which clinched their place at the 2023 World Cup. Photo: Equipe de France Feminine.

Gustavsson and Klimková Reflect On Second Matildas v Football Ferns Clash

Impetus’ Ben Gilby was in the post-match media conference for us and heard from both Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson and New Zealand counterpart Jitka Klimková (12/4/22).

Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson saw positives and development points from his side in today’s game with New Zealand in Canberra. Photo: Football Australia.

Reflecting on how Australia played tonight, head coach Tony Gustavsson reflected: “We were mixed tonight. When we had speed of play, New Zealand couldn’t cope with our combination play and the way we were zipping the ball around. There were parts when we lacked concentration and New Zealand looked to catch us on the break and they could have scored one or two more goals. We need to learn from every moment. When we play fast we are difficult to stop.”

Gustavsson recognized that after her strong performance in Friday’s match, the Football Ferns were going to target reducing the threat of Katrina Gorry.

“I had a talk with ‘Mini’ (Gorry) about how they will have a plan to stop her. We too then had a plan to see how we could get her around that. She is so skilful that she can get away from pressure. She can turn on a dime. You saw that when she played in Mary (Fowler). She wasn’t as impactful as in the first game, but she still played well.”

The Matildas head coach insisted that there is clear progression in his side’s performances during this international window, but equally is aware there is still much to do.

“We internally have seen the progress and the journey for a while now even though result-wise that may not be obvious. We started to see good things in the first game with Brazil in 15-minute bursts and the last 30 minutes of the first half in the first game against the USA.

“We came into this camp saying we needed to believe in what we are doing and the process along with a cohesion and chemistry. The players have been patient with me as a coach with curveballs, rotations, and rosters I have thrown at them. Now we are narrowing it down with greater continuity. I think one of the reasons that we have seen better combination play during this camp is because we have more continuity in what we are doing.”

Tony Gustavsson, Australia head coach.

“There’s also the addition of players with different profiles who have given us a different dimension in how we are playing.”

Asked by Impetus’ Ben Gilby about the reduced intensity from Australia in the second half, Gustavsson admitted: “I think there was a drop-off. I made changes at that point because I wanted players to come on with energy and with something to prove to me as a head coach.

“I do also think there was a second wave of drop-off (around the 70-minute mark) and that was a good opportunity to practice game management. New Zealand took over and that was us letting them have the ball. We need to prepare for a World Cup scenario protecting leads and trying to be flexible. We need to train on those aspects going forward.”

Above: It was an impressive performance from Australia’s Hayley Raso. She spoke to the media after the game. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia’s Manchester City star Hayley Raso reflected on her superb goal when she spoke to the media after the match in Canberra.

“It’s always nice to get on the score sheet. We needed to be better in the final third. We’ve worked hard on that.

“We know that whoever plays combines well together. The cohesion is really there. We work on how to develop and get better and we can see how things are gelling now.”

Asked about whether going 3-0 up so early made it a challenge to keep a relentless attacking game going, Raso said: “For us, we try not to get ahead of ourselves. We wanted to come into the game and score goals. We got a few within a certain period, but that doesn’t stop what we want to do. We stay calm, play our football and continue to push.”

Impetus also understands that Cortnee Vine missed the game today after pulling her groin. It is not thought to be a groin strain, but the Matildas wanted to reduce any risk of more serious injury.

Above: New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková. Photo: NZ Football.

New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková was philosophical about her team’s performance in Canberra against Australia, insisting that there were positives to take.

“Australia put their strongest 11 out and played for a win from the start. This time they put their chances in the goal and that was the difference between the first and second games. I did see positives though.

“We switched our way of defending. We pushed them high and got close to causing trouble. Our high press caused them problems, we need to be consistent now as to how we win the ball further up the field.”

“We wanted to put the pressure on the ball as soon as possible, making them have possession further back on the pitch. We wanted to keep how we defended on Friday in the same way. We wanted to be more aggressive with our squeeze and put pressure on the ball earlier and that is something that we need to do better.

Jitka Klimková, New Zealand head coach.

“The last 20 minutes saw how we really want to play – trusting each other. Not just possession for possession sake, but looking to break the line and score some goals ourselves. Stotty showed how good she is with the ball today as well. She will help us in future to get more control.”

Despite these aims, Klimková’s side found it hard to compete with the Matildas in the first half. New Zealand’s head coach believed that ultimately it was more about how good the hosts were than any weakness in her own side.

“Huge credit to Australia for how they played. The first half was incredible football from them.”

Key attacker Paige Satchell had to leave the pitch in the early stages with what appeared to be breathing problems. The Football Ferns head coach detailed the issue.

“We know that she has some challenges with her heart, so just in case, we wanted to have things under control. It was the right decision to take her off the field. The medical team will work with her to get things right and I am confident that she will be with us in the next international window.”

Above: New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková saw positives from today’s game. Photo: NZ Football.

Klimková was pressed by the New Zealand media about her decision to take Victoria Esson out of the starting line-up despite her outstanding performance in the first game against Australia on Friday, and it is not the first time such a move has occurred.

“We are still in this development of our team phase. We want to have more players ready. That was the reason that Erin (Naylor) got the chance today. She has made good performances for her club and did well at training. It was a simple decision for her to play today and I thought she did a good job.”

The Football Ferns head coach, overall was pleased with what she saw from her team over the matches.

“I definitely got what I wanted out of these two games. We were aiming to build connections on the field. Result wise it was not what we wanted. The first game was so close, but we know we need to be better with our game management and we have to learn those lessons. The players will remember and will be smarter.

Matildas Ease To Second Football Ferns Win

Australia 3-1 New Zealand

By Ben Gilby (12/4/22)

Above: The Matildas celebrate with two goal Sam Kerr tonight in Canberra against Canberra. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia produced a dominant first-half performance, scoring three goals in a 17 minute spell to see off New Zealand in Canberra.

That opening 45-minute showing saw the Matildas convert a greater percentage of their shots on goal than in recent performances. Whilst building a big lead half-time lead can often lead to a second half-drop off, there does remain an element of frustration about a more pedestrian second-half which saw the hosts fail to impose their overall dominance onto the scoreboard.

The real positives again came from players coming into the squad. Alex Chidiac’s eagerly awaited arrival from the bench brought a superb cameo involving stunning flicks, eye of the needle passes into space, and energetic running. Whilst slightly more shackled this time by Katie Bowen, Katrina Gorry also produced another performance to be proud of.

Above: New Zealand’s Katie Bowen (right) who worked hard against Katrina Gorry (left) all night long in Canberra. Photo: Football Australia.

The Matildas went into the game with just the one change as Caitlin Foord came in to start ahead of Kyah Simon. Cortnee Vine, so dangerous in the final stages on Friday in the first friendly between the two sides was unavailable due to a late injury.

New Zealand brought Erin Naylor in for the hugely impressive Victoria Esson in goal, with Mikayla Moore staying in for the injured Ria Percival.

The earliest stages saw some attacking vim and vigour from the Football Ferns as they imposed a pacey high press which resulted in forcing some defensive errors from Australia in the form of loose passes.

It was not long though before Australia began to impose themselves on proceedings. Naylor had to make her first save with just three minutes on the clock after Foord played Steph Catley in along the right. Claudia Bunge’s clearance fell to Hayley Raso who hit a cross shot which the Ferns goalkeeper gathered under the bar.

New Zealand pressured the Matildas defence shortly afterwards as Hannah Wilkinson was played through and beat the off-side trap. Clare Polkinghorne and Alanna Kennedy failed to close her down sufficiently and the Melbourne City striker’s shot was narrowly wide of the far post.

The Ferns suffered a set-back before the 10th minute when Paige Satchell went down with what looked like breathing difficulties. She would eventually leave the pitch to be replaced by Gabi Rennie, but took her place on the bench which alleviated any initial major concerns.

Above: Australia celebrate Sam Kerr’s opening goal against New Zealand. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia stepped up the intensity, and unlike Friday, got almost immediate rewards. With a quarter of an hour played, Steph Catley’s corner was headed home by an unmarked Sam Kerr. It was a trademark Kerr goal from a set-piece, but major questions need to be asked about an international defence giving the Chelsea star that sort of freedom.

Two minutes later, the Matildas doubled their advantage as Gorry’s pass through came back off Bowen and into the path of Raso to curl a shot into the far corner of the net on the bounce. Whilst it may have been fortuitous that the ball fell to her, it was a superb finish by the Manchester City player.

At this stage, Australia had scored two goals from their three shots on target – something which after the wastefulness of last week’s encounter was a positive.

New Zealand’s defensive organization was a major plus point from Friday’s game, but this time round, they were struggling and guilty of ball watching too often. Being under constant pressure will always highten the possibilities of errors, yet the Ferns showed previously that they can do it. The challenge now is to do it more often, as when the World Cup comes round, lapses will prove costly.

Just after the half-hour mark, it was 3-0. Emily van Egmond’s long ball allowed Kerr to beat Ali Riley and run comfortably between two defenders and roll home a finish into the far corner.

Above: Two goal Sam Kerr celebrates in Canberra tonight. Photo: Football Australia.

With 73% possession, The Matildas were still looking for more goals. Kerr squared a ball across which New Zealand could only clear into the path of Ellie Carpenter, but Naylor saved well.

Two minutes into stoppage time, Australia paid the price for a momentary slip of concentration at the back when Olivia Chance released Wilkinson who advanced towards goal. Lydia Williams blocked the initial shot but the Ferns’ striker won the physical battle with Polkinghorne and hit an effort between the Matildas’ defender’s legs which went in.

Whilst the Matildas came out firing at the start of the second period, with Foord hitting an effort against the bar, the pace began to ease. Australia were comfortable in possession, but were not able to replicate the creation of chances that had come before.

In a bid to inject more energy, Matildas’ head coach Tony Gustavsson brought on five substitutes, including Alex Chidiac who went into midfield along side Gorry. The Melbourne Victory A-League Women champion’s first touch was sublime – a flick with the outside of the foot. She was threading balls through holes beautifully.

Carpenter then made a break along the right and crossed in. Sub Tameka Yallop managed to rescue it at the back post with a first time volley across for Kerr who headed wide of the left hand post. Shortly afterwards, there was a potential penalty shout as Ferns goalkeeper Naylor looked to have made contact with Kerr in the box, but nothing was given.

The final 20 minutes saw New Zealand have the greater share of possession and territory. Chance hit a lofted shot which Williams needed to be alive to, but they couldn’t get any closer.

Whilst this was a comfortable win for Australia, there is still plenty to work on for head coach Tony Gustavsson. More 90 minute performances, consistently tighter defence, and continuing to focus on taking chances when they come remain the focus.

Teams: AUSTRALIA: Williams, Carpenter, Kennedy, Polkinghorne, Catley, van Egmond, Foord, Fowler, Raso, Gorry, Kerr. Substitutes: Simon (for Raso 58′), Yallop (for Foord 58′), Wheeler (for van Egmond 58′), Luik (for Polkinghorne 58′), Chidiac (for Fowler 58′), Grant (for Kennedy 72′).

Scorers: Kerr 15′, 32. Raso 17′.

NEW ZEALAND: Naylor, Riley, Moore, Bunge, Hassett, Green, Cleverley, Bowen, Chance, Wilkinson, Satchell. Substitutes: Rennie (for Satchell 20′), Steinmetz (for Cleverley 46′), Ward (for Green 46′), Jale (for Hassett 48′), Stott (for Wilkinson 69′), Rolston (for Rennie 78′).

Scorer: Wilkinson 45+2′.

Referee: Haruna Kanematsu (JPN).

Attendance: 13,077.

Gustavsson & Klimková Outline Aims Ahead of Matildas v Football Ferns II

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from the head coaches of Australia and New Zealand, Tony Gustavsson and Jitka Klimková ahead of tomorrow’s second game between the two nations in Canberra (11/4/22).

Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson at today’s media conference. Photo: Football Australia.

Tony Gustavsson has said that he is focussing on his team “converting chances when they come” ahead of tomorrow’s friendly with New Zealand in Canberra.

The Matildas dominated the first game against the Football Ferns in Townsville on Friday but had to wait until stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win.

“I don’t want things to change too much for us because I think we played really well on Friday. What we have looked at a lot though is converting chances when they come. We should have been three or four-nil up at half-time. Almost 90% of our attacks in that game ended inside the final third.

“Another pleasing thing was the different ways we were creating chances – central combinations, transitional movements, longer passing sessions, and set plays.”

Gustavsson revealed that as well as regular training, there have been a lot of meetings with players ahead of tomorrow’s game.

“There have been further Asian Cup reviews and reviews of the first New Zealand game.”

In terms of reflecting on the disappointing Asian Cup campaign, the Matildas head coach said: “We had seven players with COVID over Christmas and 12 players playing zero minutes into the weeks leading into it. In the Korea game, we had a 45% reduction in sprints in the second half which impacted the way we want to play.

“In the Korea game, we had some good moments against them in the first half, but the second half it got a bit nervy and we started playing long balls. We also created lots of chances but did not convert. Games are won and lost like that. In the tournament, we conceded only two goals. One against Thailand near the end which was a lack of game management near the end and the free-kick in the wide-area against Korea. Those are things we need to guard against.”

Above: Making a point to the media today, Tony Gustavsson. Photo: Football Australia.

Gustavsson addressed the criticism he is getting in some quarters for results and selections, asking for fairness and understanding the process that he was employed to oversee.

“Being a head coach – there is always criticism. Honestly, I like a debate and there will always be opinions about players selected and tactics. You just need to be fair and educated about what we are doing.

“When I came into the job I mentioned our stats in results against the top sides in the world and from 2011-2020 and you will see bad stats, to be honest. We said we need to play them more to be prepared next time. Therefore, the results in those friendlies may not make expectations. I think we’ve played too many lower-ranked opponents to prepare for tournaments before.

“The other thing is to connect to the Gap report about having more fringe players getting exposed. On average, we have fielded 2.4 new players per decade. Last year we fielded 14 debutants. If you combine that with playing some of the world’s top teams, it’s natural that results will be hard. I’m not saying that to try to protect myself, I’m just saying it is part of a process, a bigger journey.”

Australia’s head coach ended by highlighting what he particularly wants to see from his team tomorrow.

“Tomorrow is a different game and New Zealand will show learnings from the first one too. I want to see how fast we can play – the international game is getting quicker all the time and I want to see what we can do.

“The other focus point for me is in defence. There were times on Friday when we got away with being below 100% at the back. We need to fix that. We can be hurt against the top nations in the world if we are not focussed all the time.

“One of the biggest victories we have now is that we have 100% availability for tomorrow’s game. It makes it tough for me to decide who starts and who will be the game-changers.”

Above: New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková talking to the media today. Photo: NZ Football.

New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková believes that her team are over the devastating way they lost a 1-0 lead against Australia in the first match on Friday.

“The team have recovered. Our sessions in Canberra have had quality and a lot of smiles. We are planning to compete in the same way and obviously have things to improve on. We’re glad to have another chance to play against strong opposition.

“If we see the amount of grit and determination every time we step onto the pitch, I will be really pleased. We can control the game better and keep the ball better no doubt, but we are going through those processes and focussing on them. I was very proud how we fought on Friday.”

Klimková had mixed news about player availability for tomorrow’s game starting with the worst possible outcome for Ria Percival.

“Ria has gone back to her club, Tottenham. She is so important for us. It is a long-term injury, an ACL injury to her left knee. Depending on the assessment she will out for the rest of the year.”

The Ferns though are hopeful of being able to call on Rebekah Stott who missed the game in Townsville. “We have to be careful. There are priorities with players’ health. However, it looks promising. If she is ready, she is always going to play. We think Stotty will step on to the field. She will help us to keep the ball better.”

New Zealand’s head coach highlighted the improvement areas that see is looking for from her team from Friday’s game to tomorrow’s.

“Set piece defending is one of our real work-ons after the first game. Along with this is the opportunity to play to win, to redeem ourselves. We want to show that grit from Friday. If we start to be consistent with that competitiveness and connection on the field, that is the way our future will look like. We need to keep hold of our friend, the ball more. That starts from trusting each other in possession.”

Klimková’s slightly longer-term aims are all about getting the Football Ferns in the right place for a home World Cup.

“The main thing we need is to play more games, keep the process and belief that this team can achieve its first wins in the World Cup and get out of the group. It won’t happen in one or two international windows. It is what we will keep working on for the rest of this year.

“What the players do outside of the window is important. We are making sure that players are continually pushed and learning ahead of July 2023.”

Australia v New Zealand: Media Conference Wrap

Impetus Ben Gilby was in the post-match media conferences and heard the views of Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson and midfielder Emily van Egmond plus New Zealand’s head coach Jitka Klimková and goalkeeper Victoria Esson (8/4/22).

Above: Tony Gustavsson, who saw plenty to be proud about in his Matildas team’s performance today. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson expressed his delight at The Matildas never-say-die effort which saw them score two goals in stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes to seal a 2-1 win over New Zealand in Townsville.

“I am so proud. It is all credit to the players. I was not surprised as I know the players’ belief and mindset. We panicked a bit against Korea in the Asian Cup in the second half, but that wasn’t the case today. It really impressed me that the players were not satisfied to get back to 1-1, they wanted to go out to get the win.”

Highlighting some of the aspects of the game that pleased him most, the Matildas head coach highlighted the quality of his team’s build-up.

“We felt we could do more in our build-up play after the Asian Cup to bring it back to what we saw at the Brazil game. Then think about the first half against the USA, we were losing, but the ability in build-up was good.”

“Also, Mini (Katrina Gorry) came in and gave us a great match and some great combination play. That’s another step in the right direction. I would have loved to have had Mini in the Asian Cup. I want to use her as a six due to her positioning and passing which is phenomenal. She can activate our central diamond and that’s great. But her defensive activity was brilliant. Her duels with Hannah Wilkinson were world-class.

“This was her first step back. We need to expose her now to top-ranked opposition where the pressure on us is high for 90 minutes.”

Gustavsson had pointed out in his pre-game media conference yesterday that he expected to see a lot of substitutions made during the game as a result of the late arrival of many of his players into camp from Europe. In the end, apart from Caitlin Foord coming on at the start of the second half, only two further changes were made with Tameka Yallop coming on with 12 minutes left and Cortnee Vine in stoppage time.

“We had multiple pre-planned subs planned for tonight with the jet-lag and well-being angle,” the Matildas head coach admitted, “but the live stats coming in showing the players physical output had our numbers much lower than normal. A player recommended to play just 60 minutes had figures way lower than expected, so the Sports Science people gave me the OK to keep them on.

“As a result of that, when we used the subs tonight, I wanted to do it tactically. Normally we have two days between games, now we have three days to recover so many of the players who played today would be ready to play again on Tuesday. We had a year of experimentation and looked at many players, now we need to narrow things down. It’s a balance to make.

“Sam (Kerr) had a limitation on her in terms of how long she would play, but the way we dominated, her stats meant she could stay on. She was tired, but always finds a way to find that extra edge. There is no coincidence that she is who she is and the fact that she is our captain.

“It says a lot about our players that some only arrived on Wednesday, but they are so determined to be here, part of the team, and put on the performance they did tonight.”

Above: Emily van Egmond pictured in action at the Asian Cup in January. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia midfielder Emily van Egmond who scored her country’s equalizing goal two minutes into stoppage time revealed that she never had any doubts that they would comeback.

“It shows the belief we have in the team. You can have 90% of the ball but not win, that’s the game, it’s about how you work and your mindset.”

The former West Ham United player highlighted the importance of Katrina Gorry in Australia’s performance today.

“It’s so good to have Mini back. She contributed immensely tonight. Playing with her is super fun. Having Mini there at six means I can play further forward. She was dominant in that six role. That allowed the rest of us to push on up-front.”

Above: Football Ferns head coach Jitka Klimková. Photo: NZ Football.

New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková felt nothing but pride in her team’s performance.

“We are still in that stage where our team is getting together. If we are going to play the way we played today, we all will be very proud of each other. I’m happy about the process, not about the result. For 90+2 minutes it was an unbelievable performance and I was a very proud coach.

“We will look at the whole game and how we performed and fought to the end. That is what we will take from the game. We have learned a lesson to keep fighting until the end. It is an unbelievable journey from our team. We are very proud.

“We know we were playing at the home of the Matildas. Our goal was not beating them, but how we play. We played to win and that is how we want to play in the future.”

Klimková was full of praise for her goalkeeper Victoria Esson who produced a number of outstanding saves throughout the game. “She is a quality keeper. She always focuses and when she has a chance she takes it like she did today. She kept us in the game.”

The Football Ferns head coach revealed the latest news about the knee injury that Tottenham Hotspur’s Ria Purcival suffered in the first half. “Ria will be assessed and scanned tomorrow morning. We need to wait until the result and will inform everyone then. Fingers crossed it won’t be a long-term injury.”

Above: Victoria Esson, who had a superb game for the Football Ferns. Photo: Hanne Davis/stuff.co.nz

Goalkeeper Victoria Esson reflected on a bitter-sweet night for her. “It is gut-wrenching losing how we did. In saying that I’m proud of the team as at times we had to ride out a storm and we scored a great goal. Our defending was phenomenal and there were bodies on the line.”

“I wasn’t concerned by all the shots coming down on me as I knew the game would turn in our favour at some point.”

For Impetus’ match report of Australia v New Zealand, click: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/04/08/never-say-die-matildas-take-it-at-the-death/

Never Say Die Matildas Take It At The Death

Australia 2-1 New Zealand

By Ben Gilby (8/4/22)

Above: The Matildas celebrate Sam Kerr’s late winner against the Football Ferns in Townsvile today. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia turned the game on its head with two goals in stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes to defeat New Zealand 2-1 in Townsville.

The Matildas were dominant throughout with 16 shots on target to the Football Ferns one and earned 72% of possession. Yet, as was the case during the Asian Cup, they failed to turn these chances into goals and trailed from just after the half-hour mark.

Australia named Katrina Gorry in their starting line-up, for her first international appearance in over 800 days after a pause in her career to give birth. The midfielder was deployed in the number six role which allowed Emily van Egmond the potential to get forward more. Who to fill the number six position for The Matildas has been an issue for Tony Gustavsson for some time. In the first half, Gorry offered enough in her link-up play to suggest that she offers a solution.

New Zealand had not beaten Australia since October 1994. In the intervening 27 and a half years, the Matildas had won 26 of the 29 matches between the two sides. For much of the first half, it looked as though that trend would continue.

Put simply, Australia were rampant – but in a worrying flashback to their Asian Cup campaign, for all the possession held and shots on target (71% and six shots to one in the first half alone), they could not translate that into a scoreboard lead.

The Matildas imposed their high press, fast passing game from the off with Gorry and Fowler prominent. The latter, made herself available both wide and centrally and gave yet another performance of maturity and skill way beyond her teenage years.

It took Australia just three minutes to fashion their first chance when Victoria Esson saved Hayley Raso’s shot after the Manchester City star was played in by Fowler. Less than 60 seconds later, Kyah Simon got up highest to direct a thumping header narrowly wide.

The pressure continued to build and with nine minutes on the clock, Simon had a shot blocked on the left which was recycled back into the box by Steph Catley. Clare Polkinghorne directed a header goalwards but Esson stretched out a left palm to deny the Queenslander with a sensational save.

There were more difficulties for the Football Ferns when Spurs’ Ria Percival twisted her knee when changing direction off the ball and had to leave the pitch to be replaced by Meikayla Moore.

Shortly afterwards, there was another opportunity for Australia as Fowler’s long ball found Alanna Kennedy near the six-yard box. The Manchester City defender’s flick header was claimed by Esson.

With 26 minutes played, New Zealand earned their first corner which only led to another Matildas attack after Polkinghorne comfortably headed clear. Raso made yards down the right and squared for Kerr but to no avail.

As was all too familiar from Australia’s last outing against Korea in the Asia Cup Quarter-Finals, creating umpteen chances and missing them can often lead to disaster. Just after the half hour, Meikayla Moore, on as a sub for the injured Percival hit a long ball from central midfield for Anna Green on the left. Green hit a sensational shot on the volley which, some will claim was an attempt at a cross, flew into the far corner. Whilst there was a whiff of offside about it, the goal stood and it was another nasty reminder for Australia of their nightmare in India.

Above: New Zealand celebrate Anna Green’s superb goal. Photo: NZ Football.

The second half was a similar story. Caitlin Foord was introduced for her hundredth cap in place of Kyah Simon. Raso sped along the right and cut in to hit a shot which Esson smothered well. Shortly afterwards, Fowler hit an effort from the ‘D’ which was held by the impressive Football Ferns goalkeeper.

The Matildas were now laying siege to the New Zealand goal. Foord saw an effort come back off the bar, Fowler hit a shot narrowly over the top and Claudia Bunge was forced to clear off the line. Still Australia could not score.

At this stage, it seemed puzzling that Tony Gustavsson was not making changes. He had highlighted in his media conference the day before that we would see lots of rotation in the game to aid players, some of whom only arrived on Wednesday, but his second substitute was not made until the 78th minute when Tameka Yallop replaced Mary Fowler. The Matildas head coach would explain in his post-match media conference that in-action stats coming through meant that the starting players were not showing signs of fatigue that necessitated their replacement amidst the team’s domination. For coverage of the full post-match media conference, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/2022/04/08/australia-v-new-zealand-media-conference-wrap/

Cortnee Vine, an absolute sensation for Sydney FC in the A-League Women and one of the positives from the Asia Cup disappointments came on in stoppage time at the end of the match. Despite only being part of the action for a short period, Vine showed her worth as the game turned with typical Matildas never-say-die spirit.

Above: Australian joy after equalizing. Photo: Football Australia.

Four minutes into stoppage time, Carpenter went on a typically marauding run along the right and cut back for van Egmond to sweep home a side-footed shot.

Then, just two minutes later, great work from Vine along the right won a corner from Bunge. Catley curled an effort in which was met by the head of Kennedy and Kerr nipped in to nod home from just outside the six-yard box.

It was a staggering turnaround. In terms of chances created, possession and spirit, Australia deserved the win. Yet, you can’t help but feel that the problem of turning chances into goals is an issue that needs solving.

New Zealand were well organized and defended superbly. It was a devastating way for the game to end, but Jitka Klimková’s side will take many positives from this.

Above: The Australia team line-up in Townsville before kick-off. Photo: Football Australia.

Teams: AUSTRALIA: Williams, Catley, Polkinghorne, Kennedy, Carpenter, Fowler, van Egmond, Gorry, Raso, Kerr, Simon. Substitutes used: Foord (for Simon), Yallop (for Fowler), Vine (for Raso).

Scorers: van Egmond 90+4′, Kerr 90+6′.

NEW ZEALAND: Esson, Bowen, Bunge, Green, Riley, Cleverley, Hassett, Percival, Chance, Satchell, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Moore (for Percival), Rennie (for Hassett), Anton (for Green), Collins (for Satchell), Steinmetz (for Cleverley), Jale (for Chance).

Scorer: Green 32′.

Attendance: 10,779.

Sophie Ingle & Gemma Grainger: Wales Are Ready For France

Impetus’ Jean-Pierre Thiesset was in Wales’ pre-game media conference with captain Sophie Ingle and head coach Gemma Grainger for the game against France for us. Ben Gilby reviews the key points that were raised (8/4/22).

Above: Wales captain Sophie Ingle speaking to the media yesterday. Photo: FA Wales.

Wales captain Sophie Ingle sees tonight’s game against France in Llanelli as a real opportunity for her nation to show just how far they have come.

“France are one of the best teams in the world, so it’s a great test of who we are. We were incredible over there, but this time we need to see if we can do it again, but go one better in terms of a result.

“Defensively over there, we were solid more or less throughout. We were disappointed with the two goals that we conceded, but the character we showed in the second half when we went down to 10 players was great and we could have got a goal.”

Wales go into the World Cup qualifier on the back of a fourth-placed finish in the eight-nation Pinatar Cup in February – a positive achievement given the team went into the competition as the sixth highest-ranked team in the event. Ingle took so many positives from the experience.

“The Pinatar Cup was great for us to rotate the team and the young girls who came in really stepped up. We really have a bench now and strength in depth for the first time.”

The game tonight will be played once more in Llanelli, a location with a growing reputation for passionate fans of Welsh women’s football.

“Parc y Scarlets is starting to feel like a home for us now. We have a lot of fans in Llanelli who want to come to our games now and it looks like we’re going to have a record crowd this week as well.

“I can’t wait for the French to walk in and be hit by the atmosphere that we create in Wales. I don’t think they will expect it. They have a lot of fans, but do they expect us to have the sort of atmosphere that will be at Llanelli? I don’t think so!”

“These are the games that I love playing in. We’re little old Wales against France. We’re always the underdog. It’s about us showing who we are, individually and collectively.”

Sophie Ingle

Ingle recognizes that the growth of women’s sport in Wales is growing with increased investment leading to ever-improving national team performances in different sports. “I think it shows that when people back the women’s teams, look what they can do. Look at the Welsh women’s rugby team. Twelve of them have now been able to go professional and look how well they are doing in the Six Nations. It’s the same for us in the Welsh football team.”

The Welsh captain emphasized that Wales’ growing ability and achievements on the pitch are leading to increased expectations. “Our fans now, when we are playing the lower-ranked teams expect us to win four or five-nil and see us as a strong team against the top nations.”

Above: Wales head coach Gemma Grainger is positive ahead of tonight’s game with France. Photo: FA Wales.

Wales head coach Gemma Granger has set her sights on using the foundations of her team’s superb display in France in November to produce something special tonight.

“We’re focussed on building on that performance. These are the teams we want to play. It is about being better at being us. In November in France we were unlucky – a post width away from equalizing with only 10 players.

“We know that Friday’s game will be very different. France are the third-best team in the world. Our ambitions are to compete with them. It’s our mentality. It’s the next step in our journey, 12 months ago we were a very different team. It’s exciting seeing the belief that is pumping into the team.”

“Excited sums us up as a group. We’re riding off the back of the way that the nation is feeling about Welsh football at the moment. We respect France, but we want to be playing them in tournaments, start strong and build on it.”

Gemma Grainger

Grainger highlighted the impact that her player’s performance levels are having. “The amount of game time our players have across the squad for their clubs now really shows how we’re growing. When I first came into the role, we had 10, 15 players able to train on the first day as they hadn’t played for their clubs the day before. This week we only had four or five training on that Monday.”

Despite all the positivity in the Wales camp ahead of the game, Grainger recognizes that France pose her team a huge challenge.

“The individual strength that France have in their team is incredible. Most of them were playing in the Champions League last week. The level they play at, the athleticism. They have some of the world’s best players.”

“Marie-Antoinette Katoto is one of the most in-form strikers in Europe and we learned a lot playing against her in November, but you have to respect their entire team. They have strengths in lots of different areas. You can’t necessarily stop it, it’s about how you defend against it. If we can’t win the ball, it’s about how you deal with the crosses, first contact, second ball. We did that in November and need to do the same on Friday.”

It is not just the Welsh team who are an ever-growing force. The head coach identified her pride in the ever-increasing numbers of fans at their home games.

“One of the most positive things for us is the way we’re growing our supporter base. For the first qualifying game in September we had 1,700 fans at Parc y Scarlets and for us to know that there will be 4,000 or close to 5,000 there is a huge positive. It’s why we do what we do and inspire the next generation. It was noisy in September, so it will be really noisy on Friday!”

“When we went to France there were over 20,000 fans there. I want France to feel something similar when they walk out. They need to feel ‘Wow, we’re not at home,’ and we can take advantage of that.”

Northern Ireland Unveil Euros Kit

It’s the first-ever design solely for the national women’s team as Northern Ireland’s preparations for the European Championships take a step up(7/4/22)

Above: Northern Ireland players model their new kit. Photo: Irish FA.

Adidas has created a brand new kit for the Northern Ireland senior women’s team to wear at UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 this summer.

It is the first Northern Ireland kit designed solely for the senior women’s team. And both the home and away kits take inspiration from previous iconic Northern Ireland jerseys.

With under 100 days to go until the start of the Women’s Euros, more than 350,000 of the 700,000-plus tickets available for the tournament have been sold, setting the scene for a record-breaking event. Sales have already surpassed the previous tournament record of 240,000 set at UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 in the Netherlands.

As well as being available to pre-order at jdsports.co.uk, the new Northern Ireland tournament kit will be available to purchase at the Northern Ireland v England FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park next Tuesday (12 April). 

After that, it will be exclusively available online from JD and in-store from next Thursday (14 April).

Gustavsson & Klimková Speak Ahead Of Matildas v Football Ferns

Impetus‘ Ben Gilby heard from both Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson and New Zealand’s Jitka Klimková ahead of tomorrow’s match between the two nations in Townsville (7/4/22).

Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson talking to the media today in Townsville. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia’s head coach Tony Gustavsson highlighted the fact that tomorrow’s game with New Zealand will see the full use of his squad – not due to injury concerns, but because of the differences in arrival times for his playing group.

“It has been a challenge. Monday we had five players, Tuesday nine, Wednesday fifteen and a number of of those couldn’t train as they only just landed. We are adapting to what has been thrown at us and it won’t be an excuse as to how we perform on Friday.

“We have a meeting tonight to see who is available, also based on welfare. We will see lots of rotation tomorrow – not because players are not fit, but because of having to deal with the travel and the impact of that in playing 90 minutes.

“Sam Kerr trained today, she was one of those who arrived later this week. We will see how ready she is to play. If it was Sam’s choice, she’d play, but we have to look after what is right for her. Physically in the Olympics at times she should maybe not have played. We want Sam to be healthy and fit. She will probably be on the park, but the question is will it be from the start and for how long.”

Questioned about what his options are if the striker is not able to start, Gustavsson said: “Mary Fowler. Mary can be used as a nine or a 10. If we play her as a nine she is a linking/false nine and playmaker. We also though have Remy (Siemsen), Kyah Simon, and Em Gielnik. It depends on what weapon we need at the time.”

Gustavsson also spoke of his delight at having Katrina Gorry in camp. “Mini has been fantastic. Mel (Andreatta) has worked hard with her individually ahead of her return. I’m so impressed with how she adapted. She’s been flying with technical tests. Her best role is in an eight or 10. She has a unique skill set, she could potentially play as a six, as a playmaker. Her attacking skills are phenomenal. I’m intrigued and interested to see her play. We do need to ensure we don’t put pressure on her though, she’s been away for a long time.”

With this being Australia’s first international camp since the poor Asian Cup outcome, the Matildas head coach was clear with the media that there has been a detailed discussion with the players about what happened and what needs to be put right.

Above: Tony Gustavsson making a point at today’s media conference in Townsville. Photo: Football Australia.

“We have addressed the Asian Cup problems. The vibe and energy is good. There is a healing process needed, wounds have to be healed. Today, the first day having everyone training was the first step to getting everyone ready and getting the wounds gone.”

Earlier in the day, it was announced that the Matildas are going to be the feature of a six-part Disney+ documentary series leading up to the World Cup. Gustavsson recognized that initially there were concerns that there could be negatives with having a camera crew following himself and his squad around, but any fears have been allayed and he feels it is a huge opportunity.

“It could have been a disturbance if handled wrong, but it has been handled perfectly. These players are not just about football, but wider. We’ve had good dialogue about how to handle it. There are many documentaries about different sports out there.

“The insights involved, the process, and the journey is so interesting. People will see what these players do to reach their full potential. They can be role models, not just for footballers, but for wider society. This one can make sure that this team gets all the attention and respect it deserves. It can reach out beyond football for getting these individuals and team widely respect.

“You have seen this week a bit of what goes behind the scenes for the players this week – meeting stakeholders, fans and the players as mothers. Meeks (Tameka Yallop) said it right yesterday, ‘We are a family’. I’m so happy to have the players’ babies in here, so happy with how everyone has welcomed them. The way they balance being a mother and a high-profile athlete is amazing.”

Focusing back on the job at hand, the Matildas head coach emphasized that the time for experimenting is coming to an end and hard choices about regular selections need to be made.

“The World Cup is now really close, there are not many international windows left. We can only play two games per window. Last year we looked at over 70 players and fielded over 40. We need to narrow down now and have more consistency in what we are doing. We haven’t had the same goalkeeper and backline, I need to have that now. That doesn’t mean that the door is closed to new players, but we need consistency now.

“We need to unite as a nation behind this team. It’s not about Sam Kerr, it’s not about me, it’s about coming together.”

Above: New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková talking to the media earlier today ahead of tomorrow’s game with Australia. Photo: Football Australia.

New Zealand head coach Jitka Klimková spoke of her positivity going into tomorrow’s game with Australia.

“Our preparation has gone very well despite the high temperatures. The quality of the sessions is getting better and better. Our players from Europe and the USA have found it challenging to get to Australia. But everyone is here. What a beautiful stadium it is for us to play in here in Townsville.

“We have one concern over selection, Emma Rolston. We will assess that player tonight, but other than that, everyone has recovered from the long travel. She is more likely to be ready for the second match, but we will see.”

New Zealand go into the game having not beaten Australia since 1994, but Klimková believes that the chance is there. “Football is a beautiful game and we know anything can happen. We are facing a top opponent and that is a deliberate plan to test ourselves. We are preparing ourselves to beat them and getting something from the two games would be amazing. We are stepping out onto the field to get a win.

“It is special to play the Matildas as we are playing against our co-hosts for the World Cup and neighbours. In 469 days we will have our first World Cup game in Auckland and Australia will have theirs in Sydney. We’ve been in it together with them. On the field though it is all about competing. For me personally, seeing a lot of familiar faces in Australia (where Klimková coached Canberra United from 2011-2013) is lovely as they stay in my memory and heart.”

The Czech-born Football Ferns coach has identified three growth areas she is expecting to see from her team over the course of the two matches against the Matildas.

“Our goal for these games is to improve our flank defending, marking in the box, and clearances. Attacking wise, it is about combination play to get forward and making the right decisions in the final third.”

Klimková is expecting to get the full use from her squad for the matches in order to help her narrow down towards a settled squad for next year’s World Cup. “We’re in an exploring mode for our team, so we would love to see a lot of players on the field in these two matches to see where we are. Grace Jale hasn’t been with the Ferns for a while and it’s important to see her back. The result is important as well. Everyone who we think is ready at this point is going to play.

“The spirit of this team is very positive. We are connecting and making steps together every day to work as a team that creates a safe environment where everyone is courageous. We believe that if we have this in our team consistently, we can perform well consistently on the pitch too.

“Team development takes a while and it is a journey that we are on. We will make steps forward, we are. We are also prepared to make some backward steps in order to go forward again.

“We have competition for places now. There are tough decisions to make about selections. It’s a good situation to be in to discuss who is more ready. Our wider roster has 35 players. Our U20s have games too to see if some of the younger ones still should be invited into the Ferns squad. We are still talking to players who have not been with us yet and could join us, but the roster will become narrower in the upcoming months.”

The Football Ferns coach highlighted the inclusion of Ally Green, also eligible for Australia in her team’s training squad at present. Whist Green will not play, the coming days are about helping her make a decision about what national side to potentially play for.

“She is training hard and is figuring out what international football means for her. It is a journey. The main thing I am expecting from her is to compete and leave everything on the training pitch. She is learning how we want to play, the speed and style, but I am happy to have her with us. Having another left-back, right-back or winger is great for more options. She is a training player with us, not to play in the matches, but it is a first step.”

Tameka Yallop: “What You See Is What You Get” With Us

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Australia and West Ham United midfielder Tameka Yallop at today’s Matildas media conference from their Townsville training base (6/4/22).

Above: Tameka Yallop and daughter Harley at today’s Matildas media conference. Photo: Football Australia.

Queenslander Tameka Yallop is delighted to be back in her home state. “Yeah, the weather’s certainly a bit different to London” she admitted with a knowing smile.

The West Ham United midfielder reflected on how the team are going into Friday’s game with New Zealand looking to show improvements from the disappointing Asian Cup campaign. “We’ve always got the big picture in mind. We’re collectively building and working on our game, structures, principles, and the way we want to play. Whoever we play against that is always the same.

“Every international match is important and it’s against our rivals and World Cup co-hosts. We’re taking to the field to win, to perform, and play the sort of football we want to play.”

Yallop pointed out that despite the time getting ever shorter between the present and the home World Cup, it is too early for there to be a completely settled and regular squad.

“I think there are always opportunities for new players to come in. There are a lot of up-and-coming players around at the moment and they can come into the squad. Each camp is an opportunity for us to come together as a collective.

“It’s really competitive. We have a good environment with that. We may have some starters, but there’s always people pushing. The majority of the team are playing overseas, plying their trade in different leagues and that makes it even more competitive. They are used to high standards and that’s a great environment to be part of.”

Above: Tameka Yallop speaks of her pride at being able to bring her young daughter into the camp. Photo: Football Australia.

Whilst the Matildas always have to cope with the challenge of players arriving in camp over a period of three or four days, Yallop feels it does not have a negative impact on preparations.

“We’re professional with how we switch from club duties to national team and what you are doing in the jersey. We have everyone in camp, so today will be the first day of getting everyone focused and on the same page. It’s easy for everyone to get into that mindset.

The midfielder was joined at the media conference by 18-month old daughter Harley, who joins team-mate Katrina Gorry’s own youngster Harper in the Matildas camp.

“This is the first camp that we’ve been able to have our little ones in. It’s a big moment for us in Matildas history. We’re the first to have young kids and bring them on tour. It’s a big step forward for women’s sport and women’s sport in Australia.

“To bring our kids into a high-level environment is a big thing and it’s special. It aligns with who we are as a family team and a public team. The Matildas brand is all about ‘What you see is what you get’ and this is it. It’s all about family and community – how you can get the best of each other and support each other.”

Helen Ward And Tash Harding Preview Wales’ Clash With France

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Helen Ward and Tash Harding at Wales’ media conference ahead of their World Cup qualifier with France (6/4/22).

Above: Helen Ward speaking to the media yesterday ahead of Wales’ game with France. Photo: FA Wales.

Helen Ward could win her hundredth cap for Wales against France this week, but the Watford striker is only focussed on the team’s outcome from the match.

“Look, we missed out scoring against them by hitting the post and they then went up the other end and got a goal. So, for me, this game is about getting our game plan right and doing it on the pitch. If I do go and get my hundredth cap, that will be great, but it’s about the team.”

Ward recalls her international debut some 14 years ago. “It was against Luxembourg away in 2008 in horrible weather. We went 1-0 down which wasn’t expected but I got a leveller. Jayne Ludlow came up to me and said ‘We’ve got a goalscorer, I like you!’ I’ve been in the 90s (cap wise) for what feels like forever now – COVID didn’t help.

“My 50th cap was a big memory, our first game at the Cardiff City Stadium and I scored. I also remember another game against Russia at Newport’s Spytty Park where we came out in the second half and won 3-0 in a real good team performance.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play under four managers for Wales. Each manager has come in and taken things up a level. Gemma (Grainger) has built on the past and put things together. It’s a building process and Gemma is at the forefront of that.”

The Watford striker’s career has straddled the amateur and professional eras and she highlighted her experiences growing up in the sport.

“I didn’t have anyone to look up to as a female player growing up. It’s like polar opposites now. I often get asked if I wish I was born 10 or 15 years earlier to be a full part of the professional era, but what I had experienced helped me to grow and get the things I have. I suspect the rise of the game will slow down as it has been so massive in a short period of time, but it is wonderful.”

Wales are well on the way to breaking their all-time record attendance for Friday’s match and Ward sees this as yet another sign of the momentum building around women’s football in the country.

Above: Helen Ward after scoring one of her 44 goals for Wales in 99 games. Photo: Bridport and Lyme Regis News.

“For so long we didn’t really notice our crowds in terms of growth, but now we’re getting new record attendances almost every game. The interest we get from fans, wanting to be involved and supporting us, it is a nice thing to look back on and think ‘Yeah, we’ve done OK’ knowing we’ve been growing the game.”

Looking ahead specifically to the challenge posed by France on Friday, Ward is positive.“There’s nothing we need to do differently really. We also need to remember that we played most of the second half with only 10 players. If we had kept all 11 it might have been different. Gemma will have us playing in the usual way, so it’s about getting over the line.

“We don’t fear anyone and Gemma has been great in assisting with that, with the type of friendlies she arranged. We’ve played Canada and Denmark and put in positive performances. It made us think ‘You know what? We can do this!’ We know we can go out, beat them and be competitive. At the moment we are thriving on it.”

The Welsh star is highly motivated by the current status of the squad as role models for the next generation and is determined to give the girls of Wales some great memories over the coming months.

“We’re doing this for the young girls. We know that if you can see it, you can be it. We know there will be a big crowd on Friday. We know that this is raising the profile. It’s a massive motivator to go out and do it for the young girls and also for those who went before us.

“For me, I know this is probably my last chance to make it to a major competition Finals. It is a great chance for us to inspire the next generation to see that they can achieve things by playing for Wales. Everything around it would be amazing. Such a big thing for women and girls around the country.”

Ward also has to balance being an international football with motherhood, which she admits has both challenges and massive rewards.

“It has its moments, it’s tricky. I have to make sure the kids are looked after first and foremost. It’s not just about my time, but other people’s as I have to find someone to look after them when I am training or playing. It is nice having them at the games. There was a video of the game I played at the weekend when I scored of my son jumping up and down in the background, and I watched it back again and again to see his reaction rather than my goal!

“You have to juggle lots of different things, but I’m so grateful. I know that they can grow up knowing Mummy was a footballer and they can grow up and achieve things.”

Above: Tash Harding at yesterday’s media conference. Photo: FA Wales.

Wales’ Reading star Tash Harding underlined the importance of Wales playing matches regularly in Llanelli.

“We’re looking to find a home within Wales that suits us and Parc y Scarlets is a good base for us. Llanelli is a small town in West Wales, but there’s a great fan base there for us. It is a great place and we want to make it our home and we’re managing to do that now with the games that we’ve played there.

“There are over 4,000 tickets sold for the game so far – the majority of them brought by youngsters involved in girls’ football teams – and that is fantastic. We are looking to break our record attendance. If we can do that in a small little town called Llanelli, that would be amazing!”

Harding recognizes the progress that Wales have made in recent years, none more so than their reaction at losing to France the last time the two sides met.

“For us to show disappointment and be angry not getting anything out of the game in France says a lot about where we are. Before we would have been delighted with that performance. It shows the mindset shift that we’ve had recently. There is a core of us here who are just a group of friends who play football together.”

The FAWSL player recognized that Wales are in a position to select from greater depth than ever before, something which has been reflected in recent performances.

“There are lots of youngsters coming through, but we’re not giving it up yet! Strength in depth has always been our Achilles heel, but the Pinatar Cup (in February) showed that we have good youngsters who are able to come in and do a job.

Harding pointed to all the different positions she has played this season for her club as one of the reasons for her great form this campaign. I’ve played full-back, winger, centre-half, four, nine, and 10 for Reading this season. I try to be as versatile as I can. If I can learn what defensive players do, then it’s a bonus for me as a forward. I’m living in that moment right now and think I’m playing some of the best football of my life.”

Kennedy & Raso Reflect Ahead of NZ Clash

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Australia’s Manchester City stars Alanna Kennedy and Hayley Raso at their media conference at the Matildas Townsville training base today (5/4/22).

Above: The Matildas training in Townsville. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Above: Alanna Kennedy captured at today’s Matildas media conference in Townsville. Photo: Football Australia.

Alanna Kennedy spoke to the media today in Townsville ahead of Australia’s friendly with New Zealand on Friday and instantly noted the different weather conditions from those she left behind in the North-West of England.

“Townsville is a bit different from Manchester! It’s nice and warm (currently 32c), so different from Manchester.”

Kennedy and her Manchester City team-mate Hayley Raso travelled to Townsville for the friendlies with New Zealand together, and had to endure a very long journey.

“It was 30 hours on four different flights, but it’s part of the job coming from Australia, we’re both just happy to be here. We flew from London to Darwin, to Sydney then Brisbane, and to Townsville. It’s important for us to be here and play in front of new crowds.

“We know the best way of managing it – looking after our bodies, nutrition, hydration. We’re here quite early ahead of Friday’s game, so hopefully, that’ll stand us in good stead. You never get used to it, but we know what to expect and how to deal with it.”

As usual with the Matildas having players spread all across the world, the beginning of international camps are hindered to an extent with players arriving in dribs and drabs over three days, a situation which Kennedy recognizes as awkward.

