Matildas Pragmatism A Sign Of A Maturing Team

Kieran Yap analyses Australia’s performance against the USA yesterday and sees signs of a positive future.

Pictured above: The Matildas team that took on the USA on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images.

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

Brazil 1-0 Zambia

By Kris Goman

Pictured above: Lushomo Mweemba (3) is sent off by referee Yoshimi Yamashita. Photo: Getty Images

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

Chile 0-1 Japan

by Jean-Pierre Thiesset

Pictured above: Japan, on the way to the Quarter-Finals. Photo: Getty Images.

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)

Notes From North America

Impetus’ North American Women’s Football expert Catherine Paquette brings us up to date with all the action from the latest two rounds of the NWSL.

It has been a busy two weeks in the National Women’s Soccer League, especially with regards to management.  

Gotham FC manager Alyse LaHue was let go on July 9th by the organization.  LaHue’s management was widely considered as a major reason for the team’s increase in standards and performance since her arrival in 2018.  The team stated she was no longer employed after an investigation “into a complaint of violation of league policy.”  LaHue’s attorney released a statement that she denied the allegations and had no further comment.

After the resignation of OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti in early July, the OL Reign have appointed Laura Harvey as their new head coach.  Harvey has extensive coaching experience in both England and the US, at both the domestic and national team level.  This will be her second stint in charge of the Washington based club, having previously been head coach from 2013-2017.  At present she is with the USWNT, as an assistant to Vlatko Antonovski, and will remain with the side until the end of their Olympic campaign.  Sam Laity, who has been with the franchise since its inception, will continue to serve as interim manager until she returns.

Above: Marc Skinner who has departed Orlando Pride. Photo: Mane Land.

The Orlando Pride have also lost their head coach, after the abrupt resignation of Marc Skinner last week.  Skinner is currently rumoured to be a contender for Manchester United’s vacant head coaching position.  His assistant Carl Green managed the July 24 match against the Reign, with the Pride appointing Becky Burleigh as interim head coach on Sunday.  Burleigh will remain in place until the search for a new head coach is completed.

Manchester United’s former head coach Casey Stoney has been named the head coach of new NWSL franchise San Diego.  She, alongside newly appointed general manager Molly Downtain, will take the next few months to prepare San Diego’s team for their inaugural 2022 season.

Several players were traded and sent on loan.  The OL Reign have announced the loans of Nicole Momiki to Linköpings FC until the end of the calendar year and Cosette Morché to GPSO 92 Issy FC until July 2022.

KC and the North Carolina Courage announced a huge trade involving four players last week.  KC captain Amy Rodrigues was traded alongside $60,000 of allocation money to the Courage in exchange for Kristen Hamilton, Katelyn Rowland and Hailie Mace.

July 17-18

Four matches occurred over two weekends ago.  Racing Louisville and KC were both given a bye week.

The first match of the weekend was between the North Carolina Courage and the Houston Dash.  It ended 2-1 in the Dash’s favour, a huge win for them as they had never won at Carolina and had only one other recorded win against the Courage in their franchise history.

The opening goal was scored by Shea Groom, off a pass from a Veronica Latsko interception. It was also Groom’s hundredth NWSL regular season appearance.  Carolina’s Kriston Hamilton equalized.  However, the winning goal came from a Gabbie Seiler free kick, and it was one for the highlight reel.

The first game on July 18th was between the Washington Spirit and Gotham FC.  A controversial red card, which was later overturned on appeal, was given to Washington’s Sam Staab in the seventh minute. However, the 10-woman Spirit did not give up.  Their rookie Trinity Rodman opened the scoring after receiving a great deep ball wide from captain Andi Sullivan.  Gotham’s Naho Kawasumi and McCall Zerboni both then scored in the first half for Gotham to give NJNY the lead.

For the second week in a row Ashley Sanchez kept showing her skill, this time producing her own amazing free kick goal to give the Spirit the equalizer.  However, Midge Purce would then score the winner for Gotham in the 76th minute.  They won the match 3-2.

The Chicago Red Stars then faced the OL Reign.  The match became one for the record books due to the most bizarre of situations.  While Cecila Delgado Jimene opened the scoring for the OL Reign and Mal Pugh won the match for the Red Stars by supplying their third goal, the other two goals were own goals by the Reign for the Red Stars.

These two OG were the fourth and fifth consecutive OGs that the Red Stars have had this season, a record for any NWSL team ever.  In fact, prior to Pugh’s winning goal the Red Stars had 10 goals for scored in the 2021 regular season, half of which were supplied by the opposition.  The final score was 3-1 for the Red Stars.