“It’s tough with different players coming in at different times. The whole squad are not here until tomorrow. Some are on their second session today, and some like me are here for the first day. We’ve played with each other for a long time and you adapt quickly. We are so comfortable in this environment. Experienced players coming in from overseas know their role and it’s a smooth transition.”

With these games being Australia’s first since their disappointing early exit from the Asian Cup, the Manchester City star highlighted some of the key elements that have come out of the post-tournament review.

“It was important to see what we could do better. Everyone who was there knows what we went through and how to make things better. We just need to move forward from there now and put it right.

“We need to be more composed in the final third. We had plenty of time after Korea scored their goal. We could have been better at staying composed when trying to get back in that game. There was a lot of focus on the final minutes of the final match and we were so disappointed with that as we were ready to go further and deeper into the tournament.

“In terms of looking at the aspect of depth in our team, I think that was a focus between the Olympics and the Asian Cup. Now we’re into the final few camps before the World Cup, we need to work on the continuity of players and work on the cohesion.”

Above: Hayley Raso speaking to the media in Townsville today. Photo: Football Australia.

Hayley Raso revealed that, despite the marathon journey on four flights from England, she’s feeling good.

“I actually had quite a good sleep on the way, so it’s not too bad. I feel like I’m used to it now. It’s just about recovery, sleep, and nutrition really.”

The Queenslander reflected on the disappointment of the Asian Cup and how positive she is that the team ethos will see them bounce back in style across these two matches with New Zealand.

“We’ve come into camp and when everyone gets here, we’ll get into things in more detail. It’s tough coming off the Asian Cup when we were looking to have done better. We went into it looking to win, we said that and we fell short. We’ve come back together, analyzed it, and now need to step up to take it into these games with New Zealand. We’re a group that sticks together and fights.”

Focusing specifically on the first of the two games with the Football Ferns in Townsville on Friday, Raso said: “We haven’t been here before and we need to put on a good performance for the new fans. We want to put on a show for them. We love playing in the hot weather, it’s very hot and very humid, but as Aussies, we thrive on it!”

The Manchester City winger also suggested that she feels that the return of Katrina Gorry adds even more armoury to the Matildas line-up. “I feel like we have a strong squad at the moment, a lot of depth. We’ve brought in a lot of young players, experimented, and we’re in a good place. Bringing Katrina Gorry back in is great too. Katrina is a real athlete, a workhorse in the midfield. She also provides more depth for our team. We’ve also seen some absolute banger goals she’s scored and she can add that to our squad.”

Above: All smiles on the training pitch in Townsville today. Photo provided to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Williamson To Captain Lionesses At Euros

5/4/22

Above: Leah Williamson speaking as Lionesses captain at the pre-Arnold Clark Cup media event. Photo: The FA.

Leah Williamson has been confirmed as the England captain for the 2022 UEFA Women’s European Championships.

Williamson was told the news yesterday by head coach Sarina Wiegman on the first full day of the camp at St. George’s Park, with the rest of the squad informed later that evening. Millie Bright has been appointed the new vice-captain, and Ellen White as the third in line. England are preparing for the resumption of FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifiers later this week.

The 25-year-old had been wearing the armband in the absence of the injured Steph Houghton, who first captained England herself in January 2014 before being confirmed in the role in April that year.

Williamson, who led the team to success in the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup last month featuring Spain, Canada and Germany, said: “This is an incredibly proud moment for me and my family and I am honoured to be asked to lead us at the Euros.

“Steph Houghton is one of this country’s all-time greats and to follow in her footsteps – and all of those special names who have led the team in the past – means so much.

“Although I will be wearing the armband, I know we have a squad full of leaders who share my pride and passion in playing for our country. Whether I am captain or not, I will never take anything for granted and will always do my best for England every time I pull on the shirt.”

England are preparing for the forthcoming away FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers against North Macedonia on Friday 8 April (7pm kick-off BST) and Northern Ireland on Tuesday 12 April (7.55pm kick-off BST).

Houghton has not played for England since February 2021 and is working hard on her return from an Achilles injury in a bid to be fit for this summer’s finals.

Wiegman said: “This decision gives us continuity at this important final period as we build towards the tournament. It is important we give everyone clarity at this stage.

“Leah has been a great leader for us and I know she will continue to set the example we need in her work on and off the pitch. While I know this is significant news for our fans, for me the most important thing is that we work hard in training and perform to the best we can in our matches as a team. The main thing is we are ready for our World Cup qualifiers and then the Euros this summer.

“She joins a proud list of England captains and will be following in the footsteps of the likes of the first captain Sheila Parker but also her predecessor Steph Houghton who have all been integral for the women’s game.”

Katrina Gorry: Back With The Matildas

Australia midfielder Katrina Gorry spoke to the media from Townsville today ahead of The Matildas’ international with New Zealand. Impetus’ Ben Gilby watched on (4/4/22).

Above: Katrina Gorry, talking to the media earlier today. Photo: Football Australia.

Watching Katrina Gorry since she returned to the game at the start of the A-League Women season after giving birth to baby Harper campaign, has been a joy to behold. The presence and shooting ability remain the same, but the smile and sense of loving what she is doing are bigger than ever.

“Since I’ve returned I’ve fallen back in love with the game and I’m playing with pure enjoyment. It shows in my performances recently just how much happier I am on the field.”

An impressive run of games in a mixed season for Brisbane Roar has ended with a recall to the Australian national side ahead of two friendlies with New Zealand over the next ten days. Gorry revealed that she has been in contact with the Matildas coaching team for a while.

“I’ve been working closely with Tony (Gustavsson – head coach) and Mel (Andreatta – assistant coach) for some time and it’s about enjoying being back in camp, back around the girls, and testing myself along with some of the best players in the country and in the world and seeing where I am. There’s no pressure on me.”

Whilst being back in a Matildas camp is a big deal, to do it for a game in her home state is another big plus.

Above: Katrina Gorry is back in the Matildas camp, along with daughter Harper. Photo: Football Australia.

“It’s really exciting, I’m a Queenslander through and through and it’s great to be up here in Townsville, seeing all the fans come out for the game will be special. New Zealand will be a tough opponent. I’m sure that everyone will turn it up on game day to support us.”

The midfielder, who will be heading out to Sweden to play for Vittsjö after the international window, believes that she can bring something extra to the team after their poor early exit at the Asian Cup at the start of this year.

“A big part of my game is combination play and to be combining with the players in our squad is exciting and important for me. All the players were disappointed with the Asian Cup. I was shattered for them. You could see if after the Korea game.

“To be on home soil among family and friends is important for us now. The two games we have with New Zealand are in Townsville where we haven’t been before and Canberra, where we haven’t played for a long time, so it’s a big opportunity.

“Us against New Zealand is a big rivalry, like New South Wales against Queensland. Hosting the World Cup with them brings something extra to it too.”

Young Matildas Squad Announced For NZ Friendlies

31/2/22

Above: Young Matildas players Hana Lowry of Perth Glory (left) and Western Sydney Wanderers’ Bryleeh Henry (right) line up with head coach Leah Blayney. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

The Young Matildas will commence their preparations for the 2022 U-20 Women’s World Cup with a two-match international series against the New Zealand Junior Football Ferns in Canberra. 

Australia will host New Zealand in the nation’s capital on 6th April and 10th April 2022 with the internationals the first competitive match action for Leah Blayney’s team since the conclusion of the 2019 AFC U-19 Women’s Championship. 

Head Coach Leah Blayney emphasised the importance of having competitive fixtures for the youth national team with the U-20 Women’s World Cup a little over five months away. 

“This two-match international series against New Zealand is the first phase in ensuring the Young Matildas are best prepared for the exciting moment ahead of them in August,” Blayney said. 

“We have been building together as a group for almost two years without the opportunity to test ourselves in international standard match conditions.  It makes this series crucial in bringing together the players and fostering familiarity with our coaching staff and each other.” 

Blayney has named a 28-player roster for the training camp and international series comprising of a combination of A-League Women’s players and players from Member Federation underpinning development programs.  A majority of the squad named have been previously involved at U-17s level and in the Future Matildas program. 

“The 28 players selected have been recognized for their excellent season in the A-League Women’s, as well as providing several others with a chance to display their capabilities in a high-performance environment,” Blayney said. 

Above: Sofia Sakalis (centre) is called up for the Young Matildas after a great season with Perth Glory. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images via Perth Glory.

“I am pleased we can have an assembly that has international fixtures attached and provides the players with a clear goal over the next two weeks.  We have an array of talent in our country and these home matches are an excellent platform to showcase the next generation of Australian footballers.”

Football Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson, spoke of his enthusiasm about the return of the Young Matildas to the pitch.

“It is exciting for Football Australia to continue to re-launch our youth national team programs and we are pleased to secure two international matches for the Commonwealth Young Matildas following a period of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These youth representative matches build on the strong partnership we have with our Trans-Tasman neighbours, New Zealand Football, with the senior Matildas hosting New Zealand in Canberra on Friday, 12 April 2022. 

“Providing our youth national teams with high-quality match minutes consistently is vital to ensure their continued development.  We are committed to supporting Leah and her team over the coming months as they return to the international stage and demonstrate the quality we can look forward to in the coming years.”

Ahead of the international fixtures the Commonwealth Bank Young Matildas entered a pre-camp at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) today which will last until 12th April 2022. 

The Commonwealth Bank Young Matildas camp and internationals in Canberra is part of the continued return of all the women’s national teams with the Junior Matildas currently undertaking a training camp and the ParaMatildas also due to commence national team activity. 

Supporters can watch the Commonwealth Bank Young Matildas take on New Zealand for FREE on 6 April and 10 April 2022. 

Young Matildas Squad:

Naomi CHINAMA (Melbourne City / Football Victoria), Kirsty FENTON (Newcastle Jets / NNSW Football), Gemma FERRIS (Football NSW), Daniela GALIC (Football NSW), Sheridan GALLAGHER (Western Sydney Wanderers / Football NSW), Abbey GREEN (Perth Glory / Football West), Bryleeh HENRY (Western Sydney Wanderers / Football NSW), Sarah HUNTER (Sydney FC / Football NSW), Emma ILIJOSKI (Canberra United / Capital Football), Sally JAMES (Melbourne City / Capital Football), Kahli JOHNSON (Sydney FC / Football NSW), Hannah JONES (Wellington Phoenix / Football NSW), Aideen KEANE (Perth Glory / Football NSW), Chloe LINCOLN (Canberra United / Capital Football), Hana LOWRY (Perth Glory / Football West), Darcey MALONE (Melbourne City / Football NSW), Leticia McKENNA (Melbourne City / Football West), Claudia MIHOCIC (Perth Glory / Football Victoria), Alana MURPHY (Melbourne Victory / Football Victoria), Emilia MURRAY (Adelaide United / Football SA), Jessika NASH (Sydney FC / Football NSW), Leia PUXTY (Adamstown Rosebud FC / NNSW Football), Jamilla RANKIN (Brisbane Roar / NNSW Football), Charlize RULE (Sydney FC / Football NSW), Sofia SAKALIS (Perth Glory / Football Victoria), Hayley TAYLOR-YOUNG (Canberra United / Capital Football), Miranda TEMPLEMAN (Adelaide United / Football West), Ella TONKIN (Adelaide United / Football SA).

Grainger Names Strong Squad For Qualifiers

Ben Gilby heard Wales head coach Gemma Grainger announce Wales’ squad for their World Cup qualifiers.

Above: Wales head coach Gemma Grainger. Photo: FAW.

Gemma Grainger has announced a 26-player squad for Wales’ key 2023 World Cup qualifiers against France and Kazakhstan.

Wales go into the international window with an almost full-strength squad to choose from. Josie Green returns to the side after missing the Pinatar Cup in February through injury, however Esther Morgan and Hannah Cain both miss out due to injury.

Wales will face France in Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli on Friday 8th April before heading to Nur-Sultan to face Kazakhstan on Tuesday 12th April.

Helen Ward and Tash Harding are in line to earn their 100th Welsh caps over the two
matches, with the players sitting on 99 and 98 caps respectively.

Grainger will look to build on her side’s momentum in the World Cup qualifying campaign. Wales sit in second place, a play-off spot, in the group with four games remaining. So far in the campaign, the Welsh have won four matches, drawn one, and lost one, scoring 17 goals and only conceding three in the process.

For the match against group leaders France at Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli on Friday 8 April,
tickets start at only £2 (group bookings) and £4 (individual bookings) for kids, available at www.faw.cymru/tickets. Over 3,000 tickets have been sold so far, which puts Wales on target to beat their record home attendance in history.

Wales Squad: Laura O’SULLIVAN (Cardiff City Ladies), Olivia CLARK (Coventry United), Poppy SOPER (Plymouth Argyle – On loan from Chelsea), Rhiannon ROBERTS (Liverpool), Josie GREEN (Tottenham Hotspur), Hayley LADD (Manchester United), Gemma EVANS (Reading), Rachel ROWE (Reading), Lily WOODHAM (Reading), Sophie INGLE (Chelsea), Anna FILBEY (Charlton Athletic), Angharad JAMES (Orlando Pride), Chloe WILLIAMS (Manchester United), Charlie ESTCOURT (Coventry United), Jess FISHLOCK (OL Reign), Carrie JONES (Manchester United), Ffion MORGAN (Bristol City), Megan WYNNE (Charlton Athletic), Elise HUGHES (Charlton Athletic), Kayleigh GREEN (Brighton & Hove Albion), Helen WARD (Watford), Natasha HARDING (Reading), Ceri HOLLAND (Liverpool), Chloe BULL
(Bristol City), Georgia WALTERS (Sheffield United), Morgan ROGERS (Watford- On loan from Tottenham Hotspur).

Squad Announcements For Matildas and NZ Friendlies

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson as he announced his squad for the upcoming friendlies with New Zealand and Katrina Gorry who makes her long-awaited return to the Matildas squad (29/3/22).

Above: Tony Gustavsson announces his squad to the media today. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia Head Coach Tony Gustavsson has named a 23-player squad for April’s fixtures against Women’s World Cup co-host New Zealand in Townsville and Canberra. 

Australia will take on the Football Ferns at QCB Stadium in Townsville on Friday, 8 April in a historic match in North Queensland.  Four days later they will return to Canberra for the first time in nine years with a clash at GIO Stadium on Tuesday, 12 April. 

The squad consists of 22 players who contested the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup with the addition of experienced midfielder Katrina Gorry.  Gorry returns to the national team following the birth of her first child in 2021 with the 29-year-old putting in stellar performances in her comeback season. 

Speaking about her return to the squad, Gorry said: “I can’t wait to be back with the girls, it’s been a long time. It’s a massive honour. I was disappointed that I couldn’t go to India with the team for the Asia Cup, but (baby) Harper’s safety was the most important thing here.

“When I took a step away to have Harper, I didn’t know if I would return. But I’ve fallen back in love with the game and I think that shows in my performances. I’m looking forward to Harper meeting all the team and for her to have the opportunity to look up to so many amazing women.”

Above: Katrina Gorry speaking to the media today about her return to the international set-up. Photo: Football Australia.

The 29-year-old midfielder emphasized how becoming a mother has helped to keep her to keep football in perspective. “It’s different now as when I come off a loss or win, I get to go home to her and be a mother, which makes things different and good. Tony has been amazing, he stayed in touch through my pregnancy. I’m grateful for him supporting me on my journey.”

Looking ahead to the gams against New Zealand, Gorry said: “Everyone knows they are competitive and a tough team. Most of their players are at professional clubs or big clubs.”

Australia’s squad for the two fixtures features a host of senior Matildas led by captain Sam Kerr and vice-captain Steph Catley.  Nine Queenslanders will have their first chance to play in their home state since 2019 and Canberra native Lydia Williams makes the return home.

Meanwhile, recently crowned 2022 A-League Women’s Champions, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin, have also made the final roster following Melbourne Victory’s back-to-back championship win.  A-League Women’s Premiers Sydney FC are represented by forwards Remy Siemsen and Cortnee Vine.

Above: Cortnee Vine addressing the media in Townsville today. Photo: Football Australia.

Gustavsson expressed the importance of the April FIFA Window as it signifies the start of the 16-month preparation for the World Cup.

“We are all really excited to come back together as a team and return to the pitch again on home soil,” Gustavsson said.  “It’s been a long two months since the group was in assembly, but we have used that time effectively to undertake an in-depth technical review similar to the one conducted following the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“With two major tournaments in the last 12 months, this April window gives us an opportunity to start the process of implementing the lessons learned over that timeframe.  With only the World Cup on the horizon, the New Zealand series will be the first step towards the tournament.” 

“Over the past year we have had a close look at over 75 players in high-performance environments but as we focus in on the World Cuo preparation, it is essential for us to start zeroing in on our best combinations and providing them time together.” 

Players and staff will commence arrival into camp on Monday with Australian-based players entering first and European and American-based players following the completion of this weekend’s league fixtures. 

Since meeting in Australia’s first women’s “A” international match in 1979, Australia and New Zealand have faced each other 48 times in their history with the Matildas leading the head to head 31-8-9. 

NamePositionClubCaps (Goals)
Mackenzie ARNOLDGoalkeeperWest Ham United28 (0)
Ellie CARPENTERBackOlympique Lyon57 (3)
Steph CATLEYBackArsenal WFC100 (3)
Kyra COONEY-CROSSMidfielderMelbourne Victory16 (0)
Caitlin FOORDForwardArsenal WFC99 (22)
Mary FOWLERForwardMontpellier24 (7)
Emily GIELNIKForwardAston Villa52 (11)
Katrina GORRYMidfielderBrisbane Roar / Vittsjö GIK78 (15)
Charlotte GRANTBackFC Rosengård4 (0)
Alanna KENNEDYBackManchester City105 (8)
Sam KERRForwardChelsea WFC108 (49)
Aivi LUIKBackPomigliano35 (1)
Teagan MICAHGoalkeeperFC Rosengård9 (0)
Courtney NEVINBackMelbourne Victory10 (0)
Clare POLKINGHORNEBackVittsjö GIK141 (12)
Hayley RASOForwardManchester City60 (8)
Remy SIEMSENForwardSydney FC4 (0)
Kyah SIMONForwardTottenham Hotspur109 (28)
Emily VAN EGMONDMidfielderSan Diego Wave116 (28)
Cortnee VINEForwardSydney FC3 (0)
Clare WHEELERMidfielderFortuna Hjørring8 (0)
Lydia WILLIAMSGoalkeeperArsenal WFC97 (0)
Tameka YALLOPMidfielderWest Ham United103 (12)

New Zealand’s Squad Announcement:

Lily Alfeld; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ (0/0), Victoria Esson; SC Sand, Germany (5/0),
Erin Nayler; Umeå IK, Sweden (76/0), Liz Anton; Perth Glory FC, Australia (7/0)
Katie Bowen; North Carolina Courage, USA (80/3), Claudia Bunge; Melbourne Victory FC, Australia (7/0), Anna Green; Unattached (78/7), Meikayla Moore; Liverpool FC, England (51/3), Ali Riley; Angel City FC, USA (143/1), Rebekah Stott; Melbourne City FC, Australia (84/4), Ashleigh Ward; Actonians LFC, England (1/0), Olivia Chance; Celtic FC, Scotland (28/1), Daisy Cleverley; Unattached (19/2), Betsy Hassett; Stjarnan, Iceland (128/14), Grace Jale; Wellington Phoenix FC, NZ (4/2), Ria Percival; Tottenham Hotspur FC, England (160/15), Malia Steinmetz; Western Sydney Wanderers FC, Australia (5/0), Ava Collins; St John’s University, USA (4/0), Jacqui Hand; Unattached (6/1), Gabi Rennie; Arizona State University, USA (10/2), Emma Rolston; Avaldsnes IL, Norway (10/6), Paige Satchell; Sydney FC, Australia (26/2), Hannah Wilkinson; Melbourne City FC, Australia (103/26).

Lionesses Outline Pre-Euros Preparations

Above: Lauren Hemp in action for England in their recent Arnold Clark Cup match against Spain in Norwich. She will be a key part of the squad for the forthcoming friendlies announced today. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

(9/3/22)

England’s final preparations before UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 will include two home internationals against fellow tournament contenders in June.

The Lionesses, unbeaten in nine matches under Sarina Wiegman, will take on Belgium at Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Molineux Stadium – scene of last month’s Arnold Clark Cup triumph – on Thursday 16 June. England will then welcome the Netherlands, the reigning European champions, to Leeds United’s Elland Road on Friday 24 June. Both matches are set to kick off at 8pm.

Tickets for both fixtures will go on sale exclusively to My England Football members from 1pm on Wednesday 9 March via www.englandfootball.com/members. General sale will begin from 1pm on Thursday 10 March, with tickets available on: thefa.com/tickets.

An overseas fixture against opposition to be confirmed will then be played before Wiegman’s squad return to England to begin the last preparations for the opening match of the UEFA European Championship against Austria at Old Trafford, Manchester on Wednesday 6 July.

Above: Elland Road, the home of Leeds United which will stage the Lionesses’ friendly with Netherlands in June. Photo: Leeds United.

Speaking about today’s fixture announcements, England head coach Sarina Wiegman said: “Although at the moment we are fully focused on the two upcoming April qualifiers, with the Euros approaching you also feel the excitement growing. These matches against Belgium and the Netherlands will be just the challenge we need in the last weeks of our work to be ready for the Euros.

“I hope we can continue the progress we have shown so far and build on the strong team spirit and togetherness that we will need to have in the final tournament. And of course, playing Netherlands, and seeing so many familiar faces again who Arjan and I have worked with for many years gives a special touch to a game against good opposition.

“I am excited to be going back to Wolverhampton. We were given a tremendous welcome against Germany. I am also very pleased to have the match in Leeds. I know it is an area that has a big passion for football and I hope we can give the fans plenty of excitement at both matches.”

England have also confirmed the Lionesses will be based at the national football centre St. George’s Park in Staffordshire in the build-up to the two warm-up fixtures and the opening match of the Euros.

The June warm-up fixtures will follow two 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers away to North Macedonia and Northern Ireland on 8 and 12 April respectively with the Lionesses top of qualifying Group D on the road to Australia and New Zealand.

Matildas Turn To Townsville

Above: Townsville’s QCB Stadium, which will host the first of Australia’s two matches against New Zealand next month. Photo: Queensland Government.

Just under a month before the Football Ferns come to play Australia twice, the venue for the first encounter was revealed todayand it is a brand new city for the team to showcase their talents in (9/3/22).

The opening match of Australia’s international series with New Zealand will take place at Townsville’s 25,000 seater QCB Stadium on Friday 8th April.   

This will be the first time the Australian women’s national team has ever played in Townsville, with the match set to be the first football fixture to be played at world-class QCB Stadium, home of the North Queensland Cowboys NRL side, since it opened in 2020. 

Speaking about the historic announcement, Football Australia CEO, James Johnson, said:  “Football Australia is delighted to be bringing Australia’s favourite sporting team, the Matildas, to Townsville in what will be a night of firsts for the team, the city, and the region,” Johnson said.

“North Queensland and Far North Queensland has a rich history of producing players for our men’s national teams, and we know that female participation continues to soar in these regions, so it’s our hope by playing this women’s international in Townsville we will enable these participants to watch their footballing heroes in action and inspire a new generation of Commonwealth Bank Matildas.

“With just under 500 days to go, it’s our vision to provide the football community and as many Australians as possible with the opportunity to watch the Commonwealth Bank Matildas on home soil while we continue to build towards the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia & New Zealand 2023. 

“We appreciate the support of the Queensland Government, Tourism and Events Queensland and Townsville City Council in partnering with us to bring the Matildas to Townsville for the very first time.”

The last time the two sides met was at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with Australia coming out on top with a 2-1 victory in the opening group match.

Queensland Tourism and Sport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the Commonwealth Bank Matildas and the Football Ferns would make football history in Townsville.

“The women’s international in Townsville will be a game of firsts,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
“It will be the first time the Matildas have played in North Queensland and the code’s first match at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium. Queensland is seeing solid growth in women’s football and the number of girls taking up the game.

Above: QCB Stadium, the new home ground of North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL, and venue for Australia’s first game against New Zealand next month. Photo: Sporting News

“By bringing international football to Townsville we can show young North Queenslanders what’s possible and inspire them to bring their best game and stay active.

Mayor of Townsville, Cr Jenny Hill said the hosting of the Commonwealth Bank Matildas was a real coup for the city.

“Australia and New Zealand will host the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year, so to have each country’s national football team play an international match in Townsville ahead of the World Cup is a major coup for the city,” Cr Hill said.

“Council is proud to throw its support behind bringing these two national-level women’s football teams to Townsville. To have the team back on home soil for the first time in 2022 and playing in Townsville for the first time will be great for our city’s economy and for diehard football fans across the state.

“During the past year Townsville has had plenty of practice showing support for world class sporting matches at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, with State of Origin and the Rugby Championship both hosted in our city. Council is already looking forward to activating the city to welcome the teams and supporters to the north.”

Tickets to this historic encounter start at $69 family, $26 adults, $21 concessions, and $16 children excluding transaction fees.

The pre-sale for Football Account holders will commence at 10.00am (AEST), Thursday 10 March, with the General Public tickets window opening at 11.00am (AEST), Monday 14 March via Ticketmaster.

$1 (plus GST) from every ticket will be donated to the ParaMatildas, Australia’s first national team for women and girls with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury or symptoms from stroke.

The second match in the two-match series will see the Commonwealth Bank Matildas in action on Tuesday, 12 April 2022 at Canberra’s GIO Stadium.   

France Retain Title On Home Soil

Photo: The French squad pictured with the trophy after their final match against the Netherlands. Photo: @equipedefrancef

Jean-Pierre Thiesset summarizes the 2022 France Tournament (23/2/22).

France played and won their three games in France Tournament and kept their title for the second consecutive year.

February 16, 2022:

France won 5-0 against Finland. It was an easy game for France (4th in FIFA ranking) against the 28th ranked Finns. France dominated this game (62% possession, 27 shots with 10 on target). Goals for France from Westerlund (12 Own Goal), Melvine Malard (16), Wendie Renard (34, 89), Grace Geyoro (58).

Brazil and Netherlands encounter ended 1-1. It was a close game all round. The Dutch led through Lineth Beerensteyn (62) with Marta levelling from the penalty spot with three minutes left. ]

February 19, 2022:

France won 2-1 against Brazil. Despite edging the possession count with 61% it was a little bit more difficult for France against the seventh-ranked Brazilians. The result of this game could have been different if Leticia, Brazil goalkeeper, had not let the ball go to allow Katoto put France ahead. French goalkeeper Peyraud-Magnin, the France goalkeeper made two key saves as well.

Selma Bacha, 21 years old, (from Olympique Lyonnais) produced another good performance as left back with the following statistics. In her 55 minutes on the pitch, she played 55 balls, made 37 passes with 92% successful, nine tackles back, and three crosses. Goals for France from Marie-Antoinette Katoto (23, 59). Goal for Brazil from Marta (19 on penalty).

Netherlands won 3-0 against Finland. It was an easy game for the Netherlands with Finland was never in position to cause trouble to the Dutch goal. Goals for Netherlands from Caitlin Dijkstra (24), Katja Snoeijs (36, 49).

February 22, 2022:

France won 3-1 against Netherlands. This game was level and the score could have been tighter. For the Netherlands, Martens had a huge opportunity at the fifth minute but put the ball over the crossbar from the penalty spot, and Pelova hit the crossbar with a shot from 18 meters at the 85th minute. Marie-Antoinette Katoto scored two goals with a “Madjer”. This type of shot is named after Mustapha Rabah Madjer who did it first in 1987; and it is a strike with the heel with it located behind the support leg. With these two goals, Marie-Antoinette Katoto has now scored 23 goals for France national team at only 23 years old.

For her return to the France squad, Eve Périsset (from Bordeaux) produced a very good performance also as a right defender with the following statistics (recorded by Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus during the game): in 80 minutes (she was replaced at the 82nd minute), 70 balls played, 43 passes with 91% successful, 17 tackles won, five crosses, two saves at the 49th minute (a clearance at the penalty spot and a defensive tackle on the left of the goal without fault). Goals for France from Wendie Renard (20 on penalty), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (25, 74). Goal for Netherlands from Lineth Beerensteyn (50).

Brazil and Finland concluded their tournament with a draw 0-0 in a game where Brazil had opportunities, but without scoring.  

France Tournament Final standings

1st – France 9 pts

2nd – Nederland 4 pts

3rd – Brazil 2 pts

4th – Finland 1 pt

Lionesses Look To Step It Up Again

Above: Millie Bright and Sarina Wiegman pictured at the Lionesses’ media conference today. Photo: FA.

Ahead of the England v Germany Arnold Clark Cup match tomorrow, Impetus’ Kris Goman heard the views of Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman and defender Millie Bright (22/2/22).

England go into their final Arnold Clark Cup match tomorrow with Germany in Wolverhampton knowing they need a win to have any chance of winning the tournament, but have the positive of the whole squad being available for selection.

In the two games against Canada and Spain so far, lots of players got minutes against different and top opponents. “We got lots of information about how we want to play and how we want to develop our style of play and how the players fit in there,” Wiegman said. “We’ll try again tomorrow to continue what we’re doing and make it even better and we might see some slight changes in positions.”

Germany’s squad has been hampered by both COVID and injuries and the Lionesses head coach recognised that despite this, they will still pose her team a major threat.

“They are still a very strong squad. They are always a very good team and even though they are missing some very good players, they still have good players and can bring a very good squad tomorrow so we expect a good Germany – a very competitive game with a lot of speed and power so we prepare as we did against Canada and Spain.”

In terms of the development of her own team, Wiegman noted that there has been some pleasing progress across the two games so far.“Yeah, we’re getting there and taking steps and developing very well. I think the communication and the way we talk about football, how the players are committed and get into conversations and get to learn about each other have been positives.”

The Lionesses’ head coach though still has high expectations of her squad in terms of further improvements. “We just want to take the next step tomorrow so in all the different moments of the game we want to improve again. I think we created so many chances against Spain that we would really like to score a goal and to take that next step. It all has to do with decision-making, with the final connection between the players and just being (more) ruthless too.

Above: Looking to take the next step – Lionesses head coach Sarina Wiegman. Photo: FA.

“I knew the England squad was very good but it was even better than I thought. Players have already so much experience and there are lots of personalities in the team so I was just lucky to come in and start working with such a good team and good players. We want to add something to the game and get clarity about our style of play and development. Every time we want to take the next step and that’s what we want to do tomorrow.”

Impetus’ Kris Goman asked Wiegman about the crowds for the games not involving her side in this competition, which, due to a combination of unusual kick-off times and poor weather have been very low indeed.

“I think in the Euros there will be crowds because that’s the big event everyone’s looking forward to,” the England head coach said. “I think this tournament is so competitive. I’m not sure if it’s the weather, or it’s the timings. I think that COVID didn’t help like all the previous years and that people have to start up again. That might be it.

“I’ve really had my focus on football and the game itself so I haven’t had a real research myself about what the cause could be but I hope at least we make people enthusiastic about the games because the level’s really high.”

In England’s two matches to date, they have scored one goal – Millie Bright’s superb effort against Canada. Wiegman is looking for a greater sense of sharpness in the final third tomorrow night.

“It doesn’t really matter who scores goals as long as we score a goal. We want to do better in our final third and that’s about decision making, about connection, about scanning how the situation is, and being ruthless, so yes, of course we want to do a little better.

“We created lots of chances (against Spain) and it was very well done and I think we played really well to create those chances and now we want to score on them too and that’s just the final touch which is the hardest thing in football in the final third so hopefully we can show tomorrow.”

Above: Millie Bright – excited by renewing rivalries with Germany again tomorrow. Photo: FA

The Lionesses’ Chelsea defender Millie Bright, who is in some of the best form of her career spoke of her excitement of facing Germany once more.

“These are the games we play for. You want to play against the best, you want to play on big stages, with lots of fans there. For us, we remain focused on our game plan and this tournament’s been about developing as a squad on this new journey and to perform at our best level and that’s our mentality going into this game.

“Everyone’s our rival. I think it’s a good mentality to have as you can’t underestimate any team whether they’ve got players missing. You know, it’s international football and everyone’s got strong squads so for us, everyone is our rival and it’s no cliché saying that but that’s our mentality. To play the same for every game. Every opponent we want beat, we want to play well and keep developing.

England’s goalscorer against Canada reflected on the tough challenges that the Arnold Clark Cup has brought so far. “It’s been brilliant. All the girls are really excited coming into this tournament especially with it being in England. Being able to get our fans to the stadium and move around England as well. It’s been really exciting and I think it’s been really successful and we’ve loved playing against top teams and being challenged.”

Bright was also hugely complimentary about the Lionesses’ debutant goalkeeper Hannah Hampton on Sunday against Spain.  “It was a massive moment for her but it’s one that’s truly deserved. I think she’s been playing really well. And yeah, she was just ecstatic like any other player would be.

“She was just really happy and she played really well, kept us in the game, made some good saves, really good distribution so yeah, it’s a dream start for her and just really proud and that’s something we want in this team.

“It’s not just about eleven players, it’s about everybody and everyone developing together. You know we’ve all got the one goal which is obviously to win and by doing that we need everyone together so it was really nice to see her on the pitch doing what she does best.”

Impetus‘ Kris Goman asked the defender about the challenges of coming together with players who, in club world are fierce rivals, and conversely meeting club colleagues turning out for other nations.

“When you’re at club, you’re at club. I think every game’s competitive. If you watch the WSL games, there’s a lot of grit, a lot of fire, there’s commitment and everyone plays at the highest level, same when we come away internationally.

“For me personally, there’s no friends in football so if you’re my teammate at my club and I’m playing for England then I’m representing England so that’s my mentality with it and I think that’s everyone else’s as well. I think the games that you’ve seen, everyone’s committed, there’s some brilliant tackles, there’s a desire to win and to put on a show for the fans so yeah, I think it’s really competitive and I think the level is really high.”

The final line of Germany’s defence is someone who Bright knows very well. Her Chelsea team-mate Ann-Katrin Berger, who is having a superb season. “She’s been doing exceptional for Chelsea. Everyone knows the level she is at as a keeper and she’s in excellent form. I rate her very highly.”

England play Germany at Molineux (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC) at 7:30pm. Canada face Spain at the same venue at 2:30pm.

A Day To Remember

Ten-year-old Esme who plays for Bure Valley, one of our partner clubs, was in the crowd at Carrow Road to watch the Lionesses. She reports for Impetus.

England 0–0 Spain

Above: Some of the Bure Valley youngsters gather outside Carrow Road ahead of England’s game with Spain in the Arnold Clark Cup on Sunday.

By Esme

Super substitute Lauren Hemp was millimetres away from giving England a narrow win in the Arnold Clark Cup, after she hit the post with a goal-worthy shot seconds after coming off the bench.

But sadly,  Spain clearly had their head in the game, and England were grateful to goalie Hannah Hampton, who was making her debut and pulled off super saves, and helped out the team considerably. Without her, Spain would’ve scored several times!

As the torrential rain poured and a gale-force wind blew, England began the match positively, despite the horrible conditions, with Jill Scott breaking from midfield to shoot from the edge of the area, but it looped just wide of the goal.

After a number of very close England attacks early in the first half, a long ball from Spain caused confusion amongst the England defence, and the ball broke free to a Spanish striker, who shot an ambitious long-range ball, which luckily, went wide.

Spain began to dominate possession with neat short passing, and a sly move saw the menacing No 17 García Córdoba play a one-two before her shot was blocked for a corner.

Dangerwoman Córdoba cut in from the left and spun a shot with her right foot, but it was straight into the gloves of trusty Hampton.

The Manchester City winger Lauren Hemp, who was born and brought up in North Walsham, Norfolk, (and trained by my teacher’s boyfriend) was an instant hit with the excited Norfolk crowd, and almost immediately she slipped clear and hit the post with a lightning low shot.

Spain responded swiftly, and after a free-kick, the ball flew to Ivana Andres whose quick shot was blocked by her own player – their creative no 10 Hermoso Fuentes!

Above: Your match reporter! Photo supplied by: Bure Valley YFC.

England attacked again, and Ellen White ran clear of the Spanish defence, but she wasn’t nimble enough, and her shot was blocked.

For England, Nobbs broke down the right and her powerful shot flashed narrowly past the Spanish keeper’s far post.

As gloom descended on Carrow Road, the crowd of 14,284 began to amuse themselves by shining torches on their phones, and waving at others, in the overcast evening. Then a group of thrilled supporters started up a “Mexican wave” which rippled around the ground two times, before coming to an abrupt stop.

England made substitutions to liven up their midfield, with Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson coming on for Scott and Nobbs. This was clearly a good move by manager Sarina Wiegman, as this sparked two good attacks. First, a well-executed pass from Walsh found fellow sub-Ella Toone who directed it to Lucy Bronze, who cut inside, but was tackled fiercely before she could shoot.

With the clock slowly making its way towards 90 minutes, Hemp, who had switched from left to right-wing, beat a player and went on a swift run, and Lucy Bronze later whipped in another dangerous cross, but there was no goal for poor England!

In the final minutes, Spain put England under some pressure. Then in the final seconds of the breath-taking game, Spain’s influential No 8, Mariona Caldentey, shot a banger,  and Hampton had to extend her arms to full length to gather it at the second attempt.

This was a very interesting game with lots of twists and turns, some rapid shots, and a few yellow cards. It was an amazing atmosphere, with songs all the way, and a new thing: the phone wave. Lots of girls were there, waving England flags, shouting: “come on England!” repeatedly.

Lots of girls’ teams were there, bringing everything together. Lots of people had yellow ‘Arnold Clark’ sunglasses, and some were waving them up and down, some wearing them, and some propping them up on their heads. I would love to come back and watch England play, and hope, one day, that I will get to play in the England team! And please, if England are playing near you, come and watch, they are a team to look for!

Teams: ENGLAND (4-3-3): Hampton, Bronze, Carter, Greenwood, Daly, Nobbs, Scott, Stanway, Parris, White, Mead.

SPAIN (4-3-3): Rodriguez, Garcia Gomez, Andres, Leon, Batlle, Bonmati, Guijarro, Putellas, Cardona, Hermosa, Garcia Cordoba.

Referee: Iuliana Demetrescu (ROM).

Attendance: 14,283.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Lionesses Promise Amidst Spanish Possession

England 0-0 Spain (21/2/22)

Above: Norfolk’s own Lauren Hemp in action on home soil for her country for the first time at Carrow Road. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

By Darrell Allen at Carrow Road for Impetus with EXCLUSIVE photos from pitchside from Hannah Parnell.

An expectant crowd greeted the Lionesses at a wet and windy Carrow Road as Sarina Wiegman made nine changes from the 1-1 draw vs Canada at The Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough on Thursday. 

England began the game brightly with the ball falling to Nikita Parris after some bright movement but she was not able to produce any end product. 

The next stages of the game saw Spain get a foothold performing their excellent passing game which has become so well associated with them over recent years. They were dominant in possession and general play as the game progressed Alexia Putellas looking most lively early on.

After a foul on Ellen White, Jill Scott produced the first real England chance in the seventh minute firing narrowly wide of the bar.

Spain continued their dominance in possession though but without really causing England too many problems. 

Above: Guerrero Sanmartín comes away with the ball for Spain. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Ellen White was flagged offside before Rachel Daly took a blow to the face. From a resulting free kick Ellen White went close but Rivero in the Spain goal easily dealt with it. Beth Mead fired a shot across the box, but this was comfortably dealt with. An Alex Greenwood corner came to nothing and a Georgia Stanway cross was headed away. Jill Scott was one of England’s impressive performers and her tireless work rate meant Spain’s defence was rattled on a number of occasions.

England defence got themselves all in a mess and Conca got in and fired over the bar. Spain upped their intensity and Segura crossed to Cordoba but England dealt well. Gutierrez and Conca then carved England open as the hosts allowed Spain too much space and they were easily looking the more comfortable and assured in possession. 

England resorted to long balls for a period due to the conditions as wind and rain continued to interfere with the afternoon but credit to both teams who put on a good show through the game. Ellen White always looked the biggest threat for England as she kept chasing down the keeper but with no joy.

A good chance came for England when Jordan Nobbs crossed and Ellen White headed wide.

De Miguel was a good outlet for Spain but despite all their best efforts did very little to trouble England. The hosts ended the first half well and by forcing Spain back to the keeper a lot when they were trying to play out. The first half ended goalless

Above: Spain’s goalkeeper Rodríguez Rivero punches under pressure. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

The second half began with Lauren Hemp being introduced for Nikita Parris and it was the Norfolk girl from North Walsham who nearly gave the 14,284 in attendance their dream moment when she crashed a great chance against the post.

This was a clear wake-up call for Spain who then got into their stride again. Beivide looked lively after her introduction, Rachel Daly and Jess Carter both had to make crucial interventions to prevent any damage being done. 

The pass of the game was then made by Lucy Bronze to Jordan Nobbs who fired a cross goal. A beautiful move that deserved a better finish. England had a very bright spell as Nobbs continued to link up well with Hemp. 

The game settled down again and Spain got the upper hand. Beivide played in Isasa who fired across goal. Pascual then produced a curling shot over the bar.

Beivide continued her dominance which would later see her claim the man of the match award. Isasa had a good chance as Spain began to really turn the screw but Jess Carter dealt well. They had another opportunity when Cebrian then floated a free-kick into Hannah Hampton’s hands.

Above: Spain’s Carmona García (19) on the ground with Ellen White as her goalkeeper looks on. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

England stepped up their pressure with Mead and Bronze linking well but nothing to show. Hemp dispossessed Sanz and passed to White who took too many touches and was unable to finish. 

Bronze continued to be involved in some good moves as the game continued to swing backwards and forwards.

The crowd continued to be vibrant with good noise from all stands which Bronze fed off the noise by firing in a ferocious cross which Rivero had to bunch out.

Beivide continued to be the forefront of all good Spain efforts and had three or four good chances in the late stages of the game but couldn’t find an end product for her efforts. 

Despite chances at both ends, it ended goalless. It fair result and a very enjoyable affair. England acquitted themselves well, both teams were very pleasing on the eye but I feel it’s Sarina Wiegman who will be the happier of the managers at the end of the day.

Further Photos from Hannah Parnell from England v Spain:

Teams: ENGLAND (4-3-3): Hampton, Bronze, Carter, Greenwood, Daly, Nobbs, Scott, Stanway, Parris, White, Mead.

SPAIN (4-3-3): Rodriguez, Garcia Gomez, Andres, Leon, Batlle, Bonmati, Guijarro, Putellas, Cardona, Hermosa, Garcia Cordoba.

Referee: Iuliana Demetrescu (ROM).

Attendance: 14,283.

Canada Hold Germany At Bay To Take Maximum Points

Canada 1-0 Germany (21/2/22)

Above: Vanessa Giles (24) celebrates her goal with Ashley Lawrence (10) and Desiree Scott (11). Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

By Darrell Allen at Carrow Road for Impetus with EXCLUSIVE photos from pitchside from Hannah Parnell.

Three hours after the Lionesses match against Spain concluded, Carrow Road hosted its second match of the day in the Arnold Clark Cup with Canada and Germany facing off as both teams looked to be the first winner of a match in the competition.

Storm Franklin continued to batter Norwich between the two games with howling wind and torrential downpours still happening as the second game of the day got underway. 

A very disappointing crowd of just 119 were in attendance in one half of the Geoffrey Watling City Stand just alongside where the Canada dugout was situated. It was not a huge surprise that the number was so low as a combination of a three hour wait between matches, terrible weather, and a bad kick off time for families with a Sunday night 8.15pm start not something that you ever associate with football in England. 

The game started brightly with very good opening exchanges both teams knocking the ball around well.

It was Canada who got themselves the advantage on seven minutes when Beckie played in a wonderful corner which was headed down and into the bottom right-hand corner by Gilles.

Above: Canada hit the front at Carrow Road. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Canada tried to capitalize on their productive start when Prince broke well but the attack was cleared well by Brand.

Germany began growing into the game after Canada’s positive opening exchanges and Anyomi fed Buhi through on goal but it was intercepted well by Buchanan for Canada.

The game was being played at a fast and frenetic pace and was very pleasing on the eye.

Germany captain Lina Mangull fired a shot that hit Gilles arm, but penalty appeals were waved away by referee Emikar Caldera. It wasn’t to be the only penalty appeal of the evening. 

As we headed towards the half-hour mark, both teams were happy playing their passing game, but with both defences playing well, there was little to write home about in this phase of the first half in terms of chances. 

Germany upped the anti and Magull floated in a free-kick but it was easily headed away.

Beckie then curled a shot wide. Canada were in the groove as Lawrence found Prince who turned Doorsoun with a sublime piece of skill but couldn’t produce a finish. By far the best piece of football of the entire day and a move that had real wow factor but sadly for Canada no end product.

Above: Lina Magull (20) in possession for Germany at Carrow Road. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus

The first half ended with a series of Germany chances Magull to Buhi who curled inside and forced a save from Sheridan in the Canada goal.

Another Germany corner was cleared by Prince before Dongus fired sky high and over the bar.

The final Germany corner was cleared before being put back in and headed clear as Canada dome well to protect their lead and head into the break leading. 

The second half began with a Canada chance as Prince was through on goal but fired over the bar.

A good Germany break followed but Buhi was superbly intercepted on the penalty spot.

Germany then put an inswinger of a corner which went everywhere but nothing to show after an incredible scramble. 

A game that ebbed and flowed twisted and turned then saw Prince taken out by Chelsea star Ann-Katrin Berger in the Germany goal but appeals were again waved away. Germany fired a free-kick over as they continued to build. Gwinn was dragged back after Gilles lost balance but penalty appeals were again waved away.

German pressure continued and Anyomi found Gwinn but it was saved by Sheridan’s legs.

Above: Jessie Fleming battles for possession at Carrow Road. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Corners were being significantly affected by wind as the Storm Franklin continued to rage through Carrow Road. 

Lots of Germany pressure followed and a lot of set plays were being won. A free kick by Rauch was headed wide by Schuller. With 12 minutes to play Germany kept knocking on the door Dabritz and Dallmann both had scrappy shots which didn’t come to anything. 

All the action was in the Canada half as Germany continued to try desperately for an equalizer. Rose put it into Berger’s hands in a rare second-half chance for Canada. 

A series of Germany corners were all then wind-assisted and went all the way through the box and out the other side. In a frenetic finale where it was attack after attack from Germany, Dabritz played in Dallmann and it was cleared but Rall then lashed a shot towards goal.

Four minutes of added time were signalled and through its entirety Germany laid siege to Canada. Corners were earned, the closest of which was cleared but Dabritz floated it back in for  Schuller to head towards goal but the keeper saved.

The game ended with Canada breaking and Beckie crossed but it ended up in Ann-Katrin Berger’s hands and there was no time left for Germany to force any more attacks.

This was a win for the Olympic champions that required hard work, determination, team spirit, and togetherness as Canada stood firm through the German onslaught to protect their early lead.

Above: Germany’s Nicole Anyomi (18) battles with Kadeisha Buchanan (3). Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.

Germany will be frustrated. They created more than enough and should definitely have had at least one penalty, but Canada did themselves proud and defended together as a unit to become the first winners of a match at the Arnold Clark Cup.

They have now put themselves in pole position to take the trophy in the final round of games in Wolverhampton on Wednesday night when they play Spain. Germany will face England and the Lionesses will have to perform well defensively to deny Germany a result. It promises to be an exciting day on Wednesday to decide the tournament. 

Teams: CANADA (4-1-2-1-2): Sheridan, Riviere, Buchanan, Gilles, Lawrence, Scott, Lacasse, Quinn, Fleming, Prince, Beckie.

Scorer: Gilles 7′.

GERMANY (4-4-2): Berger, Doorsoun, Feldkamp, Kleinherne, Rauch, Freigang, Magull, Dongus, Buhl, Brand, Anyomi.

Referee: Emikar Caldera (VEN).

Attendance: 119.

Wiegman: We Need These Three Games For Our Development

Above: Sarina Wiegman and Leah Williamson captured during today’s media conference. Photo: FA.

by Ben Gilby (16/2/22)

England head coach Sarina Wiegman and captain Leah Williamson met with the media today ahead of tomorrow’s Arnold Clark Cup match with Canada at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.

Wiegman goes into the game in unique circumstances under her tenure. It is the first game in charge for her where England are not the overwhelming favourites. In terms of squad and availability, Wiegman revealed that everyone goes into the opening match with Canada fit and healthy.

When asked by Impetus about what she wants to see from her team over the coming week bearing in mind the Lionesses have found it hard to get consistent results against the top nations in the world, England’s head coach was brutally honest.