The final match of the weekend was between the Portland Thorns and the Orlando Pride.  This match was all Portland.  While both teams are missing players to the Olympics, the gaps were much more heavily felt by the Pride.  The Thorns outshot their opposition 20 to six.  Were it not for the heroics of Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris, including another penalty save this match, the final score could have been worse.

The opening goal came courtesy of Sophia Smith, who is really getting a chance to shine during this Olympic period.  After a fantastic run where she fended off four defenders, she took a cracker of a shot on goal from just outside the box to score.    

The second Portland goal was just as brilliant.  Thorns taliswoman Meghan Klingenberg served the ball into the Orlando box in the 58th minute where it found the head of Marissa Everett.  The Pride did get a conciliation goal in the fifth minute of added time, when a cross found Marisa Viggiano who smashed it in.  The final score was 2-1 for the Thorns.

July 23-25 

The first match of the weekend was between KC NWSL and the North Carolina Courage.  It was an emotional match marred by a number of injuries as well as players missing due to the Olympics or COVID-19 protocols. Additionally, several recently traded players were making their debuts.

For KC it was a positive game, after having struggled this maiden year.  They dominated possession and shots, this despite converting players in some positions and the addition of three players who had joined the squad the day prior.  The Courage did not make the game easy for them, supplying a few shots on goal that nearly won the match.  The game finished 0-0.

The first match on July 24th was between the Orlando Pride and the OL Reign.  After a fantastic start to the season, the Pride lost their fourth match in their last five games.  Both teams were being managed by interim coaches.  While possession was nearly equal the more threatening team was the Reign with the Pride failing to produce a single shot on goal all night.

The Reign struck early in both halves.  A steal in the final third by Tziarra King in the 10th minute of the match was cleanly passed to Jess Fishlock.  She then turned and smoothly shot it home.  King proved deadly again in the second half, being the one to cleanly finish a pass from Eugenie Le Sommer.  The Reign won the match 2-0.

Above: Jess Fishlock – in fine form for OL Reign. Photo: Sounder At Heart.

The second match of the 24th was between the Houston Dash and the Portland Thorns.  Smith proved deadly for the second week in a row, providing a goal in the first minute of the match to put the Thorns up 1-0.  It turned out to be the only goal of the game and continued the Thorns’ unbeaten franchise run against the Houston Dash. 

The first match of July 25th was between Gotham FC and the Chicago Red Stars.  Gotham were the more dominant team, controlling possession.  The first half saw opportunities on both sides.  However, Gotham was able to capitalize on a short handed Red Stars, one player being off due to injury, with Allie Long getting their first goal in the added time of the opening half.  

The second half saw an increase in pace and chances.  A tackle by Bianca St George on Purce resulted in a penalty kick.  Purce would convert it to put the NJNY team up by two.  The Red Stars would score in the 95th minute, but it was too little too late.   Sadly for the Red Stars it appears that Own Goal has departed them and joined the USWNT in Japan, having supplied two of the American’s goals in their match against the Football Ferns. 

The last match of the weekend was between Racing Louisville FC and the Washington Spirit.       Both teams had a relatively solid game, each producing a large number of shots on goal.  However, costly mistakes lead to Louisville’s downfall.  

Above: Racing Louisville’s Ebony Salmon – the Lioness and former Bristol City star continues to play well in the NWSL. Photo: Racing Louisville FC

A passing error by Racing led to Ashley Hatch, who scored a brace two weekends ago, opening the account with a goal in the fifth minute of play.  Her teammate Sam Staab doubled Washington’s score in the 58th minute again off a Louisville mistake.  The hosts had a number of chances themselves but were not able to convert.  Washington won the match 2-0.

After two weeks, the table has changed significantly, however two things remain the same.  KC NWSL remains at the bottom of the table and is still searching for their first franchise win.  Meanwhile at the top of the table, with the Portland Thorns at the lead, only six points separate the first and the seventh position. 

The National Women’s Soccer League is still wide open.

Peerless Swedes March On

New Zealand 0-2 Sweden

By Catherine Paquette

Pictured: Anna Anvagård celebrates her goal for Sweden. Photo: Getty Images.

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

United States of America 0-0 Australia

By Ben Gilby

Pictured above: Mary Fowler (left) who had a superb first half, holds of USA’s Crystal Dunn. Photo: Getty Images.

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

Canada 1-1 Great Britain

By Ben Gilby

Pictured: Team GB goalscorer Caroline Weir up against Canada’s Sophie Schmidt. Photo: Getty Images.

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).

Impetus Announces Partnership with Moriarty Foundation

To mark the announcement of Impetus’ partnership with Moriarty Foundation, Ben Gilby spoke to John Moriarty, co-founder and co-chair of Moriarty Foundation. John was the first recognised Indigenous Australian to be selected for the national football side. He has also served in various Indigenous Affairs departments at both state and national levels of government as well as being a well-known Indigenous Australian artist.

John outlined the background of Moriarty Foundation and a brief overview of the work it does. “Moriarty Foundation is an Aboriginal-established not-for-profit organisation that enables Aboriginal families and communities to unlock their children’s potential. By embracing the Aboriginal worldview, our locally-led solutions are radically shifting intergenerational disadvantage.”

“Established in 2011, Moriarty Foundation delivers two ground breaking and interrelated community initiatives in remote and regional Australia, Indi Kindi and John Moriarty Football.”

“John Moriarty Football (JMF) is Australia’s longest running and most successful Indigenous football initiative for 2-18 year-olds. JMF’s transformational skills program uses football for talent and positive change. JMF has a proven track record of improving school attendance and achieving resilient, healthier outcomes for some of Australia’s most remote Indigenous communities.

“Each week JMF reaches more than 2,000 children, with equal participation of boys and girls in eighteen communities across New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory through in-school and after-school sessions, free school holiday clinics, weekend tournaments, and in juvenile justice facilities.” 

Above: Youngsters taking part in a JMF holiday clinic. Photo supplied by: Moriarty Foundation

“JMF is community-led and guided by local Community Advisory Groups.”

With the initiative reaching so many children each week, I asked John how many staff and coaches were involved in delivering their programs in these remote communities.

“JMF has a 50/50 male/female employment policy and has thirty-five staff members of whom 63% are Indigenous. JMF staff are empowered to build their skills and qualifications through mentoring, formal coach education training and licensing, safe food handling, first aid accreditation and physical and mental health education.”

It is important to note that JMF is not just about football – it’s about improving health and lifestyle choices as John underlines. “JMF is a holistic initiative that encourages regular school attendance, healthier lifestyles, self-respect and community engagement through football and teamwork.”

“At each session, we provide access to nutritious meals and snacks. Our meals are designed by a sports dietitian and include nutrients that are often lacking from Aboriginal children’s diets in our communities.” 

Photo supplied by: Moriarty Foundation

“We provide wellness education and modelling, covering nutrition, sleep, exercise and self-calming strategies. An example of this is our breathing exercises. Every JMF session either starts or concludes with regulated breathing exercises, as well as clench and release techniques. This is intended to be a progressive practice for each individual to improve their self-emotional regulation and learn practical techniques they can use when they are stressed. By teaching emotional self-regulation strategies, we aim to build resilience and capacity in communities where stress and trauma are major contributors to disadvantage.”

“In addition, through our partnerships with local health networks, we provide vital health information our young participants need.”

The program starts with children as young as two years-old in their Indi Kindi activities. John enlarged on what these sessions are like for the young children.

“Linked to our successful Indi Kindi program, Indi Footi is a pre-school football program for two to six year olds. Delivered by our JMF coaches, Indi Footi activates young brains through movement and develops basic football and motor skills, balance and coordination in a fun, non-competitive environment. Sessions focus on fun, discovery-based football activities as well as health and wellbeing components, like breathing exercises to begin to introduce ways to self-calm.”

In terms of wider opportunities for older children, JMF also offer scholarships for indigenous children between the ages of ten to eighteen.

Above: Some of JMF’s younger participants. Photo supplied by: Moriarty Foundation.

“Our JMF Scholarships & Pathways Program begins with our Community Scholarship initiative for select participants of our JMF program in regional Indigenous communities who show exceptional talent and desire to do well at school. We support these scholars with one-on-one training, tutoring and mentoring, equipment and stationery for school, a placement with a JMF-partnered football club in the area, football equipment and travel support.

We also offer Sydney Scholarships to support JMF scholars to attend some of Australia’s top schools and undertake intensive football training in Sydney.”

“We work in partnership with schools, like SCEGGS Darlinghurst, Westfields Sport High School and St. Catherine’s School, as well as NPL football clubs (top tier State league clubs) to provide these talented children with an opportunity to pursue both a great education and advanced football development.”