“I’m aware of the situation England were in with these teams before I came in. The pressure is high in these upcoming games. I want to see what we’re like in possession, out of possession, and in transition against the best. We’ll see where it goes. We have a technical plan and want to develop a new style of play.

“We have a way of doing things on and off the pitch – creating clarity wherever we can and focusing on growth – being better each day. I want every member of staff to facilitate that to the players so they can grow.”

Wiegman went on to highlight the importance of playing these three nations in particular. “They each have very different styles of play and for me, that is an important challenge in our growth and how we best approach them and then evaluate.

“We need these games because we want to be exposed to every aspect of the game – defense, possession, and transition. After this tournament, we’ll know better about where we are in terms of preparing for the Euros.

Above: England manager Sarina Wiegman highlighted the importance of the team’s three matches over the next week in preparations for the European Championships. Photo: FA.

“We want to try out things in these three matches but also be aware that we need to manage player loads within developing our style. Three games in six days is a lot, along with the schedule that players have with their club sides.”

England’s head coach knows that despite being the host nation, there are a whole host of countries who are capable of lifting the European Championship trophy at Wembley this July. She believes that being able to compete with the best such as the three sides competing at the Arnold Clark Cup can help to see England over the line.

“There are lots of teams who will go into the Euros thinking they should win it. More and more countries are favourites for this competition. Far more so than the previous tournament and from the European sides’ perspective in the World Cup. I’m convinced that we will be ready for 6th July when the Euros start.

“The players and myself like the fact that we play across the country so that we can connect with our fans in different parts of the country. They can be the 12th woman for us which can be exciting for them and for us. We can play well with that with energy and be dynamic from the crowd.”

Whilst hosting the Euros is a big positive for the country and team, Wiegman also knows it will not be without its difficulties.

“It’s all about pressure, decision making under pressure. In terms of everything all around the team. That pressure coming from outside, we’re talking about it already to prepare for it. We are turning around every stone to be prepared to ensure the less new things we come across during the tournament the better.”

Finally, asked specifically about the strengths of tomorrow’s opponents, Wiegman said: “Canada are a team… they are a real team. They have lots of structure both in possession and out of possession. They are able to use their strengths which is quality.”

Above: England captain Leah Williamson speaking to the media today. Photo: FA.

Leah Williamson spoke of her joy at being back in the Lionesses squad as well as highlighting the changes in the camp since Sarina Wiegman took over.

“I’m very happy to be in the squad, fit, and to pick up where I left off having missed the November international camp. It’s not about the captaincy, more about being here and in the team.”

That November international window included England’s 20-0 win success against Latvia. Whilst the headlines surrounded the Lionesses’ ease in winning, Williamson highlighted the positives in terms of the relentless nature of the performance.

“In terms of the 20-0 win, it offers a challenge as you have to keep that focus and standard. However, these games now will allow us to see where our real strengths are and what we need to tighten up in.”

Impetus asked the Arsenal star how to reflect on the differences she has noticed in camp since Wiegman and her staff took over.

“The dynamic of the team has changed. We have realized that we have underachieved in the last few tournaments. We want to turn that around and that’s a collective push to reach a higher standard and need to bring out the best in everyone.

“This is the most competitive training that I’ve been involved in for a long time here and the fight for positions, to reach your potential is all tying in nicely. We get an opportunity to learn more about ourselves which is a gift ahead of the Euros in the summer.”

Tomorrow’s match sees a reunion with Bev Priestman, who was Phil Neville’s assistant under a previous Lionesses regime. Williamson identified the Priestman’s qualities and what she is expecting from Canada.

“Bev was involved in a lot of our defensive traits when she worked with us previously. Looking at Canada now you can really see that with her and she has lots of pace in the squad and she’s utilizing it. Bev has them playing a very efficient style which wasn’t really the case when she was with us.

Talking about the feeling of being awarded the captain’s armband for Thursday’s game, Williamson said: “I didn’t think I could ever be prouder of playing for England, but this gives it something even more special. We come together as a team from different places, different clubs and have a chance to bring people together and as captain, I have a part to play in that.

“I’ve been really lucky in terms of playing under lots of different captains and different types of captain. Some just lead on the pitch with their performance, some are very vocal. Having the exposure to those different styles is a big help.”

Bronze & Stanway Relish The Challenge Of The New Lionesses Regime

Above: England star Lucy Bronze speaking to the media yesterday ahead of the Lionesses game with Canada. Photo: FA.

Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard from both Lucy Bronze and Georgia Stanway ahead of the Lionesses opening Arnold Clarke Cup game against Olympic champions Canada at the Riverside Stadium (15/2/22).

England’s Lucy Bronze and Georgia Stanway both spoke of the confidence in the Lionesses squad and the difference in camp since the arrival of Sarina Wiegman as head coach ahead of the Arnold Clark Cup competition which will see them face three of the world’s top sides in Canada, Spain, and Germany over the next week.

At the media conference in the North-East ahead of the competition opener against the Olympic champions, Bronze told Impetus that despite the Canadian head coach Bev Priestman and a number of their players knowing the Lionesses’ well, England will pose them a very different challenge at Middlesbrough.

“Bev knows a lot of our players well, but we have changed since then, both in terms of personal and the way we play. There will be players that they don’t know as well – our younger players who have been performing well this season. We know that where we were back then is very different to where we are now.

“This is the first time we’ve played a really high-ranked team with Sarina (Wiegman) as our manager and a new way of playing, whereas Bev was part of the England team over a year ago and things are very different now.

“The team is a lot more settled and we’re in a much better place as a squad now. It’s also a different dynamic for Canada now as they go into the game as Olympic champions.”

Bronze went on to note that it was her first international camp for quite some time due to injury and remarked how noticeable the number of new faces there are among the squad under head coach Sarina Wiegman. “Yeah! There are still a few old faces around though, which is nice. We had a good catch-up yesterday and so far things are going well.

Above: Lucy Bronze pictured during the 2019 FIFA World Cup. Photo: SIPA USA/PA Images

“I’m still trying to get to know what this team is about, what our strengths are, and what we can improve on. Once I know that I can help feed that back into the team.”

The defender admitted that whilst it was hard to be on the sidelines for both club and country over recent months, it was important to put herself first and get better. “I had been impacted the previous season by it in my play, and so whilst it was frustrating to be out this season, it was something that I needed to get right for myself.”

Having games in three different parts of the country – after Thursday’s game in Middlesbrough, the Lionesses go to Norwich and then Wolverhampton is vitally important in growing the fanbase and giving youngsters the chance to see their heroes close up.

“It’s massively important,” enthused Bronze. “Growing up in the North-East, the chance of watching England internationals was few and far between, so it’s nice to give people the chance to see us play and build that support network. Particularly as we missed so many games during COVID.”

Focusing specifically on the game with Canada, Bronze is expecting a tough game. “It will be an exciting match-up, with Canada being off the back of the Olympics. A lot of the girls know Bev (Priestman, head coach, and formally Phil Neville’s assistant with the Lionesses) really well and what she has achieved is great.”

Whilst a home European Championships are on the horizon, the Manchester City star is only interested in the here and now. “Whilst there is excitement and having played in major tournaments and seeing the boost the host nation gets, for now, I’m now just focusing on what is in front of now with these three games rather than looking ahead to the Euros.

“We’re super excited for this competition. It’s nice to play in England against top nations playing big games and match ourselves against the best players in the world. We were dead set on (facing) these teams. They all offer something different. Canada have a lot of energy, Spain will look to possess the ball a lot, and Germany are so well organized. It will be all about how we match up to that, but I’ll back our players. We’ve got a strong squad.”

Above: Georgia Stanway discussed the development of England under Sarina Wiegman and her preferred position when she faced the media today. Photo: FA

Manchester City’s Georgia Stanway highlighted to Impetus‘ Ben Gilby the differences that she has noticed in the Lionesses set up since the arrival of Sarina Wiegman as head coach.

“We have had a lot of change. It is nice to know that the future is set in stone and we can build relationships with staff members as a team. For me, the massive aspect I’ve found with Sarina is the support. She wants the best for every single player and will go out of her way to make sure that every single one of us is comfortable and happy in the environment.

“If you score one goal, if you score 10 goals, or if you don’t score at all, everyone is treated the same and everyone is valued in the squad which is very important. Everyone has a purpose and has a reason to be here.”

The 23-year-old Barrow-born star spoke about the difficult period she’s had this season having to play in so many different positions for her club. She is clear where she wants to be located long term.

“I want to be able to master a position and call it my own. It’s hard being versatile. It can work in your favour when you talk about tournaments and in small squads when someone is injured. I have hit a point now where I want to knuckle down in one position and be the best I can be in that position.

“For me, it’s midfield where I want to be. I played as a youth coming through age-group football and I started there at Manchester City.

“It’s been a difficult 15 months for me at Manchester City having to fill in for people. Whether it be me playing full-back, the nine, the back three, second choice goalkeeper. I need to be able to knuckle down now and master one position and focus on the things I want and need to get better at in that position.”

Looking at the Arnold Clark Cup, Stanway was excited about the challenges that she and the Lionesses face. “It’s an opportunity to play world-class opposition and with our focus on the Euros, that’s really important. It feels like part of the Euros preparation and we need to be ready to perform from 6th July for the Euros.

NI To Host Lionesses at National Stadium

Above: Abbie Magee of Northern Ireland battles with England’s Lauren Hemp during a friendly between the two sides in February 2021. Photo: Belfast Telegraph.

Supplied to Impetus by Irish FA (10/2/22)

Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against England in April will be staged at the 18,500 capacity National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.

It will be Northern Ireland’s final competitive fixture before they compete at UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 in England this summer – where they are due to face England once again.

The match in Belfast will be the second of two crunch FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifiers for Northern Ireland that month. They are also away to Austria on 8th April.

Northern Ireland head coach Kenny Shiels said he was delighted the qualifier against the Lionesses is being staged at the National Football Stadium.

The senior women’s team boss insisted: “It is great news for both the team and the staff that we will be playing England at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park. We are hoping there will be a bumper crowd to cheer us on.”

Above: Windsor Park, Belfast – the venue for Northern Ireland v England in April. Photo: Irish FA.

England are sitting top of European Qualifying Group D having won all six of their qualifiers to date, scoring 53 goals and conceding none on their way to notching up 18 points.

Austria and Northern Ireland both have 13 points (four wins, one draw and one defeat) so far, however the Austrians are currently second in the Group D table on goal difference. They have scored 29 times and let in four goals to date, while Northern Ireland have scored 30 and conceded six.

Northern Ireland have already faced England in the group, losing 4-0 at Wembley back in October.

Tickets for the home game on 12 April (7.45pm start) will cost £10 for adults and £2 for juniors. Members of GAWA Official and groups of 10 or more will receive a 50% discount.

Groups can register their interest now by providing their details here. Tickets for the game will go on sale in early March. 

In preparation for the two qualifiers in April the Northern Ireland squad will be travelling to Spain for a 10-day training camp at the Marbella Football Centre on the Costa del Sol from 14 to 23 February.

As part of the camp they are set to face Faroe Islands, Switzerland, and Romania in friendlies at the Marbella venue. The game against the Faroese is on 17 February, while they will face the Swiss on 20 February. The match against the Romanians is scheduled for 23 February.

Wales Announce Squad For Pinatar Cup

(9/2/22)

Above: Wales are back together for the first time in 2022. Photo: Lewis Mitchell/YCPD

Gemma Grainger has announced a 26-player squad for the 2022 Pinatar Cup which takes place in the small town of San Pedro del Pinatar in Spain from next week.

Wales has entered the tournament for the first time and will face Scotland in the opening match on Wednesday 16th February. The tournament is a knockout format, but placement matches will guarantee three fixtures for every team.

Wales’ second match will be against either Belgium or Slovakia, on Saturday 19th February, before a third match against either Russia, Poland, Republic of Ireland, or Hungary on Tuesday 22nd February.

Grainger will look to build on the momentum of a strong start to the 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign where Wales currently sit second in their group behind France.

Sophie Ingle, Jess Fishlock, and Tash Harding are among the regulars selected for the Pinatar Cup squad, while Rachel Rowe returns after having missed matches in the October and November international windows due to injury.

There may be milestones to celebrate during the tournament, with Helen Ward and Laura O’Sullivan on 97 and 49 caps respectively.

Following the Pinatar Cup, Wales will return to World Cup qualifying action when they welcome France to Parc y Scarlets on Friday 8th April. Tickets go on sale on Wednesday 16th February, starting at only £2 (group bookings) and £4 (individual bookings) for children, available at www.faw.cymru/tickets.

Above: Sophie Ingle – back for Wales. Photo: Lewis Mitchell /CPD.

Wales Pinatar Cup Squad:


Laura O’Sullivan (Cardiff City Ladies), Olivia Clark (Coventry United), Poppy Soper (Dual registration with Plymouth Argyle), Rhiannon Roberts (Liverpool), Esther Morgan (Leicester City – On loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Hayley Ladd (Manchester United), Gemma Evans (Reading), Morgan Rogers (Watford – On loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Rachel Rowe (Reading), Lily Woodham (Reading), Sophie Ingle (Chelsea), Anna Filbey (Charlton Athletic), Angharad James (Orlando Pride), Josie Green (Tottenham Hotspur), Charlie Estcourt (Coventry United), Jess Fishlock (OL Reign), Carrie Jones (Manchester United), Ffion Morgan (Bristol City), Megan Wynne (Charlton Athletic), Elise Hughes (Charlton Athletic), Kayleigh Green (Brighton & Hove Albion), Helen Ward (Watford), Natasha Harding (Reading), Ceri Holland (Liverpool), Chloe Williams (Blackburn Rovers – On loan from Manchester United), Georgia Walters (Sheffield United).

Matildas: Learning From Pressure And Finding The Right Balance

In today’s pre-game press conference ahead of Australia’s second friendly in four days with the USA, Ben Gilby heard Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson address his team’s defensive issues and outlined what he is aiming for between now and the end of the Asia Cup (29/11/21).

Above: Tony Gustavsson speaks to the media today ahead of the Matildas’ game with the USA in Newcastle tomorrow. Photo: Football Australia.

Tony Gustavsson opened the conference by outlining the review session to Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the USA in Sydney.

“We probably had one of our better review workshops so far yesterday, with players working in groups. There was a lot of dialogue and we have built all of that into our game plan. In training, we looked at trying to get those back into contention – those who missed the game on Saturday.

“There are still question marks over who will be available and one of those players is Polks (Clare Polkinghorne). As always, it’s a balance between experience and building depth in the backline.

“Some will say we were naive to look at players in defence in the last game. I would say brave. The young players responded well to going behind so early. We also have to credit the experienced players. It is not easy to step onto the field with a completely new centre-back pairing, play the US and I said we were going to treat it like a World Cup Final too.

Above: Tony Gustavsson clear that Jess Nash is in a good place after Saturday’s game. Photo: Football Australia.

“Jess Nash bounced back so quickly after the first goal. In fact, we conceded two when she went off. She was not subbed because of what happened, it was a planned move and I wanted to look at different options. She grew into the game. I would never give game time to her if I didn’t think she wasn’t ready for it mentally. This is the start for her. She showed tremendous promise. We are taking care of the young players but also explaining what it takes to win things.

“We need to learn about the stress and pressure of these situations and playing on home soil ahead of the World Cup when the spotlight is on us from the world.”

Gustavsson was pressed further on the defensive set-up of the Matildas and the number of goals that have been conceded since April.

“We have been looking at our defending for a long time now. We need to fix it. It is probably unfair to hold the players accountable for the ten goals they conceded in April due to the constraints we had on selection then. If someone needs to be criticized then maybe it is me in terms of handling it wrong.

“I believe in the preparation process. I am all about tournament football. After the Olympics when things were better, we had a look at what we wanted to do between then and the Asia Cup.

Above: Tony Gustavsson was pressed on his team’s defensive set-up. Photo: Football Australia.

“I’m trying to balance experience with boosting the roster. I made the choice to go with young inexperienced players on Saturday to give them a chance. In terms of how quickly can I fix the defence, the game tomorrow will be one isolated game. When it comes to the Asia Cup it will be all about tournament play and winning it through defending well enough. I am aiming to say I fixed it and I won something.

“We are trying to look at different defensive strategies. Our issues are not about just our backline. Can our nine cut the field in half? We are looking at how to get the most out of this team to get the best out of the players. It would be an easy fix to sit compact and close the space, but that is not who we are. I am an attacking coach.

“I am wanting us to play scoreboard blind – that is not being influenced by what the score is. That does not mean that we are not trying to win. We are doing everything we can to go out and win tomorrow’s game. If I wanted to build false confidence, I would schedule less challenging games and people would be saying how good things look but that would be naive as when it comes to tournaments and playing the best teams, you are not really ready.

“When I came into the job, we looked at statistics about how many games the Matildas played against higher ranked teams and what the results were for the last decade. It was apparent that we have to play these games more often because the majority of those games had only been played in tournament mode and, to be honest, the results hadn’t been too positive.

“Now we are playing them on a more consistent basis, it means we are losing more, but we need to get exposed, we need to develop this ahead of the World Cup. That is the way to build confidence – we have done it over and over and so know what to face.”

Above: Being on it from the start – the biggest learning point that the Matildas head coach hopes his players took from Saturday’s game. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia’s head coach also addressed the early concession in Saturday’s game by saying: “You have to be on it from the very start, especially against the best teams in the world. You have to be checked in and on. That is the biggest learning for us from that game. The US always want to open fast and go for the first goal. We need to learn from that and be on our A-game from the start.

“We lacked getting numbers into the box as well. We need to create even more. If we can get back to the passing game we had against Brazil, then we can do better.”

He was questioned about the outstanding performance of US goalkeeper Casey Murphy. “She was player of the match, right? She kept the US in the game. We should have been 2-1 up at half-time if it wasn’t for two brilliant saves for her. She was great in the air. Whilst our crossing wasn’t as great as normal, she came for everything and did well.

“The US play a direct running game and get in behind. That hurt us twice and also for the penalty. We need to deal with that direct way far better. Once they are in, they are really good. We need to do everything we can to block shots. We need to be mindful of their transition game.

Gustavsson was also questioned again about the goalkeeping position, whether he knows yet who will be the first choice for the Asia Cup. “At this point, no, I don’t. I wanted to use the September, October, and November windows to see all of them in action and then be a bit of review. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see two goalkeepers used in the Asia Cup.”

Above: The Matildas training today at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium. Photo: Football Australia

Wales: We’re Well Prepared & Ready To Impose Our Strengths

Impetus was represented at Wales’ media conference prior to departure to France for Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifier by Jean-Pierre Thiesset. He and Ben Gilby summarise the views of head coach Gemma Grainger and Chelsea’s Sophie Ingle ahead of their trip over the Channel.

Above: Wales head coach Gemma Grainger pictured in her media conference before the game against France. Photo: FA of Wales.

Wales go into their game against France in Guingamp tomorrow on the back of a 5-0 win over Greece, something which pleased head coach Gemma Grainger, along with no injuries or suspension being picked up in the game.

“Friday was a great opportunity for us to keep building on what we needed to. Conditions were tough, but we adapted well and the girls were brilliant in terms of their approach to the game, how they delivered the game and how they got stronger throughout the game. They are the things that made me happiest from the game and it sets us up well for Tuesday.”

Grainger was questioned about her approach to the game in France, with the home side being red hot favourites to take the three points.

“Look, the way we are viewing it is that we are the underdogs, there are no expectations on us outside of the camp. It’s a French game in France and the expectations may be pretty low. But our expectations are very high in terms of the performance that we want to put on. It’s a real opportunity for us to see where we are as a team and to go out there and continue the form that we have had. Why would we change that going to France? Its a real positive. For me personally, we will know a lot about ourselves as a result of the game.”

The Welsh head coach also sees the game as another step in her bid to give her team the toughest possible opposition as often as possible, after they took Canada who would go on to win Olympic Gold just under four months after their friendly with the Welsh.

Above: Gemma Grainger: focussed on her team delivering their game plan on Tuesday. Photo: FA of Wales.

“A combination of games against top opposition and the World Cup campaign is something we need to bring together. For me as a coach, these are the types of games that I want to coach in. These are the games that you really get to see the progress that you are making. We know why this game is going to be different, they are a highly ranked opposition and one of the best teams in the world. We have a lot of respect for them, but it’s a chance for us to go there and see where we are.”

With the Welsh side under Grainger noted for their attacking philosophy, the coach was asked if she would keep that mentality against the French who are renowned for multiple attacking threats.

“We’re really well prepared, we know what they do and what they are strong at. We’ve also got a few ideas about how we can bring our strengths to the game. We have to leave that pitch on Tuesday night knowing that we’ve delivered the game plan and delivering the game plan for us comes in terms of what we do both in and out of possession. We’ll have some targets set and we’ll make sure during the game that we are delivering on that. That will be the key measure of success after the game.”

With Grainger now just over eight months into her role as head coach with Wales, she spoke about how she thinks her side has progressed in that period.

“It’s a balance. We’ve played a lot of friendly games against higher-ranked opposition and we learned what we needed to learn from those games. More recently, we’ve been playing against lower-ranked opposition in the World Cup qualifying campaign and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves from them. We’ll only know where we are at after the game on Tuesday.

“We are playing France, but for us, this is game six of ten (in the qualifying campaign). It’s about how we execute. We’ll use the underdog mentality to go out there and be brave. At the end of the game we will know the answer to the question about where we are as a team.”

So far in the qualifying campaign, France are averaging seven goals a game and Grainger was asked what she plans on doing to ensure Wales don’t go the same way on Tuesday.

Above: Gemma Grainger knows that whilst France are a team in transition, they still pose her side a major threat on Tuesday. Photo: FA of Wales.

“The first thing is I want to bring their average down! The foundations in this team are all about how defensively sound we are. We’ve built on that strength and the players have absolute clarity on what they need to deliver. We work hard together and that is something we can control. We have to defend well in all areas, but we will make sure we are fully prepared to deliver a game plan.

“France are a brilliant team and they are clearly on a mission. Yet, we will be the highest-ranked team that they have played so far. They will want to compete and play well. We have worked at bringing out the best in the players we have. They have incredible resilience and work ethic and we have created an environment that brings that out further. We are competitive and we want to qualify for major tournaments. Whatever game we are in, those characteristics need to come out and do so.”

So far in the group, Slovenia gave France their sternest test, going down to just a 3-2 defeat. Grainger was asked what she took out of their performance in a bid to emulate or go further on the Slovenes’ result against the French.

“We’ve watched that game and having played Slovenia ourselves (a 1-1 draw away from home), we can also put their performance into context. There is a big difference between playing home and away and France played them in Slovenia. Having been there ourselves in October, we know how hard it is to go there. You also don’t know what was going on with France at that time as well.”

France go into the game without Wendie Renard, Amandine Henry, and Eugenie Le Sommer, who have been key components of their national side for many years, but Grainger does not think this makes Wales’ task any easier.

“Obviously I’d rather play France without those players, but I’ve coached against France before and seen their U17 players coming through and then at U19s. Although they are in a transition, they are in a very strong transition with strength in depth. The players coming in have very similar qualities whether they’ve learned them from around the national or club scene.”

Above: It was a happy and positive Sophie Ingle that spoke to the media prior to Wales’ game with France. Photo: FA of Wales.

Sophie Ingle also spoke to the media at the same event and began by highlighting her thoughts on the win over Greece on Friday, a game in which she scored her country’s opening goal after just seven minutes.

“It was positive, keeping a clean sheet was good. I still think that we could have pressed a bit better, obviously, we always want the perfect game, but we got in and around Greece. When we lost the ball, we reacted well. There were three or four of us around them. They still managed to get out a few times, but luckily they didn’t really cause us too many problems. An early goal against a team like Greece makes it a little bit easier, and to score two or three more in the first half also helps.”

Ingle was asked about her new role in the side which sees her linking up with Angharad James and Jess Fishlock in the midfield.

“It just comes natural to us. We were actually all laughing about it the other day as we don’t do much talking between us on the pitch because we don’t have to as we know where each other are just from checking over our shoulders. I know that if Jess wants to come low, I’ll get out of the space and that doesn’t always come natural with players. There usually is a lot of communication, but it just seems to flow nicely for the three of us.”

Looking ahead to Tuesday’s match in Guingamp against France, the Chelsea midfielder said: “It’s going to be a very different match. They will have a very big crowd as well. We know what sort of team they are and the strengths they have. So it’s all about us and trying to get at their weaknesses. We have to play with a bit of freedom, we have nothing to lose. We’re unbeaten too in qualifying at this stage too, so we’re happy about where we are as a team. It is about showing who we are and going away from home to play France is perfect for that.”

Wales can point to holding England to a draw in Southampton and very positive performances away to Norway when it comes to facing top European opposition, so is everyone right to be writing off Welsh chances in France so quickly?

Above: Sophie Ingle believes that her side have the character to trouble France. Photo: FA of Wales.

“We want to build on those games and results we’ve had when we’ve played top opposition,” said Ingle, “It’s all about us believing in what we are doing right now as a team and show who Wales are. We don’t want to turn up to France on Tuesday and not give a good account of ourselves as the Welsh national team and that is what we have been speaking about since the Greece game finished the other night.”

With Wales now about to go past the halfway mark in this qualification campaign, Ingle assessed how the team has performed so far.

“The last three camps (September, October and November) have been so close together that it feels like we’re always on Welsh camp which is great! We’re unbeaten and so are in a good place right now. Going away to Slovenia and getting a draw that we deserved was great. We have to build on that now. We need to go into the back-to-back games with France (the return game in Wales is in April) and be who we are, get on the ball and be positive. Having said that, we know we need to defend really well to get any sort of result against them.

“When we have the ball, we need to be creative against them. We know we won’t have as much of the ball as we’ve had in other games, but when we do have it, we have to be brave with it and get it forward. Our number nine might need to hold it up until others of us can get up in support, because realistically we may be in a mid-block and waiting for those turnovers.”

Ingle also identified a ruthless streak that has come into the Welsh side over the course of recent months.

“In training, we have spoken about that and we have to be ruthless against all opponents. We don’t just want to score one goal or two goals, we want to get as many as we can. In the past we were happy with a 1-0, everyone is, it’s a win, but now, if we can score more goals and create more chances, it will only help us as a team.

Above: Sophie Ingle – she strongly believes that Wales have the players to hurt France in transitional moments. Photo: FA of Wales.

“There has to be a level of respect about who we are playing, but at the end of the day, we want to do everything we can to win and, if sometimes that means ignoring another player on the floor, then so be it.”

In terms of her own thoughts on the French team, Ingle was nothing but impressed: “They are relentless. They are scoring goals for fun. They don’t hold off with who they are playing. They are bringing youth in and doing very well. There is a long way to go in the group, but we are realistic. France will probably come out on top of the group, but that is not to say I don’t think we can get a result against them. I just want us to be brave on the ball and solid at the back.

Impetus’ Jean-Pierre Thiesset then asked Ingle two questions, firstly about how Wales have prepared for the game with France. “We don’t prepare any differently compared to how we would if we were playing a team ranked lower than ourselves. We respect every opposition. Obviously, there will be little tweaks in our tactics because of who we are playing and we will have to be a bit more defensive than how we have in previous games, but we don’t change the way we are preparing just because we are playing a top opposition.”

Jean-Pierre then asked the midfielder what she believes Wales need to do to win in France. “We have to be solid in defence and midfield and try to limit the opportunities that France have, They have really fast, athletic players who can whip balls into the box but also go one v one in our wide areas. When we have the ball, I think that we can hurt them on the transition as they leave a lot of space in different parts of the pitch. The Slovenia game showed that where Slovenia scored on a transition and ran the length of the pitch to score. We have enough quality in our side to do that.”

NI: Fully Focused On Another Three Points

Ahead of tonight’s game with North Macedonia, Northern Ireland head coach Kenny Shiels outlined what he is looking for from his side (29/11/21).

Above: Rachel Furness, who levelled Northern Ireland’s all-time international goalscoring record with a hat-trick in Skopje last week. Photo: Presseye/William Cherry.

Kenny Shiels insists on taking one game at a time, and he will doing that again tonight when the Northern Ireland senior women’s team face North Macedonia at Seaview.

Northern Ireland registered their biggest ever victory home or away when they defeated the Macedonians 11-0 in Skopje on Thursday.

But Shiels says his players must forget about that match and focus on tonight’s game instead in a front of a full house at the home of Crusaders (7 pm start).

“Naturally, I was delighted with our performance in the first game of this double header with North Macedonia. The girls played some excellent football in Skopje on Thursday as they registered a record-breaking win.

“But we must segregate the two games because it’s going to be incredibly difficult to put in another performance like that, and to match such determination, quality, and endeavour tonight.”

However, he further points out that his players are well prepared for the second encounter with North Macedonia. 

He also says: “It’s going to be tough for our players because we have never been in this position before where we have come off the back of such a huge victory and now we are having to consolidate that. It will be hard but we will endeavour to do that.

“My players show tremendous commitment and desire every time they pull on that green jersey and I am certain they will be up for it again in Belfast.”

Above: Kenny Shield, Northern Ireland boss. Photo via: FAI

And he adds: “We have had an incredible year in 2021, qualifying for the UEFA Women’s Euros and starting our World Cup qualification campaign strongly, and it would be great to end the year with another victory under our belts.”

The Northern Ireland Women boss may not be saying it, but he will want his side to score goals tonight.

The emphatic victory in Skopje, coupled with table toppers England’s 1-0 home win against Austria on Saturday, means Northern Ireland currently have a goal difference of 15 and the Austrians have a goal difference of 17 in European Qualifying Group D. Both countries currently have 10 points from five games.

Going forward goals in the bank could prove crucial, especially given that Austria are away to Luxembourg tomorrow and they will be expected to rack up goals in that match.

Shiels and his players believe North Macedonia’s players will be “wounded” after such a heavy defeat on home soil and will be keen to put up a much better performance at Seaview.

The visitors continue to be without some key players due to injury, however, they may shuffle their pack and bring in younger players in the squad who will want to prove they can do better than their more experienced teammates.

One Northern Ireland player who is very much looking forward to the game is attacking midfielder Rachel Furness, who equalled David Healy’s goalscoring record – 36 strikes – for Northern Ireland while bagging a hat-trick in Skopje.

Healy has already been in touch with Furness to say well done on notching so many goals at international level and equalling his tally. Shiels will be hoping Healy will be sending her a text after tonight’s match congratulating her on breaking the record.

Bacha’s Breathtaking Bow For France

Jean-Pierre Thiesset watches a sensational debut for 21-year-old Lyon born Selma Bacha (29/11/21).

Above: Selma Bacha in action on debut for France against Kazakhstan. Photo: News In 24.

On her debut for the senior French squad, Olympique Lyonnais’ 21-year-old defender earned the player of the match award after a starring performance in France’s 6-0 win over Kazakhstan in Vannes, Brittany on Friday.

Statistics recorded by myself during the game revealed that Bacha played almost 100 balls and made 71 passes with 93% successful, 10 crosses, 13 successful tackles, only one ball lost. In addition, the Lyon-born star had two shots on goal with one on target.

Bacha supplied the cross after five minutes for Viviane Asseyi and was at the originator of the move that lead to France’s fourth goal from Eve Perisset where (one-two with Delphine Cascarino ended with a pass from Bacha to Cascarino who delivered a decisive back pass to Perisset.

Matildas v USWNT: Post Match Interviews

Ben Gilby hears from Tameeka Yallop on the night of her hundredth cap, debutant Jessika Nash, Manchester City’s Hayley Raso, and Arsenal’s Caitlin Foord (28/11/21).

Above: Inside the huddle. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“I was gutted that we didn’t get the win”, admitted Tameeka Yallop, speaking after the final whistle.

“However, I was excited to be playing in this stadium and in front of all these fans (a record crowd of over 36,000). We’re leading into (a home World Cup) in 2023 and to have this sort of crowd is awesome.”

Looking ahead to Tuesday’s second game with the USA at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium, Yallop highlighted the modifications that were necessary.

“We need to be more clinical in our finishing. Look, today we got stuck in and played really well. We had a lot of possession, but we need to be more clinical.”

Whilst Yallop was celebrating her centenary of caps, at the other end of the scale, Jessika Nash made her debut. The Sydney FC defender spoke about her experience.

“It’s hard to put into words. Having the backing that I did from the girls was all I needed and the backing from Tony (Gustavsson). It’s unreal and hasn’t sunk in.

Above: In the huddle with the Matildas against Australia yesterday. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“When I found out I would be starting, I was really nervous but I knew from training this week that the girls had 100% backing of me which made it easier. I also knew that Tony would not have put me in if he didn’t have confidence in me.”

Having got her debut out of the way, Nash highlighted the fact that now “I can just be calm going into Tuesday and have that calmness from the get-go. I think the first five minutes was a bit chaotic today, but hopefully, we’ll get a chance to settle in a bit earlier.”

Hayley Raso made her international return from injury from the bench and was clearly disappointed by the outcome of the match.

“It was a tough result and it’s hard to come away 3-0 down. For me on a personal note, it’s nice to be back, but it’s a disappointing result.”

The big positive that the midfielder took out of the game was the record crowd. “They are amazing. They always are, they are like a 12th man for us. We heard them cheering for the whole game.”

Caitlin Foord was clear about the desire within the squad to put things right result-wise in the second game between the two sides in Newcastle on Tuesday.

“It’s disappointing not to get the win in front of the home crowd here, but we’ve got a lot to learn from. We have another game to redeem ourselves in so we are not looking forward to that one.

“It was huge to have that many fans come out today to support us and we really appreciate that support and hopefully we can get the win for them next time.”

Above: The Australia side that started the game against the USA yesterday. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Tough Start Puts Matildas On Back Foot

Australia 0-3 United States of America

Kris Goman was inside Stadium Australia for Impetus and reviews the match and press conferences for us in words and pictures (28/11/21).

Above: Hayley Raso on the charge for Australia as Lindsey Horan looks on. Photo: Kris Goman.

There was a lot going on in this game. The number one ranked USWNT had ventured across the oceans during a pandemic to finally play the 11th ranked Matildas on home soil for the first time in over 21 years – since the Sydney Olympics.

Notably, this is not the USWNT of old. Only six players from the FIFA World Cup-winning team made the trip and only four started. It was a match of new blood on both sides. Also of note, the last time these teams met was at the Tokyo Olympics where the US team beat the Matildas 4-3 in a nail-biter to take the bronze medal leaving Australia with an Olympic high of fourth place but no medal.

Above: Tameeka Yallop (centre) on her hundredth appearance for her country, faces off against Emily Sonnett. Photo: Kris Goman,

While revenge for that loss was on everyone’s minds, it was not to be and the Matildas were defeated by the convincing scoreline of 3-0, however, on the pitch, it was a slightly different story.

During the World Cup, it was the USWNT’s thing to score in the first ten minutes of every match. Ashley Hatch, in her starting debut and only third cap, definitely got that memo and scored 24 seconds in. A bouncing ball sent up by Lynn Williams left debut defender (Matilda #218), Jessika Nash flat-footed and beaten. Hatch dashed around her to pound the ball into the back of the net avoiding Tegan Micah in goal for the Matildas. This was the third-fastest goal ever for the USWNT (Yes, Alex Morgan scored one in 12 seconds once). A disastrous start for the Matildas, leaving the record breaking 36,109 strong crowd in silence.

Australia regrouped and kept the score at 1-0 until the second half. Rose Lavelle missed a couple of very close opportunities early for the USA but generally, Australia looked stronger. The brand new defensive combo of Courtney Nevin and Nash looked a bit tentative at times but Ellie Carpenter was doing her trademarked barnstorming runs up the flanks and getting some good crosses in.

Sam Kerr had a couple of very close calls although Kyah Simon skyed a sitter that Caitlin Foord plonked in her lap right in front of goal. A free-kick late in the half to Foord found her in the clear. She sent a bending ball on target to the goal but Casey Murphy got a hand to it for a spectacular save. There was a bit of bad luck but there was some exceptional keeping from Murphy who was also making her debut for the USWNT.

Above: One of many great stops by USWNT goalkeeper Casey Murphy. Photo: Kris Goman.

Mary Fowler made a lovely run and perfectly timed pass to put Kerr through for a shot on goal that was blocked once more by Murphy. Fowler couldn’t connect with the follow-up and it was cleared safely just before halftime.

Lavelle doubled the score very early in the second half when Midge Purce took the ball right to the goal line and sent it back to Lavelle. One-touch and straight into goal with no mistakes this time. These sorts of moves are what makes Lavelle one of the best players in the world and she looked to be back in World Cup form.

A little later, Charli Grant saved a ball from going out and crossed back to Kerr who got a superb header on target to be caught by Murphy. Kerr was subbed off not long after this so didn’t get the chance to match Tim Cahill’s 50 goal international record. Kerr’s uncle sadly passed away earlier in the week and the team wore black armbands in his honour.

There were some great battles between former Portland Thorns teammates, Emily Sonnet and Caitlin Foord, and Lindsey Horan and Ellie Carpenter. The latter resulted in a penalty when Horan went down at the top of the box during a Carpenter tackle. The crowd clearly didn’t agree with the referee’s decision but Horan calmly slotted it past Micah for the third goal sending the score to a disappointing 3-0.    

Above: Ellie Carpenter (left) catches up with former Portland Thorns team-mate Lindsey Horan post-match. Photo: Kris Goman.

The final serious opportunity came through Fowler once more, with a long-range strike that required every inch of Murphy’s six-foot frame to get a hand to. Murphy had an outstanding debut and ended up getting the USWNT player of the match award. Caitlin Foord won the award for Australia.

In the post-match press conference, Kyah Simon said she thought the game was definitely there for the taking.

“I had a chance myself and as a striker, you pride yourself on scoring goals. I take full responsibility that I should have finished that. The game (would have been) 1-1 at that point and would have changed the momentum of the game and not conceding in the first minute as well. We made it difficult for ourselves.

“We were in the game in the middle but they were more clinical in the final third than we were.” She went on, “We had glimpses of good passages of play. It’s hard when you make it an uphill battle.

“These are the big tests that we need against quality opposition to be exposed and there’s always learnings we can take away from these games and we’ve got another opportunity on Tuesday that I’m sure we can right some wrongs from today.”

Above: Kyah Simon, pictured at her post-match media conference. Photo via: Football Australia

When asked about Casey Murphy’s debut, she related, “We know they’re the world number one and there’s obviously a winning mentality throughout the team that’s been there for years that’s tough to play against. There’s so much quality throughout the US squad that we knew that whatever players were on the park, we knew it would be a tough challenge. In terms of Casey, she’s a presence. I’ve only played against her a couple of times and she’s a presence in her 18-yard box.”

She was asked about the defensive mistakes of the young defenders Nash and Nevin and offered, “To play your debut game against the US, yeah, I can relate as that was my debut game against the US as well and you can only learn from your mistakes. I’ve got over 100 caps and missed that goal so you only learn from your debut to your 100 caps. We all know it wasn’t good enough today but we’ll look ahead to Tuesday and hope it can be a more memorable game.”

There’s some explanation to the performance in the following. “It’s been a really weird week for us as a group, to be honest, There’s been a bit of a bug going around the group so some of us weren’t fit even 24 hours ago and we’ve had a few injuries as well but I’m not one to make excuses. We’ll definitely be in better shape going into Tuesday’s game and closer to being 100% fit and healthy. We have more to give and we will do that on Tuesday.” Given the smirk on her face, as she was describing this and other references to gastro, one could only imagine it was a lot worse than described here.

Upon facing the media, Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson was initially quizzed on the disappointing scoreline, he said: “Having a start like that and it’s 0-1 and having a debutant being involved, it’s a tough one. What I’m impressed with is that we didn’t let it get to us, especially the young ones and they grew into the game. When something like that can happen, it can go downhill really quick if you’re not strong mentally.

“When I look at the stats after the game, it’s one of those where it’s a really important reminder that the World Cup Final is going to be won and lost inside the 18. We were winning the game in between the boxes.  Look at all the stats. 60% possession v 40%, 505 passes v 303, 71 final third entries v 47, 37 box entries v 24. All those things win the stats but then if you look at the actual finishing they win finishing game by 14-11 and the score by 3-0. So where are games won and lost? It’s how you covert those entries to chances and the conversion rate in scoring. I just think they were much cleaner than us in that area.”

Asked why he partnered youngsters Jessika Nash and Courtney Nevin against the USA he said that “One reason was availability. Neither Polks (Clare Polkinghorne) nor Alana (Kennedy) were available for selection.

Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson speaking to the media post-match. Photo via: Football Australia.

“Another one was we need depth in the backline and we need to look at players and be brave enough to actually get them into these types of games. I’d normally give them ten minutes at the end when you’ve either won or lost the game but those minutes are not the same value as warming up, record crowds, in the stadium that will hold the World Cup Final and if you can deal with that, in that environment, it’s what we need and I’m going to have their back all the time. I didn’t sub her out because of that mistake in the first half. It was a planned sub because Charli was also being really, really good in training and I wanted to see Ellie Carpenter in both roles tonight.”

I asked that after Kyah’s revelation about the bug going through the team, how much did that impact the starting lineup compared to what was planned. He said that “It’s been one of the most challenging camps that I’ve experienced with the preparation with a lot of the players arriving late due to availability to travel after games in Europe. Some players arrived at midnight on Tuesday. And then some players’ unavailability for training so they haven’t really trained as a team like we normally do. Considering that, I’m impressed with how the players approached the game plan, mostly from a defensive point. If you saw, we were man marking, which is a challenge against the US. I haven’t seen many teams have the guts to do it but I threw some challenges at the players and they responded tremendously.”

“The US is the number one team in the world in transition. Look at those two goals they scored. They attack really, really fast and they run a lot. They’ve done that for years and they’re good at it. They beat us twice in transition and that cost us. There’s going to be a lot of learnings tonight in terms of that.”

He said there will still be question marks as to whether more players will be available by Tuesday and they may not know until Monday night or even on the day.

Quizzed once more on the state of defence he said we’ve been in a tumultuous state for a number of reasons Gustavsson said he’s done it before in 2017 with the USWNT when they didn’t have great results that year. He’s patient in this process and he’s done it before.

“I have the belief in this process.  But I also know we have to improve. The Asian Cup is coming up and we want to win that. We have work to do in the short term as well so I hope we can take learnings from tonight and show improvement in the game on Tuesday.”

Teams: AUSTRALIA (4-1-4-1): Micah, Carpenter, Nash, Nevin, Catley, van Egmond, Simon, Yallop, Fowler, Foord, Kerr. Subs: Williams (GK), Beard, Roestbakken, Wheeler, Grant, Raso, Cooney-Cross, Siemsen, Rule.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (4-3-3): Murphy, Fox, Davidson, Cook, Sonnett, Horan, Sullivan, Lavelle, Williams, Hatch, Purce. Subs: Campbell (GK), Huerta, Sauerbrunn, Sanchez, Weaver, Balcer, K. Mewis.

Scorers: Hatch 1’, Lavelle 49’, Horan (pen) 68’

Referee: Hyeon Jeong Oh (KOR)

Attendance: 36,109.

Matildas Set The Scene For First USWNT Clash

Impetus editor Ben Gilby heard from Australia coach Tony Gustavsson plus players Steph Catley, Emily Gielnik and Hayley Raso in the lead up to tomorrow’s first of two friendlies between the Matildas and world champions USA in New South Wales.

Above: The Matildas in training this week ahead of the first of two matches against the USA on Saturday. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia 26/11/21

With Australia facing two matches in four days against the reigning world champions the USA, head coach Tony Gustavsson emphasized in his pre-match press conference today that he wants to treat it as a real preparation for the 2023 World Cup – facing games back to back against top opposition in huge Australian stadia.

“When it comes to how to treat the game we’ve been very clear on we need to train the processes as staff and as players for a World Cup on home soil,” he said.  

“When we play at the stadium that’s going to be the final stadium for the World Cup, and we’ll play the number one ranked team in the world, we were very clear that when we approached this game it would be as a World Cup final with all the routines. 

“Whether that’s a press conference, whether it’s a pre-training meeting, whether it’s training content, we’re going to go in with a mindset that it’s all about winning this game and nothing else. It’s about preparing players physically and mentally in the best way for them individually.

Above: Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson was as relaxed as ever at today’s press conference. Photo via: Football Australia

“We are going to try and put out a very strong line-up tomorrow, but I also want to be clear that it is not just about a starting line up here, it’s about the finishing line-up as well.”

Gustavsson admitted that he expects to field a range of different players across the two games against the USA stating that he needs to look at the roster in terms of preparation for January’s Asia Cup plus managing players who have played a lot of league games and Champions League ties along with spending many hours on planes going back and forth between Europe and Australia.

He then outlined the specific challenges that he has faced in the build-up to the first game tomorrow.

“Half of the players arrived late on Tuesday, or midnight on Wednesday so we lost a day of training and then without revealing too much, about 20-30% of the roster haven’t been able to train on Thursday and today, so we have some question marks and three players who are unavailable for selection for the game tomorrow.

“I must say though that the group showed a tremendous ability to adjust to change and circumstances that they can’t control. We can’t wait to get that game started tomorrow.”

One of Australia’s stand-out players over the past six months has been Mary Fowler. Gustavsson was full of praise for the teenager from Cairns.

Above: Tony Gustavsson highlights an opinion during today’s press conference. Photo via: Football Australia.

“She can play in a lot of different positions – out wide, coming inside as a wide forward, a linking 10, and even a nine. Mary is one of those players, similar to Tameka Yallop, she can be a multifunctional player for us because she has the right mindset for that. She has been training in three different spots this week for us. Looking to the World Cup, it would be good to find the right position for her, but I am not scared of moving Mary around as we saw against Brazil when we played her in three different places, she was still Mary Fowler!

“About Meeks (Tameka Yallop) – she is 100% loyal to the team. We had a team workshop last night and she was one of those that the players brought up as an example of always giving 100% and working hard. She puts aside her own interests and maybe her best position for the good of the team. She was all over the park in the Olympics and always did what is best for the team. Her professionalism is always 100%.”

After spending over five years as part of the USA’s coaching team, Gustavsson spoke about his feelings of meeting up with familiar faces once more.

“It is always good to see people again that you have worked with. Five years is a long time, we built up good relationships, but once that whistle goes it is all about beating them on home soil.”

With restrictions eased around Sydney at the present time, Gustavsson spoke about how he has been able to get out and about for the first time to experience Australia’s famous coffee culture and chatting to fans.

“The support we have is wonderful, but I also know from 20 years of experience of coaching that you are only as good as your last game, so if we lose tomorrow, I might not be so popular!

“I’m a passionate person, I’m never going to shy away from my feelings. I’m very passionate about working with this team. I love working with these players. What I will say about the support is that tomorrow, we will feed off of that energy from the stands. The way we want to play – high octane, high energy, is fed by the energy from the crowd. If we break the record for the biggest crowd, then we want people to say ‘I was there, I was part of that.’ It’s a big crossroad moment for the Matildas.”

Above: Steph Catley pictured in Australia’s last international game against Brazil in October. Photo: Getty Images.

Joining Tony Gustavsson at the press conference today was Arsenal star Steph Catley.

It’s been good,” said Catley on the team’s arrival back in Australia to face the world number one side.  

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind and we’ve done a lot of travel.  For a lot of us that are playing over in Europe, it’s been a bit of a back and forth, but there’s nothing like coming home.”

Tomorrow will mark the third time this year the two teams have faced off after two encounters during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.  Catley spoke about the lessons learned from the two clashes in July and August.

“I think we had two pretty different games,” she said.

“The first one, we were pretty much in control.  We had a lot of the ball and created a lot of good chances. Then the second time around, they pressed us pretty high and we struggled to begin with to play out. Then we sort of started solving problems eventually.  I think that it just shows that they’re a really flexible team.”

Above: Steph Catley with Tony Gustavsson at today’s press conference. Photo via: Football Australia

With Alanna Kennedy out of the game tomorrow, Catley was asked how she feels about having a new face alongside her. “I’ve played with Alanna for many years now, but at this level, you have to be used to playing with different people. It’s exciting though, we have lots of really good youngsters and players who can step up. We’ve been practicing this in training all week.”

The USA has notably left a number of big-name players out of the squad for the games with Australia. However, Catley is under no illusions that the Matildas’ task remains fiendishly tough.

“They have so much depth in their team that the players who are coming over will be so hungry and excited to perform. You have to be wary when you face players out there like that as they will be wanting it. We still have to face Rose Lavelle and Cat Macario who plays for Lyon plus Lynn Williams. We’ve looked very carefully at their players in video analysis this week, so we’re ready.”

She concluded by highlighting the focus that Tony Gustavsson has about treating this as a World Cup game.

“He definitely has us ready for that. All the meetings this week have had a big picture of the trophy hanging up! A home World Cup Final on home soil in the stadium with it sold out would be a big game and as players, you want to be best prepared for that. This is the perfect preparation for us. There will be a big crowd and we will feed off that.”

Above: Australia and Aston Villa star Emily Gielnik speaking to the media in the build-up to Saturday’s friendly with the USA. Photo via: Football Australia.

A broken toe kept Aston Villa’s Emily Gielnik out of October’s internationals against Brazil and the forward couldn’t be more excited to be back home after a twelve-month absence. 

“It feels so damn good to be back in Australia,” said Gielnik. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for such a long time. I’m finally here and I’m buzzing.”

“The last time I was in Australia was probably almost over a year ago now, so I haven’t seen my family and missing my friends. I just missed home and it’s just so good to be back here. That’s the key word – ‘home’, and that’s just where I want to be and doing something I love in front of friends and family – it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Gielnik has been gradually making her return to football and on the weekend recorded 20 minutes with Aston Villa in the FA WSL.  After eight weeks on the sideline, the 29-year old was thrilled to be back on the pitch.   

“I’m finally back with the girls where I want to be, back in Australia, and I’m on the mend so things are looking promising.  I’m just honestly buzzing to be putting the football boots back on and be back on the green grass. So that’s all I really care about right now.

Since making her debut in 2012, Gielnik has gone on to represent Australia at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and is now on the verge of 50 appearances for the national team against the world number one team. 

Above: Emily Gielnik pictured in training this week. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia

The last time the two sides met was in the Bronze Medal match at the Tokyo Olympic Games with Gielnik scoring a stunning late goal.  Even with a revamped squad, the Villa star believes the Americans will be a strong test. 

“I think they’re just like a very physical, fast, attacking solid team,” Gielnik said. “I think that that kind of opposition brings out the best in us so we’re expecting big things from them, but they can be expecting just as much from us.”

Reflecting back on the games against Brazil in October, which the Melbourne-born star was forced to watch from the sofa, she said: “I thought they were some of the most exciting games that I’ve seen. I was one of those people screaming in front of the TV. It was such a quality game of football. I was definitely screaming!”

Gielnik also spoke about her move to England and what life is like at Aston Villa. “My move has been interesting. Two games in, I had a little incident and a broken toe that then kept me out for eight weeks and I only started training back with the team last week and here I am now in Sydney.

“It has not been the start I hoped for, but I’m enjoying it. Birmingham is a nice city and the team are great. I’m looking forward to getting back to full strength and getting to know everyone.”

Above: Hayley Raso speaks to the media this week ahead of Australia’s game with the USA on Saturday. Photo via: Football Australia.

Hayley Raso, another England-based Matilda also spoke to the media ahead of Saturday’s game.

“It feels amazing to be back in Australia, although I’m pretty jet-lagged, I’m not going to lie! I’ve missed a few camps through injury, so it is great to return.”

Raso also touched on how tough it has been both on and off the pitch since her move to Manchester City.

“It’s been hard, along with my shoulder injury we’ve had some harsh results on the field. Going into a new team and being injured is always hard, but the girls have rallied around me and we finished just before the international break with a good win (5-0 over Emily Gielnik’s Aston Villa), so hopefully, that gets the ball rolling for us now. Getting two goals and an assist (in the Villa game) was nice!

With City nearer the relegation positions in the FAWSL rather than the Champions League spots, the Queenslander was asked about pressure.

“I don’t really feel pressure in that respect. We know that there is pressure when you are fighting for Champions League or against relegation, but you have to leave that pressure behind and focus on playing and let the results fall the way they do.

“It’s just about sticking together and staying strong. There’s always background noise and people talking, but as long as we are sticking together off the field and on the pitch, I think that people can’t write us off yet. We’ve had some tough results and come off the back of losses, but there is still so much of the season to go. We’re gelling now and starting to get a few players who have been injured back, so hopefully, it’s all upward from here.”

Above: Hayley Raso (centre) training with the Matildas this week. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

The midfielder summed up what daily life is like for her in the FAWSL: “The standard and quality of training each day is at such a high level and that’s only going to help me. I feel honoured to be playing with such a talented group of girls and for me it’s about continuing to develop and seeing what I can add to the team.”

With the prospect of a record crowd for an Australian Women’s international in Sydney tomorrow, Raso emphasized how exciting the present period is for the team.

“It would be amazing. It shows just how much the women’s game has grown here in Australia and I hope that we can put on a great performance for the fans. Them getting behind us is amazing considering it’s been a while since we played here, besides the Brazil games.”

Concluding her time with the media, Raso looked back over the previous games with Brazil and ahead to the forthcoming matches with the USA.

“We put in a great performance against Brazil and I’m hoping we can do the same against the US. We’ve got a pretty good rivalry going with the US and it’s always a pretty tough game. We’ve beaten them a few times and they’ve also beaten us a few times. They are going to be really great games and I know that all the girls are up for it and we can’t wait.

“The US are obviously missing a few of their mainstay players, but the talent in the US is massive and whoever they bring in, whether that’s younger players or less experienced players, you can’t really disregard them. They are always going to turn up and put on a good show and they are a talented team.

Wales and Northern Ireland Annouce Squads

With the approach of the next International Window, both Wales and Northern Ireland have unveiled their squads for their two matches. We bring you all the news. 18/11/21

Photo: Wales will be looking for further celebrations in their next two games. Photo: Kunjan Malde/FAW.

Gemma Grainger has announced a 26-player squad as Wales look to continue their unbeaten form in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign.

Wales will face Greece at Parc y Scarlets in Llanelli on Friday 26 November (KO 19:15) before heading to Guingamp in Britanny to face group leaders France on Tuesday 30 November.

Grainger’s side goes into the matches second in the group after three wins and a draw to start the campaign. Wales will be without Rachel Rowe who misses out due to injury and Hannah Cain who suffered an ACL injury a week after winning her first Welsh cap last month. Maria Francis-Jones returns to the squad after captaining the U19s last month to promotion to League A in the 2022 UEFA WU19 EURO Qualifying Round.

Squad:
Laura O’SULLIVAN (Cardiff City Ladies), Olivia CLARK (Coventry United), Poppy SOPER (Plymouth Argyle), Hayley LADD (Manchester United), Gemma EVANS (Reading), Rhiannon ROBERTS (Liverpool), Esther MORGAN (Tottenham Hotspur), Maria FRANCIS-JONES (Manchester City), Lily WOODHAM (Reading), Morgan ROGERS (Tottenham Hotspur), Sophie INGLE (Chelsea), Anna FILBEY
(Charlton Athletic), Angharad JAMES (North Carolina Courage), Josie GREEN (Tottenham Hotspur), Charlie ESTCOURT (Coventry United), Jess FISHLOCK (OL Reign), Carrie JONES (Manchester United), Chloe WILLIAMS (Blackburn Rovers, on loan from Manchester United), Ffion MORGAN (Bristol City), Megan WYNNE (Charlton Athletic), Natasha HARDING (Reading), Ceri HOLLAND (Liverpool), Kayleigh GREEN (Brighton & Hove Albion), Helen WARD (Watford), Elise HUGHES (Charlton Athletic), Georgia WALTERS (Liverpool).

Above: Northern Ireland will be looking to get back to winning ways after their defeat to England at Wembley last month where they put up a fantastic performance. Photo: IFA.

Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels has made a couple of changes to his squad for this month’s home and away FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifiers against North Macedonia.

Shiels’ side are away to the Macedonians first – on Thursday 25 November – with the game being staged at the Football Federation of North Macedonia Training Centre in Skopje.

And then it’s back home for the second meeting. That encounter is on Monday 29 November at Seaview and all tickets for the game have already been sold.

The Northern Ireland senior women’s team boss has gone with his usual blend of youth and experience in his 23-strong panel for the matches in Skopje and Belfast.

Northern Ireland are strong favourites to win home and away against the Macedonians, however Shiels and his players will not be taking anything for granted as the Macedonians defeated Latvia 4-1 away last month – and that was a similar scoreline to Northern Ireland’s home success against the Latvians back in September.

Birmingham City Women defender Rebecca Holloway, who missed last month’s double header through injury, returns to the fold.

And Crusaders Strikers defender Rachel McLaren, who was Holloway’s replacement in October, retains her place in the squad.

Above: Simone Magill and Nadene Calwell will be hoping for lots of opportunities to celebrate in the home and away games with North Macedonia. Photo: IFA

Also back in the panel is Cliftonville Ladies striker Caitlin McGuinness, who missed out last month.

Missing out this time are Southampton Women defender Laura Rafferty and Crusaders Strikers striker Emily Wilson, who is injured.

Cliftonville Ladies defender Toni-Leigh Finnegan is not available once again due to injury, while still recovering from long term injuries are Rangers Women midfielder Megan Bell and Linfield Ladies pair Ashley Hutton and Abbie Magee.

Northern Ireland currently lie third behind England and Austria in European Qualifying Group D. They have seven points from four qualifiers to date. North Macedonia are in fourth place in the six-team group with three points from four matches.

The girls in green and white began their quest for a place at the Women’s World Cup in 2023 – it is being hosted by Australia and New Zealand – with a 4-0 win over Luxembourg in Larne followed by a 4-0 victory over Latvia in Belfast back in September.

Last month they were defeated 4-0 by the group’s top seeds, England, at Wembley and then drew 2-2 with Austria at home.

Squad:

Goalkeepers – Jackie Burns (Lee University/Glentoran Women), Becky Flaherty (Huddersfield Town Women), Maddy Harvey-Clifford (Crusaders Strikers).

Defenders – Julie Nelson (Crusaders Strikers), Rebecca McKenna (Lewes Women), Rebecca Holloway (Birmingham City Women), Sarah McFadden (Durham Women), Kelsie Burrows (Cliftonville Ladies), Demi Vance (Rangers Women), Rachel McLaren (Crusaders Strikers).

Midfielders – Marissa Callaghan and Louise McDaniel (both Cliftonville Ladies), Nadene Caldwell, Chloe McCarron, Caragh Hamilton and Joely Andrews (all Glentoran Women), Rachel Furness (Liverpool Women), Ciara Watling (Southampton Women).

Forwards – Kerry Beattie and Lauren Wade (both Glentoran Women), Simone Magill (Everton Women), Kirsty McGuinness (Cliftonville Ladies), Caitlin McGuinness (Cliftonville Ladies).

Ballon d’Or: Contenders & Predictions

We highlight the contenders for this year’s FIFA Women’s Ballon d’Or and then four members of the Impetus writing team – Ben GilbyJean-Pierre ThiessetKieran Yap, and Kris Goman discuss who they think deserves the award this year and who they suspect will win.

Above: The Ballon d’Or. Photo: FIFA

29/10/21

FIFA recently announced the contenders for the 2021 Women’s Ballon d’Or award. The twenty player shortlist consists of:

Stina Blackstenius, Swedish – BK Häcken (Sweden), Kadidiatou Diani, French – Paris Saint-Germain (France), Christiane Endler, Chilean – Paris Saint-Germain (France), Olympique Lyonnais (France), Magdalena Eriksson, Swedish – Chelsea (England), Jessie Fleming, Canadian – Chelsea (England), Pernille Harder, Danish – Chelsea (England), Jennifer Hermoso, Spanish – Barcelona (Spain), Marie-Antoinette Katoto, French – Paris Saint-Germain (France), Sam Kerr, Australian – Chelsea (England), Fran Kirby, English – Chelsea (England), Ashley Lawrence, Canadian – Paris Saint-Germain (France), Lieke Martens, Dutch – Barcelona (Spain), Sam Mewis, American – North Carolina Courage (USA), Vivianne Miedema, Dutch – Arsenal (England), Sandra Paños, Spanish – Barcelona (Spain), Irene Paredes, Spanish – Paris Saint-Germain (France), Barcelona (Spain), Alexia Putellas, Spanish – Barcelona (Spain), Wendie Renard, French – Olympique Lyonnais (France), Christine Sinclair, Canadian – Portland Thorns (USA), Ellen White, English – Manchester City (England).

Of the twenty players in the shortlist, four are Spanish, three Canadian, three French, two Dutch, two English, two Swedish, and one American, Australian, Chilean, and Dane each. In terms of where these stars are playing their club football, seven play in the FAWSL in England, five in France’s D1 Arkema, five in Spain, two in America, and one in Sweden.

My View – Ben Gilby:

Above: Christine Sinclair (12) – big achievements with Canada. Photo: Getty Images.

In terms of who I believe are strong contenders, Fran Kirby had the best season of her life in club football last season and was an absolute joy to watch, however, her lack of international success during the calendar year with Great Britain exiting the Olympics at the Quarter-Finals, and England having a less than impressive run of results before the Autumn is likely to count against her. Sam Kerr finally showed the doubters why they were so wrong about her in the early part of the 2020/21 FAWSL season as she couldn’t stop scoring for club and found her scoring touch for the Matildas as they made the Semi-Finals of the Olympic Games. Jessie Fleming’s nomination is great to see for her incredible performances in Tokyo, but she did not make many starts for Chelsea during this calendar year. Also well worth keeping an eye out for is Alexia Putellas given Barcelona’s outstanding season which culminated with a breathtaking Champions League Final performance and Spain’s continuing emergence as a force on the European international scene – something that deserves to be rewarded.

This award usually counts international success as a key factor, therefore I have a suspicion that Christine Sinclair might just take the award after she finally achieved major international success with Canada to add to her phenomenal goal-scoring record as she took Olympic Gold with her country.

My View – Jean-Pierre Thiesset:

Above: Jessie Fleming, who had an incredible 2021. Photo: Getty Images.

I think that to be awarded a Ballon d’Or, the team in which you play, and the trophies won by your team influence the decision a lot. You can be the best player in your category but if your team did not win anything, there is little chance that you have the Ballon d’Or. The teams of the last two recipients had won big contests: Ada Hegerberg, Champions League winner with Lyon; Megan Rapinoe, World Cup winner with the USA.

I think that Christiane Endler is the best goalkeeper, and I would love to see her awarded the Ballon d’Or, but she is a goalkeeper, and everyone knows that it is even more difficult for a goalkeeper to be awarded a Ballon d’Or, and she neither won the Champions League with Paris SG, nor the Olympics with Chile; so, there is little chance that she will win. For the same reasons, I think that Wendie Renard, who is probably the best defender in the world but she won nothing with Lyon last season and will not have it either, except if the voters take into consideration her full career. I could see Sam Kerr who won the England Championship with Chelsea, and had good performances in Olympics Games with Australia, even if they did not win it. But I guess that Jessie Fleming who won the Olympics Games with Canada, the England Championship with Chelsea, and who was in the final of Women UEFA Champions League could be the 2021 Ballon d’Or recipient.

My View: Kieran Yap:

Above: Lieke Martens – part of a sensational Barcelona team. Photo: FC Barcelona.

Caroline Graham-Hansen was an outstanding player in a dominant side. She was unstoppable and influential against Chelsea in the Champions League Final and is a key player in the all-conquering Barcelona team. Strangely the Norwegian has not been nominated in what can only be a bizarre oversight.

Sam Kerr delivered at every opportunity for club and country. She won the Golden Boot in her first full FAWSL season and scored six times at the Olympics. Her form has rightfully been rewarded with a third straight Ballon D’or nomination. Although she is probably the best centre-forward in the world, voters might not consider that enough to be considered the best player.

The award will go to somebody from Barcelona. The Spanish league is relatively difficult to watch compared to the FAWSL so it can be very easy to forget how good this team is.

But the brutal and stylish way that they brushed aside both Arsenal and Chelsea in the Champions League were reminders that they are currently operating on another level completely.

The award can only go to one player though and that will probably be Lieke Martens.

She has won almost every individual award available to her so far and deservedly so. Martens ticks all the boxes for a Ballon D’or winner. She plays with an eye-catching style but her flair is backed up by impact, she creates goals from wide and scores them when she cuts inside, often spectacularly.

In full flight, Martens is simply unstoppable. She’s the best individual player in the best club team and a strong national side. That should be enough to see her win.

My View: Kris Goman:

Above: Alexia Putellas – lynchpin of arguably the greatest team in the world right now. Photo: FC Barcelona.

It will be another tight year to win this award. For my money, I’d be very surprised if Alexia Putellas didn’t walk away with the trophy.

She’s had a stellar year with Barcelona winning both their domestic trophy and the Champions League. In my mind, there’s no doubt Barcelona is the best women’s club team on the planet right now and Putellas is the lynchpin of the team. It would be criminal not to recognize this.

Coming hot on her heels is Sam Kerr. As an Australian, is hard not to be nationalistic about this but the facts are that she’s a prolific scorer. She’s won the golden boot in three competitions multiple times, won the League, the Conti Cup, the FA Cup and got to the final of the Champions League with Chelsea and led Australia to the Bronze medal match of the Olympic Games this year. It’s an impressive resume and she’s a very worthy contender.

Outside chances for my thinking, include Fran Kirby who has had an equally stellar club season as Kerr, Vivianne Miedema who’s been on fire for the last four years scoring goals indiscriminately, and Christine Sinclaire who might get the nod for her long term efforts including getting most international goals ever this year, along with leading Canada to a gold medal at the Olympics.

Who do YOU think will win? Add your thoughts to our post on social media (@ImpetusFootball on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram)

International Round-Up

The past week has seen a huge amount of international women’s football. Ben Gilby rounds up the action in detail from Europe, Asia, South America, and North America. Our French editor Jean-Pierre Thiesset provides a special feature on France’s two matches.

Above: Carli Lloyd waves to the crowd ahead of her final international appearance for the USWNT against South Korea. Photo: Soccer Wire

29/10/21

EUROPE:

UEFA’s World Cup qualification games for the 2023 World Cup  continued over the past seven days.

Group A sees Sweden three points clear at the top after a 1-0 win in the Republic of Ireland on 21st October. For further news of this game, click here . On the same night, Finland won 3-0 in Georgia. Linda Sällström, Sanni Franssi and an Emmi Alenen penalty completed the win.

Five days later, the Republic of Ireland gained an excellent 2-1 win in Helsinki over Finland. Megan Connolly put the Irish ahead after 10 minutes before Adelina Engman levelled early in the second half before Denise O’Sullivan hit the winner for Vera Pauw’s side. Also that night, Slovakia gained their first win of the campaign with a 2-0 win at home to Georgia. Mária Mikolajová and Martina Šurnovská were on target.

Group B sees Spain and Scotland six points clear of the rest after both nations recorded further victories over the past week. On 22nd October, the Scots needed a last gasp Rachel Corsie goal to overcome Hungary 2-1 at Hampton Park. AC Milan’s Christie Grimshaw put Scotland ahead just before the break, shooting home inside the six-yard box after the visitors failed to deal with Nicola Docherty’s cross. Fanny Vágó took advantage to level when Docherty’s ball towards Jen Beattie was intercepted and she smashed home into the top corner. Corsie sealed the win when her effort after a header back from Beattie found the net. Spain grabbed a comfortable 6-0 win in Ukraine thanks to two goals from Sarriegi Isasa and single strikes from Alexia Putellas, Narea Eizaguirre, Alba Redondo Ferrer, and an own goal by Daryna Apanaschenko. In the group’s other games in the period, Faroe Islands suffered two hefty losses. First, on 21st October, they went down 4-0 in Ukraine with Nicole Kozlova, Roksolana Kravchuk, Olha Boychenko, and Kateryna Korsun on the mark. The Islanders followed that up with a 7-1 reversal at home to Hungary. Lea Lisburg put the hosts ahead but the Hungarians hit back powerfully. Fanny Vágó’s hat-trick, two from Dóra Zeller plus single strikes from Evelin Fenyvesi and Bernadett Zágor completed the rout.

Above: Christie Grimshaw puts Scotland ahead against Hungary. Photo: SNS Group

Group C Netherlands have recovered from their stumble at the start of qualification to lead the table by four points, albeit having played a game more than Iceland. On 22nd October, they returned from Cyprus with an 8-0 win. Jill Roord’s hat-trick, plus goals from Vivianne Miedema, Danielle van de Donk, Joëlle Smits, Merel van Dongen and an own goal from Chara Charalambous gave them the points. They followed this up four days later with a 2-0 win in Belarus with Lieke Martens and van de Donk on target. Iceland kept up their pursuit with two big wins in the other games this window. First, they beat Czech Republic 4-0 in Reykjavik on 22nd October. Barbora Votíková’s own goal set them on their way before further strikes from Dagný Brynjarsdóttir, Svava Rós Guðmundsdóttir and Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir sealed the victory. They followed this up four days later with a 5-0 win at home to Cyprus. Two goals from Sveindís Jónsdóttir, plus one each from Dagný Brynjarsdóttir, Karólína Vilhjálmsdóttir and Alexandra Jóhannsdóttir continued the Icelandic team’s strong start to the qualifying campaign.

Group D England’s procession towards qualification continued as they scored 14 goals without reply in two games. They didn’t have it their own way though against Northern Ireland at Wembley in front of just over 23,000 fans last weekend. The Irish produced a typically dogged performance and kept the Lionesses goalless until 64 minutes when Beth Mead put the hosts ahead. A spell of three goals in six minutes wrapped up a 4-0 win with Mead completing a hat-trick and Beth England continuing her impressive recent goal-scoring run for her country too. Three days later, England crashed ten goals past Latvia in Liepaja. An Ella Toone hat-trick, two from Rachel Daly plus single strikes from Ellen White, Millie Bright, Beth Mead, Leah Williamson, and Georgia Stanway put the Lionesses in pole position in the group.

Elsewhere, Northern Ireland held Austria 2-2 in the battle for second place at a sold-out Seaview, but it was so nearly even better for the Green Army. Barbara Dunst put the Austrians ahead but goals from Lauren Wade and Demi Vance put the home side in the driving seat before an equalizer in stoppage time at the end of the match from Stefanie Enzinger denied Northern Ireland all three points.

North Macedonia had conflicting results over the period. On 21st October they won 4-1 in Latvia thanks to two goals from Nataša Andonova and further strikes from Gentjana Rochi and Ulza Maksuti. Tatjana Baļičeva was on target for the Latvians. They followed this up with a frustrating 3-2 loss to Luxembourg five days later. Julie Marques Abreu (2) and Katie Thill earned the visitors a welcome three points. Gentjana Rochi and Pavlina Nikolovska were on target for the Macedonians.

In the group’s other match, Austria cemented second spot, two points behind England with a 5-0 win over Luxembourg. Nicole Billa (2), Katharina Naschenweng, Stefanie Enzinger and a Sarah Puntigam penalty were the difference.

Above: England’s hat-trick hero Ella Toone in action against Latvia. Photo: Lynn Cameron/The FA/Getty Images

Group E Denmark and Russia lead the way with both on 12 points after the latest matches. The Danes hit goals galore in two wins. On 21st October, they saw off Bosnia & Herzegovina 8-0 with Signe Bruun hitting five goals. Also on the mark were Mille Gejl, Pernille Harder and Sara Thrige. Five days later they won 5-1 in Montenegro thanks to two goals from Stine Larsen and further strikes from Signe Bruun, Sofie Svava, and Sanne Troelsgaard. One negative was a worrying injury for star player Pernille Harder. Armisa Kuč scored for Montenegro.

Russia also gained comfortable wins and two clean sheets. First up on 21st October was a 3-0 home win over Malta thanks to goals from Nelli Korovkina, Kristina Mashkova and Anna Belomyttseva. They followed this up five days later with a 4-0 success in Bosnia & Herzegovina. A brace from Anna Kozhnikova plus goals from Nelli Korovkina and Alsu Abdullina clinched the win.

Montenegro saw off Azerbaijan 2-0 on 21st October with goals from Slađana Bulatović and Anđela Tošković. The remaining game in the period saw Malta win 2-1 in Azerbaijan thanks to a penalty from Dorianne Theuma and Emma Xureb’s strike four minutes from the end. Vusala Seyfatdinova got a late consolation for the hosts.

Group F Norway are two points clear at the top after picking up four points from two games against their closest group rivals. They were held 0-0 by second-placed Poland on 21st October, but gained a vital 4-0 win over Belgium in Oslo five days later. Guro Bergsvand, Caroline Graham Hansen, Elisabeth Terland and Ingrid Syrstad Engen were on the mark.

Poland came back to form with a 2-0 win over Albania on 26th October thanks to a penalty from Paulina Dudek and Małgorzata Mesjasz’s effort. Belgium defeated Kosovo 7-0 with Tessa Wulleart grabbing a hat-trick on top of Justine Vanhaevermaet’s brace and single strikes from Janice Cayman and Tine De Caigny.

Elsewhere in the group, Armenia suffered two further defeats. First, on 21st October they went down 5-0 in Albania due to goals from Megi Doci (2) Mimosa Hamidi (2), and Esi Lufo. Five days later they fell 1-0 at home to Kosovo in the battle of the group’s bottom sides. Liridona Syla’s goal was the difference.

Above: Action from Norway’s home game with Belgium (white). Photo: RBFA

Group G Switzerland and Italy are still out front as they both recorded two further victories over the past week. The Swiss saw off Romania 2-0 with Ana-Maria Crnogorčević scoring both (one penalty). She was on target again five days later in her country’s 5-0 win over Croatia. Noelle Maritz, Ramona Bachmann (two – one penalty), and Rachel Rinast also scored.

The Italians defeated Croatia 3-0 in Castel di Sangro on 21st October with Valentina Cernoia, Cristiana Girelli (penalty), and Valerie Pirone on the scoresheet. They followed this up with a 5-0 success in Lithuania five days later with Valentina Cernoia, Valerie Pirone, Valentina Giacinti, Sara Gama, and Arianna Caruso on the scoresheet.

Group H Germany’s procession towards qualification continued. A 1-0 win in Israel thanks to Svenja Huth’s goal was added to five days later with a 7-0 thrashing of the same opposition. Jule Brand (2), Sara Däbritz, Laura Freigang, Lina Magull, Tabea Waßmuth and Felicitas Rauch scored.

Portugal are second, two points behind after recording double success over the period. First, they saw off Serbia 2-1 at home with goals from Ana Borges and Dolores Silva. Nina Matejić hit the Serbs’ effort. They followed this up with a 5-0 success in Bulgaria. Diana Silva (2), Diana Gomes, Carole Costa (pen), and an own goal from Yanitsa Ivanova was the difference.

In the other games in the group, Turkey had mixed fortunes. They saw off Bulgaria 1-0 on 21st October with Yağmur Uraz on target. Five days later they succumbed to a 2-0 loss in Serbia. Dejana Stefanović and Nevena Damjanović were the scorers.

Finally to Group I where Impetus’ Jean-Pierre Thiesset reports on France’s two games over the period. The first saw them host Estonia in Créteil, near Paris, on October 22, in front of 4,378 spectators. For this game against a very weak team (105th in FIFA ranking), Corinne Diacre, France head coach, left out several of the first-choice players like Amandine Henry and Eugénie Le Sommer. Furthermore, Wendie Renard, Amel Majri, Griedge MBock, and Kheira Hamraoui were also missing due to injury. With half of the main players missing, France dominated largely Estonia and scored 11 goals, and earned a clean sheet.

The game statistics show the huge difference between the two teams: For France, 88% of possession, 720 passes (89% successful), 40 shots (16 on target), 14 corners; For Estonia, 12% of possession, 112 passes (42% successful), one shot (none on target), no corner.

The first and only shot of Estonia was at the 71st minute.

A few highlights from this game:

  • A great game from Delphine Cascarino, who played 62 minutes (one goal at the 29th minute, one decisive pass to Geyoro at the fifth minute) and was named player of the match.
  • Eve Perisset played 90 minutes, made a decisive pass with a cross at ground level to Katoto at the 15th minute and scored once at the 26th minute.
  • Kenza Dali, who entered at half time, produced a great second half. She scored one goal at the 90th minute, made two decisive passes to Tounkara (65th and 72nd minutes), and forced an Over Goal from Heleri Saar with a great corner kick.

Goals for France from Grace Geyoro (5′), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (15′), Eve Périsset (26′ on penalty), Delphine Cascarino (29′), Sandy Toletti (45′), Maria Orav (52′ Own Goal), Kadidiatou Diani (53′), Aissatou Tounkara (65′, 72′), Heleri Saar (79′ Own Goal), and Kenza Dali (90′).

France: Peyraud-Magnin, Perisset – Tounkara – De Almeida – Karchaoui (Morroni 46′) – Geyoro – Bilbaut – Toletti (Dali 46′) – Diani (Asseyi 62′) – Cascarino (Malard 62′) – Katoto (Feller 77′).

Estonia: Kork – Merisalu (Kriisa 88′), H. Saar, Zlidnis, Liir, Orav (M. Saar 73′) – Bannikova, Mengel (Niit 63′), Daut, Kubassova – Treiberg (Aarna 46′ then Israel 88′).

Referee: Abigail Marriott (England)

The second game was away to Kazakhstan at the Astana Arena in front of around 300 spectators. For this game against a side ranked 82nd in the FIFA list, Corinne Diacre, France squad coach, had the same squad as against Estonia but with one more player out, Grace Geyoro. France dominated Kazakhstan, made another clean sheet, but scored only five goals lacking efficiency in front of the goal; Part of this is probably due to the synthetic field on which the players had a lack of stability but also to the great performance of Kazakhstan goalkeeper in the second half. France had more than 30 crosses during this game: seven from Kenza Dali, seven from Eve Périsset, five from Delphine Cascarino, four from Perle Morroni.

The game statistics show France domination: For France, 79% of possession, 681 passes (87% successful), 36 shots (15 on target), 18 corners; For Kazakhstan, 21% of possession, 201 passes (51% successful), one shot (none on target), no corner.

A few highlights from this game:

  • Kenza Dali, who played 68 minutes, made a great game with one goal (17′) and two decisive passes (9′, 23′).
  • Marie-Antoinette Katoto scored two goals (9′, 23′) playing only the first half.
  • Melvine Malard scored her two first goals for France squad (38′, 54′), both on a header. She had a few other opportunities.

Goals for France from Marie-Antoinette Katoto (9′, 23′), Kenza Dali (17′), Melvine Malard (38′, 54′).

France: Peyraud-Magnin, Perisset – Tounkara (Cissoko 46′) – De Almeida – Morroni, Toletti – Bilbaut – Dali (Asseyi 68′), Malard – Katoto (Baltimore 46′) – Cascarino (Bussy 68′).

Kazakhstan: Saratovtseva, Kozhakhmet – Nurusheva – Burova, Sadykova – Turlybekova – Zhanatayeva – Vlasova, Zhumabaikyzy, Bortnikova – Kubessova (Khairulina 28′ then Satygaliyeva 90+2).

Referee: M. Kulbakov (Belarus)

Above: Wales celebrate Helen Ward’s goal against Estonia in front of a record crowd. Photo: FAW

Elsewhere in the group, Wales cemented second spot with four points over the period. First, a 1-1 draw in Slovenia came when Kayleigh Green equalized Manja Rogan’s strike. They followed this point with a 4-0 win over Estonia in front of a record crowd to watch a Welsh women’s international match of 5,455 at the Cardiff City Stadium. Angharad James, Helen Ward, Tash Harding, and Sophie Ingle were on target.

Greece won 1-0 in Kazakhstan with a goal from Grigoria Pouliou five minutes from time. They went down 4-1 at home to Slovenia four days later. Two goals apiece from Mateja Zver and Lara Prašnikar was the difference. Despoina Chatzinikolaou converted an early penalty for the Greeks.

ASIA:

Above: Myanmar’s San Thaw Thaw (right), who scored two goals for her country in Group D. Photo: The Hindu

The remaining qualifying matches for the 2022 Asian Cup took place over the past week or so with Groups A and D completed.

In Group AChinese Taipei went through as qualifiers. They began their campaign with a 4-0 wins over Laos with two goals from Lai Li-chin plus further strikes from Chen Yen-ping and Su Yu-hsuan in Bahrain. They completed their campaign by defeating Bahrain 2-0 thanks to Lai Li-chin. The other game in the group ended in a 0-0 draw between Laos and Bahrain.

Groups B and C were completed in September. Click here for details.

Group D saw six games and goals galore over a seven-day period in Bishkek. Ultimately it was the opening game between Myanmar and Lebanon that decided the outcome. Myanmar comfortably overcame the Lebanese 4-0 with goals from Win Theingi Tun (penalty), Myat Noe Khin, San Thaw Thaw and July Kyaw. United Arab Emirates saw off Guam 2-1 in the first round of games due to a Nouf Al-Adwan penalty with nine minutes to go. April Talledo had put Guam ahead before Naeema Ibrahim levelled.

The second matchday saw Myanmar get their second win in emphatic style as Guam were swept aside 8-0. Two goals from both Win Theingi Tun and San Thaw Thaw, plus further strikes from Myat Noe Khin, Khin Mo Mo Tun, Pont Pont Pyae Maung and July Khaw sealed the success. Lebanon saw off the United Arab Emirates 1-0 thanks to Syntia Salha’s goal.

The final set of games saw Myanmar complete their perfect record with a 2-0 win over the United Arab Emirates with Khin Mo Mo Tun and Chit Chit on target. Lebanon concluded with a 2-0 success against Guam. Hanin Tamim grabbed two goals and Layla Iskander scored.

AFRICA:

Above: Ivory Coast, who had a large two-legged win over Niger in the African Women’s Cup of Nations first qualifying round. Photo: Ghana Football

The past week has seen 22 two-legged matches in the first qualifying round for the first-ever African Women’s Cup of Nations. Uganda overcame Ethiopia on penalties after the matches ended 2-2 on aggregate. Kenya overcame South Sudan 15-1 on aggregate with Burundi 6-0 winners over Eritrea over the two games. Djibouti gained a walkover against Rwanda with Zambia, stars of the Olympics in the summer edging past Malawi 4-3. Namibia overcame Tanzania 5-3, Zimbabwe saw off Eswatini 6-1 with Botswana 7-1 winners against Angola. Algeria won their first leg against Sudan 14-0 but, as yet, the second match has not been played due to security concerns after a coup in Sudan. Equatorial Guinea progressed after DC Congo did not compete. Togo progressed after Sao Tome and Principe withdrew after the first match which ended 5-0 to Togo. South Africa saw off Mozambique 13-0, Tunisia beat Egypt 7-2 and Gabon beat Congo on away goals after the aggregate score finished 2-2. Cameroon overcame the Central African Republic 3-0, Gambia saw off Sierra Leone 3-1 and Senegal dismissed Liberia 8-1. In the last batch of games, Mali beat Guinea 4-1, Guinea-Bissau saw off Mauritania 2-0, Burkina Faso won 5-2 over BeninNigeria edged Ghana 2-1 and Ivory Coast dismissed Niger 20-0.

FRIENDLIES:

Above: The Jamaican team pictured earlier this year. Photo: Loop Jamaica

Jamaica, fielding Manchester City’s Khadija Shaw and Chelsea’s Drew Spence, drew 0-0 with Costa Rica.

Spain overcame Morocco 3-0 on 21st October thanks to two goals from Athena del Castillo and one from Amaiur Sarriegi.

USA were held 0-0 by South Korea on 21st October in front of 18,467 fans in Kansas City. The World Champions mustered 68% of possession and had eight shots on target to Korea’s one, but frustratingly couldn’t breakthrough.

The following day saw Australia defeat Brazil 3-1 in Parramatta thanks to goals from Clare Polkinghorne, Mary Fowler and Emily van Egmond. Adriana scored for Brazil in front of 15,270 fans. For our coverage of the game, click here

Above: Canada take on New Zealand. Photo: Kate Tigchelaar.

Canada played their first game at home since taking the Gold Medal at the Olympics and earned a 5-1 win over New Zealand in the process. Two goals from Adriana Leon, plus strikes from Jessie Fleming, Christine Sinclair and Nichelle Prince were the difference. Ria Percival scored for the Football Ferns from the penalty spot in a game played at TD Place Stadium in Ottawa.

Colombia defeated Olympic qualifiers Chile 2-0 thanks to goals from Linda Alegria and Manuela Vanegas.

Despite having more possession and better passing accuracy, Argentina crashed to a 6-1 loss to Mexico. Florencia Bonsegundo put Argentina ahead after 11 minutes, but a staggering spell of four Mexican goals in the five minutes either side of halftime turned the game on its head. Stephany Mayor hit two in sixty seconds (one penalty), Alison Gonzalez and Maria Sanchez all scored in this period. Another Gonzalez strike and a goal five minutes from time from Joseline Montoya completed an incredible result.

We have news from four further friendlies played on 26th October. First, Australia played a dramatic 2-2 draw with Brazil in Parramatta in front of 12,087 in Parramatta. Clare Polkinghorne and Sam Kerr put the Matildas 2-0 ahead before Erika and Debinha hit back for Brazil. For our coverage of the game click here

Above: Sweden celebrate against Scotland in Paisley. Photo: SNS Group

Sweden won 2-0 in Scotland. The match was played in very wet and windy conditions in Paisley. The Scots put up a good fight, but Sweden extended their unbeaten record in matches played over 90 minutes to 22 thanks to second-half goals from Fridolina Rolfo and a Sophie Howard own goal.

Canada won their second clash with New Zealand 1-0 courtesy of Adriana Leon’s strike.

USA marked Carli Lloyd’s final international appearance with a 6-0 win over South Korea in front of 18,115 in St. Paul. Lindsey Horan put the USWNT ahead with nine minutes on the clock. An own goal from Cho So-hyun made it 2-0 at the break.  Alex Morgan made it three before a further three goals in the last five minutes from Megan Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle and Lynn Williams completed a fitting send-off for a legend of the women’s game.

Above: Women’s football legend Carli Lloyd waves to the crowd after her final game of international football. Photo: Brad Smith/Getty Images

Gustavsson: Positives In Flexibility; Disappointment In Concession

Above: Sam Kerr pictured after putting the Matildas 2-0 up. Photo: Getty Images

Impetus’ Ben Gilby and Kris Goman were in the Matildas post-match press conference and spoke to both Tony Gustavsson and Lydia Williams. Plus, Ben Gilby‘s round up beneath of the main events of a dramatic night.

26/10/21

Tony Gustavsson was in reflective mood after Australia were pulled back to a 2-2 draw with Brazil in Parramatta today.

Whilst the Matildas head coach spoke of his disappointment at conceding from a set-piece, he spoke of how proud he was of the way his players adapted to a half-time tactical switch involving a change in the deployment of Mary Fowler – something the team had not worked on during the build-up to the game.

Impetus’ Ben Gilby opened the press conference by asking Gustavsson about how he felt the team performed in the key areas he identified pre-game – notably as being calmer in the final third and improving the defensive transitions.

“My analyst just showed me some stats and today we actually struggled to get into the final third because Brazil were much more aggressive in their defending and we played too slow at times. In terms of our passing completion in the final third, statistically, it is not very good in this game. It was similar to the Ireland game when we gave the ball away a lot in the final third.

“But, and this is a big but, if you look at the second goal we scored, it was exactly what we have been working on. It was straight from the training ground, and the quality of that goal, and when you add that to the quality of the goal that we got when Sam (Kerr) and Steph (Catley) combined in the first game playing into EvE (Emily van Egmond), that type of combination play is what we are working on a lot.

“That’s what I mean when I say the players need to be more comfortable in the final third as we know we have the quality. We know we can be a good crossing team with Sam Kerr in the goal zone and we still want to play those when they are on, but when it is not, we need to have more variation and more quality in the final third.

“The second goal we scored when Ellie (Carpenter) did the give and go and Sam scored was world-class and we just need to do that more often.”

Brazil’s first goal on the night was from a set-piece, something which has been all too familiar to the Matildas over the past few months, but Gustavsson saw some positives at the back.

“This game tonight is a bit different for me compared to the others when it comes to defensive qualities. I’m really happy we got to play against some of the best forwards in the world and that Brazil came out with a stronger team tonight.

“There are normally a lot of goals scored in the games between us and them. As long as we score more, then I’m happy. Having said that, I do think there were some improvements on the defensive side.

“We have a really attacking outside back and we knew that Brazil were going to try and come with the counter-attack behind her to expose our center-backs, and we did a lot of work on that. They didn’t get in behind us as many times this game as they did last time. They didn’t get the one on ones with the goalkeeper tonight.

“We blocked a lot of shots in and around the box, and that’s something we’ve been working on in terms of our mind-set of defending the goal zone. It’s all about doing everything in our power to block shots. We blocked ten or 12 shots outside the box.

Above: Tony Gustavsson pictured earlier during this international window. Photo: Ben Gilby

“They didn’t have as many clear chances on goal this game compared to last game. Of course I’m disappointed that we conceded a goal from a corner. We know that set plays are very important.

“They were very good at screening Sam Kerr so she couldn’t get a free header. That is something we definitely need to keep working on.”

Gustavsson was asked about the scene after the game when he and Brazil legend Marta, a player he worked with in Swedish women’s club football spoke at length together on the pitch.

“I had the privilege of working with her for a few years in Swedish football with Tyresö and won a title with her there and went all the way to the Champions League Final. She is a world-class footballer and a world-class person.

“It was the first time that we had connected for a long time physically. We have talked to each other on the phone. It was nice to see her and connect with her. I said to her ‘Hey! You were a different team tonight! You were good, we were a bit lucky to get away there in the end because she could’ve scored.”

The conversation then turned to the rivalry between the two sides: “Wow! What fantastic entertainment! Two teams that like to challenge each other and two teams that have a really attacking mind-set towards football. When it’s 2-2, both teams were going for 3-2. No one was sitting back being conservative. It was all about our final third and their final third.

“Great entertainment. There were some nerves watching, but I love these types of football games. A tie was fair, to be honest.”

Impetus’ Kris Goman asked the Swede about bringing on substitutes on with ten minutes left with the game still in the balance.

Gustavsson responded: “It was a really important time of the game and from experience as a coach, sometimes you wait for that moment when things are already won or lost and give them a few minutes. But, if we really want to vet the depth of this roster, we need to have the confidence to throw them in during a pressure cooker. It was 2-2, going forth and back, going for a win. We needed fresh legs on the left side and Caitlin Foord was limited to a number of minutes. She actually extended the recommended minutes and I wanted fresh legs.

“The one moment that stands out for me from those players in that ten minutes is the slide tackle from Courtney Nevin. That mindset of coming in as a young player, she could have been nervous and hesitated but she didn’t hesitate a second. She used her speed and attitude with the slide tackle and won the ball.”

Asked about the role that both Kyra Cooney-Cross and Mary Fowler have in the team at the moment, The Matildas head coach said: “The classic when you have young players is to give them a few minutes on the wing, a smaller role and then grow into it. That is not what I’m about as a coach. I’m about quality of players and getting them in positions where they can do their best.

“Kyra Cooney-Cross is really, really good in the centre of the park, she can play at eight, she can play at ten or she can play at six. We are looking for depth in our defensive role at six and I think she was brilliant in the first game. This game shows that she still has some work to do at international level when it comes to playing to tempo. This is not a criticism, it’s just the natural evolution of her international career when you play against a high-tempo opponent and a pressing Brazil team, it is all fast and you need to make quick decisions. She has the technique, she has the game understanding, she has the physicality, it’s just getting used to the tempo and playing faster.

“With Clare Wheeler, she had all of the second half. She showed in this game that she did some learning from the first game. She played really fast and showed some physical presence in the second half.

“A comment on Mary Fowler. She really had to push through some physical challenges as she played in midfield. There was a lot of running and tracking with some physical battles there as well. As long as she plays in a position where she can be face up in front of the opponents’ backline, whether that’s coming inside from wide to central or playing the attacking midfield role.

“We did a tactical change at half-time and I really need to credit the players. It was a tactical change that we didn’t train on the ground. We had two minutes to do it. We put some video up with the help of an analyst and we rotated the triangle in the middle and put Mary as a ten and put EvE and Clare as two holding midfielders. That paid off big time. Credit to the players for being able to adjust and Mary was a key part of that.”

Above: Australia’s 32-year-old lynch pin Clare Polkinghorne, on the score sheet once more, was identified by Tony Gustavsson as “one of the most professional athletes that he has ever worked with” Photo: Yahoo! Sports Australia.

Referencing Clare Polkinghorne, Gustavsson said “She is one of the most professional athletes that I have ever worked with. The way she takes care of her body, the way she is focused in training, and the way she wants to get one day better every single day, whether it’s a video session, in the gym, or technically on the field, that’s the reason she performs why she does. I think she is a really good example to everyone out there who wants to extend their career that if you want it enough, and she does if you have that inner drive that she has and you can extend your career and play at this level.

“When it comes to her mindset in attacking plays she is one of a kind. She always expects the ball to come to where she is. She is looking for all the fallen fruit – when the ball drops down – she is looking for those moments and she is waiting. Her mindset and attitude is something I hope that a lot of players can copy.”

The final question came from Impetus’ Kris Goman who asked the Matildas head coach about plans for the November international window with a match still to be officially announced.

“I have to wait a little bit here. What I can say is that I personally cannot wait to get back into camp and get going again. There is going to be so much learning, especially from this last game that we can take into it.

“We need to put together as tough a schedule as possible from now until the World Cup 2023 and play top-ranked teams because we need to learn. Also, you need different kinds of teams tactically, so we get exposed to different types of tactics. We are definitely looking to play top teams as that is how we will develop going forward.”

Above: Australia goal keeper Lydia Williams, who also spoke to Impetus after the game. Photo: Sky Sports.

Also facing the media after the game was goalkeeper Lydia Williams. The Arsenal shot stopper emphasised how this second game with the South Americans was “always going to be harder. We have a new squad which is building towards the Asia Cup. It was frustrating how we let them back in.”

Impetus’ Ben Gilby then asked Williams about the growth in the team’s development over these two matches. “We have young players around and they are gaining more confidence. It’s really cool how they listen to those of us with more experience,” she said.

“We’re still building, we’re leading towards the next camp when we’ll have big preparations to come. Facing quality opposition is really important for us in terms of where we’re at. We’re not there yet, but there’s some good indicators.”

Asked about Brazil’s second goal which saw Tamires’ cross-shot come back off the bar before Debinha followed up to turn the ball over the line, the Western Australian revealed: “I was all set up for it to be a cross. It came of the top of the bar and I was waiting for it to come down when they got in. Disappointing!”

Above: It was a night full of passion in the stands once more at Parramatta. Photo: Football Australia

Australia 2-2 Brazil

By Ben Gilby

It was another harum-scarum night in Parramatta as Australia and Brazil played out a sensational match that would have had the neutral on the edge of their seat throughout.

The Matildas went ahead after eleven minutes. Steph Catley’s corner was headed clear only for Kyra Cooney-Cross to play it back into the box. Erika’s header fell to Clare Polkinghorne and the defender hit a side foot volley into the top of the net. Incredibly this was her third goal in three games for club and country.

Above: Australia celebrate Clare Polkinghorne’s goal after 11 minutes. Photo: Football Australia

Australia were then forced on the back foot by Brazil’s attacking, with the visitors aided by the Matildas coughing up possession too easily in tight spaces, but remained on top at the break.

After early chess-like maneuvers at the start of the second half, the home side doubled their lead with a superb team goal just under ten minutes in. Mary Fowler found Ellie Carpenter in the midfield. The Lyon right-back drove forward and played a 1-2 with Kyah Simon on the right-wing. Carpenter directed a ball into Sam Kerr who was positioned right of centre on the edge of the box and the Chelsea star got the ball out from under her feet and hit a great finish into the far corner. The East Fremantle born striker is now just one goal behind Tim Cahill in the all-time Australian scoring list.

Above: Sam Kerr pictured after scoring her country’s second goal on the night. Photo: Football Australia

Brazil built a head of steam once more and within ten minutes they got a goal back thanks to Erika’s header from a corner on the left.

With 18 minutes remaining they levelled the scores. Tamires’ cross shot from the left came back off the bar with Lydia Williams looking to have got a touch to it. Debinha followed up bravely with Alanna Kennedy to force the ball home, agonisingly colliding with the post as she did so.

The Brazilians had much of the remaining play, but Australia, with sub defenders Angie Beard and Courtney Nevin battling tirelessly kept the South Americans out and it finished a draw.