The success of the program has helped to develop players who have gone on to regional and representative football. One of whom is already starting out on her W-League career, as John highlights.

“The Scholarship Program’s inaugural scholarship holder, Shadeene (Shay) Evans, went on to sign with W-League side Sydney FC, was selected as a Young Matilda and named vice-captain. Additionally, Shay was awarded the 2020 Role Model of the Year by Football Australia.”

Above: Shadeene Evans pictured with John Moriarty. Photos supplied by: JMF

The present Matildas side have a number of prominent players with indigenous heritage – Lydia Williams and Kyah Simon being two and Jada Mathyssen-Whyman has been a high profile player domestically since a very young age. Some of Australia’s biggest name Indigenous women players are actively involved in supporting JMF.

“Players like Jada Whyman and Gema Simon are frequent guests of our JMF school holiday clinics that are run each school holiday period throughout our hubs,” said John. “They get involved in running sessions, games, sharing their knowledge and having fun. Jada was also an ambassador for Indigenous Football Week in 2020 and she has recently started as a JMF Scholarship Mentor.”

With Australia having some of the world’s tightest external and internal border restrictions since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, I wondered how it had impacted on JMF’s activities.

“In 2020 when Australia went into its first lockdown our physical delivery was interrupted, however, we were still able to deliver our program virtually utilising videos and social media. Thankfully, as regional and remote areas came out of lockdown we recommenced full delivery in all our hubs observing COVID-safe guidelines.”  

The JMF has recently launched a new national body, Indigenous Football Australia to expand its Closing the Gap solution to reach thousands more Indigenous children across Australia. 

Above: Young participants in a JMF holiday clinic in Dubbo. Photo supplied by: Moriarty Foundation.

Also announced was a major partnership between UNICEF Australia and Moriarty Foundation, which has been two years in the making. The two organisations will cooperate through global exchange, knowledge sharing and community-driven advocacy. 

Among those attending the launch were Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman, Jada Whyman, Matilda and W-League player and recently appointed JMF Scholarship Mentor and Marra woman, Shadeene Evans, Young Matilda and inaugural JMF Scholarship holder. 

John emphasised that: “The IFA’s aim is to extend our platform even further to bring the benefits of John Moriarty Football to Indigenous children, families and communities right across Australia.”

“Our partnership with UNICEF Australia will amplify our impacts exponentially.”

“JMF meets 12 of the 17 Closing the Gap targets and the initiative is currently offered in 18 different communities in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, at a cost of just $1,300 per child per year.”

Above: JMF coach Tiffany Stanley with a player from their Dubbo holiday clinic. Photo supplied by: Moriarty Foundation

“The IFA’s nationwide expansion will provide over 4,000 Indigenous school-aged children each week with access to a transformational football and wellbeing program as well as increasing our footprint from 18 to 36 remote and regional Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia.”

“Additionally,” John continues, “it will increase JMF’s partnerships with public schools in remote and regional Indigenous communities from 15 to 42 by providing in-curriculum football sessions and create new jobs for approximately 70 Indigenous people in remote and regional communities.”

John added, “Since launching in 2012 in Borroloola, a small community in remote Northern Territory, with 120 children JMF has kicked many goals. Over the past 18 months alone, our growth rate for participants is over 1,000 percent.”

“We’ve taken children from the bush to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, successfully expanded in three states, held five Indigenous Football Weeks, and launched the careers of several talented young footballers”

“Building on a decade of successful operations, JMF will reach all states to create more equitable access to the great game of football for grassroots and elite players, together with improved physical and mental health, wellbeing, education and community engagement for Indigenous girls and boys, families and communities.”

John concluded: “We are always asked by people all around Australia when JMF is coming to their community as they see the positive impact it has. We are very proud to be launching IFA and this nationwide expansion of JMF that will create more Indigenous-driven pathways and opportunities for our children, families and communities.” 

The work of JMF is nothing short of inspirational and they are actively helping in changing young people’s lives as well as helping to deliver the next generation of Matildas.

As part of our partnership with Moriarty Foundation, Impetus will be highlighting its work on a regular basis which will include features on its coaches, ambassadors and programs.

We will also be highlighting fundraising opportunities and ideas for how the #ImpetusFamily can come together to support this fantastic organisation.

If you would like to donate to help Moriarty Foundation, you can do so by visiting

Francesca Ogilvie: From Stonehaven To The SWPL1

Aberdeen‘s Francesca Ogilvie (pictured above with her SWPL Player of the Month Award by Aberdeen FC) has just been named as the SWPL2’s Player of the Month for June – a month that saw the team clinch their first ever promotion to the top flight of Scottish women’s football. Impetus hears all about her busy month.