Teams: AUSTRALIA: Williams, Polkinghorne, Catley, Foord, Van Egmond, Fowler, Yallop, Kennedy, Cooney-Cross, Kerr, Carpenter. Subs: Beard, Nevin, Roestbakken, Wheeler, Whyman (GK), Rankin, Siemsen, Simon, Henry, Checker.

Scorers: Polkinghorne 11’, Kerr 54’

BRAZIL: Leticia, Tainara, Erika, Antonia, Tamires, Duda, Angelina, Kerolin, Adriana, Marta, Debinha. Subs: Lorena, Bruninha, Julia, Andressa, Thais, Gio, Ana Vitoria, Borges, Katrine, Ludmila.

Scorers: Erika 64’, Debinha 72’

Referee: Desiree Grundbacher (SUI)

Attendance: 12,087.

Above: Inside the Matildas’ dressing room at Parramatta pre-game. Photo: Football Australia

Gustavsson’s Aims For Brazil Clash & Whyman’s Call Up

Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson during the press conference. Photo: Ben Gilby

Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson spoke to the media today ahead of Australia’s game with Brazil tomorrow. Impetus’ Ben Gilby was in the session for us. There is also news and photos from Jada Whyman’s call up to the squad after Teagan Micah’s withdrawal through injury

25/10/21

It was another enlightening twenty minutes with the Matildas head coach as he spoke in detail about his thoughts about depth in the squad, what he is looking for from his players tomorrow, and his future plans.

Gustavsson spoke again about how he enjoyed the atmosphere at the first game against Brazil on Saturday. “Even outside the stadium when the bus was driving in, we felt it! We felt those vibes! The girls were saying this morning that it felt like a tournament game, that tournament mode feeling. That is a real teaser and taste of what is coming in World Cup 2023 and everyone in that stadium helped to create an atmosphere of a real, amazing football game. I love that type of environment and I saw that the players did too. They thrived under it and played good football.”

Asked about Emily van Egmond and what she brought to the team upon coming onto the pitch, the Swede said: “It was impressive that she came on in that way because she has not been training at a club since the Olympics. She has been training hard, but as an individual and that is different.

“That was one of the reasons why she started on the bench. She had a good training week with us. Coming on in the second half she got that goal and the assist as well. It’s interesting as when we play 4-3-3 and put her higher up the park at eight/ten, she can float in that area in between the opponents’ midfield and backline and have those late runs into the box that we’ve seen her score from before. In the same stadium too – thinking about that late goal in the game against China!”

Above: The Matildas head coach talking to the media today. Photo: Ben Gilby

The Matildas head coach was then asked about the balance between needing to bring in new players to try them out ahead of the Asia Cup and home World Cup, and still keeping the more experienced players getting game time.

“This is a very important area from a leadership perspective to find that balance. As a national team, you have very limited time together both for training and games. If you look at the number of games and camps we have before the World Cup, it is very limited despite the time of it being far away.

“On one hand it is about getting the team to perform well with a cohesion between a small group of players that know how to play with each other and quickly get to speed with chemistry and cohesion. On the other hand, we know we need depth and to win something in a tournament you need depth and to be able to rotate throughout that tournament and cover with injuries and suspensions.

“We need to make sure that we bridge that gap and this year we have tried to do it so that we could perform at the Olympics but, at the same time bring a lot of new players in. Either by exposing them to this training environment or to get them on the park.

“I’m really appreciative of the leadership group of this team as they understand where we need to be. There has to be an acceptance from this established group of core players that they need the shirt for minutes, but also to buy into the fact that, hey, you know what, we have players with us for 2023 so let’s bring them on even if it costs me some minutes in the game. We need to do it together.

“In terms of depth, before the Olympics I said that I had to leave some very good players out of that roster who deserved to be in the Olympics. We have tons, and I mean tons of quality in attacking midfield and forward positions, but we have, and did have before I arrived, a lack of depth in defensive positions. If you look at caps and at players who might not be in the starting line-up and the bench and you compare our defenders with our attack and midfield, you see a lot of caps and tons of experience in those attacking players, but you see less experience in-depth on the defending side.

Above: Looking to develop depth in defensive areas, the Matildas head coach. Photo: Ben Gilby

“When we have injuries (in defence) it means a lot of moving pieces, you see players moving back and forth from midfield and that lack of depth hurts in tournaments.

“If you look at the games from when I started in April to now, a lot of backline players have got exposure, both in a back four and a back three. If you look at those friendlies, there are very few games when I started with the same backline from one game to another. Again, I come back to balance – the balance between consistency and between getting new players. We are very aware of this. I have discussions with my staff all the time – do we play her? Do we start with her? We want to win the game, but not at the expense of the long-term development.”

Addressing the typically rumbustious nature of Saturday’s game, the Matildas head coach said:

“I’m glad that the game was physical because I was a bit worried after the game in Ireland where it felt like they wanted it more than us. Against Brazil, we showed up and showed what we are really about. Every game between Brazil and Australia has been a physical encounter and I think it will be tomorrow as well.

Looking ahead specifically to Tuesday’s second match with Brazil, the Swede said that “In terms of how the players have recovered from Saturday, I will know properly later today, but as of now it looks promising. We’ll take a look at training today and we always have a meeting the night before with our sports scientist and sports medicine team to look at every player from a risk versus reward and the amount of minutes that they can play. Some of the players are coming back from injuries in clubland, so we want to pay respect to the players’ long-term development. You will see a game tomorrow where there is a balance of consistency and some cohesion, but also that we vet some players.

“I do want to put the last game in perspective. Brazil rotated a lot of players in that first game. They are rebuilding. Were there some good things in our performance? Yes, but I also think there were some areas where we were vulnerable and got dispossessed in some bad areas and their transition game can really hurt us. We could have lost a couple more goals, and we’ve looked into that.

Above: The Matildas head coach is very happy to finally be in Australia almost 11 months after being appointed to the role. Photo: Ben Gilby

“I want to see a team now that steps on to the park to show that we can deliver a performance back to back and play with the same intensity, with the same energy, the same commitment and mind-set. Don’t shy away in those one v one duels. This is an important game to keep rebuilding and I want to see that mindset tomorrow. It’s really important.

“I expect both Marta and Debinha to start for Brazil. I hope they do, we need to make sure we get exposed to good quality players.”

Asked about the progress of Clare Wheeler within the squad, Gustavsson commented: “She didn’t get much game time, but the reason I brought her on was that I’ve been impressed with her in camp – both in Ireland and now. She’s taking steps every week when it comes to developing, especially with the tempo and intensity. She’s a very smart and technical player. She reads the game well and covers ground defensively well too. Her job now is to bring it up to international level when it comes to tempo and intensity and the more she is exposed to our environment, the better she can do that.”

In terms of specific developmental aspects that he is keen to see tomorrow, the Matildas head coach identified: “The final third. If you look at the passing stats, the amount of time we took our attack into the final third was really, really, really good in the last game. Really good, even compared to the best games in the Olympics. But when we got to the final third it felt like we rushed things. There are moments where we need to pick and choose when we play that final pass so that we can be a little bit more confident and establish more momentum and get more numbers into the goal zone.

“Then, the defensive transition. When we get dispossessed, how do we react to that. Brazil are going to target our centre backs and try to get in behind like they did in the last game and we need to have good positioning when we get dispossessed and a good initial reaction so we can stop that transition before it even happens. If it happens, then how do we deal with those balls in behind. Brazil have some real good pace and some real good deliveries to get in behind. We want to avoid that as much as possible.”

Gustavsson then discussed his future plans. “I want to be here in Australia and get exposure to local football. I want to meet the club coaches and the players but also all the Football Australia staff. I haven’t even been in the office yet. I can’t wait to stay here. Right now, after this camp I am going to scout some key club games and Champions League games ahead of the camp in November and after that I will stay here to meet as many people as I can. By that time the A-League Women will be up and running as well.”

Whyman Receives Call Up

Above: Jada Whyman in training today. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia

Sydney FC goalkeeper Jada Whyman has been called up as an injury replacement for Teagan Micah after the FC Rosengård goalkeeper suffered an injury in the pre-match warm-up on Saturday and will be out for the second match against Brazil tomorrow.  

Above: Jada Whyman in action during training. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia

After completing the protocols in accordance with the Quarantine Management Plan, Whyman entered the assembly.  No stranger to the Matildas, the 22-year-old has previously earned call-ups with the senior national team and has represented Australia at U20 and U17 levels.

Remy Siemsen: Achieving The Dream

Above: Remy Siemsen pictured after her debut. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia

Remy Siemsen went to the Matildas last game in Parramatta on 9th November 2019 as a fan. On Saturday, she returned to the stadium as a player for her country and made her debut. Ben Gilby was in Siemsen’s press conference where she spoke about her incredible weekend.

25/10/21

“It was a dream come true to put on the Green and Gold. It was even more amazing to be able to do it in front of friends and family and on home soil, so I’m just grateful to have been given that opportunity. I didn’t get much sleep last night, it was like Christmas!”

Sydney FC’s Remy Siemsen has had a big 2021. A trip to the W-League Grand Final with her club when they were denied the title in heart-breaking fashion to a goal directly from a corner by Melbourne Victory’s Kyra Cooney-Cross with virtually the last kick of extra time was followed by an international call up for the game in Ireland last month before making her international debut on Saturday.

“Knowing that we are hosting a World Cup in 2023 makes it seem like it’s all come round at the right time. I just hope that I can build as a player and a person on and off the pitch.”

“The fans made it amazing, the atmosphere was electric when we stepped into the stadium. We were on the bus and saw all these fans going towards the stadium in their jerseys and I could tell within the group that we were all ecstatic. It was a really special moment for the playing group. A lot play overseas so it was nice for them to come back and see their families and put on a show for Sydney and Australia.

“We spoke about how amazing the atmosphere was and what we can now expect for the World Cup in 2023. To have that on our doorstep with fans, friends and families will be amazing. Saturday was just a small taste of that.”

Above: Remy Siemsen receives her first Matildas cap. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia

The joy of making her debut was tinged with the frustration of not being able to make physical contact with her family and friends after that game.

“It was bittersweet. When you have your debut, the first thing you want to do is hug your family and see your friends and people who have been with you on your journey. I was just grateful that we could even have fans there. It was hard, but the love was there and we all felt it. Some of the girls couldn’t have their families there because of border restrictions, so I was grateful that mine could be there.”

Siemsen is still getting used to the idea that she is a Matilda – she spoke about how it was not that long ago that she was going to watch the team as a fan.

“The girls have been nothing short of welcoming since I set foot into my first camp. They just said to relax and play my natural game. When I came on, I just wanted to make an impact and do my job the best I could for the team. I’ve looked up to them for most of my life so I’m still pinching myself that I’m here and get to play alongside. They tell me to be myself and play my authentic self.

“I was one of those girls on the other side of the fence in the past cheering on the Matildas and my favourite A-League Women’s team Sydney FC, so it was super humbling to see so many kids calling out my name after the game and wanting a photo. A lot of Manly United kids turned up, which is my junior club, proudly wearing their Manly United gear and that was really special to share my experience with those kids who are inspired to come and play for the Matildas.

“I was a fan last year, and the year before going to all the Matildas games. I went to the last game at the stadium (in Parramatta) and it was crazy to be entering the stadium as a player this time!

“It shows that if you really want something, if you really desire it, you can achieve it, and I hope that all the kids out there really enjoyed it.”

Above: A first Matildas cap for Remy Siemsen. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia

The period since the Ireland match has seen Siemsen based overseas in order to maintain a high level of fitness with the new A-League Women training period yet to begin.

“We were told after the last camp in Ireland that us Australian based players would have the opportunity to go and train with a professional club in Europe over the span between that game and this one and we jumped at that opportunity as it’s not every day that you get to taste test European football. We were so grateful to Fortuna Hjørring in Denmark. They are a great team with great hospitality. We had a great experience and it was really nice to be with Jamilla (Rankin), Kyra (Cooney-Cross), and Courtney (Nevin). We got really close really quickly sharing quite close spaces together. I’m very grateful that I could have that opportunity.”

“The transition (at Fortuna Hjørring) was a lot easier knowing we had Clare Wheeler, Angie Beard, Indiah-Paige Riley, and Alex Huynh over there and we had quite a few family dinners! I can’t speak more highly of that experience. We’re glad to be back on home soil and bring our experience of that time to here.

“My next step will be to look for an overseas move to experience another place and new gameplay. I loved my experience at Fortuna. I love being at Sydney FC but next year I am looking. It’s in the pipeline.”

Despite Saturday being a big day for her, Siemsen is focused on what is ahead later this week.

“We celebrated the win, but we know we have a job to do (on Tuesday), so we’ll be heading into that with a game plan, stick to our principles, and play how we want to.”

“Stay Humble And Realise There Is A Lot Of Work To Do”

Impetus’ Kris Goman was our representative at Comm Bank Stadium for Australia’s first game on home soil since early 2020. She sums up the evening in words and pictures plus brings us all the news from the post-match press conferences 25/10/21

Above: Clare Polkinghorne after scoring the Matildas’ opening goal. Photo: Kris Goman

The last time I saw the Matildas play at Commbank Stadium (then Bankwest Stadium) was in March 2020. It was the match against China that sent the Matildas to the top of the table in the Olympic qualifiers. The match that was originally supposed to be played in Wuhan was moved to Sydney because there was a virus running rampant. It was just weeks before the world shut down and matches were played in empty stadiums globally. It felt lucky that all the Olympic qualifiers were moved to Sydney and we got to witness games that should have been played in China.

It feels like it’s come full circle now. We’re moving to a post-Covid phase. Most people in Australia are now vaccinated, lockdown restrictions are easing and the Matildas are back in town. But post-Covid is not the same as pre-Covid and this was evident at this match. All spectators had to be fully vaccinated and vaccination certificates were examined to gain entry.

Above: Ellie Carpenter waves to the crowd. Photo: Kris Goman.

More interestingly, the players were subject to strict quarantine bubble conditions that meant they didn’t have to quarantine for 14 days. It was the only way to get them back to their clubs within the international break timeframe but came with strict conditions. It essentially means they are restricted to their hotel, their training grounds, and the match stadium and can’t interact with any locals, including their families.

Because the Australian borders have been closed since the pandemic began, all the overseas-based Matildas haven’t been home for over 18 months and haven’t seen their families in that time. And this match would be the first time for many that they could actually see their families. But they had to stay over two metres away and could not touch them. This resulted in tears at the end of the match as players waved to their families in the crowd.

Above: Sam Kerr spots a familiar face in the crowd on her return to Australian soil. Photo: Kris Goman

I won’t go into any detail about the match, as that’s already well documented, other than to say Australia beat Brazil 3-1, had the bulk of possession, celebrated Alanna Kennedy’s 100th match, and debuted Remy Siemsen and Bryleeh Henry.

One thing of note though was the crowd and in particular the Brazilian supporters. They brought the passion, they brought the songs and they brought their voices. Although they made up probably only about 10% of the crowd, they made about 70% of the noise. When Adriana scored and Marta came on, it was as loud as when Sam Kerr was introduced and when Claire Polkinghorne scored the first goal. It made the night electric.

But back to the Covid restrictions and the final thing it impacted was the post-game press conference.  Because the players weren’t allowed near the media, it was held via zoom. Not that big a deal but the logistics of attending immediately after the match made it interesting. Tracey Holmes was obviously in the car park with the Brazilians who were all honking their horns. After finding a quiet spot in the stadium to listen, I was asked to move outside. Thankfully the crowds were gone by this time but tuning in from a bench outside the stadium wasn’t ideal.

Above: Caitlin Foord in the post-game press conference. Photo: Kris Goman.

Unlike normal zoom meetings, the players and coaches couldn’t see those posing the questions. Caitlin Foord was up first. Sam Lewis asked if the difficult couple of weeks and external pressure affected their performance. Foord said she felt no pressure and they just wanted to enjoy the home fans and being on home soil again. Tracey Holmes asked what changes or confidence Gustavsson has brought to the team. She said he’s got a lot of intelligence and he’s brought out the best of each player’s ability and wants the team to be able to express themselves and do what they do best. She went on to comment on Mary Fowler and Kyra Cooney-Cross and said it was exciting to watch them grow and become a big part of the team. When asked the most difficult aspect of the last couple of weeks, she replied it has been hardest to be here and not see their families. They’ve been able to block out outside noise.  There was a question about building to the World Cup. The year missed to Covid meant they lost a year with Tony but she feels they have plenty of time to grow and learn and it’s exciting. Did the team put healthy pressure on each other to perform? Their goals for the matches were to keep a clean sheet and win. They weren’t able to stop one goal from getting past but were excited by winning. They now want two wins and another good performance and a clean sheet.

Above: Pia Sundhage faces the media after the game. Photo: Kris Goman.

Pia Sundhage was up next and spoke about her relationship with Tony when they were coaching the USWNT together and how she gave him his first break and how it was good to see him here being successful. She said they were friends off the field but business on the field.

Above: Tamires post match. Photo: Kris Goman

I asked Brazilian captain, Tamires whether the small but very vocal Brazilian fans impacted their game. She said the support was amazing and they could hear the songs of the local Brazilian clubs being sung. She was very thankful for the support and said it was incredible.

Above: Tony Gustavsson speaks to the media in detail after the game. Photo: Kris Goman.

Tony Gustavsson was the last to be interviewed and was thoughtful and considered in all his answers. You almost don’t need to ask a leading question with Tony because he’ll elaborate anyway which is refreshing.

Speaking about his personal view on the experience of his first game in charge on Australian soil, Gustavsson said: “I could get used to this! It was a phenomenal atmosphere and the way the players played. I thank them for giving me a win for my first time on Australian soil. It was a special moment for me.”

I asked Gustavsson about how there’s been some criticism of the defence and how this squad is heavy on defenders and how the Matildas coach felt things looked today: “We had a different formation today and I said before that I want to be flexible and fluid in our formation. Identity doesn’t sit in formation, it sits in what you do. What impressed me tonight was that we had limited time to prepare with players arriving on different days. For the players to absorb everything we did double sessions and some walk-throughs. For the players to execute that game plan in such a short time was impressive.

Above: Charli Grant applauds the crowd post-match. Photo: Kris Goman

“We did look into improving our defence for the game, but not at the expense of our attacking mindset. I do think we got dispossessed in bad areas at times in the game and we could have coughed up a few goals. We were lucky, to be honest. We still have things to clean up, it was far from perfect. It’s a step in the right direction, but we still have work to do.”

He went on to talk further about the qualities of the players in the camp: “The players’ ability to take in information and execute game plans is enormous. I was disappointed in our physicality against Ireland. Tonight, the players showed that they wanted it more than Brazil. It helped that the fans carried us forward. We spoke beforehand about feeding off the energy that the crowd creates and playing the game with them. Whether that’s making a tackle and you get a response from the crowd – you bring the energy that creates into your body.

“The teams that want to compete at the highest level need to get used to performing under pressure and thriving under it – seeing pressure as a privilege is important. Everyone has been phenomenal. The prep work and the players’ response was impressive.”

Above: Kyra Cooney-Cross, who had a superb night. Photo: Kris Goman

Still in her embryonic days as an international, Kyra Cooney-Cross produced her finest performance in a Matildas shirt in the match, with some outstanding vision shown in passes from midfield out to the flanks. The Swede was impressed and highlighted the wider benefits to the team of having the Melbourne Victory teenager playing in the number six role.

“I need to build a playing style around the qualities of the team and Kyra has shown time after time in the training environment that she can cope with pressure, but also something she hasn’t got enough credit for and that’s her defensive presses. We tried her (at six) in the Ireland game and she was one of our best players. It’s also another way of getting EvE (Emily van Egmond) higher up the park. She is a natural eight or ten but has played a lot at six. She is a game-changer. She had one assist and one goal tonight. It shows when she plays higher up the park she can give us points as well.

Above: Alanna Kennedy in action on her hundredth cap. Photo: Kris Goman

Asked about Alanna Kennedy’s performance for her hundredth cap, Gustavsson cautioned against focusing too much on her loss of possession which led to Brazil’s goal. “I think she played more confident tonight than against Ireland. She showed that she can embrace that pressure. She took a big step in the right direction tonight.”

Gustavsson ended the conference by cautioning about getting too carried away with the result.

“We played a Brazil team who are rebuilding right now. They had a lot of debutants and a completely new team with Marta and Debinha on the bench. We need to balance talk about this performance. Are there things I’m happy with? Yes. But we need to stay humble and realise that we have a lot of work to do.”

Above: Mary Fowler – another superb performance. Photo: Kris Goman

Matildas v Brazil: Post Match Reaction

Above: The Australia team that started against Brazil yesterday in Parramatta. Photo: Football Australia.

Ben Gilby heard from Caitlin Foord and Alanna Kennedy plus debutants Bryleeh Henry and Remy Siemsen.

24/10/21

Western Sydney Wanderers’ Bryleeh Henry, who came on for her debut in her home region was extremely emotional to be wearing the Matildas shirt.

“I’m going to cry! I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, it’s a dream come true. It means the world and to do it in front of my family is just an absolute honour. I was hoping (to get on the pitch) but wasn’t expecting it at all. Mel (Andreatta) called me over and started talking about set-pieces and my mind started spinning! I needed to calm down and play my football. I was happy with my form.”

Alanna Kennedy made her hundredth appearance in the game and spoke of her pride.

Above: Then and now – Alanna Kennedy pictured on her debut (left) and during her hundredth appearance for Australia last night. Photo: Football Australia.

“It meant so much to finally be back and to have my hundredth cap in front of home fans. I’m happy with than and proud of the girls performance. My family are such a big part of me getting to a hundred appearances. I’ve just seen them for the first time in 15 months. I love them to pieces.”

Talking about the physicality of the match, she said: “I’ve had enough knocks in my career to recover from those. It’s the type of game you always get against Brazil and we always show up for that.”

Caitlin Foord spoke in detail after the game. “I don’t think there was pressure (on us), I just wanted to go into the game and enjoy it, being on home soil with home fans. That’s what got us through today. The buzz from the fans and the turn out.

Above: The Matildas come together to celebrate. Photo: Football Australia.

“Our rotation in midfield was good. We have a good understanding in order to move and make space. It was working.”

She outlined the influence that Tony Gustavsson has brought to the team since coming in as head coach. “He’s brought his knowledge. He is very intelligent, you can see that and we’ve all learned so much from him already. The most important thing is that he’s brought out the best of everyone’s ability. How we play is to bring out the best of every single player. He wants us all to express ourselves and do what we do best – giving us the freedom to play.”

Above: Young star Mary Fowler, who impressed Caitlin Foord. Photo: Football Australia.

The Arsenal star spoke glowingly about the performances and potential of teenagers Mary Fowler and Kyra Cooney-Cross.

“It’s exciting to see them grow the last couple of years to where they are now. They have deserved what they have done. Mary came out big today and scored – that’s what she can do, and Kyra getting on the ball and dictating. We keep encouraging them. We want them to be comfortable on the ball and express themselves. We are encouraging them a lot.”

Asked about how team have progressed since the 2019 World Cup, Foord was positive. “We’ve missed a year due to Covid and so not long with Tony. We have so much time together to grow and that’s exciting.”

Foord also highlighted the mixed emotions about finally being back on Australian soil after 20 months away. “The hardest thing is not being able to see our families (still). It’s been so long for all of us, so we just wanted to come here and put on a great show. We want to block out the outside noise as we’re here for this team and that’s what we continue to do. We didn’t want to go away with a loss. We also wanted a clean sheet, we didn’t get that. We’re disappointed that we conceded. We want two wins (from these games with Brazil)”.

Clare Polkinghorne, whose goal put Australia ahead spoke of her joy about playing in front of a home crowd again: “It was a great turn out, we had amazing support. To put on a performance like that and score three goals is really pleasing.

Above: Kyah Simon and Sam Kerr celebrate. Photo: Football Australia

“For my goal, it all happened so quickly. It came from a set piece that we’ve been working on. Sam (Kerr) did well to win the first ball and I’m there to pick up the second ball and luckily it went in.”

“Tuesday’s game will be another tough contest. We’ll recover properly and look at the video of things we need to improve and go again.”

Above: Debutants Remy Siemsen (left) and Bryleeh Henry. Photo: Football Australia.

Another debutant was Sydney FC’s Remy Siemsen. She spoke emotionally after the game about the feeling of winning her first cap.

“I’ve been dreaming of this moment. I’m overwhelmed. It’s a complete dream come true for me. You can tell by my emotions how much this means to me. To do it in front of friends and family in my home town is so special.

“I consider myself so privileged to don the green and gold alongside some of the best players in the world. It will be a night I remember forever.

“I didn’t know I was coming on. It was a nice surprise! I quickly had to absorb all the information before coming on. I wanted to make an impact in some way or form. The girls were so encouraging and made me so welcome. They helped me out!”

Above: Matildas players show their joy after the match. Photo: Football Australia

Impetus’ Kris Goman participated in the post match press conference with Tony Gustavsson – her take on what was said will be on the site later today.

Gustavsson Outlines Aims For Brazil Games

Above: The Matildas training at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium provided to Impetus by Football Australia.

Impetus editor Ben Gilby listened to Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson’s press conference today prior to the Matildas return to home soil for the first time since early 2020 when they take on Brazil in Parramatta tomorrow.

22/10/21

Gustavsson opened the press conference by addressing the allegations made by Lisa De Vanna about abuse and bullying within the Matildas set up in the past.

“I want to show my respect to everyone who is at the centre of all of this. I want to be clear that the well-being of the players and the staff in the team is the number one priority for us. We need to ensure we create a safe and secure environment.

“We need to meet the inquiry head on and make sure we get one day better on and off the field.”

“I was shocked (by the allegations made by Lisa De Vanna). There were a lot of emotions going through me. I felt that we must support the people who are at the centre of this.

“My experience of the team culture has been nothing but positive, however that does not mean I am belittling what everyone has said. I am the proudest and happiest man in international football to be coach of the Matildas. I’m like a kid before Christmas.

“The chemistry, family feeling that exists between the players and staff is wonderful.

Above: The Matildas gather during training in Western Sydney this week. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“That doesn’t mean we stop here – we don’t stop getting one day better.”

Gustavsson then talked about the specific factors that influenced the early days of the training camp this time round.

“This camp was a little bit different as the players arrived on different days. We need to thank the New South Wales government to allow this happen. The first few days of the camp were about recovery from jet lag and getting the players up and running. Thursday was the first day we could go with high intensity.

“Today (Friday), we nailed down the game plan. It is a short lead-in time to get sorted. We went to the stadium to have a walk through last night. What a beautiful stadium.

“It’s been a privilege to come to Australia for the first time. The team who have a head coach who is going to peak with excitement before game day!

“I’m extremely excited to be playing Brazil! Who doesn’t remember the Miracle of Montpellier? There are so many things to be excited about – Alanna Kennedy playing her 100th game, being back in Australia for the first time in 600 days and playing Brazil, one of our greatest rivals.”

The Matildas head coach then drew the gathered media a diagram showing pressures coming to a high performance environment from both inside and outside the camp. In the middle of the circular diagram is what Gustavsson termed “The fresh air zone which is very small. If we want to be part of the team winning the World Cup in 2023 that’s what we need to get used to.

Above: Ellie Carpenter pictured in training this week. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

“We have to begin to get used to this and, from the Ireland loss, we are using this to get used to that pressure.”

The Swede used the analogy that at the moment the Matildas are going through “growing pains”. He admitted that they are not where they want to be at the moment, but that’s not a disaster. They are in the growth process at the present time.”

“The players cannot wait to get out onto the field. They haven’t been in Australia for over 600 days. I can feel their excitement and determination to get out on the pitch in front of fans.”

“If I was a coach 15 years ago, I would have said we need to park the bus and can’t keep conceding goals, and build towards Sam (Kerr) getting a goal for a 1-0 win. I want us to have an attacking mind-set. Our challenge now is to say ‘can we stay true to how we are, but can we improve defending?’

“We played an Ireland team who wanted it more. We might have mentally relaxed. Maybe it was a bit like a pre-season camp. I put a lot of emphasis on us celebrating Sam’s hundredth cap and we went north all the time because the players wanted to give Sam that goal so much, so we didn’t play the way we wanted to.

Above: Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson. Photo supplied to Impetus by:Football Australia.

“We didn’t train defending set pieces due to limited time and we conceded three goals from set plays, so that’s on me. Can we fix it? Is it an easy fix? Yes.

“When I look at the game again and the statistics, statistically it is the game we dominated the most since I came in as coach, but some easy goals from set plays and lack of quality in the final third hurt us and it has to improve against Brazil.”

“You are definitely going to see tomorrow (against Brazil) that we will be aggressive and you will see space. We need to be a better job at stopping the opponents. We need to read it better. We had sub group meetings with the players today about how we can do it better.

“We have conceded a lot of goals, but you blame me for that, not the players. The Ireland game, now the Brazil games are to prepare for the Asia Cup. We want to win every game we play, but I want to put the team through what they need to prepare to be successful at the Asia Cup. I agree we need to be better defensively, but not to the extent of our game plan.”

Above: Caitlin Foord in training this week. Photo provided to Impetus by: Football Australia

Also talking to the media in the build up to the game was Arsenal’s Caitlin Foord.

This camp marks the first time Foord has been home in almost two years. 

“It feels nice to be back on Australian soil.  For me personally it has been almost 19 months since my last game here,” Foord said.

“I can’t even explain how nice it was to see Australia flying in.  It was just a crazy feeling after being [away for] so long.”

The match sees not just the return of the Matildas to Australia, but also the return of fans to international sports events in NSW.  The 26-year-old is excited at the prospect of having vocal home support again. 

“It’s huge to play here in front of home fans. It’s a little bit more exciting this time than the others to have everyone back, and I think it will be just as exciting for fans as well.  There is going to be a big buzz around the game.”

International Round-Up

Above: Dominant England celebrate during their 10-0 win in Luxembourg. Photo: Getty Images.

Over the past ten days or so there has been a vast number of international matches. European nations began their World Cup qualifying competition, Asia got its Asian Cup qualification under way and there were several friendlies. Ben Gilby rounds up the action in words and pictures.

24/9/21

EUROPE:

UEFA’s World Cup qualification games for the 2023 World Cup got under way.

Group A opened on 17th September with Olympic Games silver medallists Sweden gaining a narrow 1-0 win in Slovakia thanks to Friolina Rolfö’s goal after ten minutes.

The second round of matches took place four days later with Sweden gaining six points from six with a 4-0 thrashing of Georgia. Manchester City’s Filippa Angeldahl opened the scoring five minutes before the break before Chelsea’s Magda Eriksson doubled their lead four minutes into first half stoppage time. Caroline Sager added the other two in the final ten minutes with a penalty and another strike in injury time. Finland were made to work hard for their opening win in Turku as visitors Slovakia fought valiantly. Adelina Engman gave the hosts the lead after 37 minutes. Mária Mikolajová levelled matters just after the hour mark. The scores were only level for five minutes though as Ria Öling hit the winner for the Finns.

16th and 17th September saw the commencement of Group B’s matches. Spain came away from the Faroe Islands with a comprehensive 10-0 win. Amaiur Sarriegi grabbed four goals with Irene Guerrero, Alexia Putellas, Lucia Garcia, Patri Guijarro, Mariona Caldentey and Laia Alexiandri hitting one each. Scotland ended their frustrating run of results with a 2-0 win in Hungary with Erin Cuthbert and Martha Thomas on target.

On 21st September both Spain and Scotland grabbed their second wins by a large margin. Spain smashed past Hungary in Budapest. Esther González Rodríguez, Mariona Caldentey and Amaiur Sarriegi all grabbed braces with Athenea Del Castillo also on the scoresheet. At Hampden Park, Scotland comfortably dismissed the Faroe Islands 7-1. Chloe Arthur (two), Erin Cuthbert, Christy Grimshaw, Martha Thomas, Jenna Clark and Claire Emslie scored for the hosts. Maria Biskopstø scored a consolation for the Islanders.

Group C got underway on 17th September. Belarus swept aside Cyprus 4-1. Anna Kozyupa, Anastasia Shuppo (penalty), Anna Pilipenko and Anastasiya Shlapakova were on target with Antri Violari getting one back for the Cypriots. Netherlands began life after Sarina Wiegman with a disappointing 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic in Groningen. Andrea Stašková gave the Czechs the lead just after half-time. Vivianne Miedema’s customary goal saved Dutch blushes with seven minutes to go.

Above: Czech Republic’s Andrea Stašková hit three goals in her country’s first two World Cup qualifiers.
Photo: Getty Images.

Czech Republic continued their strong start to qualification with a comprehensive 8-0 thrashing of luckless Cyprus in Liberec on 21st September. Andrea Stašková hit a brace and Kamila Dubcová, Tereza Krejčiříková, Lucie Martínková and Klára Cvrčková all weighed in too in addition to an own goal from Chara Charalambous. The Netherlands returned from Iceland with their first win of this embryonic qualifying campaign. Daniëlle van de Donk and Jackie Groenen scored the goals in the 2-0 success.

There were goals galore in Group D in the opening two rounds of action. On 17th September. Austria grabbed eight in Latvia after going a goal behind to Viktorija Zaičikova’s 12th minute strike. Marie Höbinger equalised five minutes later. Further goals from Nicole Billa, Barbara Dunst, Sandra Voitāne (own goal), Laura Feiersinger, and two in the closing minutes from Katja Wienerroither. England were similarly dominant in dismissing North Macedonia 8-0 in Southampton as the Sarina Wiegman reign got underway. Two goals from Ellen White and Beth England, two own goals (Julija Zivikj and Sara Kolarovska) plus strikes from Ella Toone and Beth Mead sealed the three points.

Northern Ireland comfortably dispatched Luxembourg 4-0 in Larne in front of a packed house. Marissa Callaghan, Rachel Furness, Emily Wilson and Lauren Wade scored the goals.

Four days later, Austria hit six without reply in North Macedonia. Nicole Billa grabbed a hat-trick, there was a brace from Marina Hanshaw and Marie Höbinger got the other. Northern Ireland gained a second successive 4-0 win at home with Latvia on the receiving end this time. Louise McDaniel, Kirsty McGuinness, Marissa Callaghan and a Rachel Furness penalty the difference. England returned from Luxembourg with a 10-0 victory in a game which saw some staggering statistics. The Lionesses had 82% of possession and 19 shots on target (to the hosts’ zero). Ellen White, Alex Greenwood and Millie Bright scored twice with the other goals coming from Nikita Parris, Rachel Daly, Beth England and a Jessica Berscheid own goal.

Group E opened on 16th and 17th September with a dominant 7-0 win for Denmark over Malta. Signe Bruun’s brace was added to by Sanne Troelsgaard, Stine Larsen, Pernille Harder, Rikke Sevecke, and Sara Thrige. Harder’s goal made her Denmark’s record international scorer with 66 goals in 129 games. Bosnia and Herzegovina suffered a 3-2 defeat at home to neighbours Montenegro in a game which saw four goals in the opening 19 minutes. Armisa Kuč ‘s two goals in the opening nine minutes set Montenegro on the way before a further two goals in the following ten minutes saw the hosts draw level as first Melisa Hasanbegović and then Milena Nikolić scored. Montenegro earned the three points thanks to Slađana Bulatović’s penalty on the hour mark. Russia also opened their campaign with a victory after they saw off Azerbaijan 2-0. Marina Fedorova and Nelli Korovkina were on target.

On 21st September, the Danes and Russians stamped their authority on the group with big victories. Denmark hit eight without reply in Azerbaijan. Stine Larsen’s hat-trick was added to by Signe Bruun’s brace and a goal apiece from Mille Gejl and Emma Snerle. Male Mollayeva’s own goal completed the rout. Russia dismissed Montenegro 5-0 in Moscow thanks to a hat-trick from Nadezhda Smirnova and single strikes from Nelli Korovkina and Anna Belomyttseva. A 2-2 draw between cellar dwellers Malta and Bosnia and Herzegovina did neither side any favours but Bosnia will feel the greatest frustration as they blew a 2-0 lead built in the opening 33 minutes thanks to goals from Milena Nikolić and Maja Jelčić. Malta hit back in the final ten minutes with goals from Maria Farrugia and Stefania Farrugia.

Group F opened on 16th and 17th September with Norway crushing Armenia 10-0 in Oslo. Caroline Graham Hansen and Lisa-Marie Utland both hit hat-tricks, with Guro Bergsvand, Karina Sævik, Julie Blakstad, and Elisbeth Terland grabbing the others. Albania and Kosova played out a 1-1 draw. Megi Doci gave Albania the lead just before half-time from the penalty spot before Valentina Limani levelled up. Belgium returned from Poland with a good point. Ewa Pajor gave the hosts the lead before Janice Cayman equalised with just over ten minutes left.

Above: Belgium’s Tine De Caigny (6) and Poland’s Sylwia Matysik fight for the ball during a 1-1 draw. Photo: David Catry via Imago.

21st September saw Norway rack up another comfortable win, this time 3-0 in Kosovo. Viola Abduli’s own goal set the visitors on their way before later strikes from Julie Blakstad and Lisa-Marie Utland confirmed the win. Belgium continued their unbeaten start after swatting aside Albania 7-0. Jassina Blom’s hat-trick, Tine De Caigny’s brace plus single strikes from Janice Cayman and Tessa Wulleart completed the rout. Poland are also unbeaten after a 1-0 win in Armenia. Weronika Zawistowska scored the only goal of the game.

Group G’s opening round of games on 17th September saw the favoured teams all gain comfortable victories. Italy brushed aside Moldova 3-0 in Trieste. Christiana Girelli scored two goals in a 12 minute spell (one penalty) with Valentina Giacenti adding the third. Switzerland saw off Lithuania 4-1. Aston Villa’s Alisha Lehmann set the ball rolling on the 15 minute mark before Coumba Sow made it 2-0. Rimantė Jonušaitė’s strike gave Lithuania hope before the Swiss rallied and added further goals from Ramona Bachmann and Svenja Fölmli. Romania gained an important three points as they saw off Croatia 2-0. Laura Rus and Cristina Carp were on target.

Four days later, the same three teams all won again in comfortable style. Switzerland hit six without reply in Moldova. Ana-Maria Crnogorčević, Coumba Sow, Fabienne Humm, Svenja Fölmli, Riola Xhemali and Alisha Lehmann were on target. Italy returned from Croatia with a 5-0 win. Valentina Giacenti (two), Sara Gama, Cristiana Girelli, and Valentina Cernoia scored. Romania put three past Lithuania without reply as Laura Rus (two) and Mihaela Ciolacu scored the goals.

Germany opened their Group H campaign in imperious style on 18th September with a 7-0 thrashing of Bulgaria. Lea Schüller, Lina Magull, and Linda Dallmann all hit braces with Tabea Waßmuth completing the rout. Two days previously, Turkey held Portugal to a 1-1 draw in Alanya. Yağmur Uraz gave Turkey the lead before Jéssica Silva levelled just before the hour mark.

On 21st September, Portugal recovered from their disappointing draw in Turkey with a 4-0 win in Israel. Telma Encarnação got the ball rolling after just two minutes with Dolores Silva making it 2-0 with a penalty just five minutes later. The other two goals came in the second half through Diana Gomes and Carole Costa. Germany gained another routine win, but they had to come from behind to beat Croatia 5-1. After Nina Matejić gave the Croats a third minute lead, Germany hit back in style with four goals from Lea Schüller and one from Chelsea’s Melanie Leupolz.

Finally to Group I where it is already evident who the top three teams are likely to be as all recorded big wins. France won 10-0 in Greece. Marie-Antoinette Katoto hit a hat-trick with Grace Geyoro adding a brace. Amel Majri, Kadidiatou Diani, Viviane Asseyi, Wendie Renard and a Maria Palama own goal completed the rout. Wales hit six against Kazakhstan in Llanelli. Kayleigh Green (two), Tash Harding, Rachel Rowe, Gemma Evans and Ceri Holland were on target. Slovenia won 4-0 in Estonia. Two goals from Lara Prašnikar, Lana Golob and Sara Agrež all scored.

Four days later, Slovenia gave France a scare in Murska Sobata in a real see saw game. Lara Prašnikar gave the hosts the lead before Marie-Antoinette Katoto levelled eight minutes later and then put the French ahead with an hour played. A penalty two minutes from time from Mateja Zver looked to have earned the Slovenes an excellent draw, but another spot kick from Amel Majri four minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game earned all three points for France. Tash Harding scored the only goal in Wales’ 1-0 win in Estonia. In the final game of the round, Greece gained an important 3-2 win in the battle of the strugglers with Kazakhstan. Anastasia Spyridonidou (two) and an own goal from Aigerim Aitymova helped the Greeks to the win. Svetlana Bortnikova and Begaim Kirgizbaeva hit consolations for the Kazakhs.

Above: Wales’ Tash Harding – two goals in her country’s first two World Cup qualifiers. Photo: Around Town Wales.

ASIA:

The first qualification matches for the 2022 Asian Cup took place over the past ten days as a reduced tally of 23 nations began the process of trying to join hosts India and automatically qualified Australia, Japan and China in the event. Afghanistan were withdrawn after the Taliban regime’s disgraceful failure to allow women to represent the country in sport. North Korea and Turkmenistan were unable to travel due to the coronavirus pandemic and Iraq opted not to participate.

Group B opened on 23rd September with Vietnam gaining a huge 16-0 win over the Maldives in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Phạm Hải Yến scored six in 23 second half minutes and there were braces for Nguyễn Thị Thanh Nhã, Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Dung, single strikes from Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Ngân, Trần Thị Thùy Trang, Chương Thị Kiều Huỳnh Như and Hồ_Thị_Quỳnh. Additionally, Hawwa Hanefa contributed an own goal.

Above: Phạm Hải Yến celebrates one her incredible six goals in 23 minutes for Vietnam against the Maldives.
Photo: SC

Group C began on 24th September in Dunstanbe, Tajikistan with Indonesia’s 1-0 win over Singapore thanks to a goal from Baiq Amiatun after just four minutes.

Group E, opened on 17th September with South Korea demolishing Mongolia 12-0 in Tashkent. A hat-trick by Moon Mi-ra, two goals each from Choo Hyo-Joo, Tottenham Hotspur’s Cho So-Hyun and Brighton & Hove Albion’s Lee Geum-min were added to by Lee Min-a, Chelsea’s Ji So-yun and Park Yee-un completed the rout. Three days later, Mongolia were on the receiving end of the same score line by Uzbekistan in Tashkent. Hat-tricks from Diyorakhon Khabibullaeva and Makhliyo Sarikova were added to by Nilufar Kudratova’s brace and a goal apiece from Saida Galimova and Maftuna Shoyimova. Altantuya Altansukh’s own goal was the other score. On 23rd September, South Korea clinched top spot with a 4-0 success against Uzbekistan. Two goals in the closing moments from Moon Mi-Ra plus Choe Yu-Ri’s effort and an own goal by Nozima Kamoltoeva ensured that the Koreans will go to the finals.

In Group F, Philippines gained a dramatic 2-1 win over Nepal in Tashkent. Bimala Chaudhary gave the Nepalese a ninth minute lead. But two goals in second half stoppage time gave Philippines the win as Tahnai Annis and Camille Wilson scored. Three days later, Nepal were held to a 0-0 draw by Hong KongPhilippines ensured they will progress to the next stage of qualifying after another late goal saw off Hong Kong 2-1. Tahnai Annis put the Filipino’s ahead before Chung Pui Ki levelled on the hour mark. Chandler McDaniel’s strike with three minutes left in Tashkent guaranteed all three points for the Philippines which sealed their qualification.

Above: Wild celebrations for the Philippines after they hit two goals in second half stoppage time to turn a 1-0 deficit against Nepal to win 2-1.
Photo: AFC

Group G opened on 19th September, Jordan saw off Bangladesh 5-0 in Tashkent. Maysa Jbarah grabbed a hat-trick in 15 minutes in addition to goals from Shahnaz Jebreen and Bana Al Bitar completed the scoring. Three days later, Bangladesh suffered another 5-0 loss, this time to Iran. Behnaz Taherkhani hit two penalties in addition to goals from Melika Motevalli, Golnoosh Khosravi and Hajar Dabbaghi which sets up a qualifying decider between themselves and Jordan.

Group H saw its first action on 19th September in Al-Ram, Palestine with Thailand’s 4-0 win over Malaysia. Kanyanat Chetthabutr’s hat-trick and Nutwadee Pram-nak’s second minute effort sealed the three points. Three days later, Malaysia re-stored faint hopes of qualifying with a 2-0 win over Palestine. Andrea Lee and Steffi Sarge Kaur were on target.

All remaining games will take place before the end of November.

FRIENDLIES:

Brazil defeated Argentina 3-1 on 17th September. Debinha, Nycole Raysla and Angelina all scored before the hour mark. Bonsegundo got one back for Argentina in the last 20 minutes.

Chile and Uruguay played out a 2-2 draw on the same day.

Above: Louise Quinn celebrates after scoring the Republic of Ireland’s third goal which sealed one of their greatest ever wins when they beat Australia on Tuesday night. They did so without eight regular players. Photo: ESPN.

21st September saw four further games. First, the Republic of Ireland gained a deserved 3-2 win over Olympic semi-finalists Australia at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin. The Irish took the lead after just three minutes when a curling free-kick from Lucy Quinn hit the left hand post and rebounded off of Matildas goal keeper Mackenzie Arnold and rolled in. The lead lasted for just eight minutes when the impressive 18 year-old Mary Fowler hit a great low shot from outside the box into the net. However, Australia, without several first choice defenders and still sticking with three at the back succumbed to several errors at the back. With 24 minutes on the clock, O’Sullivan’s deflected shot put the Irish back ahead only for Fowler to hit her second in first half stoppage time. There was another defensive calamity for what turned out to be Ireland’s winner just after the break when Louise Quinn escaped her markers at a corner to score. Impetus’ Kieran Yap analyses the game here: The Case For More Game Time For ‘Old’ Young Matildas (wordpress.com)

USA gained another straightforward friendly victory when they demolished Paraguay 8-0. The game was over as a contest with just eight minutes played as the Americans built a 3-0 lead in that period thanks to strikes from Rose Lavelle, Sophia Smith and Alex Morgan. It was 5-0 on the sixteen minute mark as Morgan grabbed her second and Catarina Macario was on target. Morgan completed her hat-trick just after half-time with Macario scoring her second and Carli Lloyd completed the rout with 12 minutes to go.

On the same night, Mexico defeated Colombia 2-0 with goals from Maricarmen Reyes and Maria Sanchez.

Finally, Costa Rica saw off a late revival from Panama to earn a 3-2 win. Costa Rica built a 3-0 lead by the 66th minute thanks to Carolina Venegas, Lixy Rodriguez and Raquel Rodriguez. Strikes from Marta Cox and Katherine Castillo in the final few moments of the game produced a dramatic conclusion.

Above: Costa Rica’s Lixy Rodriguez (12), on target against Panama. Photo: Pintrest.

The Case For More Game Time For ‘Old’ Young Matildas

Above: Sam Kerr denied in Dublin on Tuesday night. Photo: Getty Images.

Kieran Yap analyses Australia’s 3-2 desperately disappointing 3-2 loss to the Republic of Ireland and shows how the Young Matildas class of 2019 are starting to make their mark in the senior side. He also argues that less game time in upcoming friendlies for Sam Kerr will be to everyone’s benefit in the future.

23/9/21

Australia’s 3-2 defeat to the Republic of Ireland contained some sadly familiar moments. Free kicks were given away in dangerous areas, set pieces were dealt with poorly, heart stopping defensive errors occurred and the stark difference between the team with and without Ellie Carpenter is starting to look worrying.

Tony Gustavsson was unable to hide his disappointment with the performance. Australia have lost by larger margins and have been beaten in more important games but this seemed to hurt more. It was the first game that the team had not improved in.

This does not mean there were no signs of a positive future.

Five players from the 2019 Young Matildas Asian Cup side were in the squad. Three of them started, Mary Fowler, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Courtney Nevin.

All three played important roles in the match. Nevin struggled for pace against a tireless and quick Ireland team but in possession she was comfortable. Her long pass from deep led directly to Australia’s first goal, it was Catley-like in its precision and vision.

For the past four years, Australia has lacked real depth at left back. Nevin has grown to become an option now. She will play much better games for The Matildas but her emergence and the first appearance of Angie Beard could put an end to players being used well out of position to fill that role.

Above: The looks on the faces of the Matildas say it all after Louise Quinn scores Ireland’s third goal amidst another disappointing defensive performance.
 Photo: ESPN.

It is on the right that solutions must be found. Clare Polkinghorne, Emma Checker and Charli Grant all were trialled, but against Katie McCabe it was always going to be difficult. Grant is the only one of the three who plays full back at club level and will surely get more opportunities.

In the midfield, Kyra Cooney-Cross played perhaps her best game at senior level for Australia. She looked enthusiastic in the pre-Olympic freindlies and comfortable in Tokyo but this was the first time she showed that she could play 90 minutes in midfield at international level.

She was composed in possession, unafraid of the physical contests and was always available to her teammates. She is a midfielder who can take possession under pressure and make the right decision. Her shot on goal whistled over the bar but the way she made space for herself was impressive.

Then there was Mary Fowler. Two years ago in Nepal, she was the star of that Young Matildas side.  She looks now to be evolving into a genuine star of the senior team.

Fowler’s two goals were the obvious highlights but her ability to twist and turn into space where none reallty exists is what sets her apart. Fowler is more than just technical ability or athleticism. She looks like a player who knows what she will do before she gets the ball.

Above: Mary Fowler (arms raised) had another hugely promising performance for Australia in Dublin. 
Photo: Irish Examiner.

Her last three goals for Australia have all appeared slightly fortuitous. The long range strike against Team GB took a deflection as did her second goal against Ireland. Her first strike of the night wiggled under the goalkeepers grasp.

Obviously these goals have an element of luck, but Fowler creates that good fortune. She hits the ball hard, on target and most importantly without hesitation. Defenders have little opportunity to block properly and goalkeepers have been caughty by surprise.

In the space of two years, Nevin, Grant, Cooney-Cross and Fowler have gone from an Under 19 Asian Cup to exchanging passes for The Matildas.

Even after a disappointing result, there is much to look forward to.

It’s Tara Time

Above: Time for Tara Andrews to get some more Matildas action? Photo: Newcastle Herald

Sam Kerr needs a rest. Her Olympic heroics and sensational Chelsea season was rewarded with a fortnight off and she has shown no signs of slowing down since her return. However, some extra time at home with her famous cat Helen in the next international window could do her and Australia a world of good long term. Even superheroes need a break.

If the next matches are to take place in NSW as planned, Newcastle Jets striker Tara Andrews should be considered at centre forward.

She is on the radar after appearing at the Talent ID camp earlier this year and was in excellent form in the last W-League.

More importantly, Andrews is a different type of striker. She is a powerful finisher but can also link up play and hold up the ball. She has the attributes and abilities to change a match.

When Australia is next struggling to break down a team as they did against Ireland, Andrews brings new tactical possibilities.

Tony Gustavsson loves a “game changer” why fly our weary strikers half way around the world when we have one at home already?

That Was Fun

Above: Sam Kerr celebrates her last gasp goal to take the Quarter-Final with Great Britain into Extra Time. Photo: Getty Images.

Kieran Yap reviews Australia’s record run at the Olympics and sees huge positives in not only the team’s fortunes and future prospects, but in the way they brought fans together and connected with them (8/8/21).

That was fun. The Matildas made it to a semi final and were only denied a bronze medal by some suspect added time and the width of the post.

There are things to analyze about the tournament, the team and the performances.

There are definitely areas that will need to be improved upon by the 2023 World Cup, but putting aside all of the “if-only’s” and “we should have’s” the Tokyo Olympics was a really good time to be a Matildas fan.

Not only was it the best tournament position reached by an Australian Women’s team it was watched by record numbers of viewers. More than one in 12 Australians watched them overcome Great Britain in an epic goal fest. Millions again tuned in to see Sam Kerr become the greatest goal scorer in Matildas history.

The family friendly time zones meant that people could watch together, unburned by a 2am alarm or the need to calculate how many hours sleep are needed to survive the next day at work.

Online communities formed, through official and community formed channels.

Football Australia organized Zoom watch parties and The Matildas Active support held a Twitter Space at half times and pre-game Facebook session.

The Far Post podcast doubled their output to provide information that in an IOC controlled world is nearly impossible to come across and millions of locked-down Australians were given something to look forward to.

The wider Australian public became suddenly familiar with players like Ellie Carpenter that the football fans have been raving about to blank faces for years.

Onto the scene burst Mary Fowler a young striker long proclaimed as the next big thing but due to her short W-League stay and playing in the hardly broadcast French league, she always seemed slightly overhyped despite little evidence to suggest either way.

Above: Mary Fowler was outstanding at the Olympics. Photo: Getty Images

How good could she possibly be to be worth all the discussion and urge to cap-tie her to Australia? The answer was provided with two touches against Team GB.

First that touch to control a dropping ball. A mix of instinct, special awareness and skill allowed her to control it and turn in one touch to face goal.

Then came the finish, it deflected off Lucy Bronze to fly into the net but, here was a young player given a chance to change the game and taking it in spectacular fashion on the big stage.

“How good could she possibly be?” that question is now asked with excitement not skepticism.

Then there was Sam. After a season of unrelenting pressure with Chelsea, the captain came into the Olympics with no goals in five games.

She insisted she was only focused on the Olympics, that fans needn’t worry, it was all a process that would come together.

Six goals in six games including a last minute equalizer in the quarter-final have put an end to any doubts about her form.

Are Australia too reliant on Kerr? Perhaps, but her job is to score goals, that is her role in the side, in the same way it is Catley’s to send in crosses or for Hayley Raso to literally roll up her sleeves and terrorize the left flank of the opposition.

Did Australia play well every game? Mostly, did they ever look overawed or nervous? Never.

The players laughed in the tunnels before games, joked after singing the anthem and posted social media videos of them screaming support of other Olympians.

Above: Togetherness was the key for the Matildas at the Olympic Games. Photo: Football Australia.

Tony Gustavsson, a new coach who has yet to set foot in Australia is measured and detailed when he talks to the media.

On match days he celebrated with the emotion of a lifelong fan, running high-fives and screaming into the sky after goals were scored.

They were having the time of their lives and millions of us were along for the ride.

In the end, the team fell short of a medal, they looked devastated but had done themselves and their country proud.

It did hurt to see how happy the Americans were at their medal presentation but that was fleeting and will be soon forgotten.

What will not be forgotten was that in these last few weeks The Matildas gave us reason to believe, a reason to call your friends in lockdown and just scream down the phone and reason to be excited for the future.

What a tournament, what a team, what a football community.

That was seriously fun.

Artwork: Football Australia

Canada Get It Spot On

Above: Canada’s players mob Julia Grosso after she scored the winning penalty in the sudden death shoot out. Photo: Reuters.

Sweden 1-1 Canada (6/8/21)

Canada win 3-2 on Sudden Death Penalties.

By Ben Gilby

Canada won their first ever major international women’s football competition with victory in an Olympic Gold medal match of quite staggering drama.

Sweden were the better team in the first half, but a half-time re-shuffle by the Canada’s head coach Bev Priestman changed the momentum until they finally clinched the win after an astonishing penalty shoot-out that went all the way to sudden death.

Both sides named unchanged starting line-ups from their semi-final wins and made just one change apiece on the bench. For Sweden, Anna Anvegård replaced Madelen Janogy with Jayde Riviere, who was suspended for the semi-final win over the USA, coming in for Gabrielle Carle.

Canada reached the final despite only registering nine shots on target in their five games leading into the Gold medal decider, but they did score five goals out of those nine efforts, which is a good return.

They also boasted, in Consett-born Bev Priestman, the first English person to coach an Olympic Games football finalist since George Raynor led Sweden’s men to Gold at the 1948 London Olympics with a 3-1 win against Yugoslavia at Wembley.

Canada fashioned the first opportunity with six minutes played as Nichelle Prince raced down the right to win a corner. Janine Beckie curled it in and Vanessa Gilles headed wide.

Sweden replied when the influential Sofia Jakobsson found Magda Eriksson who popped up on the left and fired a shot narrowly wide of the far post.

Fridolina Rolfö was well marshalled all night long by Allysha Chapman and it took her almost 20 minutes to show her dangerous ability when Stina Blackstenius played her in and she curled an effort which was held by Stephanie Labbé in the Canadian goal.

Labbé denied Sweden again just before the half hour mark when Rolfö’s cross was met by the head of Jakobsson but the Canadian keeper made a great one handed save.

Five minutes later, the Swedes went ahead when Quinn was caught in possession and the ball found its way to Kosovare Asllani who turned it across for Blackstenius to side foot home.

Above: Stina Blackstenius celebrates after putting Sweden ahead. Photo: Getty Images.

Once more at these Games, Sweden were able to score in the period in which they were in the ascendency. They were stretching the Canadian midfield and profiting wide, particularly on the right hand side. It remained 1-0 at the break.

At this point, Bev Priestman made two hugely important changes, with West Ham United’s Adriana Leon coming on for Manchester City’s Janine Beckie and Julia Grosso replacing Quinn.

Immediately Canada went on the offensive with Leon’s movement causing problems for the Scandinavians and linking up well with Prince. Grosso was solid and made Canada that bit tougher to break down.

Sweden weathered the initial storm, but just after the hour mark Canada were level. Rose’s cross was met by Christine Sinclair who got a touch before being fouled by Amanda Ilestedt just before the Swede made contact with the ball, and VAR ruled that it was a penalty.

Canada’s 23 year-old starlet Jessie Fleming stepped up, and just as she did in the semi-finals, smashed the ball home for 1-1.

Fleming came close to putting her country ahead when the Chelsea player hit an effort narrowly over the bar when she was found by Leon.

With fifteen minutes left, Peter Gerhardsson made a triple change which, once more changed the momentum of the game as the Swedes dominated the last ten minutes.

Rolfö hit an effort narrowly wide after a throw in was cut back to her and then Asllani combined with Lina Hurtig only to be denied by a sensational last ditch challenge from Desiree Scott.

Scott was working her magic at the back for Canada in this period, but it was Kadeisha Buchanan who made the most important block of all as she cleared Aslanni’s effort off of the line with just a minute of normal time remaining.

The final chance of the 90 minutes fell to Fleming who hit another long range effort over the bar.

Above: Penalty box aerial battles in the first half of the final. Photo: Getty Images.

Extra-time was anything but cagey as both sides created opportunities. Ashley Lawrence’s high, deep ball into the box caused chaos in the Swedish defence which eventually led to Grosso creating space for herself to shoot from the edge of the box, but Hedvig Lindahl gathered.

Nine minutes into the first period, Riviere lost possession and Hurtig broke through and found Blackstenius who shot wide of the right hand post.

Just before half time in extra time, Jonna Andersson, on as a sub came agonisingly close for Sweden as she unleashed a vicious drive from 25 yards which went narrowly over the bar.

Sweden had the upper hand in the final period of extra-time, but Canada’s well organised defence kept the Scandinavians at bay.

Lina Hurtig missed two golden opportunities with headers that went wide and there was a ten second pin ball effect across the area with Canada blocking shot after shot before making the final clearance. Not long afterwards the final whistle signalled that the Gold Medal would be decided by a penalty shoot-out.

Shoot outs are always dramatic, but there are shoot outs and then there was the shoot out to decide this match.

It see-sawed from the very start. Kosovare Asllani stepped up for Sweden and smashed her shot against the right hand post, with Jessie Fleming giving Canada the advantage by coolly dispatching her spot kick into the bottom left hand corner.

Above: Christine Sinclair (12) with Julie Grosso. Photo: Getty Images

Nathalie Björn got Sweden off the mark when her mid height effort went into the left hand side of the net. Then, up stepped Ashley Lawrence whose shot was the perfect height for Lindahl to save. 1-1.

Sub Olivia Schough put the Swedes ahead when her penalty found the left hand corner and this success was increased further when Vanessa Gilles’ effort hit the bar.

Anna Anvegård then missed for Sweden to give Canada momentary hope with her shot being the right height for Labbé to save, but Sweden remained ahead as Adriana Leon’s less than powerful shot was saved by Lindahl.

Then, up stepped Caroline Seger, who knew if she scored Sweden would take the Gold Medal. It seemed fitting for her to take what was potentially the winning kick, 16 years on from her national debut and having the status as Europe’s most capped player. Yet Seger’s effort went high over the bar and Canada were off the hook.

Deanne Rose knew she had to score to keep her country in the game and she succeeded by smashing her penalty into the top right corner.

So, we were into sudden death. First up was Jonna Andersson. The Chelsea defender hit a weak effort which Labbé easily held. For the first time in the shoot-out, the advantage was with Canada. Julia Grosso stepped up to seal the Gold Medal for the North Americans. What a rollercoaster ride.

Photo: Julia Grosso strikes the winning penalty in the sudden death shoot out. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images.

The outcome of this final may be scant reward for Sweden’s outstanding tournament in which they dismantled the USA and carved a path through every other team to this decider. Yet on the day, they met an exceptionally well coached Canadian side who got their tactics and changes absolutely on the money throughout.

Canada worked their socks off and showed great skill to take the Gold Medal. There are enough talented youngsters in this team to suggest that the USA are not going to be the only North American country competing at the sharp end of major international tournaments in the coming years.

Teams: SWEDEN: Lindahl, Glas, Ilestedt, Björn, Eriksson, Angeldahl, Aslanni, Seger, Jakobsson, Blackstenius, Rolfö. Subs: Andersson (for Eriksson 75), Kullberg (for Ilestedt 120), Bennison (for Angeldahl 75), Anvegård (for Rolfö 105), Hurtig (for Jakobsson 75), Falk, Schough (for Blackstenius 105).

Scorers: Blackstenius 34.

Penalty Shoot-Out: Asllani (missed), Björn (scored), Schough (scored), Anvegård (missed), Seger (missed), Andersson (missed).

CANADA: Labbé, Chapman, Buchanan, Lawrence, Gilles, Quinn, Scott, Sinclair, Fleming, Prince, Beckie. Substitutes: Zadorsky (for Scott 120+1), Rose (for Prince 63), Grosso (for Quinn 46), Leon (for Beckie 46), Sheridan, Huitema (for Sinclair 86), Riviere (for Chapman 93).

Scorers: Fleming (pen) 67.

Penalty Shoot-Out: Fleming (scored), Lawrence (missed), Gilles (missed), Leon (missed), Rose (scored), Grosso (scored).

Referee: Anastasia Pustovoitova (Russia)

Photo: Shelina Zadorsky (4) consoles heartbrokes Swedish players after the sudden death penalty shoot out. Photo: Edgar Su/Reuters.

Sinclair Verses Seger: A Battle of Legends

Above: Canada celebrate their semi-final win over the USA. Will they be celebrating again tomorrow? Photo: Getty Images

Catherine Paquette previews tomorrow’s Olympic Games Gold Medal match between Sweden and Canada by examining it through the lens of each nation’s most experienced players before looking at each side’s biggest threats and summarising what they need to do in order to win (5/8/21).

The Olympics women’s football tournament has only ever had three different champions.  The US have won four golds in 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012, Norway won one in 2000 and Germany won the latest one in 2016.  

This upcoming gold medal match will crown a new Olympic champion in either Canada or Sweden.  Both are previous medallists, albeit of another colour.  Canada are playing for their third consecutive medal, having won back-to-back bronzes in the previous two Olympics.  This is the second gold medal match in a row for the Swedes, having taken silver in Rio.  

Moreover, when the new Olympic champion is crowned on Friday in Tokyo, it will also mean that one of two football legends will finally have won a major tournament. 

Sweden’s captain Caroline Seger first played for her nation in 2005.  She has since made 220 appearances for her national team and become the most capped European player of all time, man or woman. The 36-year-old has participated in every World Cup and Olympics since first making her debut, and finished a high of third and second respectively in both competitions.  

Above: Canada’s Christine Sinclair (12) and Sweden’s Caroline Seger (15) battle against each other at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Photo: Graham Stuart/AFP/Getty Images.

Canada’s captain Christine Sinclair made her senior debut aged 16 in 2000.  The 38-year-old has been a mainstay of the Canadian squad for 21 years and has amassed 303 caps.  At 187 goals, she is the highest international goal scorer ever, man or woman.  The highest she has ever finished at the World Cup or Olympics is fourth and third respectively.  

Despite their ages, neither player has ended up on the fringes of their national team.  Seger was integral to the semi-final win against Australia. Sinclair scored the first goal of the tournament for Canada.  On top of their individual performances, it is their leadership skills that both nations will turn to this Friday when trying to finally obtain gold. 

Sweden will enter the match as favourites to win.  The team impressed in the group stage, winning every match in the “group of death”.  They did this through solid defending, good tactical play and brilliantly creative offence.   

Their smart tactical play is arguably what originally caught the attention of most viewers.  Sweden’s first game against the United States was won 3-0, in what was the Americans’ worst defeat in 14 years.   The Swedes were able to hit the US defence with numbers and speed and find a lot of space to finish attacks.  Their possessive play and pressure left the Americans looking disjointed and with few ideas of what to do with or without the ball.  On the other side of the pitch, the Swedish defence was good at cutting down attacks and minimizing American chances. 

Above: Sofia Jakobsson has been hugely influential for Sweden during the Olympics. Photo: Getty Images.

It is these three strengths that Sweden kept displaying throughout the tournament.  While they had no blow out games, they were consistent in their tactics, smart and lethal in their offence and solid in their defence.  They enter this gold medal match with 13 goals scored in the tournament, from seven different players, and only 3 goals conceded.

That is tied with Canada for the least amount of goals conceded for any of the semi-final teams. By far the Canadian strength this tournament has been their defence.  The ability of Canada to minimize chances on goal has been what has brought them to this final match.  

Offensively though, Canada has struggled.  They are able to clear the ball with smart clean defensive plays and then to progress forward in what can be very dangerous and effective transitions.  However when they get to the final third, especially the ability to penetrate the box, they have continuously struggled. In total they have nine accurate shots on goal this whole tournament. That is four shots less than the total amount of goals that Sweden have scored.  

The upcoming match can therefore be expected to be a competition between the Canadian defensive capabilities versus Sweden’s offensive powers.  Canada have lined up in a 4-3-1-2, with a diamond midfield, for nearly the entirety of the tournament.  One would expect that they keep this shape for the final game.  

Above: Vanessa Gilles – a big shift needed again. Photo: Daniela Porcelli.

The central pairing of Vanessa Gilles and Kadeisha Buchanan will have to continue to be as effective at working together and at providing smart clean defensive decisions alongside fullbacks Ashley Lawrence and Allysha Chapman.  The same goes for defensive midfielder Desiree Scott, who has been brilliant for Canada for years now in the number six position.  When the ball is cleared, it will be essential that the transition does not give it up, and properly builds into the Swedish half.  Alongside Scott, the two outside parts of the diamond midfield are Jessie Fleming and Quinn with Sinclair up top.  They are capable of quick transitions or slower build-ups to the forward pairing of Janine Beckie and Nichelle Prince.

Canada will most likely face a Swedish team that play in a 4-2-3-1 formation.  With their two double pivot sixes of Seger and Filippa Angeldal in front of centre-backs Nathalie Bjorn and Amanda Ilestedt, Sweden have proven dangerous in the transition and able to pass the ball through opposition lines to their attacking force. The midfield attacking trio of Fridolina Rolfö, Kosovare Asllani and Sofia Jakobsson have been deadly in their creative offensive play, capable of creating space to penetrate behind defences, and also in their individual ability to score.  Whether they are paired up with Stina Blackstenius or Lina Hurting as the lone striker position has not mattered much as both have been effective in converting chances to goals. 

Canada will have to properly track the Swedish attackers who can be fluid and interchangeable in their positions.  Both teams have shown they can mount attacks through the centre of midfield and off on their flanks.  The Canadian diamond midfield has made it difficult for teams to penetrate through the middle, especially due to Canada’s constant direct pressure on any player trying to progress centrally.  During Swedish attacks on the sides, the Canadian defence will have to ensure they do not allow themselves to be pulled too wide by the Swedish midfield trio, leaving space for the other opponents to penetrate the final line.  

Sweden will likewise have to watch out for this, especially on the Canadian right hand side with fullback Lawrence proving not only to be Canada’s best player this tournament, but a fullback that can venture deep into the opposition’s side and provide accurate service.  Canada’s attack tends to be direct.  However, if Lawrence can better create with Fleming and Beckie, as has been seen at times in this tournament but not consistently, this could be the best and most creative avenue of attack for Canada’s offence. 

Above: Fridolina Rolfö, who has had an outstanding Olympics. Photo: Getty Images.

Compressing the Canadian transition, as other teams have done, will restrict their ability in the final third and make it easier for Sweden to defend.  Being bolder in the box and completing the chances they get will be imperative for the Canadians in order to get gold, especially when facing a Swedish back line which has proved especially competent at aerial battles.

Whatever defensive shape, offensive capabilities, or final score on Friday though, it should be an exciting match.  While finals do tend to be more conservative, the Swedes will have the memory of the 2016 loss at the back of their mind while the Canadians will be fighting in their first gold medal match.  It should turn out to be an exciting game.

For fans of Christine Sinclair and Caroline Seger, there will be tears at the end.  Whether those are tears of joy or tears of pain will be dependent on whom you support.

Olympic Games Women’s Football Gold Medal Match: Kick-Off moved to 1:00pm BST/2:00pm CET/8am ET/9pm Local Time. In the UK, the game will be shown live on Eurosport Player. Check local listings for overseas viewers.

Ruthless USWNT Hold Off Never Say Die Matildas

Above: America’s goal scorers Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe celebrate. Photo: Getty Images

Australia 3-4 United States of America (5/8/21)

By Ben Gilby

The USA claimed the Bronze Medal with a stereotypical merciless punishment of Australian errors in a hugely entertaining game in Kashima.

This was the most USWNT like performance of the competition by Vlatko Andonovski’s team, but they were still seriously tested by a Matildas side who showed their trademark ‘Never Say Die’ spirit to come from 4-1 down to trail by a single goal going into stoppage time.

Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson named a starting line-up showing just one change from the semi-final loss to Sweden, reflecting Ellie Carpenter’s suspension after receiving a late red card. Clare Polkinghorne came in to start, with her own place on the bench from the semi-final taken by 19 year-old Western Sydney Wanderers defender Courtney Nevin.

For the US, Megan Rapinoe was recalled to the starting line-up against fellow American women’s football icon Carli Lloyd, and the consequences of that decision were clear for all to see as the game progressed.

The Matildas began on the front foot, and in the first minute, Kyah Simon found Emily Van Egmond who lifted a shot just over the bar.

Tameka Yallop continued from where she left off against Sweden with a hugely influential opening to the game.

America fashioned their opening opportunity when former Manchester United player Christen Press hit an effort which Teagan Micah did well to save.

Above: Megan Rapinoe pictured after putting the USA ahead straight from a corner kick. Photo: Getty Images

Just seconds later though, Micah was beaten. Megan Rapinoe stood over the ball for a corner on the left hand side and viciously curled it straight into the far right hand corner of the net. Australia were punished for not putting a defender on the back post.

There will be some who will claim that Lloyd may have slightly obstructed Micah as the ball came in, but regardless it was a phenomenal effort by a great player.

The USA consolidated their lead by continuing to press. The Matildas were missing the outlet provided by Carpenter’s pace on the right but also her presence defensively.

Yet, regardless, Australia were level within nine minutes of Rapinoe’s strike. Caitlin Foord came through the centre and played an intelligent ball outside to Sam Kerr who hit a first time shot across US keeper Adrianna Franch and into the far corner of the net.

In the process Kerr became The Matildas all-time leading goal scorer, overtaking Lisa De Vanna with 47 goals in 97 games. The Chelsea star is now only three goals from drawing level with Tim Cahill in the all-time Australian National Team goal scoring record chart.

Two minutes later the pair combined again with Kerr’s header saved by Franch.

The USWNT took advantage of this let off and went on to punish Australia for another defensive miscue. Alanna Kennedy could only slice her clearance of Press’ ball into the box into the path of Rapinoe who hit a spectacular first time volley into the net to restore America’s lead.

Above: Sam Kerr is denied by Adrianna Franch in the air. Photo: Getty Images

Australia rallied around the half-hour mark winning corners as a result of the hard work of Foord, Catley and Yallop, but they couldn’t quite manufacture an equaliser.

Ahead of the break, Micah was called into action once more as Yallop lost possession to Press. She in turn found Lloyd but the Australian keeper was equal to it.

There was an anxious moment three minutes before half-time when VAR was called in to check on a potential penalty for the USWNT. Kennedy swung at the ball and looked to make contact with Rapinoe marginally before the ball, but claims of a spot kick were swept away.

Yet, the USA still went into the break ahead after taking advantage of another miscue at the back by The Matildas. Simon lost possession and the ball came through to Lloyd who shot across Miach to put her country 3-1 ahead at the break.

Six minutes into the second period it was 4-1 and, again it was the result of disappointing defending. A long ball was played through and Kennedy, standing around 25 yards from goal headed back towards Micah, but failed to put enough power on the ball which allowed Lloyd to step in and pounce to score her second of the game.

Australian spirit was in evidence as they reduced the deficit to two goals just three minutes later as Simon’s ball over to Foord was nodded across Franch and in for 4-2.

Shortly afterwards things almost got even better for The Matildas when Simon found Raso on the right. The Everton star’s cross was met by the head of Kerr, but the ball agonisingly rebounded back off of the left hand post, rolled behind Franch and deflected off of the US keeper’s boot for a corner.

Above: Two goal Carli Lloyd celebrating after putting the USA clear on the scoreboard. Photo: Getty Images

Press had two opportunities to end the game as a contest but on both occasions shot for goal when the better option was to lay off a pass to team mates who were in space.

Tony Gustavsson shuffled his pack, bringing on four substitutes in two spells with 17 minutes to go. It was the usual introduction of Mary Fowler, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Emily Gielnik plus the additional Olympics debut for Nevin. Two nineteen year-olds and an eighteen year-old emphasising just how bright the future is for The Matildas.

The substitutions necessitated a reshuffled formation for Australia with Nevin going in a centre-back, Yallop at right back and Catley on the left as Fowler would go to partner Kerr up front.

Once more the changes spurred a recovery for the Matildas. With a quarter of an hour left, Catley found Kerr who was expertly held off by Tierna Davidson at the expense of a corner. Once more Catley curled the set piece in and Kerr’s header was well saved by Franch who was under pressure from Van Egmond.

Fowler showed her immense skill with a wonderful turn and then inch perfect ball down the right for Gielnik.

Into the last ten minutes, Australia continued to push for a goal. Tobin Heath fouled Cooney-Cross on the left, just inside the American half. Catley’s high free kick was flicked on by Kerr and Yallop followed up with an effort off of the outside of her boot which was saved.

With 87 minutes on the clock, USA’s Rose Lavelle pulled a low ball across the box which her fellow sub Alex Morgan couldn’t quite reach.

Above: It was another impressive game for Steph Catley. Photo: Getty Images

Laura Brock was then introduced for her final Matildas appearance in place of Yallop.

As the game moved into stoppage time, Australia’s inability to know when they were beaten showed once more. The Americans lost possession and Foord released Gielnik who galloped through the midfield and unleashed a power driver from outside of the box which flew into the far corner to reduce the deficit at 4-3.

Into the sixth minute of stoppage time, Kennedy won a throw. Cooney-Cross’ ball in was punched by Franch for Fowler who went in for a shot which deflected off of Emily Sonnett. Rather than award a corner or a free kick for what appeared to be a foul on Catley by Kelley O’Hara in the build-up, referee Laura Fortunato blew the final whistle.

Whilst the USWNT will go home with the bronze medal despite only winning two of their six games in the Olympics (the success over the Netherlands in the Quarter-Finals came via penalties after a 2-2 score line after extra time), conversely Australia will leave the Games medal less but with huge pride.

They are at the beginning of a very exciting journey ahead of next year’s AFC Asian Women’s Cup, 2023’s World Cup (on home soil) and the following year’s Paris Olympics. This Matildas team are only going to get better.

Above: Emily Gielnik celebrates her late goal for The Matildas with Laura Brock, who played her final international for Australia. Photo: Getty Images.

Teams: AUSTRALIA: Micah, Polkinghorne, Kennedy, Catley, Raso, Van Egmond, Logarzo, Yallop, Simon, Kerr, Foord. Subs: Williams (GK), Cooney-Cross (for Logarzo 67), Luik, Fowler (for Simon 67), Gielnik (for Polkinghorne 73), Nevin (for Raso 67), Brock (for Yallop 87).

Scorers: Kerr 17, Foord 54, Gielnik 90

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Franch, Dunn, Davidson, Sauerbrunn, O’Hara, Horan, Ertz, S. Mewis, Rapinoe, Lloyd, Press. Subs: K. Mewis, Heath (for Rapinoe 61), Morgan (for Lloyd 81), Sonnett (for Press 85), Lavelle (for S. Mewis 61), Dahlkamper, Campbell.

Scorers: Rapinoe 8, 21. Lloyd 45+1, 51.

USWNT and the X-Factor

Above: The reaction to the loss to Canada in the Olympic Semi-Final. Photo: Getty Images.

The United States’ showing at this Olympic Games has been one of the hot discussion points, but Kris Goman has picked up on something else. A fractured fanbase leading to online hate directed at the team due to misconceptions over the way the players faced during the National Anthem and over the Black Lives Matter Movement could well be having an impact too (4/8/21).

USWNT. Number one team in the world. Performing dismally at the Olympics. No one has ever backed up from a World Cup to take Olympic Gold, but something else is going on here. Out of five games they’ve had one clear win. Two losses and two draws, one of which they went on to win on penalty kicks. And this is coming off a 43 match unbeaten streak.

It’s mostly the same players from the World Cup, certainly the ones that are starting anyway. Julie Foudy, in her daily instagram videos, says the team lacks joy, has no chemistry or cohesion. Fans are screaming for Vlatko’s head.

Fans. The twelfth man. Let’s look at that. This team thrives on the support from their fans. Anyone who went to the World Cup knows what a difference it made. They were there in their tens of thousands being very vocal and some would say obnoxious. But the support was tangible and electric and the team was idolised. This support was their X-Factor.

Above: Some of the social media messages. Photo: Kris Goman via Twitter

X-Factor is defined as a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome. Times have changed.Covid-19 has meant no fans so all teams are playing to virtually empty stadiums. FAWSL players are used to this. NWSL players, a little less so with limited fans allowed to most matches this season. So that’s one factor.

But there’s something bigger at play here. The USWNT are no longer the darlings of the USA. There’s been a massive change in support since the BLM movement started. It’s arguable that the USWNT have taken the biggest hit here in terms of teams publicly supporting BLM.

Megan Rapinoe was kneeling during the anthem way back in 2016 in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick to protest racial injustice. It ruffled a few feathers but was nothing compared to the commotion caused by Rapinoe saying she wasn’t going to the White House, prior to the World Cup. This got Trump supporters offside and it got international coverage. However, the vitriol was only directed at Rapinoe, despite Ali Krieger and Alex Morgan also saying they wouldn’t go to the White House. They went on to win the World Cup and the team was a popular as ever. Possibly more so as the success garnered them a new large international fan base.

Things chugged along quietly with only Rapinoe getting the hate, driven by Trump supporters mostly but tinged with homophobia. But it was mostly background and Rapinoe seemed well equipped to deal with it. The pandemic started, sport stopped, people had time on their hands.

Then George Floyd was murdered in May and the police violence protests kicked off under the BLM banner. The NWSL 2020 Challenge Cup started in late June and players started kneeling during the national anthem to support the BLM movement and protest police violence. And then things got interesting.

Some players kneeled. Some didn’t. Some teams kneeled. Some players kneeled once or twice and then stopped. Some didn’t sing. Some didn’t put their hands on their hearts. Every anthem was scrutinised to see who was doing what. Fan reaction was immediate and very divided.

Above: A divided fanbase. Photo: Kris Goman via Twitter.

Some saw it as anti American. Some saw the ones standing as patriots. Some said it was disrespectful to the military and veterans. Some saw the ones kneeling as virtue signalling, others saw them as heroes and social justice warriors. Attention was very much on USWNT members. The fan base was splitting and people were saying they’d never support the team again and would no longer watch. They did however stick around on social media to mention this at every opportunity.

As the year ended and friendlies were arranged and the USWNT got back into camps, it was clearly a hot topic of conversation. Becky Sauerbrunn is quoted as saying, “I think, as a team, it was the first time we’ve talked about racial injustice and attempted to have some open conversation about it. And I think our team struggled, we really struggled with it.”

Rapinoe has said, “I mean, I don’t need to spell it out. I think you all know what the conflicts are. But then, it’s like, we have a job to do. And we have to be able to coexist and have hard conversations, and maybe those conversations don’t go great and then you’ve got to go practice and show up for that person.”

Clearly this wasn’t a united team. The team was still able to go out and win, however the tides were turning on social media. Fans were split and leaving in droves. One could argue they weren’t the core fans but they certainly were vocal.

What really tipped the balance was the send off match against Mexico in early July 21. 98 Year old veteran, Pete DuPré, a long time fan, played the national anthem on a harmonica. During this, half of the team turned to face the flag. Half remained facing forward.

Above: A Tweet showing the different directions players faced during the national anthem ahead of the friendly with Mexico. Photo: Kris Goman via Twiiter

The right wing social media ecosystem swung into gear claiming they turned their back on the veteran during the anthem. Both Trump and a former acting director of national intelligence jumped on the bandwagon adding weight to the fake news. What’s clear is that those spreading this fake news had no idea what they were talking about as the players supposedly disrespecting the veteran are the very ones that hadn’t kneeled. But the damage was done and the twitterverse exploded. So much so, US Soccer Comms actually stepped in to try to clear up the misunderstanding. Photos of the flags at the end of the field were tweeted as well as videos of the players signing a ball for DuPré after the match. Unfortunately, Trump followers aren’t known for getting their facts straight and the USWNT became public enemy number one, immediately before the Olympics.

Above: The real reason the players were facing different directions for the national anthem. Photo: Kris Goman via Twitter.

Social media can be a horrible place and any post on any platform by the USWNT social media was met with hate. Every match the “fans” wanted the opposition to win and “Hope they lose” was some of the kinder responses. At times, these sorts of posts were about 80% of the replies. From so called patriots. The hypocrisy was breathtaking.

This had to take a toll on the team. There’s absolutely no doubt that it has affected their mental health and the cohesion of the team but it hasn’t really been mentioned. It’s quite likely the team has tried to stay off social media but they all would have seen it prior to the tournament starting. It was impossible to ignore.

Above: The fall out over misconceptions caused by the direction the USWNT players faced during the national anthem begins. Photo: Kris Goman via Twitter.

Claire Watkins has written an article for Just Women’s Sports yesterday entitled, “What went wrong for the USWNT at the Tokyo Olympics”. She lists many reasons and it’s worth reading but only touches on “divisions within the team about issues of social justice” and she later tweets that three players said the final camp in Houston “kinda sucked” and was “Very tense, very hot, very tiring”.

I think they’ve lost their X-Factor. The Matildas have found theirs and the Bronze medal is theirs for the taking.

Above: Social media tonight showing backing for Australia by people claiming to previously having been supporters of the USWNT – simply because of how they perceive the American team to be conducting themselves. Photo: Kris Goman via Twitter.

7,449 Days…

Above: Jessie Fleming celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot. Photo: Getty Images

United States of America 0-1 Canada (3/8/21)

By Catherine Paquette

7,449 days.  Let me repeat, 7,449 days: more than 20 years. That is how long it had been since Canada had beaten the United States in women’s football. The last time they came close was nine years ago during the 2012 London Olympic semi-final match, a game that remains burned into Canadian memories for a controversial refereeing call which led to an American equalizer and ultimate win.  It should therefore come as no surprise that the Canadian women’s national team was underestimated entering this 2020 Tokyo Olympics semi-final, once again against its southern neighbours.

However, predicting the outcome of this match was not straightforward.  The United States team had a talent packed squad which had underperformed from the start of the tournament.  The assumption that they could finally find their well known American fighting spirit was not an outlandish one.  Canada for their part had produced solid defensive performances which resulted in only three goals conceded in the whole Olympic tournament. But the team has been blighted by issues in the final third.  Entering the match they had had seven shots on goal in their previous four matches, not a reassuring statistic.

If either team showed up, they could run away with the game.  If both teams continued with their tournament performance trends, then it would be a close one.  The latter of these occurred in the semi-final.  

Bev Priestman, the Canada women’s national team coach, chose the same starting eleven she had used for the quarter-final against Brazil.  The line-up used the usual 4-3-1-2 formation.  USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski made several changes from the previous Netherlands game.  Tierna Davidson got the start over Abby Dahlkemper in central defence, Rose Lavelle started instead of Sam Mewis in midfield and Alex Morgan replaced Carli Lloyd in the forward middle striker position.  The Americans went with a 4-3-3 formation.

This game was 90 minutes of relatively lacklustre offence from both teams.  While a penalty kick was the reason for the Canadians getting ahead, the true story of how Canada won this match is once again found in their defensive play.  

Canada’s back line continued to perform admirably and proved difficult to penetrate for the US. While the American Olympic campaign had been blighted by offside calls ranging from four versus Sweden to a high of seven versus New Zealand, with an average of 5.75 per match, the Canadians’ defensive actions cut down the ability of the Americans to play through balls and resulted in just one American offside for the entire game.  When danger did approach, Canada was able to deter it with clean smart defending. 

Two individuals in the Canadian back line really stood out.  Vanessa Gilles had an incredible game making 19 clearances during the match.  This represents 45% of all clearances by the Canadian team and six more than then entire USWNT.  Ashley Lawrence for her part continued to be Canada’s best performer this tournament.  She entered the USA match as the Olympic women’s football player with the most touches on the ball.  During this game she proved difficult to outmanoeuvre in defence and dangerous in her offensive moves.  

The first half progressed exactly as one could have predicted based on previous play by both teams.  They were evenly matched in possession, but unable to produce any viable chances on goal.  The Americans found the Canadian defence was extremely difficult to break down.  However, going forward Canada also encountered their own difficulties with their continued ineffectiveness in the final third.  

The Americans lacked fluidity in their play, were often sloppy in their passing and without ideas trying to enter Canada’s box.  The Canadians looked dangerous in transition but could not translate this into positive attacks, something that is turning into a long term problem.  Neither team was consistent, the Americans looking particularly disjointed.

The second half started with a more offensive USWNT than prior to this point in the match.  This did not change the first half’s general trends though.  An hour into the match and neither team had registered a shot on goal.  At this point both teams made several substitutions.  It was the introduction of Lloyd, Rapinoe and Press replacing Morgan, Heath and Williams for the US that really changed the game.  The USWNT immediately started looking more offensive and idea filled.  In the minutes after the trio came on, Canada suddenly faced a series of dangerous shots on its goal.  

Above: Jessie Fleming leads the Canadian celebrations after scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot with (left to right) Christine Sinclair, Vanessa Gilles and Janine Beckie in pursuit. Photo: Getty Images via @Sincy12

Canada did respond with some offensive action of their own.  After nearly ten minutes of continued American pressure, they were able to exit their own half and try to penetrate the USA’s final third.  Then, while both were trying to go for the ball, Davidson fouled Canadian forward Deanne Rose in the box.  After a VAR review the referee awarded a penalty to Canada.  

Not wanting to take a penalty kick against her Portland teammate Adriana Franch who had replaced an injured starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher in the 30th minute, Canadian captain Christine Sinclair gave the ball to 23-year old Jessie Fleming.  She produced a perfectly taken penalty shot into the corner that put the Canadians up 1-0.

The final twenty minutes of the match saw the Americans trying to attack Canada’s goal.  Their attacks continued to be uncertain around the 18 yard box and were increasingly desperate.  After 90 minutes of play the final whistle went which gave Canada a memorable win and a progression to the gold medal match.

Emotions were heavy after the game.  Speaking afterwards, Megan Rapinoe stated how difficult the loss was “… it’s a bitter one to swallow. Obviously we never want to lose to Canada. I don’t think I’ve ever lost to Canada.”  

However, she did try to put things in perspective: “So it’s a bitter one. Obviously there’s still a lot to compete for. That’s what I told the girls and what we talked about in the huddle. It’s not the colour we want, but there’s still a medal on the line. That’s a huge thing and we want to win that game, but yeah, this is … this sucks. It sucks.”

Above: The USA’s Gold medal hopes end in despair. Photo: Getty Images.

For the Canadians though it was a long awaited win, one that was redemptive for the 2012 London Olympic semi-final result.  Sinclair stated “Our goal heading here was to change the colour of the medal after back-to-back bronzes. What a fight.  I’m just so proud of our team.  One more to go!”

Match winner Fleming spoke about the impact the win could have back home: “Sport changed my life.  It teaches you so much… I know watching 2012 stuck with me and I hope we can have that same effect for young girls.” This game will influence young girls in Canada, just as the Matildas are influencing young girls in Australia and Sweden are influencing young girls back home.  

Moreover, this tournament, culminating in this semi-final performance has confirmed several things.  The first is that US women’s national team’s dominance is no longer assured.  The second is that the world has caught up to the usual perennial finalists.  Arguably this is a good thing.  

Having a greater number of competitive nations who are capable of winning against anyone expands the game’s reach and its parity.  It makes it more universal, and for women, more sustainable.  No one team, no one nation, should dominate the game eternally, in any sport.  It just isn’t healthy competition.  

The best thing for all women and all fans going forward is that this recent increased competition and uncertainty continues.  This means more investment, more chances and more skill continue to permeate throughout women’s football. It will lead to a brighter and more exciting future for all girls, women and fans who participate.

For now though, we will have a new Olympic winner. It will be crowned on Friday in either a defensively gifted Canada or an offensively brilliant Sweden.

Teams: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Naeher, Dunn, Sauerbrunn, O’Hara, Davidson, Ertz, Horan, Lavelle, Heath, Morgan, Williams. Substitutes: S. Mewis, Lloyd, Press, Sonnett, Rapinoe, Franch, Short.

CANADA: Labbé, Chapman, Buchanan, Lawrence, Gilles, Quinn, Scott, Sinclair, Fleming, Prince, Beckie. Substitutes: Zadorsky, Rose, Grosso, Leon, Sheridan, Huitema, Carle.

Scorer: Fleming (pen) 75.

Referee: Laura Fortunato (ARG).

Rolfö Earns Sweden Deserved Final Place

Above: Fridolina Rolfö (18) jumps for joy after scoring the winning goal for Sweden. Photo: Getty Images

Australia 0-1 Sweden (2/8/21)

By Ben Gilby

Sweden gained the place in the Olympic Final that they have so richly deserved for their performances across the Games with a 1-0 semi-final win over Australia in Yokohama.

Whilst the Matildas created plenty of chances, it was the supremely well-organised Swedes who were able to convert an opportunity just after the break to progress to the Gold Medal match against Canada on Friday. The influential Fridolina Rolfö was on target after Australian keeper Teagan Micah pushed a ball onto the bar which rebounded awkwardly for the Barcelona star to hook home.

The pick of the bunch for the Matildas was Tameka Yallop, who is consistently performing at the highest level under new head coach Tony Gustavsson. Not only was West Ham United’s new signing proving to be a menace from an attacking perspective and providing probing ball into the box, she was also getting back to put in a great defensive shift.

Sweden went into the game on an 11 game unbeaten run and had a record of scoring at least two goals in each game at these Olympics. Australia had only managed 18 shots on target in their four games in reaching this stage but scored 8 times from these efforts.

There were two landmark stats for The Matildas before kick-off as Kyah Simon became the first Indigenous Australian female to win a hundred caps for her country and Ellie Carpenter, at the age of just 21 earned her 50th cap – the second-youngest player in Australian women’s football history to do so.

The Scandinavians had plenty of early possession but once they settled, the Matildas resumed their careful, patient passing build-up that served them so well against Great Britain in the Quarter-Finals.

It was noticeable in the opening ten minutes that Carpenter was pushing forward from right-back with far more regularity than she did in her side’s previous match.

With 23 minutes gone, Sweden almost took the lead when Rolfö unleashed an absolute rocket from outside the box which came cannoning back off of the top of the crossbar.

This was a bright light in what was becoming an increasingly cagey affair. A player from either side required lengthy treatment in this spell with Matildas’ Hayley Raso going down on her hand and looking like potentially injuring several fingers and Amanda Ilestedt landing awkwardly after a challenge with Sam Kerr.

The longer the half wore on, the more the Australians grew. Extremely well organized at the back once more, they just needed to find that killer final ball to create a real chance at the other end.

Above: Alanna Kennedy fires in her free-kick. Photo: EPA.

With six minutes of the opening period remaining, Simon was fouled outside of the box, left of centre by Nathalie Björn. Alanna Kennedy stepped up and curled a free-kick towards goal which Hedvig Lindahl pushed over.

Three minutes later, The Matildas looked to have made the breakthrough when Catley curled another magnificent ball in which was met by Kerr with a superb first time volley, but referee Melissa Borjas blew her whistle. After the game it was revealed that two Australian players were adjudged to have blocked Swedish defenders further across the box from where Kerr made contact.

Above: Sam Kerr volleys home, only for referee Melissa Borjas to rule her strike out. Photo: Getty Images

Spurred on, Australia threatened again and Caitlin Foord started a move which later involved Simon, Raso, and Emily van Egmond who played in Yallop to cross for Kerr to flick a header narrowly wide of the right-hand post.

Crucially, Sweden had survived an intense period of pressure unscathed. Half-time came at a good time for them to re-set.

And so it was that less than two minutes after the re-start, the Swedes found the net. Filippa Angeldahl’s shot deflected high into the air off of Chloe Logarzo with a large amount of spin put onto the ball which Micah did well to push onto the bar. As the ball came down, still with spin-on, it bounced high and Rolfö did well to lift it into the far corner of the net.

Australia responded well initially as a wonderful cross-field ball found Raso. The Everton midfielder played in for Carpenter. Her cross went towards Kerr in the centre, but Lindahl claimed.

Another cross-field ball created danger shortly afterward. This time towards Simon who found Yallop via Foord wide on the left. Lindahl saved again.

Yallop was having an outstanding performance popping up all over the park and putting in a superb shift wherever she was.

After this initial flurry, it appeared as though a degree of fatigue was settling in over Australia – not surprising given the short turnaround between games, extra time in the Quarter-Finals, and the high humidity levels.

Sweden were now on top with 65% of possession and clearly, it was time for Tony Gustavsson to make some changes to inject some more pace into the team.

Above: Mary Fowler put in another impressive performance for Australia. Photo: Getty Images.

On came teenagers Kyra Cooney-Cross (for Logarzo) and Mary Fowler (for Simon) and the wise head of Clare Polkinghorne (for Yallop).

Suddenly there was more energy in the Matildas ranks with Fowler a menace from the off. She had her first chance within four minutes of coming on when she was found by Raso and got an instant shot away.

Sweden still threatened though and Angeldahl took possession from Cooney-Cross and fed Rolfö but Carpenter tidied up at the back magnificently.

Catley created the Matildas next chance when she held off Sofia Jakobsson well and got a shot away which Lindahl pushed away for a corner.

Shortly afterwards it was another Australian corner when Hana Glas was forced to put the ball behind. Catley bent in another great set-piece but Kerr could only head over.

Fowler was offering herself all across the front line and becoming a thorn in Swedish sides, but the final ball was never quite on point.

With seven minutes to go, the Cairns-born teenager was brought down by Caroline Seger around 25 yards from goal in a central position, but the resulting free-kick was well over.

Four minutes later, Cooney-Cross played a dangerous high angled ball into the box towards Kerr who couldn’t quite reach it. Substitute Emily Gielnik raced in to follow up, but the Swedes tidied up.

Into stoppage time, Sweden looked increasingly assured of the win and had several chances to increase their lead.

First, Stina Blackstenius was ruled offside when she pulled a ball across for Kosovare Asllani to tap home. Rolfö was involved shortly afterwards when she managed to put in a cross despite at one point looking to have pushed the ball too far ahead of herself but, under pressure from sub Laura Brock, Blackstenius put her chance wide.

Right at the death, Lina Hurtig broke clean through and was in on goal with Carpenter chasing back. The Lyon defender pulled the Swede back and received a red card.

Shortly afterwards, the final whistle went, and with it, Australia’s hopes of a Gold medal.

Above: The winning goal – Fridolina Rolfö’s effort flies in with Stina Blackstenius (11) looking on. Photo: Getty Images

They will though be exceptionally proud of their efforts in Tokyo as very few people predicted they would have gone this far. They will now rally together to face the USA on Thursday for the bronze medal, but they will have to do it without Ellie Carpenter who will be suspended.

The influence of head coach Tony Gustavsson has become clearer as the tournament progressed, and it is an influence that the whole squad clearly enjoy.