Francesca Ogilvie of Aberdeen has been voted as the winner of the Scottish Building Society SWPL Player of the Month for June 2021.

The forward helped her side to lift the SWPL 2 title, eventually finishing ten points clear of second placed Hamilton Academical.

In a busy month which involved seven games for Aberdeen, Ogilvie scored eight goals and provided four assists. This included a hat-trick away to Queen’s Park with Aberdeen coming away 3-0 winners.

It’s the second time that an Aberdeen FC player has picked up the award in the 2020/21 season with Bayley Hutchison winning back in October 2020.

On top of winning the public vote, Ogilvie also came out with the most votes amongst the Head Coaches in the Scottish Building Society SWPL 2.

Also nominated for the June award was Clare Docherty (Partick Thistle), Josephine Giard (Hamilton Academical), and Robyn Smith (Dundee United).

Above: Francesca pictured with the SWPL2 championship trophy. Photo: @franogil13

“Just being nominated was amazing. To win it after being up against three other brilliant players – I’m delighted.”

“As a player I didn’t come through the Aberdeen pathway. I started late. I joined Stonehaven at the age of 12, a team who don’t really get looked at, so I never even thought that this would have happened to me a few years later!”

The award comes hot on the heels of Francesca’s Aberdeen side winning promotion for the second successive year as they now find themselves the top flight of Scottish Women’s Football.

“It was always one of our targets and to do it the way we did by winning the SWPL2 was amazing.

“It’s a big sigh of relief that we’ve done it, but the hard work continues next season.”

With all the ramifications of coronavirus and shifting dates of league football, Francesca summed up last season by describing it as: “Totally bizarre!

“We had two games and then there was a whole lockdown. Then we went back into it for a while for a normal one game a week schedule, then another five month lockdown and we were all thinking ‘Oh no! the season will get binned and we were sat top of the SWPL2 and we were panicking that it was going to happen.

Above: Aberdeen celebrate with the SWPL2 championship trophy. Photo: Paul Glendell/Press & Journal.

“One week we were told, that they weren’t sure if the league was coming back, and the next week we were told we had our first game back in seven days.

“They told us we were going to fit the other half of the league season into one month and, again we were thinking ‘Oh no!

“But it was good to be back and we crammed those games in to six weeks which was pretty tough, but we got the results.”

Aberdeen’s first game back after lockdown was against Queen’s Park and Francesca scored all three goals in the Dons’ win.

“It was my first hat-trick for the season, so to do it in SWPL2 was a good achievement for myself. It was 0-0 at half-time away from home and we were thinking ‘Oh my goodness, we not going home with three points here!’”

Aberdeen suffered a defeat to key challengers Hamilton Academical who, eventually also gained promotion. Francesca looked back on that massive game, saying:

“They had to come down and win that game to keep themselves up for promotion. We knew that it would be an extra tough game. In the end they wanted it more. We looked after the table after the game and we still had a wee gap between us and the rest at the top, so no-one was panicking.”

Above: Action from Aberdeen’s first game back after the re-start against Queen’s Park. Photo: Aberdeen FC

Despite the exceptionally heavy workload in June, Francesca saw positives in it.

“Getting those games over and done with in that short time period helped us and ensured the momentum kept going and hopefully we can keep that momentum going into the new season.

“Every player gave it a hundred percent whether they played 90 minutes or came on as a sub.”

Aberdeen eventually won the SWPL2 title with a couple of games to spare against their closest geographical league rivals Dundee United, who were also looking to push for promotion. “Two minutes in we got a goal and it all went from there!” Francesca explained.

In a month of highs for the Aberdeen star, Ogilvie pointed to the game against St. Johnstone for her favourite moment in June.

“We went 1-0 down thirty seconds into the second half. Then we got a free kick on the edge of the box. I took it and we scored and went 1-1. A couple of minutes later I got the ball and swung it inside to the post. It hit one post, rolled along the line, hit the other post and went in! It was a big sigh of relief!”

For Aberdeen, a club only formed in 2018 to be playing top flight Scottish football next season is hugely exciting, and Francesca cannot wait.

Above: Francesca scores from the spot in Aberdeen’s 5-2 win over Dundee United that clinched promotion to the top flight of Scottish women’s football. Photo: Press & Journal.