Steph Catley remarked: “I couldn’t speak more highly of Tony. Obviously, when he first came in, we really started from scratch and we didn’t have long,

“During those times where we were conceding a lot and losing games, he just kept saying we’re not peaking for now, we’re peaking for the Olympics and he really instils a belief in every single player that the preparation that we’ve done, is focused on bigger things.

“We were never worried, even though there was a lot of outside noise because we always knew that the focus was the Olympics and to be peaking right now and we truly feel that way,” she continued.

“All credit has to go to Tony and to the staff for instilling the motivation and the belief within this squad, that the process was happening and there were going to be speed bumps and blocks along the way, but the ultimate goal was to be where we are right now in a position to win a medal at the Olympics.”

Matildas star Sam Kerr agreed with the Arsenal defender: “I think you can see his personality is very upbeat, but the biggest thing is belief.

Above: Joy for Sweden upon reaching the Olympics Final. Photo: Getty Images

“We’ve always got to this point and fallen at the last hurdle and when he first joined, that’s what a lot of us said, that we just want to get there and get through and give ourselves an opportunity to win a medal because we really believe that we can, but we’ve just not been able to get over that hurdle.

“He’s really instilled that belief that we can do it and we can beat any team and play the way we want to play and I think you’ve seen that we’ve played every game, how we play, we haven’t changed for anyone and that gives us massive belief when we beat teams like Great Britain.”

Kyah Simon echoed her team mates’ opinions: “Passionate is definitely a word that springs to mind, first and foremost (when describing Gustavsson).

“Also his energy, his charisma and just his passion for his job and for our team.

“He hasn’t tried to force too much of his tactics and his style of play. He’s really formed his tactics, his philosophy and style of play to suit the players that we have and his understanding of our culture as well, it’s been really nice that we’ve gelled together.”

Whilst Australia have a lot to look forward to over the coming few years, it is the present that Sweden can enjoy.

They fully deserve to be in the final. They have been the most consistent top-performing team in the competition. Their next hurdle is the Canadians, who will be all out to make the most of their win over the USA in the battle for Gold.

Teams: AUSTRALIA: Micah, Carpenter, Kennedy, Catley, Raso, Van Egmond, Logarzo, Yallop, Simon, Kerr, Foord. Subs: Williams (GK), Cooney-Cross, Polkinghorne, Luik, Fowler, Gielnik, Brock.

SWEDEN: Lindahl, Glas, Ilestedt, Björn, Eriksson, Angeldahl, Seger, Jakobsson, Asllani, Rolfö, Blackstenius. Subs: Andersson, Kullberg, Bennison, Janogy, Hurtig, Falk, Schough.

Scorers: Rolfö 47

Referee: Melissa Borjas (HON)

Olympic Semi Preview: Australia v Sweden

Above: Kyra Cooney Cross and Madelen Janogy battle it out when the two nations met in the group stage last week. Photo: Getty Images

By Kieran Yap (1/8/21)

Focus on Australia:

Australia played the long game. They used the pre-tournament matches to experiment with new systems and tactics and altered their game to fit each group stage opponent.

An opening win against New Zealand and a cautious, tactical draw against the USA was enough to get them into a quarter final where they defeated Team GB in one of the games of the tournament.

The Matildas tactical flexibility has been a key reason why they have reached the semi finals. They played their familiar 4-3-3 formation and attacking game plan against New Zealand to secure an early win, but changed to a counter-attacking more careful style against Sweden.

Against the USA, they showed they are willing to temper their instincts and play for the result they needed and take fewer risks with less to gain.

In terms a key player for Australia in the Games, it is hard to go past Sam Kerr. The Matildas captain has scored five goals so far and would have had six had her penalty kick been an inch to the left.

Above: If Sam Kerr celebrates another goal for the Australia tomorrow, she will become the Matildas’ all time leading scorer. Photo: Getty Images.

She has been a threat in every game and used the attention given to her to open up spaces for her teammates. A flick on to Tameka Yallop set Australia on their way against New Zealand and her presence allowed Alanna Kennedy a clear header to score against Team GB.

This is not a player that opposition defenders ignore yet she still finds a way to impact the game when it matters.

Focus on Sweden:

Sweden are many people’s justifiable tip to win Gold. They have barely missed a beat since the tournament began and at times look unbeatable.

Australia’s 4-2 loss to them in the group stages showed that they can be scored against. Scoring enough times while stopping them is the big challenge and nobody so far has been able to.

Sweden need to stop crosses coming in. They can prevent passes to Kerr and Foord by dominating the midfield but it only took two good balls into the box to concede twice in the group game.

Kerr can beat most defenders in the air and managed to do so against the highly regarded Magdalena Eriksson, her Chelsea team mate to score her first last week.

Above: Stina Blackstenius (11) and Fridolina Rolfö (18) two of Sweden’s most dangerous players so far. Photo: Getty Images.

If Australia gets Catley, Simon and Foord on the ball in wide areas it could spell trouble for Sweden.

The tactical battle:

To win the game, Australia need to defend deeper than they did in the group game against the Swedes. Sofia Jakobsson was allowed to get into too much space and time behind the Australian defence. This is inviting scoring chances and The Matildas will need to balance attack and defense much more carefully than they did in the group stages.

Fridolina Rolfö has to be marshalled closer attention than before. She was another that was very damaging and cannot be given the opportunity again.

Tony Gustavsson will have learned from the previous loss, but much of this game will depend on player fitness. Sweden has a deeper squad than Australia and The Matildas are coming off a gruelling, exhausting 120 minute game.

Olympic Semi Preview: Canada v USA

Above: Canadian football icon Christine Sinclair. Photo: Canada Soccer.

By Catherine Paquette (1/8/21)

The first of the two matches tomorrow will be an all-CONCACAF affair.  The confederation’s two strongest women’s programs will meet again for their second semi-final confrontation in the last three Olympics. 

The last one was a contentious one. Canada led 3-2 in the 72nd minute of the 2012 London Olympics semi-finals.  It had been a wonderful display from the Canadian captain Christine Sinclair who put her team ahead with a hat trick.  However, a controversial referee call several minutes later opened the way to an American equalizer.  The USA won the match in the 122nd minute after Alex Morgan headed the ball in for the 4-3 win.

The memory of 2012 is still vivid.  There are players from both squads who participated in that end-to-end 120 plus minute match.  However, the current teams are very different from those that played nine years ago.  Both squads are now almost completely made up of professional players, whose full time job is now football both internationally and at club level.  Both teams have very different composition of players, as would be expected with nearly a decade of time elapsed.  Entering the semi-final team they can also be described as two very difficult teams to beat, who have also been underperforming for most of this Tokyo Olympic tournament. 

While the US had a very positive buildup entering this women’s football tournament, their Olympic performances have seen the USA contending with a football world that has caught up to them.  Overall it is a team that is just not playing well in nearly every area of the pitch. They were outplayed by Sweden, won against New Zealand but with questions remaining, and finished their group stage with a stagnant display against Australia.  They did not show the dominance they had two years ago in the most recent match against the Netherlands, winning the game on penalties.

The Canadians for their part have had issues in the final third.  They have suffered from disjointed play in the final attacking phase, which has also lacked ruthlessness at times and shots on goal in general.  They enter this semi-final with seven accurate shots on goal for the entirety of the tournament. They drew two of their group stage matches, against Japan and Great Britain, late in the game after being in the lead.  The Chilean group stage game was a better performance but one where we would have expected more offensive Canadian threats.  The quarter-final match against Brazil continued this lack of final third lethality, with Canada also proceeding to the semi-final on penalties.

Above: Canada’s Jessie Fleming takes on Alex Morgan (right). Photo: Getty Images.

Overall both teams have strengths and weaknesses.  The Americans have a team packed with talent that can individually lift the squad during disjointed team performances.  Canada have a very strong defensive back grouping that can minimize the opponent’s chances and lethality.  However, as a whole unit neither team has fully clicked this tournament.

Both have had players who have stood out individually.  Goalkeeper Steph Labbé kept her team from losing in two matches for Canada.  The Canadian backline has been quite solid with Ashley Lawrence really standing out as an offensive threat throughout the tournament.  American keeper Alyssa Naeher’s two incredible saves in the quarter-finals put the Americans through to the semis.  

Both teams also have players that have either been inconsistent or quite silent at times but who can be game changers.  Canada’s Janine Beckie was the game changer in their second match, despite her missed penalty.  The US’s Christen Press also had a good second match against New Zealand.  Desiree Scott and Julie Ertz both performed well in the defensive midfield positions when they started, but without solid offensive performances in front of them their potential has been minimized.

Canada’s Jessie Fleming, Quinn and Nichelle Prince have had moments in the tournament but never together.  The same goes for the US’s Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan. Of course no conversation of either team can occur without mentioning Christine Sinclair, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan or Carli Lloyd.  None have been able to be the game changers we know them to be so far in this tournament, but they are also not players you can ever count out.  

The reality of the upcoming game is you will have two talented teams, who have demonstrated disjointed play in this tournament and who are not living up to their potential.  If both show up for the upcoming match then we could see an incredible game like the 2012 London Olympics semi-final.  If only one team shows up and is finally able to click, then they will likely win.

Olympics Semi-Final Preview With Chorley’s Lisa Topping

Above: Lisa in action for Chorley against Chester in the spring. Photo: John Shirras

Ahead of tomorrow’s Semi-Finals ties, Lisa Topping from Chorley Women, who Impetus are proud to sponsor, previews both games (1/8/21).

I’m gutted for Team GB that they had to bow out of the competition in the quarter finals. But, looking to the semi finals they’re going to be a great couple of games to really showcase women’s football on the international stage. 

USA v Canada:
This game will be a cracker I’m sure. The USA are always fully prepared and always anticipated for a high finish. They had a really poor group stage and particularly struggled defensively, yet they got through and used their know how to see off the Dutch on penalties in the semis. If they start to perform now, they can go all the way.

On the other hand,  Canada have been solid rather than spectacular so far, finding it hard to form a consistent threat up front, although in Janine Beckie, Allysha Chapman, Christine Sinclair and Ashley Lawrence, they have some really dangerous players. 

Australia v Sweden:

Obviously Team GBs tournament was ended by Australia and they were also impressive against the USA earlier on. Nevertheless, Sweden are red hot have the old heads of Caroline Segar and Magda Eriksson as well as promising young stars such as Hana Bennison and Stina Blackstenius who is taking her club goal scoring form with BK Hacken into the Olympics. That experience is always needed at that level. 

Medal Predictions:
Living in America for eight years I have an allegiance with that country so I think they’ll take Gold. I think Sweden’s experience will pull through over Australia and they’ll take silver. I also have a Canadian friend so I’ll have to back them as coming third and taking home the bronze for the third Olympics in a row! 

Canada Advance To Semis

Above: Canada celebrate their win over Brazil on penalties which sets up yet another Olympic semi-final. Photo: Getty Images.

Canada 0-0 Brazil

After Extra Time, Canada win 4-3 penalties

By Catherine Paquette (1/8/21)

The Canada-Brazil match was a clash of Olympic giants.  Canada entered the match as back-to-back Olympic bronze medalists, participating in their fourth consecutive Games.  Head coach Bev Priestman has not shied away from stating that Canada’s goal this Olympics is to change the colour of their medal.

Brazil has participated in every Olympic women’s football tournament. They have won silver twice, in 2004 and 2008, were eliminated at the quarter final phase at London 2021 and finished fourth three times.  The most recent fourth place finish was arguably the most difficult, when they lost the bronze medal to Canada at their home Rio Olympic Games.  

This next Olympic meeting therefore had added significance for the two teams.  It also had added significance because both sides had legends who may have played in what was going to be their last Olympic match. 

I do not use this word legend lightly. For Canada their captain Christine Sinclair is the all time leader for international goals scored for men or women and one of only four international players of either sex with more than 300 international appearances.  

For Brazil, Formiga is currently the oldest female football Olympian and has participated in every Olympic competition since the sport expanded on the women’s side in 1996.  There are ten players from both squads of this match that were born after Formiga became an Olympian for the first time.

At 38 years of age for Sinclair and 43 years of age for Formiga, there was a chance that the end of this quarter-final would be the final time either of these players as an Olympian.  Despite their respective ages, both players were in their respective nation’s starting line-ups.  

The Canadians for their part lined up in a 4-3-1-2, a formation used with success against Chile. Several players that had been rested or started on the bench against Team GB returned to the starting lineup, notably Allysha Chapman, Desire Scott, Jessie Fleming and Sinclair. Vanessa Gilles, who had started the last game in place of Shelina Zadorsky was chosen to continue her centre-back pairing with Kadeisha Buchanan.  

The Brazilians for their part stayed with a 4-4-2.  They also had several changes, with Debinha, Andressinha, Duda, Tamires, Bruna and Erica returning to the starting line-ups. Like every match this tournament, Formiga started in midfield.

The game started with a scare in the first ten minutes.  As Sinclair was coming down from a header attempt, her head collided with the knee of Buchanan.  After several minutes of medical attention she was deemed OK to continue the match.  The early possible loss of Canada’s captain did not faze either side.  

Both teams took shots on goal, most missing the mark.  The first real chance for Canada came in the 21st minute when a good pass from Ashley Lawrence into the box trying to find Sinclair deflected off her chest towards goal and was saved by Brazil’s Bárbara.

A VAR review occurred at the 35th minute to determine if Canada’s Chapman had caused a foul in the box.  The review decided she had not.  Five minutes later Debinha stole a ball Gilles was trying to clear out of the Canadian defence and she took a shot on goal.  Stephanie Labbé made the save for Canada.  

The second half also saw several goal attempts from both sides.  Brazil’s Andressinha had a shot saved by Labbé in the 55th minute that then nearly spilled into Canada’s goal. Canada had a good chance on goal four minutes later when Gilles’ header hit Brazil’s goalpost. A few other shots occurred but the score line remained 0-0 and the teams headed to extra time. 

The additional 30 minutes of play did not change this score line.  Brazil did come close in the final minutes of extra-time, when they mounted multiple attacks on the Canadian goal.  Labbé did her job well and kept the clean sheet. She then seemed to be injured in the final minute of extra-time, when she made a nasty landing after defending a ball in the air.  

After several minutes of medical attention she got back up.  Shortly after, both teams headed to penalty kicks.  This is where the real drama started.

Above: Stephanie Labbé’s penalty saves catapulted Canada into the semi-finals yet again. Photo: @stephlabbe1

Canada were first to kick, with Sinclair being the first kicker. To every Canadian fans’ shock, her shot was saved by Bárbara.  Brazil and Canada then put in their next three kicks.  At 3-3 with Brazil taking their fourth kick, Labbé came to Canada’s rescue and saved Andressa’s attempt.  Canada’s Gilles then put in a fourth for Canada.  

Labbé then sent the Canadians to the semi-finals for the third Olympics in a row when she saved Rafaelle’s penalty kick.  The Canadians won it 3-4 on penalty kicks. 

Overall though Canada has continued its underperformance offensively.  While Canadian players took as many shots this match as their Brazilian counterparts this, only one was on frame.  Brazil by comparison had four.  In total Canada have had seven shots on target this tournament. 

Part of the reason for the lack of Canadian offence  in this match is that Brazil did well to contain Canada’s offence.  A startling example of this is the fact that Sinclair only got 16 touches on the ball in the first half.  

Another, more serious reason is the Canadians themselves.  Their defence has been relatively strong this tournament.  The centre-backs and defensive midfielder Desiree Scott are quite effective this game at getting the ball out from the defence and passing it to move the ball forward. 

Above: Joyous scenes among the Canadian squad. Photo: @stephlabbe1

The Canadians movement forward has been attempted both through the middle of the park and out wide.  Lawrence has been particularly effective and threatening this tournament when bringing the ball forward out wide and giving service inside the box.  She has been Canada’s best player for most of the tournament, showing all the defensive and offensive skills on prizes in a modern day fullback.  

Like Lawrence, certain players have had moments where they have shone, Beckie, Prince and Rose in the group stage, but none of those moments came simultaneously.  None of the Canadian midfield and forwards have clicked together at the same time. Canada over all throughout the tournament has struggled creating chances in the final third. The more the ball has progressed up the field the less effective they have been.  

In this match passes often were short into the final third, requiring players to slow down to retrieve them and thus cutting Canadian momentum.  There were times that players, specifically Beckie and Fleming, made similar runs into the box thus minimizing their offensive potential.  Moreover, the Canadian offence was often very compact making it easier to defend them.  

Canada does have the capability of scoring.  In the run up for this tournament their scoring was not dependent on one player, which is arguably a good thing.  As they enter the final next match though they will need to find more synergy up front and to finish their chances.  If not they could be going back to the Bronze medal match.

Teams: CANADA: Labbé, Chapman, Buchanan, Lawrence, Gilles, Quinn, Scott, Sinclair, Fleming, Prince, Beckie. Subs used: Rose, Grosso, Riviere, Leon.

Scorers (Penalty Shoot Out): Sinclair (missed), Fleming (scored), Lawrence (scored), Leon (scored), Gilles (scored).

BRAZIL: Bárbara, Érika, Rafaelle, Tamires, Bruna, Duda, Formiga, Marta, Andressinha, Debina, Beatriz. Subs used: Angelina, Ludmila, Andressa.

Scorers: (Penalty Shoot Out): Marta (scored), Debinha (scored), Érika (scored), Andressa (missed), Rafaelle (missed).

Referee: Stéphanie Frappart (FRA)

Matildas Historic Win Built On Flexibility & New Found Depth

Above: The Australian squad come together after yesterday’s match with Great Britain. Photo: Getty Images.

Impetus’ Kieran Yap reflects on Australia’s dramatic victory over Great Britain, and how the Tony Gustavsson era is beginning to show new opportunities and new hope (31/7/21).

In previous tournaments the biggest issue with The Matildas has been flexibility and depth.

In 2019 an injury to Clare Polkinghorne required a mass reshuffle. Steph Catley had to be moved to center back to cover and Elise Kellond-Knight shifted from midfield to left back.

Emily van Egmond dropped deeper but had to take on more defensive duties (this part was weird because Aivi Luik was right there) and although they survived the group there was a feeling left of what could have been.

The 2021 Matildas look to have solved these problems for the time being.  The new defensive setup switches between a back three and a back four depending on the state of play, but crucially it allows for the use of one recognized central defender.

It allows Polkinghorne or Kennedy to be rested when the need it and the hectic Olympic schedule has definitely required it. The defensive security that having Carpenter shifting more central on occasion means that van Egmond, although playing deep, is not required to be a midfield destroyer.

She still breaks up play, but she is a contributor rather than being entirely relied upon.

Above: The Australian team post match huddle after victory against Great Britain. Photo: Football Australia.

Catley and Carpenter can still get forward and it is slightly sad that they are not as free-wheeling as they were against New Zealand but Carpenter’s role in snuffing out the threat of Megan Rapinoe and then Lauren Hemp went a long way to this run to the semi finals.

Hemp was still dangerous but not decisively so, Carpenter was again sensational in a mostly defensive role.

In midfield, the depth has also improved. Kyra Cooney-Cross has gone from U20 player, to starring with two W-League sides to become a genuine option in a Matildas midfield. She looks right at home and has allowed Chloe Logarzo to take her time in finding fitness.

The resurgence of the previously underused Tameka Yallop has given Australia another box to box midfielder. She can impact the game in both aspects of the sport and has reduced the impact of a Kellond-Knight sized absence.

Up front, Gustavsson has trusted Mary Fowler, not to train with the team, not to gain experience, but to impact the game.

She was impressive against Denmark in a friendly, dangerous against the U.S.A and delivered when it mattered most against Team GB.

Is Australia too reliant on Sam Kerr? Perhaps but it works for now and if Fowler keeps improving this will not be a question asked much longer.

Australia have improved in the last three months, they have made a semi final of a major tournament and unearthed new possibilities with player and tactics.

They have a chance at a medal but they have also built a chance at lasting success.

Photo: Football Australia.

Matildas Waltz Into The Semis After Drama Filled GB Battle

Above: Sam Kerr after scoring Australia’s last gasp equaliser towards the end of normal time. Photo: Getty Images.

Great Britain 3-4 Australia (30/7/21)

By Ben Gilby

The Matildas ran out victors in one of the most dramatic games you could imagine in Kashima.

It was a game that swung this way and that, with incredible comebacks, a missed penalty and two teams giving it everything.

Going into the match, there was talk about the potential defensive difficulties that the sides have experienced and there is no doubt that several of the goals in this encounter fell under the category of less than impressive defending.

Australia started strongly and looked to pass and move at every opportunity. They were looking to target the Team GB back line who had both Steph Houghton and Leah Williamson pushing up together from the back.

The first shot on target came after five minutes when Lauren Hemp was held back by Hayley Raso. Caroline Weir took and found Keira Walsh, but Teagan Micah grabbed the shot.

Great Britain had another opportunity seven minutes later when Hemp broke through and found Rachel Daly, but her effort was over.

Shortly afterwards, Demi Stokes and Hemp combined to play in Walsh whose shot came back off the post. Great Britain hit the woodwork once more on 23 minutes when Daly’s shot hit bar and post with the ball rebounding back to Hemp whose volley was brilliantly saved by Micah.

Australia’s backline saw Aivi Luik return in place of Clare Polkinghorne. Alanna Kennedy retained her spot with Ellie Carpenter at right back once more. Yet one clear difference in the back three set up was the fact that Carpenter was no longer bombing forward to offer her speed in attack as she is wont to do – a tactical change from Tony Gustavsson.

The Matildas became seen more often from an attacking perspective as the game passed the half hour mark with Kerr winning a corner from Stokes.

It was from a corner that the first goal went in, and it was a result defensive frailties rearing their head.

Above: Alanna Kennedy gets above the Team GB defence to head Australia in front. Photo: Getty Images.

Great Britain struggled to defend a high ball in and, despite the close attention of Demi Stokes and Leah Williamson, who failed to get off the ground, Kennedy rose to head Australia in front after 36 minutes.

Also of concern for the British in the opening half was the fact that White was on the periphery. They would need that to change to get back into the match.

After the break, Australia fashioned another opportunity when Carpenter’s throw found Kerr who shot over.

Gradually though as the game neared the hour mark, Great Britain, largely due to the increased influence of Hemp, became far more threatening.

The Norfolk born striker forced Micah into a save on 56 minutes and shortly afterwards she played a dangerous ball in towards White who beat Kennedy in the air and won a corner from Carpenter.

Above: Ellen White celebrates after another vital goal for Great Britain. Photo: Getty Images.

Great Britain managed to equalise and took advantage of a dangerous ball in from Hemp which was met by White, who got between Kennedy and Carpenter to head brilliantly into the far corner of the net.

Australia came perilously close to levelling the scores on the hour mark when Kerr’s cross was met by the head of Catley and deflected off of Houghton and onto the bar before GB cleared.

Shortly afterwards, Great Britain went ahead when a ball in saw Carpenter beaten in the air. Luik and Kennedy got in each other’s way in trying to clear and the ball fell to White who gleefully smashed her country ahead with 24 minutes left.

Raso was recognising the danger posed by Hemp and put in several important challenges including a magnificent one in the penalty area.

It was all Great Britain now and with ten minutes left, Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson made three changes with Mary Fowler replacing Simon, Emily Gielnik on for Luik and Kyra Cooney-Cross for Foord. This saw Catley drop back to defence.

The Matildas rallied at the death with Carpenter combining well with Kerr who played a lovely ball in for Gielnik but the Swedish based striker blazed wide with four minutes left.

Two minutes later, Chloe Logarzo was introduced for Raso ahead of the first piece of many examples of real drama in this clash.

Catley bent a pass in, Bronze got her head on it, but the ball went to Kerr in the box who chested it down and got a shot away at the second attempt which flew in and scores were level with just over a minute left.

With the game going into extra-time, Britain looked to take advantage of Australia’s more conservative approach at the start of the additional half hour. Walsh wasn’t closed down by the Matildas defence allowing her to get a powerful shot away which Micah did well to hold.

Within sixty seconds, Micah was called into action once more as Fran Kirby dinked a ball over the top for White who was denied by the Australian keeper.

Above: Teagan Micah saves Caroline Weir’s penalty. Photo: Getty Images

Then came the big moment of the game with five minutes of the first period of extra time played. Nikita Parris went down in the box after a collision with Carpenter and referee Salima Mukansanga pointed to the spot. Up stepped Weir, but Micah read her like a book and saved well.

Just three minutes after the penalty miss, Great Britain slipped behind. A ball forward found teenage striker Fowler. The Cairns born starlet controlled it, turned and smashed a sensational effort which deflected off of Bronze, giving Ellie Roebuck no chance.

Another three minutes passed and Great Britain had their heads in their hands as, despite being three inches smaller, Kerr leapt above Houghton to head past Roebuck to put the Matildas 4-2 up, equalling the all-time Australian women’s goal scoring record in the process with 47.

Above: Sam Kerr’s two goals for Australia see her equal Lisa De Vanna’s tally at the top of the Matildas all time scoring chart. Photo: Getty Images.

But, the drama had still not finished. Five minutes from the end, a typically pin point cross from Kirby found White who, once more got between Australian defenders with ease to score and the deficit was just a single goal once more.

Despite Team GB’s best efforts, they could not break through the massed ranks of green and gold as Australia advanced to the semi-finals, their best ever run in the Olympics.

Speaking after the game, Australia’s captain Sam Kerr said: “I can’t explain how proud I am to be a part of this team and to lead this team out. Every day they surprise me.

“We’ve got kids out there, we’ve got Mary (Fowler) who is 18 and I’m just so proud of everyone.

“I haven’t seen some of these girls for two years and then we come out here and we play against teams who have been playing together for so long.

“We feel the love from home and we’re doing everything we can to make you proud. I hope you all felt it today, so let’s go the mighty Aussies.”

The Matildas are improving with every match they play. They are following Tony Gustavsson’s “One Day Better” mantra and are more organised than they have been for a long time. This plus their traditional Never Say Die spirit marks them out as potentially a very good team.

Whether they are good enough to beat Sweden in the semi-finals is another matter, but for now they will enjoy the way they won this match.

Teams: GREAT BRITAIN: Roebuck, Bronze, Houghton, Williamson, Stokes, Walsh, Weir, Daly, Little, Hemp, White. Subs: Ingle (for Walsh 96), Parris (for Hemp 96), Kirby (for Daly 58), Telford (GK), Bright (for Stokes 58), Stanway, Scott (for Little 80).

Scorers: White 57, 66, 115.

AUSTRALIA: Micah, Carpenter, Kennedy, Luik, Raso, Van Egmond, Yallop, Catley, Simon, Foord, Kerr. Subs: Williams (GK), Cooney-Cross (for Foord 80), Polkinghorne (for Cooney-Cross 108), Logarzo (for Raso 88), Fowler (for Simon 80), Gielnik (for Luik 80), Brock.

Scorers: Kennedy 35. Kerr 89, 106. Fowler 93.

Referee: Salima Mukansanga (RWA).

Olympics QF Preview with Wroxham’s Harriet Meers

Photo: Rebecca Burton

Ahead of tomorrow’s Quarter-Finals ties, Harriet Meers from Wroxham Women, one of Impetus’ partner clubs, previews all of the games (29/7/21).

Canada v Brazil

Above: Canada’s icon Christine Sinclair. Photo: News 1130.

Canada have started this tournament solidly, but haven’t demonstrated the danger that they could possess with the talent they have within the squad.

With players such as Allysha Chapman, Christine Sinclair and Ashley Lawrence they should be causing more problems then they are. Sinclair, the Canadian captain, has 187 goals within her 301 appearances for country. Therefore, we should expect more goals to come and for her to be a player for the Brazilian defence to have to keep a close eye on.

In theory, Canada should be defensively strong, but they have conceded late goals in two of their three games. These late goals have cost Canada the wins and resulted in draws against Great Britain and Japan. Brazil have been offensively dictating with nine goals to date. However, it could be said they have looked a bit porous at the back against the Netherlands but is it any wonder with the form that squad are on!

Great Britain v Australia

Above: Ellen White – in fine goal scoring form for Great Britain. Photo: The Guardian.

Team GB finished top of Group E after a late equaliser against Canada and now face Australia, led by Chelsea striker Sam Kerr.

The first thing that can be said for Great Britain and Australia is the defensive issues that both teams seem to have. The cause of GB’s draw against Canada came from the defence switching off which could be costly if it occurs against the Matildas. It would be great to put this down to a one off mistake but this is something the Lionesses have been prone to over the last 12 months.

The Matildas’ new head coach, Tony Gustavsson, has switched the formation from five at the back to three which could be an effective tactic but currently remains a work in progress.

Despite a goalless draw against the USA, the Australian side played a well organised and professional game which impressed. If GB switch off once again the threat will come from the likes of Ellie Carpenter, Emily Gielnik and Kyah Simon, with teenager Mary Fowler also looking impressive against the USA offensively.

Great Britain have scored four goals after the group stages, three of which came from Ellen White and the last goal from Caroline Weir against Canada. For Team GB to make the semi-finals and have the chance of placing a medal position, they must stay switched on at the back and be more attack minded. Personally, I hope Ellen White has plenty more goals to come in this Olympic Games.

Sweden v Japan

Above: Sweden’s Stina Blackstenius – carrying club goal scoring form with BK Häcken into the Olympics with her country. Photo: Getty Images.

It could be argued that Japan are lucky to have made the last eight and therefore Sweden have the easiest quarter final draw.

Sweden have been on form and finished their group top after three wins. Contrastingly, Japan narrowly made the cut after a one goal win against Chile placing them third in Group E.

Sweden have a great mix of experienced players such as defender Magda Eriksson and promising young stars such as Hanna Bennison as well as a forward, Stina Blackstenius, in great form with three goals in the group stage.

Out of all of the teams that have reached the quarter finals, Japan have the lowest FIFA World Ranking. Ultimately, Japan could be described as a work in progress and their physicality is unlikely to match up to the Swedes.

The main player to watch from Japan is Mana Iwabuchi, recently signed by Arsenal, who scored in their opening game against Canada. Unfortunately for Japan, it is unlikely that Iwabuchi will be enough to carry the team to the semis against the on form Swedes.

Netherlands v USA

Above: Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema – an incredible goal scoring return of eight in three matches at these Olympics. Photo: Getty Images.

The Netherlands have been goal scoring machines in their three group games processing to the quarter finals with 21 goals already under their belt.

Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema has carried through brilliant form to the Olympics and has scored eight goals in the group stages so she could be a player to watch alongside Lieke Martens.

However, they face 2012 Olympic gold medallists, current World champions and FIFA ranked number one side, USA. Despite coming to the tournament with an unbeaten 44 game run, so far the United States have not had their best Games and deservedly lost against Sweden in their opener.

The issues with the USA seem to sit with their defence. Rapinoe needs to find some more strength to hold off the Netherlands attack having been outmuscled off the ball one too many times.

Providing the Dutch play the way they have attacked the games so far, they should have no problem making the semi and facing the winner of Canada v Brazil to be in with a chance of taking home the gold medal.

Harriet’s Predicted Medal Finishers:

Gold – Netherlands

Silver – Sweden

Bronze – Great Britain

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

Matildas Pragmatism A Sign Of A Maturing Team

Above: The Matildas team that took on the USA on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images.

Kieran Yap analyses Australia’s performance against the USA yesterday and sees signs of a positive future (28/7/21).

A lot gets said about playing football in keeping with The Matildas identity.

Fans are used to brave, attacking football. We have become accustomed to taking the game to the opposition and the team pushing until the last possible second to score or get a win.

Something else we have become accustomed to, honorable losses.

Playing the final 15 minutes in search of a draw against the U.S.A was hard to watch, but not for the same reasons the final minutes of a game can be.

There was little concern that Australia would concede a later goal from an error or stroke of ill timed misfortune. They played it safe, they played it slightly dull, they played it smart.

Winning friendlies is fun. The 5-3 loss last time these two teams met was brilliant viewing as Foord and Kerr staged a late comeback against a team on the verge of becoming World Champions.

But in the final group game of an Olympic tournament and with a quarter final spot on the line, excitement was the last thing that was needed.

Above: Momentum and professionalism is growing in the Matildas ranks as the Olympics tournament progresses. Photo: Football Australia.

Head coach Tony Gustavsson has spoken of the need for cool heads in “pressure cooker” situations. These high pressure scenarios are not exclusive to high octane rollercoasters like the Miracle of Montpellier.

A mature football team, a winning football team knows how to get the result needed in the easiest way possible.

Against Sweden, The Matildas showed that they could chase and re-take a lead. Against New Zealand they showed they can take the initiative and against the U.S.A they displayed a calm headed approach to progression.

It brought back memories of the 2018 Asian Cup, Japan was in a similar position with the ball after Australia had equalized and both teams had guaranteed World Cup qualification.

That experienced Japan side, did what Australia did. They knocked the ball about in the back half to run down the clock. With bigger fish to fry they risked no injury or unnecessary exertion.

Great Britain awaits Australia in the quarter-final. Who will win is impossible to predict as both sides look to be improving.

The Matildas have always done whatever they can to get a result. The U.S.A game showed that they know what to do. 

Zambian Fairy Tale Comes To An End

Above: Lushomo Mweemba (3) is sent off by referee Yoshimi Yamashita. Photo: Getty Images

Brazil 1-0 Zambia (28/7/21)

By Kris Goman

This is a do-or-die match for Zambia who will go out of the tournament if they lose and Brazil are probably safe regardless of the result. It’s all on Zambia tonight.

As it turns out, Brazil won 1-0 in a rather unconvincing affair. It was a game marked more by injuries than any football brilliance. It was brutal with two players stretchered off and others being able to limp off under their own steam. This didn’t feel like the USA v Australia game where both teams were desperately trying not to score.

Rather, neither team could break the other’s defence despite the strong expectation of an easy Brazil victory. The only goal was from a free kick seconds after the replacement goalkeeper took the field with little warm up.

Zambia have been the surprise package of the tournament. They haven’t won a game but scored at least three goals in each of their previous two matches. Barbra Banda has emerged as the breakout star being a relative unknown playing professionally in China. In this match, although she made some good runs, she was unable to unleash the magic and score.

Zambia attacked early with Banda sending a cross through the box but it’s immediately cleared to the other end and Brazil get a free kick. The free kick is saved by the keeper, Hazel Nali, resplendent in a bright pink keeper’s kit with matching pink highlights on her hair.

Banda gets away down the centre of the field and although the defence catches her, she twists away to get a shot off that’s saved in a leap to the right. The Brazilian keeper, Barbara, has words for her defence. It feels like Banda can’t be stopped but that’s her only on-target shot of the night. Rachael Kundananji takes a shot from outside the box but the keeper picks it up with little effort.

It’s end to end and Brazil are straight back down into their box for another attack that amounts to nothing. Jucinara runs down the left and the cross to Marta is defended well.

Formiga sends ball over the top to Ludmilla but the keeper, Nali, is straight out and kicks it away taking out Ludmilla in the process. There’s a stop in play while they are both attended to by the trainers. VAR is examining the tackle by Lushomo Mweemba just outside the area immediately before Nali arrived so it won’t be a penalty but Mweemba gets a red card and is sent off in a pretty surprising move. She strolls off shrugging her shoulders in disbelief still.

The keeper is still down and the substitute custodian, Ngambo Musole, is warming up. The stretcher is out now and Nali’s going on it. Musole, the replacement keeper, comes on as Nali is stretchered off. There’s a tactical change to replace a forward with a defender and Vast Phiri is on as well with Avell Chitundu coming off.

Brazil get a free kick as a result. Andressa takes it and puts it over the wall and straight into the back of the net. 1-0 Brazil in a bizarre start to the match.

Above: Brazil celebrate Andressa’s (21) goal. Photo: Getty Images.

Brazil attack again and Beatriz looks to be offside but the flag stays down until a similar tackle happens at the top of the box to what happened before and then the flag goes up. You’ve got to wonder about the reasoning when that could just be avoided by flagging offside when it happens.

Banda follows a long ball up to the right of the box and gets a corner. There’s a big clash of heads during the corner between Beatriz and Rachael Kundananji for Zambia. The injuries are mounting up. Beatriz needs to go off. Kundananji is up but looks a bit groggy. Beatriz is off and bleeding from her head. The game continues with a goal kick. Giovana is going to come on to replace Beatriz and is warming up. Kundananji has been bandaged up and come back on for Zambia with a big white bandage around her head.

Possession is with Brazil for 69% and Zambia for 31% at 30 minutes in but half that time has been waiting for injuries.

Banda gets a free kick in the centre of the field, but Brazil are back in possession pretty quickly. Zambia seems to have one tactic, have almost everyone back in defence and kick it long to Banda. It’s reasonably effective but a bit predicable. Another long ball sees Banda and Barbara running towards it but Barbara is closer and quicker and clears it with a big kick as she’s well outside the box.

Brazil makes another foray into the box with Ludmilla passing to Giovana but Martha Tembo tackles her and hurts her own ankle. The ball is cleared but we’ve got another injury delay. She’s OK but limping a bit. And now a VAR check. They play on and it’s fine.

Marta gets a great ball on the right wing and sends t straight across the goal face bit Giovana can’t connect to convert.

We’ve played 45 minutes now and there’s 14 minutes of stoppage time. Is that a record?

Margaret Belemu has copped a smack to the face and is down. Play continues. It’s mostly with the Brazilians with the occasional run by Banda. Jucinara gets a free kick on the left of the box. Andressa is taking it. It’s headed by Rafaelle but it skims the crossbar.

Phiri gets a yellow for a challenge.

A Santos cross is kicked out for a Brazil corner. Marta takes it and it’s nearly an Olympico goal but the keeper gets a hand to it and pushes it out. The next corner from the other side is not well controlled by Formiga despite a nearly open goal. It’s a missed opportunity.

Above: Formiga, who missed a great opportunity to extend Brazil’s lead. Photo: Getty Images

Andressa takes a shot from the top of the box that hits the crossbar and bounces back into play. Santos’ cross finds Giovana but her header is saved. First half finally ends at 1-0 despite a few chances but given Zambia are down to ten, it’s a pretty lacklustre effort on behalf of Brazil.

In the second half, Formiga and Marta go off to be replaced by Julia and Duda.

Giovana goes down as she tries to save a ball going out and needs some quick medical attention but is ok. It starts raining heavily. A ball up the right sideline to Banda is cleared in a perfect sliding tackle by Rafaelle who is now the captain. Banda takes a ball right from half way down to the right side of the box before being tackled and Brazil getting the resulting throw in.

Kundananji passes to Banda on the right who brings the play into the box. There’s a bit of trickery and faking but she can’t get past the last defender and it’s cleared.

Brazil go on the attack led by Duda and eventually Ludmilla gets a good cross in but there’s no one in the box and it sails past goal harmlessly.

Poliana and Banda clash heads in a contested header. Poliana is down and looks like Benites is going to come on as she’s stretchered off too. This game is carnage. Geyse also on for Ludmilla   Banda appears to be OK. In the free kick, Grace Chanda goes for goal and narrowly misses the top bins.

A free kick on the right by Andressa goes to the far post in a probable direct attempt at goal but it’s just over the crossbar. Brazil keeps pressing but can’t get through the lines. Banda gets up the left but her cross goes out.

Angelina fouls Banda by going in feet first and Banda gets a shin full of studs and some medical treatment. She’s limping but is going to be OK. They get a free kick towards the top of the box. Chanda takes it but it goes high over the top post.

Above: Duda goes down under pressure from Zambia’s Lubandji Ochumba. Photo: Getty Images

Brazil gets a free kick through a manhandling. Debinha, on as a sub, takes it and goes for goal. It’s deflected off the wall for a corner. Only the third of the match. Debinha takes that too and it’s into the huddle then over the goal line.

Benites displays some fancy footwork before a cross that goes high.

Six minutes of extra time as Zambia goes on the attack. The game still seems open as Brazil haven’t been the dominant team as expected. A shot by Debinha goes over.

Evarine Katongo is on for Kundananji with the bandage for Zambia.

A Brazil free kick taken by Angelina comes into the box but Geyse’s header goes wide of goal.

Banda takes a very long shot to try to lob the keeper, Barbara, in a last minute attempt but it’s too high.

Debinha takes the ball down the left as the full time whistle goes and Brazil win unconvincingly. But three points are three points and Zambia have played their last match and end up in third place in the group. They can hold their head high though and it was a great tournament for them despite their results. A great experience and certainly showcased a couple of stars.

Above: Zambia, and Barbra Banda (centre) will be remembered as one of the best things about the women’s football at the Olympics this year. Photo: Getty Images.

Brazil goes through in second place in the group with Netherlands at the top of the table on goal difference. Both China and Zambia from this group are out having both finished with a single point, Zambia ahead on goal difference. Brazil will play Canada and the Netherlands will play the USWNT as the knockout rounds start on Friday.

Teams: BRAZIL: Barbara, Santos, Poliana, Rafaelle, Jucinara, Andressa, Formiga, Angelina, Marta (C), Ludmilla, Beatriz. Substitutes: Aline (GK), Julia, Duda, Debinha, Benites, Geyse, Giovana.

Scorer: Andressa 19.

ZAMBIA: Nali, Mweemba,  Lubandji, Belemu, Chanda, Banda, Chitundu, Tembo, Lungu, Musase, Kundananji. Substitutes: Mulenga, Wilombe, Mubanga, Phiri, Katongo, Mukwasa, Musole (GK).

Referee: Yoshimi Yamashita (JPN).

La Roja Femenina Go Out With Heads Held High

Above: Japan, on the way to the Quarter-Finals. Photo: Getty Images.

Chile 0-1 Japan (28/7/21)

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset

Despite producing another pleasing performance, Chile were not able to step up to Japan level and lost 1-0.

Japan started the game with a lot of pressure and speed and had two shots on goal within the opening two minutes.

After this start, a little bit more equilibrium fell over the game as Chile had a freekick (5), a shot off target (7), and a corner kick.

However, Japan then re-set themselves and created opportunities. A shot from a corner by Honoka Hayashi was saved by Christiane Endler (12), who also denied Mana Iwabachi five minutes later with her left foot. There was now a flurry of chances for the host nation as Yuita Sagasawa and Hina Sagita (22) both had opportunities. Whilst the possession was almost even, 48% for Chile and 52% for Japan, after 25 minutes Japan had already 6 shots included 3 on goal while Chile had only 1 shot off target.

The remainder of the half was all Japan. Narumi Miura (33 and 34), Yui Hasegawa (36), Sagasawa (40) and Iwabachi (41) all had chances. During this period, we saw only one freekick for Chile at the 31st minute.

However, Chile resisted and preserved their goal to keep a draw at halftime. Overall, possession during first half was 59% for Japan.

Above: Chile’s Christiane Endler produced another good performance for the South Americans. Photo: Between the Sticks

The second half started as the first finished with a strong domination from Japan and Chile which continued to try to play but which was not able to bring the ball close enough to the Japan goal line to be dangerous. Japan continued to have a lot of shots and corner kicks without putting the ball in the Chile net. For the South Americans, Francisca Lara put a cross in, but Ayaka Yamashita claimed it at the sixty first minute.

From there, the ball went from one side to the other with a few opportunities for both teams until the sixty ninth minute where Chile almost scored on a counterattack when Yamara Aedo put a ball at the penalty kick spot with a spectacular returned bicycle over her head which was shot towards the goal by a header from Lara; the ball hit the crossbar and bounced back on goal line only an inch from with the Japan goalkeeper beaten. It was the first and the last true opportunity to score for Chile despite their willingness to play.

The rest of the game was totally dominated by Japan who increased the pressure further and was rewarded at the seventy seventh minutes after Lara lost the ball in her part of the field to the dangerous Iwabachi on the left. Her cross found Mina Tanaka near the penalty spot who shot on the right of Endler, who couldn’t do anything, to score the only goal of the game.

Endler kept the score to 1-0 by sending a shot from Emi Nakajima, which was on target, on to the crossbar at the 85th minute.

At the end of the game, Chile had four shots (none on goal), Japan 21 shots (8 on goal), and Japan 60% of possession.

Chile finished with 0 points but played some good football. We saw players that had very good skills and that could play in Europe.

Teams: CHILE: Endler (C), Guerrero, Lara, Araya, Urrutia, Aedo, Lopez, Pardo, Zamora, Balmaceda, Saez. Substitutes used: Acuna, Pinilla, Toro, Grez, Mardones.

JAPAN: Yamashita, Shimizu, Takarada, Kumagai, Sugita, Miura, Sagasawa, Iwabachi, Hasegawa, Kitamura, Hayashi. Substitutes used: Nakajima, Tanaka, Endo, Momoka.

Scorers: Tanaka 77

Referee: Melissa Borjas (HON)

Peerless Swedes March On

Above: Anna Anvagård celebrates her goal for Sweden. Photo: Getty Images.

New Zealand 0-2 Sweden (27/7/21)

By Catherine Paquette

The New Zealand team saw little change to their starting line-up from the last match against the United States.  

The Kiwis had a very improbable chance of exiting the group stage, dependent on a winner in the Australia-USA match, other group results and needing a big win to make up goal difference. 

With nothing to lose, coach Tom Sermanni kept his best players on the field.  The back line and defensive midfields were the same. Olivia Chance dropped to the bench, replaced by Emma Rolston.

The Swedes for their part rested Stina Blackstenius, Hanna Glas, Hedvig Lindahl and Fridolina Rolfö.  Lina Hurtig, Sofia Jacobsson, Caroline Seger and Kosovare Aslanni who were on the bench.  This was to be expected.  Knowing they were almost assured progression into the knock-out phase, rotation of players is arguably vital for long term performance in the Olympic tournament.

The formation for the Football Ferns remained 4-2-3-1.  The Swedes for their part changed from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2.

The first half started off with the Football Ferns attacking.  However, this did not last long.  While Sweden originally did not apply a lot of forward pressure on the Kiwis, their good defending prevented the Ferns from entering the final third in the first few minutes of the match.

Once Sweden got the ball though, the direction of attack changed.  Building slowly out of the back, the Swedes focused on linking passes while keeping possession.  Their first shot on goal came in the twelfth minute when Olivia Schough’s strike was blocked by the Kiwi defence. Schough struck again in the fifteenth minute only to have Fern goalkeeper Erin Nayler deny her this time.

The opening goal came a minute later.  Schough kicked the ball into the box off a corner where Anna Anvagård headed it home. While the New Zealanders tried to continue attacking to equalize, it was the Swedes who struck again thirteen minutes later. This time it was Hanna Benninson who received the ball outside the eighteen yard box.  She then crossed it in and found Madelen Janogy who headed it past Nayler.  The Swedes were up 2-0 at the thirtieth minute.

This was going to be a difficult score line for the Football Ferns to come back from.  They did try though.  Five minutes after the second Swedish goal, a quick succession of three opportunities nearly resulted in a Kiwi goal.  Rolston had shot on goal but it was stopped by Swedish goalkeeper Jennifer Falk.  A rebound shot by Katie Bowen was also stopped.  That rebound was picked up by Betsy Hassett who dribbled it and shot wide.

This was the Football Ferns’ best opportunity of the first half.  The remainder of the time found the Kiwis largely trying to exit their own half.  The Swedish goals motivated their squad who seemed to put more energy into pressing the Ferns and limiting their space and passing lanes.  

Above: Olivia Schough celebrates with Emma Kulberg after a Swedish goal. Photo: Getty Images

The second half continued very much in that fashion.  While the Swedish pressure was not persistent, their defence remained disciplined with only three other Kiwi shots making it through.  The Swedes did try to push forwards and go for a third goal but without exerting too much energy needed in the next few days when the knock-out phase starts.  The second half finished as it started, 2-0 for the Swedes. 

The Swedish tactics for attacks in this match focused largely on possessing the ball, building up without mistakes, and being patient to create chances.  They did not play with the same urgency and creativity in midfield as they had in previous matches, mainly because they did not have the same personnel, but also because they did not need to.  They were almost assured to exit the group stage.  Despite the rotation of players, ensuring that all on the roster remain fresh for what can be three more games was essential and therefore did not call for overexertion in this final group stage. 

Overall the Swedish tactics against the Ferns were relatively straightforward.  Like the other Kiwi opponents in the tournament, forward pressure was applied.  When this occurred in Swedish attacks the pressure resulted in quick reactive clearances during defensive plays by the Kiwis, often to an opponent or to a space with no teammate present.  This was quite similar to previous New Zealand matches.  

Defense-wise the Kiwis also often had issues clearing the ball out as they committed a lot of players back.  When the ball went forward there was no one to retrieve and keep it. The Ferns also often struggled under pressure to find passing lanes, something the Swedes also denied them through proper positioning.  In this game it further reduced the ability of the Kiwis to exit their own half at times.  

This is not to say that the Ferns could not build attacks.  They were able to link passes well for some spells, but in the end were prone to making mistakes.  This resulted in easy turnovers.  They also often played too close to each other, making it easier to defend.  Most frustrating, the Kiwis often were able to make it to the final third only to cross the ball into the box with no attacker being able to get it.  Overall they often lacked the ability to do the simple things well.

Above: Anna Anvagård challenges New Zealand’s Katie Bowen. Photo: Getty Images.

They were arguably underprepared entering this tournament, having not played once since the pandemic bar a closed doors match a week before the Olympics started.  That match occurred less than 48 hours after their full squad had finally reunited for the first time in 16 months. Compare this to their group stage opponents. The Australians had played five matches in 2021 and spent the last six weeks together.  The Americans had played thirteen matches in the last six months and their final group stage opponents Sweden who had played eight matches in that time.

Hopefully, more preparation will occur in the upcoming years ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup which New Zealand will host alongside Australia. Despite having reached five World Cups and four Olympics, the Kiwis have only ever got beyond the group stage once.  The Football Ferns have the players for greater success than they have reached, but going forward they need the time together to accomplish this.

Teams: NEW ZEALAND: Naylor, Bott, Moore, Riley, Erceg, Percival, Hassett, Bowen, Cleverley, Rolston, Wilkinson. Substitutes used: Bunge, Rennie, Satchell.

SWEDEN: Falk, Andersson, Kullberg, Eriksson, Roddar, Bennison, Janogly, Schough, Angeldahl, Anvagård, Blomqvist. Substitutes used: Hurtig, Asllani, Ilestedt, Bjorn, Seger.

Scorers: Anvagård 17, Janogy 29.

Referee: Laura Fortunato (ARG).

Well Organized Matildas into Quarters

Above: Mary Fowler (left) who had a superb first half, holds of USA’s Crystal Dunn. Photo: Getty Images.

United States of America 0-0 Australia (27/7/21)

By Ben Gilby

Australia produced an example of professional game management within an overall well organised team display to earn a point against World Champions USA in Ibiraki.

The United States took quite a while to impose themselves on the match and had no more than 40% of possession throughout the game.

The defensive difficulties that have plagued Australia since they switched to a back three were largely absent in this game as the Matildas worked hard to cover when the likes of Ellie Carpenter pushed forward.

Tony Gustavsson made three changes with Alanna Kennedy coming in for Aivi Luik at the back, and there was a welcome return for Chloe Logarzo who hadn’t started an international for 17 months. Just before the kick-off, Caitlin Foord, who was named in the starting eleven was replaced by Mary Fowler. The teenager from Cairns would have a strong game.

There were five changes for the USA who went into the game knowing they would need a minimum of a point to ensure they qualified for the knockout stages as group runners-up. Australia would be highly likely to qualify for the Quarter-Finals even if they lost.

Above: Ellie Carpenter did an outstanding job on USWNT icon Megan Rapinoe. Photo: Getty Images

The Matildas had lots of early possession with Fowler prominent. There was though an early chance for Alex Morgan who broke through but Teagan Micah saved comfortably.

Carpenter largely nullified the threat of USWNT icon Megan Rapinoe on the right with the Olympique Lyonnais defender constantly snapping at Rapinoe’s heels.

Fowler had a fantastic chance to put Australia ahead after 17 minutes when her header cannoned back off of the cross bar. The Australian pressure continued to mount as Tameka Yallop won a corner from Crystal Dunn and Steph Catley curled a ball in which the USA managed to clear.

The Matildas were calm and professional on the ball, working hard to take the sting out of the USA whenever the World Champions looked to build momentum. There was also more tigerish tackling with Kyah Simon getting in the face of Tierna Davidson to win an unlikely throw in near the box.

Above: Alex Morgan (left) and Sam Kerr contest possession as Emily van Egmond (far left) looks on. Photo: Getty Images

America were doing very well in containing Sam Kerr, who was only rarely seen in an attacking threat.

The USWNT did manage to get the ball in the net just after the half hour mark when Alex Morgan was adjudged to be offside when heading a corner past Micah. VAR was called in make a judgement and it took several red lines to make a decision. The goal was ruled out and Australia were very fortunate, as to the naked eye, Morgan looked onside.

There was another opportunity shortly afterwards when Rapinoe went one on one with Micah. The Australian goalkeeper headed clear and referee Anastasia Pustovoitova ruled that the American had fouled the keeper. Rapinoe’s response was to kick the ball towards the goal which earned her a yellow card.

Just before the break, Kerr, in the centre, found Yallop on the right and the former Brisbane Roar star hit an effort which Naeher saved. Each side created a further opportunity apiece before the break. First, Simon’s pressure earned a corner which the USA managed to clear and then former Manchester United star Christen Press hit a shot straight at Micah.

Above: Matildas Sam Kerr, Alanna Kennedy and Kyah Simon all try to win the ball in the air with Mary Fowler looking on. Photo: Getty Images

The second half was a real chess match at times, but despite the fact that the USA were seen more from an offensive perspective, Australia still ended the match with 60% possession.

Seven minutes into the re-start and Simon played a lovely ball through to Fowler in the channel. The youngster did well to get a shot away under extreme defensive pressure, but it went wide.

Shortly afterwards, Simon had an effort herself which was blocked by Davidson for a corner.

Rose Lavelle then had a chance when her shot deflected off of Kennedy and into the arms of Micah. Three minutes later, Rapinoe, on a yellow card was substituted after taking out Carpenter with a rumbustious challenge.

Kyra Cooney-Cross came on as a sub for The Matildas and within minutes earned a card herself. The Melbourne Victory teenager lost possession to Lavelle and tracked back rapidly to put in a challenge in a bid to win the ball back. Davidson swung the free-kick in from 30 yards and sub Lindsey Horan headed wide.

Above: Kelley O’Hara and Clare Polkinghorne compete in the air. Photo: Getty Images

The final ten minutes saw Australia working hard at maintaining possession, largely keeping the ball within their own backline to ensure they kept the USA out, and virtually assured their own qualification for the final stages.

There may be some critics who will attack the way the Matildas ended the game, but this was a case of tactics and Tony Gustavsson, for me got it absolutely spot on. Australia were exceptionally well organised, strong defensively and creative offensively. They went toe to toe with the World Champions – albeit a USA side who remain below their best – and played well.

There is clear progression in performance now in every one of the Matildas eight games under the Swede. Things are still not quite where everyone would like to be, but there are real positives, unquestionably. You can’t help but think that Australia will go into their Quarter-Final against Great Britain on Friday confident of winning.

Teams: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Naeher, Dunn, Davidson, Sauerbrunn, O’Hara, S. Mewis, Ertz, Lavelle, Rapinoe, Morgan, Press. Substitutes used: Heath (for Rapinoe 65), Horan (for S. Mewis 64), Williams (for Press 73), Lloyd (for Morgan 73), K. Mewis (for Lavelle 88).

AUSTRALIA: Micah, Polkinghorne, Kennedy, Carpenter, Logarzo, Catley, Van Egmond, Yallop, Fowler, Kerr, Simon. Substitutes used: Cooney-Cross (for Logarzo 62), Gielnik (for Simon 84)

Referee: Anastasia Pustovoitova (RUS).

Attendance: 1,000 (Covid restricted crowd).

Deserved Point Seals Group Summit

Above: Team GB goalscorer Caroline Weir up against Canada’s Sophie Schmidt. Photo: Getty Images.

Canada 1-1 Great Britain (27/7/21)

By Ben Gilby

Great Britain earned the point that ensured they topped Group E after coming from behind to earn a deserved draw with Canada in Ibiraki.

Both sides rang the changes with Georgia Stanway and Millie Bright among those returning to the starting eleven for Team GB with Ellen White on the bench. Canada were without their experienced trio of Allysha Chapman, Christine Sinclair and Desiree Scott who hold over 540 caps between them.

The Canadians took the lead ten minutes into the second half after taking advantage of less than impressive defending by Britain, but they did not have the consistent attacking threat to take the game to Team GB as they conceded a goal in the last ten minutes yet again at these Games.

The first half opened in heavy rain and immediately there was some uncertainty at the back from Britain which allowed Évelyne Viens to get a shot away which was wide.

The Canadians defended high and succeeded in pushing Team GB back, forcing them to pass around midfield whilst waiting to find a killer ball through, which nullified their attacking threat for large parts of the opening quarter and much of the game was played in the middle third in this period.

Above: Georgia Stanway battles against Canada’s Jayde Riviere. Photo: Getty Images

The brightest lights in a dark wet first half for Great Britain were Manchester City team mates Georgia Stanway and Demi Stokes. Stanway was popping up all over the offensive third to lay off a perfect pass or hit a dangerous effort. Stokes was rocketing forward from the back, pulling defenders away and creating space with some skilful, marauding runs with the ball.

In contrast, whilst still well organised defensively, Canada were struggling to find the creativity to pose a threat up front.

Just after the half hour mark, Stokes raced up the left and played in Stanway who laid off a pass to Rachel Daly but Ashley Lawrence combined with her goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé to block.

Stokes was involved again six minutes before the break when she played a glorious pass through to Nikita Parris who miskicked her effort. It eventually went into the path of Caroline Weir who couldn’t control her follow up shot.

Above: Demi Stokes, who had a superb first half, up against Deanne Rose. Photo: Getty Images

Great Britain opened the second period playing controlled passing, patiently looking for a breakthrough. However, when the breakthrough did come, it was not the way they expected and the consequence of their own errors.

There had already been a warning light flashing on 53 minutes when Ellie Roebuck’s poor clearance went straight to Adriana Leon, whose shot was blocked by Bright. Yet just two minutes later, Lawrence was given the freedom to break up the left, cut in and square a ball which the entire defence couldn’t reach. Leon was unmarked towards the back of the box and swept the ball home to put Canada in front.

The Canadians had plenty of possession in the next ten minutes but lacked the ability to penetrate further, and Great Britain made them pay.

The remaining twenty minutes or so saw Team GB on top, boosted by the arrival of both White and Fran Kirby as substitutes. The pair offered a different kind of threat. The creativity of Kim Little, also on from the bench and Weir became more evident.

Above: Adriana Leon (left) pictured after putting Canada in front. Photo: Getty Images.

The Scots combined on 65 minutes when a gorgeous inside pass from Little found Weir whose cross shot rebounded off of the underside of the bar onto the inside of the far post and away.

Kirby earned her country a corner within 90 seconds of coming on, forcing Vanessa Gilles to put the ball out. From the resulting set piece from Weir, Stanway had a shot blocked and White’s follow up was easily held by Labbé.

Then, with five minutes left, Lucy Bronze took up possession on the left and cut across to offload a pass for Weir who hit a first time effort which deflected off of Nichelle Prince into the far corner of the net for 1-1.

After that, Great Britain controlled the ball well to ensure they gained the point to finish top of the group. If Team GB can do something that England have failed to do for over a year and tighten up at the back, they have a chance of doing some damage in the knock-out stages. Australia are up next, and that will be a tasty battle indeed.

Teams: CANADA: Labbé, Riviere, Buchanan, Gilles, Lawrence, Schmidt, Quinn, Rose, Beckie, Leon, Viens. Substitutes used: Fleming (for Beckie 46), Huitama (for Rose 46), Prince (for Viens 54), Grosso (for Quinn 67), Carle (for Lawrence 81).

Scorers: Leon 55.

GREAT BRITAIN: Roebuck, Bronze, Williamson, Bright, Stokes, Scott, Ingle, Daly, Weir, Stanway, Parris. Substitutes used: Little (for Scott 63), White (for Daly 63), Kirby (for Ingle 76).

Scorers: Weir 85.

Referee: Kateryna Monzul (UKR).

A Game To Showcase Talent And Depth

Netherlands 3-3 Brazil (26/7/21)

By Abi Ticehurst

Above – Brazil celebrate. Photo: @oranjevrouwen

If you’ve ever watched Marta play, you’ll know she scores goals…and lots of them. And yet during the opening minutes of their second game of the tournament she sat incredibly defensively just left of Tamires. Proof enough of her workhorse rate down the left wing for the entirety of the game.

That said, a smart ball crossed pitch wide from left to right and chested down by Lynn Wilms before she fizzed it in to Vivianne Miedema to put the Dutch 1-0 up inside three minutes wouldn’t have suggested the Brazilians were looking particularly defensively-minded. That Miedema goal was a classic move too, she spun Erika the wrong way before turning herself and slotted the ball cool as a cucumber in the bottom right corner.

Brazil, understandably frustrated, were quick to put in a counter as Tamires guided the ball down the left wing and Marta pointed to exactly where she wanted it placed. A well weighted pass from the left back meant Marta was able to chase the ball comfortably and strike at goal but she was just off balance and it sent the attempt flying at an awkward angle. The Brazilian battling continued in their attacking third with a clash of the tens as Danielle van de Donk took on Marta resulting in a Brazilian corner. A poor clearance from the Dutch and calls for a penalty, Marta stood over the ball ready with game face on but after a lengthy VAR check, it was deemed a false decision and the game proceeded.

No sooner was their chance to equalise denied than Debinha took her chance. A defensive error by the Netherlands meant that Sari van Veenendaal could do very little and it was 1-1. Quick to fight back with an impressive counter, the Dutch thought hard for a second goal but Lieke Martens was unable to convert.

One thing of note regarding Martens, she consistently runs a very fine line, literally, whether that be down the left wing or when in the box, her pace means she’s able to craft a perfect ball to run onto and execute crosses effectively. A goal a piece at half time felt like the right score in this match up, also of note in this game is just how joyous the Brazilian switch passing in tight spots is.

Second half underway and the South Americans injected further pace into the squad on the right wing with the introduction of Ludmila da Silva. The Netherlands were able to make a convincing break less than ten minutes in, but it was a wasted opportunity as Shanice van de Sanden skied the chance way over the goal as she attempted to cross to Martens.

Above: Dominique Janssen crashes in a free kick to score. Photo: @oranjevrouwen

Another chance came as Martens got free to dance in between the defence but she spent just a little too much time which allowed them to reset and deny the attempt on goal. The ball was cleared out of the 18 yard box, but not for long as van de Donk was able to time the cross perfectly and a stealth like Miedema was hovering at the back post and headed home to make it 2-1.

More quick counter attacking from Brazil saw the ball back at the other end almost instantly and da Silva was brought down just as she stepped inside the box. Another VAR check was in order, no doubt this time it was one. Marta took and coolly slotted it in to make it 2-2.

A poorly executed pass by Aniek Nouwen back to van Veenendaal was latched onto by da Silva and the off guard keeper was caught out as it was dinked bottom right to make it 2-3. Certainly not the reason Nouwen was named my ‘one to watch’ in my pre-tournament Netherlands preview for Impetus!

The Dutch looked suitably flustered after the error and took considerably longer to settle back into the game with 20 minutes to go. However, it wasn’t too long before a dubious yellow was given to de Silva and the Netherlands were awarded a free-kick. And boy, Dominique Janssen did not disappoint. She stuck it clean to hit top bins and whilst Barbara was able to get a hand to it, the power behind the shot was too much for her to keep it out and it was all square at 3-3. 

A game that showcased the talents and depth of both sides, the Netherlands will face China next whilst Brazil take on the fascinating Zambian outfit.

Teams: NETHERLANDS: van Veenendaal, Wilms, van der Gragt, Nouwen, Janssen, Roord, van de Donk, Groenen, van de Sanden, Miedema. Substitutes: van Dongen, Folkertsma, Pelova, van Es, Kop, Beerensteyn, Jansen.

Scorers: Miedema 3, 59. Janssen 79.

BRAZIL: Barbara, Erika, Rafaelle, Tamires, Bruna, Duda, Formiga, Marta, Andressinha, Debinha, Beatriz. Substitutes: Poliana, Angelina, Ludmila, Jucinara, Geyse, Leticia, Andressa

Scorers: Debinha 16, Marta (pen) 65, Ludmilla 68.

Referee: Kate Jacewicz (AUS).

Attendance: 2,621

Things Are Getting Better, But Are We Out Of Time?

Above: The Matildas team that took on Sweden yesterday. Photo: Football Australia.

Kieran Yap reviews The Matildas performance in their game with Sweden yesterday and sees continued green shoots ahead of their final group game with the USA (25/7/21).

Five weeks ago, Australia drew 0-0 with Sweden in an encouraging if not inspiring performance.

The Matildas defended resolutely, Tegan Micah performed admirably on her debut and even though the hosts had not named their full Olympic line-up, they were denied an expected win.

This week Australia sits on the verge of the knockout stages of Tokyo 2020. Their destiny is in their own hands. If they win against the USA, they are through to the Quarter-Finals.

Importantly, they went toe to toe and almost goal for goal with the full strength Swedish side in a competitive match.

A missed penalty could have changed the game, Sam Kerr stepped up with the game at 3-2 and hit her shot on target but an athletic effort by Hedvig Lindahl was enough to deny her.

But beyond the result, the performance was a mix of what fans have become accustomed to and what Gustavsson is trying to instill.

Australia attacked with purpose, mixing individual skill and team interplay. the final pass was sometimes missing but the same could be said of Sweden, they just found it twice more.

Above: Sam Kerr on the charge for Australia against Sweden yesterday. Photo: The Guardian

The Matildas looked aggressive, they fought hard until the end and 3-4 would have been more reflective of the game after an earlier penalty was denied and Kerr again missed a one-on-one chance late on.

The midfield sat deep for most of the game in support of the defence and only got caught out when surging for an equaliser late in the piece.

The rotating back three still looked like a work in progress and gaps on the left were exploited by the brilliant Sofia Jakobsson but there is progress.

For the first hour against the Gold Medal favourite the margins were small. Two of Sweden’s goals came from counter-attacks which is not how this game was supposed to go.

Australia stands a chance against the USA. Many of our players have played with success in the American leagues and left for new challenges, but they know they can match them.

Gustavsson is a former assistant of the USWNT and if anybody knows the key to defeating them it is him.

From the 5-0 loss to the Netherlands and the 0-0 draw to Sweden the Matildas have found their mojo again.

They are improving and only Tuesday will tell us if they have improved enough in time.

There is no fun in being anything else but excited.

Beckie’s Brace Takes The Plaudits

Above: Janine Beckie of Manchester City was in dominant form for Canada against Chile. Photo: Getty Images.

Chile 1-2 Canada (25/7/21)

By Catherine Paquette

This match was arguably a must win for both teams.  Chile lost its opening encounter to Team GB while Canada dropped two points late in their game against Japan when the host nation equalized.  

Canadian coach Bev Priestman made several changes for this second game.  Kailen Sheridan replaced Steph Labbé as starting goalkeeper.  Labbé was injured in the match against Japan.  Allysha Chapman was rested and replaced by Jayde Rivière at left back.  Quinn started on the bench with Julia Grosso in their place.  The other members were the same as the first game.

Chile for their part made one change starting Rosario Balmaceda instead of Nayadet López on the right side. They played this game with what most often resembled a 5-3-2 formation.  Canada opted for a 4-3-1-2 formation. While Canada was the stronger side entering the game, it was not an assured win.

Chile showed their offensive capability early in the match.  They were awarded a corner in the second minute.   The corner found María Urrutia who tried, after receiving and controlling the ball, to pass it back in front of goal.  What could have been a threatening situation was then collected by Canada’s Julia Grosso and cleared from danger.

Canada were the next to threaten in the seventh minute.  A lovely passing move which started with captain Christine Sinclair finished with a deflection from goalkeeper Christine Endler’s save being re-deflected by Kadeisha Buchanan into goal.  However, the goal was waived off after it was shown that the re-deflection made contact with Buchanan’s arm.

Canada then went on to control the next ten minutes, with extended periods of Canadian passing play in the Chilean half.  However, through good Chilean defending, Canada could not penetrate the final third despite having a very fluid front line which rotated places often, making it harder for their counterparts to mark them. The longstanding Canadian final third problem continued to be a problem for the majority of the match.

The next goal scoring opportunity occurred in the 18th minute.  Daniele Pardo tackled Sinclair in the Chilean box.  After VAR review a penalty was awarded to Canada.  Janine Beckie was selected to take it but her attempt hit the righthand side post. The match stayed nil-nil.

The Canadians continued to attack.  They often advanced through the middle of the pitch, with quick series of passes between the midfields and strikers to move the ball forward.  They were at times a little too compact though, making it easier for Chile to defend them.

The Canadians were not the only ones on the attack though.  While Chile’s ability to move forward was at times impacted by the number of players who dropped back into their half to help defensively, they were able to get the ball up the field.  Chile preferred to use the right hand side when advancing, with Francisca Lara, Yessenia Lopez and Yanara López being particularly effective together at moving the ball forward.  

The breakthrough in scoring though came from the Canadians at the 39th minute.  After several minutes of pressure on the Chilean defence, Nichelle Prince made a good run up the right hand side of the Chilean box and crossed it in.  Endler deflected it forward and the ball found Beckie who made up for the missed penalty by one touch smashing it home.  The Canadians were up 1-0.

Several minutes later, Prince was once again nearly deadly with another sublime pass into the six yard box.  It was defended for a corner.  The teams finished the first half the with the Canadians having held the majority of the possession and shots on goal.

The second half got off to a quick start.  A Canadian attack was triggered by a fantastic pass into the box by Rose.  Beckie timed her run perfectly to the pass, was able to get in behind the Chilean defence with the ball and round Endler to score her second goal of the match.  The Canadians were now up 2-0 in the 48th minute.

Beckie nearly got a hat trick three minutes later.  Prince received the ball on the left hand side of the box.  She then dribbled around three defenders, nutmegged a fourth and passed the ball to Beckie.  The ball was defended just before it reached her though.

Chile for their part were able to attack back. In the 53rd minute Karen Araya passed a wonderful ball into the Canadian box. Daniela Zamora made a clever run in for it but was tackled by Shelina Zadorsky.  A VAR review that contact had been made and a penalty was awarded.

Above: Julia Grosso heads clear for Canada against Chile yesterday. Photo: Getty Images.

Araya was the Chilean chosen to take it.  She clinically put it in the bottom left hand side of the goal.  Even if Sheridan had gone the right way, there is arguably little she could have done about it.  It was Chile’s first goal in a women’s Olympic football tournament.

The remainder of the match continued as most of the game had gone before.  It was largely dominated by Canada, with several Chilean attacks.  Both sides had chances on goal.  Both sides also made several changes.  While it did affect the play, it did not affect the score line. 

After the full ninety minutes it remained 2-1 with Canada taking the three points.  

It is arguably an uphill battle now for Chile.  They sit on zero points with a -3 goal difference.  While they are not out of contention, and there is a possibility of progressing if they win their next match and other results go their way, this situation is highly improbable.

They meet tournament hosts Japan next, a very good and technical team who will play hard for a win as they only have one point out of their first two matches. Arguably though, regardless of whether they make it out of the group stage or not, Chile should be proud of their accomplishment.

The team was not even listed five years ago on the FIFA rankings due to inactivity.  Here they are five years later, at their second major tournament in a row.  What is most impressive is the quality of their play.  While they are not at the level of their more seasoned opponents, they are also not being blown out of the game.  Chile are playing with technical skill, tactical acuity and consistent persistence.  

They have shown in their first two games against difficult opponents that they can compete and be difficult to break through. One hopes that regardless the result of their next game, they will continue to get the funding and support to keep their program growing as this is a side with a lot of future potential.

Canada for their part, while winning this match, can be said to have underperformed so far.  While this match was an improvement on the last, more offensive capacity will be needed against Team GB should they desire to top the group.  This is most needed in the final third. 

They have shown they have the players to do this.  While Sinclair did have an off night, possibly disturbed by the nick she picked up early in the game, she still has the capacity to create and score.  Prince and Rose also had moments of brilliance throughout the match, creating scoring opportunities and taking shots on goal themselves.

The player of the match though, and arguably the most important offensive Canadian force at the moment, is Janine Beckie.  Despite her missed penalty, she showed she had the mental fortitude and grit to carry on and help her team get the win.  Contributing creatively in the midfield to bring the ball up, she also proved deadly in front of the net with two goals to prove it.

Above: Canada celebrate against Chile, but there are tougher challenges ahead for Bev Priestman’s team. Photo: Getty Images.

In the post match press conference Beckie stated: “We came here to win. To be able to help by scoring two goals makes me happy. A win’s a win,”  She should be happy, as should Canada.

Teams: CHILE: Endler (C), Guerrero, Lara, Araya, Urrutia, Aedo, Lopez, Pardo, Zamora, Balmaceda, Saez. Substitutes: Ramirez, Lopez Opazo, Acuna, Campos, Pinilla, Toro, Grez.

Scorer: Araya 57 (penalty).

CANADA: Sheridan, Buchanan, Zadorsky, Grosso, Riviere, Lawrence, Scott, Sinclair (C), Prince, Beckie, Fleming. Substitutes: Quinn, Rose, Leon, Viens, Gilles, Carle, McLeod.

Scorers: Beckie 39, 47

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI)

USNWT Find Their Mojo Again

Above: Carli Lloyd gets a shot away despite the close attention of Abby Erceg. Photo: Getty Images.

United States of America 6-1 New Zealand (25/7/21)

By Kris Goman

We come into this match with both teams needing the win after losses in their first group games.

The big surprise of course was the USWNT loss to Sweden. Not so much the loss but being beaten 3-0. A huge reality check for the World Cup winners looking to break the hoodoo of no team ever winning the Olympics after winning the World Cup.


They managed to turn their misfortune around in this match but not everything went the way of the Americans. The 6-1 scoreline looks like a thrashing and it was but the goal conceded that showed up their defence and two of the six goals were unfortunate own goals. The win moves them to second place in Group G with Australia to face on Tuesday.

Julie Ertz brings the ball through the centre and sends it up to Carli Lloyd, who in turn passes to Rose Lavelle but her shot is deflected.

On the rebound, Betsy Hassett clears to Liv Chance who puts a cross in that could have gone top bins but just goes out. Good to see NZ stepping up in attack early. Soon after Hannah Wilkinson shoots and gets the first shot on target and makes Alyssa Naeher dive to save.

We’re soon back up the other end and Megan Rapinoe takes a long shot out of the box that skims the crossbar.

Back in the USA box and Abby Erceg clears a tackle to Heath who passes to Lavelle who finds herself in the clear with just the keeper to beat. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, she slots it past the keeper to the near post for the USWNT’s first goal of the tournament. 1-0 USA and you can tell the team breathe a sigh of relief.

Above: Julie Ertz in possession for the USA. Photo: Getty Images.

Lloyd trips up Ria Percival and NZ get a free kick. When taken it finds Erceg offside. Lloyd gets a flick over Anna Leat, the NZ keeper, but she’s well offside so no goal.

Erceg switches the play out to CJ Bott and she does a lovely cross into the box which is headed by Wilkinson and goes just wide of goal to the left, keeping Naeher on her toes.

A bit of US play in and out of the box eventually gets to Lavelle in the box but her shot goes into the side of the net. Rapinoe’s corner is kicked straight out by NZ. The next corner is played short and Ertz takes out Percival and the Football Ferns get a free kick. Crystal Dunn gets the ball in the left corner and passes back to Heath who kicks it straight past Leat into goal. However it is disallowed as Dunn was offside. We’re still at 1-0.

Then Lloyd gets the ball from Ertz but she’s obviously offside. They don’t call it and she cuts back to Rapinoe who scores but finally the flag goes up and the goal is cancelled.
USA is applying all the pressure now but the Kiwis are keeping a high line to keep them honest. Possession has been around 60% to USA.

Lavelle kicks the ball across the box to The Great Horan but she is called offside in a very close call this time. Heath gets a run down the right and takes a shot from outside the box, not risking yet another offside but Leat dives and saves it, in the save of the match.

NZ switches play out to Bott who sends a long ball into the NZ box. Wilkinson heads it back across goal and it skims the far post to go out on the right in a very near miss just before half time. So close to being one all and Bott has been very effective with these pin point long balls.

In stoppage time, there’s a corner that Rapinoe directs to the back post. Ertz heads it back across to Horan who heads it to the right of Leat and its 2-0 and Horan scores in her 100th match for the USWNT. One more corner is cleared before the half time whistle goes.

Above: Megan Rapinoe celebrates with Lindsey Horan after the number nine scored for the USA on her hundredth appearance. Photo: The Guardian

Despite the 61% possession of the USWNT,  NZ had three shots with one on target to the US’ five shots with two on target, which were both goals. The five corners to nil probably tell the tale a bit clearer. The USA are looking dominant. The Football Ferns; high line has been successful in stopping three goals. The Kiwis had three good shots so it’s not beyond them to score here.

In the second half,  USA continue to apply pressure with the overwhelming bulk of possession and territory. Lloyd takes Percival out again with a knee to the ribs in a challenge. It wasn’t intentional but it looked like it hurt.

Horan makes a couple of runs into the box that are cleared. Dunn is working the left side and gets the ball to Ertz who flicks it through to Lloyd. Erceg tackles just in time to put her off her shot and it hits the side netting.

A ball into the box from Horan to Lloyd has her heading it towards goal when Erceg tries to head the ball over the goal but only heads it over Leat and puts it into the back of the net out of reach of Leat. A disastrous own goal for Erceg and NZ. 3-0 USA.

NZ’s first corner is forced by captain Ali Riley. It comes to naught. First substitution sees Chance go off, who’s had a fairly quiet game, to be replaced by Paige Satchell, who could shake things up.

The ball comes up the centre and Wilkinson and Tierna Davidson go for it. Davidson is shouldered off the ball and USA get the foul as Wilkinson shoots into Naeher’s arms.

The USA do a couple of substitutions with Rapinoe being replaced by Christen Press and Lavelle coming off for Sam Mewis. Lloyd takes the captain’s armband from Rapinoe.


Ertz rockets a long ball from the centre circle to Press in the box but she can’t control it and it’s cleared.

Satchell dodges a few defenders to dribble it into the box. She’s beaten Abby Dahlkemper and draws Naeher out before passing back to Betsy Hassett who thumps the ball into an empty goal. Hassett gets the glory but Satchell created the magic. 3-1 USA.

Above: New Zealand goal scorer Betsy Hassett on the ball. Photo: Getty Images.

At 73 minutes, Lloyd is off and Alex Morgan comes on and takes over the captaincy.
Press gets a ball down the left and centres to Horan in the box. The shot goes wide and Press was offside anyway.

At 79 minutes, Daisy Cleverley comes off for NZ and is replaced with Gabi Rennie, the goal scorer against Australia. The game is still within reach for NZ.

Ertz brings the ball down the right side and crosses straight to Press at the top of the box who controls and shoots in a fluid movement and puts it straight in the back of the net in a class goal. Suddenly, the game is no longer within reach for NZ. 4-1 USA.

NZ haven’t given up hope yet and are still pressing. Katie Bowen wins a corner. Percival takes it and sends it to the back post but it’s cleared with no major threat.

More substitutions and for the USWNT, Dunn is off with Casey Krueger on and Horan is off with Catarina Macario coming on. At 86 minutes, Hassett is off for NZ, replaced by Annalie Longo.

Press gets the ball in the left of the box and squares it across to Morgan who kicks it straight in for another goal for the USWNT. Press now has a goal and an assist and the floodgates have opened. 5-1 USA.

In stoppage time, Press takes a shot from the top of the box that floats clear of goal. Mewis sends a long ball across from the right to Press in the box. She shoots and Bott deflects the ball into the goal in the last seconds of the game to make it 6-1 USA and send Australia to third place in the table. This is a shame as Bott has had a really good game and is now clearly distraught.

USA celebrate their win and a few team mates catch up with hugs. Dunn and Rapinoe are hugging and chatting with Tom Sermani who was the USWNT coach when they first made the team.

USA have their mojo back and get the three points and second place on the table. They play Australia next and will be looking to consolidate this win. Given the current state of Group F, it’s likely both Australia and USA will go through to the knockout stage of the tournament regardless of the result unless Zambia beat Brazil or China beats the Netherlands. On current form, this is unlikely but not impossible. And goal difference can still be critical.

New Zealand play Sweden next. It’s hard to see them winning that match but if they did it would come down to goal difference and today’s blow out makes it very difficult for them to get ahead of Australia into third place.

Teams: USA: Naeher, Dunn, Davidson, Dalkemper, Sonnet, Horan, Ertz, Lavelle, Rapinoe (C), Lloyd, Heath. Substitutes: S. Mewis, Sauerbrunn, Press, Morgan, Macario, Kruger, Campbell.

Scorers: Lavelle 9, Horan 45, Erceg OG 63, Press 80, Morgan 88, Bott OG 90+3

NEW ZEALAND: Leat, Bott, Erceg, Moore, Riley, Percival, Bowen, Cleverley, Chance, Hassett, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Naylor, Green, Bunge, Rennie, Longo, Satchell, Rolston.

Scorer: Hassett 72.

Referee: Stéphanie Frappart (FRA)

Better From Chile But Not Enough

Chile 1-2 Canada

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset (25/7/21)

Above: The Chilean team that took on Canada yesterday in the Olympics. Photo: Today in 24.

Despite playing a lot better for their second game, Chile lost again.

The South Americans started the game with a lot of desire and pressed Canada in the midfield.

After only one minute, Yessenia Lopez gained possession in the centre circle and Chile obtained a corner kick after they drove the ball towards the Canada goal line. Chile had the best of the early exchanges but Canada started to push forward and earned a corner kick of their own at the fourth minute.

This was the beginning of Canadian domination. They increased the tempo playing quicker with short passes and the game was more balanced. Despite this, Chilean keeper Christiane Endler was able to show her skills by dribbling past a Canadian forward to clear the ball.

Unfortunately for Chile, after eighteen minutes, Canada were awarded a penalty. Janine Beckie put the ball against the right post whilst Endler was beaten because she dived on the left side, and the score line stayed even at 0-0.

Canada increased their dominate a little bit more and after half an hour, Canada had 61% possession. This possession was finally turned into a goal in the thirty ninth minute when a cross came in leading to a shot which was repulsed by Endler but Beckie was there to hit a rebound past Endler’s right for 1-0 at the break.

At the beginning of second half, Canada increased their pace and used all the width of the field, giving Chile’s players a lot of problems to defend effectively. At the forty seventh minute, Beckie, who came from a borderline offside position, got hold of a cross and dribbled past Endler to put the ball into an empty net. It was going too fast for Chile.

Chile players continued to try to play and to press Canada players. Their fighting spirit allowed them to obtain a penalty kick on a counterattack and Fernanda Araya scored after fifty seven minutes.

From this time, Chile came into the game a lot more with the possession stats closing to 43% for Chile and 57% for Canada.

Chile were almost rewarded for their hard work after 77 minutes when Lopez’s shot hit the bar with Canada goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was completely beaten.

After this warning, Canada finished strongly but were not able to increase their lead.

Chile showed everyone that they know how to play good football and even if they were dominated, they were able to cause a few problems to Canada. This Chile team is very pleasant to watch and we can be sure that they will continue to improve. Their final group game against Japan is sure to be interesting.

Teams: CHILE: Endler (C), Guerrero, Lara, Araya, Urrutia, Aedo, Lopez, Pardo, Zamora, Balmaceda, Saez. Substitutes: Ramirez, Lopez Opazo, Acuna, Campos, Pinilla, Toro, Grez.

Scorer: Araya 57 (penalty).

CANADA: Sheridan, Buchanan, Zadorsky, Grosso, Riviere, Lawrence, Scott, Sinclair (C), Prince, Beckie, Fleming. Substitutes: Quinn, Rose, Leon, Viens, Gilles, Carle, McLeod.

Scorers: Beckie 39, 47

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI)

Swedes’ Superior Organisation & Ruthlessness The Difference

Above: Stina Blackstenius celebrates after scoring Sweden’s fourth. Photo: Getty Images.

Sweden 4-2 Australia (24/7/21)

By Ben Gilby

Sweden reinforced their status as many people’s new favourites for the Gold Medal with a ruthless victory over Australia this morning.

The major news pre-game was that Sweden welcomed back Magda Eriksson after she was forced to leave the friendly between the two sides back in June. For The Matildas, Teagan Micah, who has been in impressive form since making her debut in that aforementioned game against the Swedes, replaced Lydia Williams in goal.

Australia began the clash with Hayley Raso targeting Jonna Andersson on both flanks – a ploy that worked so successfully for the Everton star when she faced the Swede in her club shirt in an FA Cup tie in May.

Sweden were allowing Australia to play a patient passing build-up through the midfield, with the Scandinavians’ strong defence able to nullify any threat once the Matildas got close to the box.

Caitlin Foord was energetic and busy early on in the middle third but despite the amount of possession that Australia were generating, they were not able to force Hedvig Lindahl into making saves.

Above: Caitlin Foord was busy throughout the game. Photo: Getty Images.

This failure to turn possession into goals came back to haunt the Matildas with 20 minutes on the clock when Kosovare Asllani fed Filippa Angeldahl and her low cross wrong footed Clare Polkinghorne which allowed Fridolina Rolfo to score.

Australia’s immediate response underlined their first half performance: great approach work and movement, comfortable on the ball, but around the box moves fell apart with regularity with the final ball being a major issue.

Sweden forced two corners around the half hour mark, from the second, Angeldahl volleyed wide directly from Micah’s punch clear.

Then, at last, the Matildas produced a final ball of real quality and reaped the reward instantly. Kyah Simon curled in a glorious cross for Kerr to head goal wards. Lindahl got a hand to the ball but couldn’t stop it from crossing the line and Australia were level. Kerr’s header ensured she became her country’s all-time record scorer at the Olympic Games.

Above: Sam Kerr celebrates after getting on the scoresheet once more for The Matildas. Photo: Fox Sports

Five minutes before the break, Hana Glas and Sam Kerr were involved in a challenge on the left hand edge of the six yard box which brought a contrasting verbal exchange from the two teams. The Swedes were audibly appealing for a yellow card for what they viewed as a Kerr dive, with the Australian captain herself heard to be urging referee Edina Alves “you gotta look at that!” In the end neither side got their wish, and it was a goal kick. It remained 1-1 at the break.

The Matildas came out firing at the start of the second half. A glorious diagonal ball found Foord. The Arsenal star put in a beautiful cross for Kerr who comfortably got in ahead of Andersson to score.

However, that was as good as it got for Australia as familiar defensive issues raised their head once more. Tony Gustavsson’s shifting from a back five to a back three is very much a work in progress and Sweden took advantage.

Australia’s lead lasted for just four minutes. Angeldahl was involved once more for the Swedes in the build-up as she played in Sofia Jakobsson whose teasing cross was met by Lina Hurtig, who got in ahead of Ellie Carpenter to slot home.

Above: Kyah Simon linked up well in the first half in particular for The Matildas. Here she rises above Jonna Andersson. Photo: Getty Images.

The Swedes took the lead just gone the hour mark when Rolfo was allowed acres of space to run into and smash home from outside the box for the culmination of just over ten minutes of total Swedish domination.

Tony Gustavsson introduced Alanna Kennedy and Kyra Cooney-Cross in a bid to re-set and re-charge the ranks and it led to a flurry of more controlled and consistent possession.

Shortly afterwards, the Matildas had a great chance to level when VAR adjudged that Angeldahl caught Foord in the box and a penalty was awarded. Kerr stepped up, but Lindahl produced a great one handed stop as Australia’s woes from the penalty spot continued.

Into the final ten minutes, Sweden had now contained Australia once more and they took advantage to clinch victory and their Quarter-Final place with a game to spare when Aslllani aimed a clever cross between Polkinghorne and Kerr which allowed substitute Stina Blackstenius, in red hot form for BK Hacken, to make it 4-2.

Above: Stina Blackstenius celebrates after scoring Sweden’s fourth. Photo: Getty Images.

Mary Fowler produced another promising cameo from the bench for the Matildas and she played a beautiful inch perfect ball into the path of Kerr with four minutes left, but the Chelsea star’s side footed effort was saved by Lindahl.

In the end, Sweden were far more cohesive and had superior know-how both in terms of defensive organisation and offensive ruthlessness.

In their first game against New Zealand, the Matildas were able win despite failing to turn possession and chances into goals. This morning, Sweden provided Tony Gustavsson’s side with a very painful lesson of what the top sides do to you when possession isn’t converted onto the scoreboard.

Teams: SWEDEN: Lindahl, Glas, Ilestedt, Eriksson, Andersson, Angeldahl, Asllani, Seger, Jakobsson, Hurtig, Rolfo. Substitutes used: Bjorn (for Glas), Blackstenius (for Hurtig), Bennison (for Angeldahl), Schough (for Jakobsson) Janogy (for Rolfo).

Scorers: Rolfo 20, 63 Hurtig 51 Blackstenius 81.

AUSTRALIA: Micah, Luik, Polkinghorne, Carpenter, Catley, Yallop, Van Egmond, Raso, Foord, Kerr, Simon. Substitutes used: Kennedy (for Luik), Cooney-Cross (for Yallop), Fowler (for Raso), Gielnik (for Simon).

Scorers: Kerr 35, 47.

Referee: Edina Alves (BRA).

Ben Gilby writes for Beyond90, Australia’s leading independent women’s football platform. Visit https://beyond90.com.au/

It’s All White On The Night For Team GB

Above: Ellen White celebrates after heading home Great Britain’s winner. Photo: Getty Images.

Great Britain 1–0 Japan (24/7/21)

By Ben Gilby

Team GB gained the win which guarantees their place in the Quarter-Finals after victory in a tight game against Japan in Sapporo.

Great Britain brought in Demi Stokes and Leah Williamson in defence in place of Millie Bright and Rachel Daly in a planned change by boss Hege Riise.

There were two other changes with Caroline Weir and Georgia Stanway dropping down to the bench with Sophie Ingle and Nikita Parris coming in.

Japan made the headline change of bringing Mina Tanaka in for Arsenal’s new signing Mana Iwabuchi, who averages a goal virtually every other game for her country.

Team GB started on the front foot with Kim Little pulling the strings and being involved in the majority of the play in their front third during this period.

Japan gained a chance when Hina Sugita beat Lucy Bronze who responded by diving in to concede a free kick on the edge of the left hand side of the box but Houghton headed clear.

On the eighteen minute mark, Great Britain pushed numbers forward with Bronze linking with Ellen White who had a shot deflected into the path of Ingle who earned a corner for her side.

Clear goal scoring opportunities were few and far between with both teams working hard to nullify their opponent’s offensive threats. The hosts were looking to particularly target the flanks of Great Britain with varying degrees of success.

Above: Mina Tanaka’s shot which went just wide of the post in the first half. Photo: Getty Images

With 33 minutes gone, there was a worrying moment in the Great Britain defence as they stood off and allowed Tanaka to get a shot in which was narrowly wide of Roebuck’s left hand post.

With the half progressing towards its final stages, Team GB’s sorties forward became rarer as Japan organised themselves to get several defenders around any British threat to nullify it at source.

This had the additional benefit for the host nation of ensuring that they began to gather more possession, connected to a deliberate ploy to hold onto it, patiently waiting for the right moment to pounce.

With neither side being able to produce anything consistently dangerous going forward, the half time goal-less score line was not unexpected.

Great Britain started the second half more energised with Parris buzzing around down the right and forcing an early corner, but Japan cleared with ease and Yui Hasegawa brought the ball away on the counter.

Shortly afterwards, Sugita was allowed to advance all the way down the left and play a ball in which the Team GB defence recovered to clear.

Above: Team GB captain Kim Little, who had another highly influential game against Japan. Photo: Getty Images.

Japan maintained their good organisation and hard work off the ball which continued to restrict chances for Great Britain.

Into the last twenty minutes, Keira Walsh let fly from outside of the box and the shot was deflected for a corner which was well held by Ayaka Yamashita in the Japanese goal.

Throughout the encounter, it was apparent that Great Britain were failing to take advantage of Japan’s long term problems in the air, particularly from set pieces as, instead of going high for the likes of White consistently, they remained tied to playing the ball on the surface. This inability to develop a flexible approach to what was in front of them may come back to haunt Team GB later in the competition.

Above: Great Britain celebrate after Ellen White’s flick header earned the win. Photo: Getty Images

Ironically, one of the few times that Great Britain did go with the high ball into the box, it resulted in a goal after 74 minutes. Little’s hard work by the corner flag led to her playing the ball back to Bronze. The Manchester City star’s lofted ball in was met by a flick header from White which was poorly managed in the air by Yamashita and Team GB were ahead.

Japan couldn’t raise themselves to force Ellie Roebuck into making saves after White’s goal and they now face a must win game against Chile in order to take third place in the group which would keep hopes of a place in the knock-out stages alive.

Hege Riise’s team will need to work on consistent accuracy of passing, as well as a more flexible tactical approach but, ultimately they have maximum points from their opening two games and have the knock-out stages to look ahead to. At the end of the day, that is all that matters right now.

Teams: JAPAN: Yamashita, Shimizu, Kumagai, Minami, Miyagawa, Shiokoshi, Nakajima, Hayashi, Sugita, Hasegawa, Tanaka. Subs: Ikeda (GK), Takarada, Miura, Sugasawa, Iwabuchi, Endo, Momiki.

GREAT BRITAIN: Roebuck, Bronze, Stokes, Walsh, Houghton, Ingle, Parris, Little, White, Hemp, Williamson. Subs: Weir, Daly, Telford (GK), Bright, Stanway, Scott, Charles.

Scorer: White 74.

Referee: Anastasia Pustovoytova (RUS)

Sam Kerr: “Pretty Handy at Soccer”

Above: Sam Kerr pictured in familiar goal scoring celebration mode. Photo: insider.com

Ben Gilby profiles one of the biggest stars in Australian sport, never mind Australian women’s football. A player he has been lucky enough to see develop since her mid teenage years, Sam Kerr (23/7/21).

“Ya know Daniel’s got a little sister who’s pretty handy at soccer!”

It was 2008, and I was sat at the cavernous Subiaco Oval home of West Coast Eagles, the Aussie Rules team in Perth who are followed by over 50,000 fans a week, watching my team being edged out by Sydney Swans.

The comment was made by a guy sat in the row behind me and marked the first time I was ‘introduced’ to Sam Kerr who would then have been 15 years old.

The ‘Daniel’ is her big brother, who starred for the Eagles from 2001 to 2013, playing 220 games and winning the 2006 AFL Premiership.

The next day, upon catching up with my family out there, being a football fan of the round ball variety, I asked them what they knew about ‘Daniel Kerr’s little sister.’ “Ah yeh, she’s some teenager who’s going to be playing with Perth Glory next season.”

Above: Sam in her early days at Perth Glory in a game against Canberra United. Photo: Wikipedia

With Perth Glory the team I’ve always supported out there due to those family links, it became very easy to follow the fortunes of a player who has hit the heights globally.

Sam grew up in East Fremantle, just up the Swan River from the Western Australia state capital Perth. She comes from a sporting background with her grandfather being a featherweight boxer and a grandmother who played basketball. Her father played professional Australian Rules Football and also soccer in the Western Australia state league.

Sam also has uncles who played the round ball game and others that were jockeys – one – J.J. Miller was a champion jockey and won the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most prestigious horse race in 1966. As we have heard, brother Daniel was a star Australian Rules Footballer for West Coast Eagles where he won a Grand Final in front of 97,400 fans at the MCG in 2006 having been a runner-up in the previous year’s title decider.

Due to the domination of the sporting scene in Western Australia by Australian Rules Football, it is perhaps no surprise that Sam grew up playing that sport and only switched to soccer at the age of 12 partly due to restrictions for girls playing Aussie Rules at that time. Indeed, Sam famously told the Perth media in 2015 that for her as a youngster: “It was all AFL (Aussie Rules). I hated soccer as a kid. I never had a soccer ball around the house.

Kerr’s first club, at the age of 12 was Western Knights, based in Mosman Park just three miles from her home in East Fremantle. Within three years, Sam had attended trials for Western Australia’s state team and then moved across to Perth Glory, the state’s sole W-League side. Making her debut at the age of 15, she was named as the league’s Player’s Player of the Year in 2009 – an incredible statistic. Her stay at the Glory lasted until 2012 when she joined Sydney FC. Thirteen goals in twenty-four games was her return. In the same period, due to the way the Australian and American seasons are scheduled, Kerr played for Western New York Flash for the first NWSL season in 2013 and made it all the way to the Grand Final where they lost to Portland Thorns.