“I can’t wait! We relish it. No team wants to be in the league we were in. You want to be in the top league playing against the top teams. It helps you and the team to push on. Playing against the best teams and players in Scotland is what everyone wants to do.”

Aberdeen make their SWPL1 debut at home to Celtic, last season’s runners-up who will be playing UEFA Women’s Champions League football this season.

“Everyone’s first game of the season is always a sticky game so we’re excited to be playing a big team and maybe go out and hurt them. But, we’ll take each game as it comes and not look too far ahead at the fixtures.”

Perth Add Another Three In Pursuit of W-League Glory

by Ben Gilby

Perth Glory have continued to boost their squad with around four months to go before the next W-League season kicks off.

In the past week they have announced three further signings with the arrival of highly-rated goalkeeper Courtney Newbon plus midfielders Sarah Cain and Sofia Sakalis.

Above: Courtney Newbon arrives from Western Sydney Wanderers. Image: Perth Glory FC

Newbon, 20, arrives in Western Australia having spent the last two seasons with Western Sydney Wanderers, for whom she made a total of eight W-League appearances.

Regarded as one of the most promising young ‘keepers in the country, she twice claimed the W-League Save of the Week Award last term and is now targeting further success with Glory.

“It’s a new challenge for myself,” she said.

“I want to work hard for the club and hopefully help them build another Premiership-winning team.

“Head coach Alex Epakis is very much in the mind-set of getting the club back up towards the top of the table not just next season, but in the years to come as well.

“So I’m very excited to be joining Glory and can’t wait to get started.”

Epakis, meanwhile, is relishing the prospect of linking up with the shot-stopper once again having previously worked with her during his time at Sydney University.

“We are happy to have Court at Perth Glory for next season,” he said.

“She is joining us after spending two seasons at Western Sydney where she was able to showcase her ability and potential.

“Her shot-stopping and distribution skills are very strong and she is a focused and committed character.

“Despite her age, Courtney has experienced strong levels of success at various levels of the game and is a fantastic addition to our ‘keeper options.

“I look forward to seeing her progress and develop while working very hard to compete and add value to the squad.”

Sarah Cain made six appearances for Melbourne City in what was her maiden W-League campaign last year and is excited at the prospect of opening a new chapter in her career in Western Australia.

“I’ve heard a lot of great things about the environment at Perth,” said Cain.

“I’m also very excited to be working under Alex Epakis because he has such strong plans and aspirations for the team; that’s something I can’t wait to be a part of.

“I want to keep developing as a footballer, be in an environment where I can get the most out of myself as a player and help the team to achieve our goals.”

Australia Under-17 and Under-20 representative Sofia Sakalis (19) has penned a long-term deal having previously represented Melbourne City for whom she debuted in 2017/18.

“I’m super-excited to be joining Perth Glory and working with Alex,” she said.

“His vision and the style of football he wants to play really excited me and I’m eager and ready for a new challenge and a new environment that will allow me to grow into the player I want to become.

“I think Alex is building something exceptional and his long-term vision has really re-ignited my passion for the game.”

Epakis, meanwhile, is thrilled to have the midfield pair on board for 2021/22 and is confident that they will make a major impact in purple.

Above: New Perth Glory signings Sarah Cain and Sofia Sakalis. Image: Perth Glory

“Sarah has stood out as someone with great energy and with a strong understanding of her position,” he said.

“She is a very intelligent player with excellent positioning and passing skills which are important attributes in terms of the way we want to play this season.

“I have been tracking her for some time and she certainly has the determination to be part of a progressive environment and help the team succeed.

“I am really looking forward to working with Sarah and am expecting her to be a real asset for the team this season.

“With Sofia, those who have tracked the women’s game over recent years will be very familiar with her attacking talents and overall ability as an attacking midfielder.

“Having been involved in Melbourne City’s W-League set-up since the age of 13, making her W-League debut at 15 and representing Australia across various youth levels, it is clear that she has great qualities.

“Sofia has committed for the next few seasons to our project and is really looking forward to playing a big part in helping the team work towards our goals, as well as evolving and further developing her own game.”

Glory CEO Tony Pignata believes that the trio of new arrivals are yet more new recruits about whom the club’s Members and fans should be excited.

“We are really happy to have signed Courtney, Sarah and Sofia,” he said.

“The fact that we are continuing to secure young talent from across the country clearly illustrates the direction the club is moving in and the squad we are assembling is one which I’m confident will make a major impact in the W-League next season.”

Artwork: Graphics by PW