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.
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.
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.
The Matildas team who took on Sweden yesterday is pictured above via Football Australia.
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.
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.
Pictured above: Janine Beckie, who had a dominant game for Canada. Photo: Getty Images.
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.
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.
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.
Pictured above: Carli Lloyd shoots under pressure from Abby Erceg (Getty Images).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sweden reinforced their status as many people’s new favourites for the Gold Medal with a ruthless victory over Australia this morning (Stina Blackstenius pictured scoring their fourth goal via The Guardian).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Impetus are proud to announce the sponsorship of Helston Athletic’s Smara Sparkes-Bond, a defender who is a key member of their squad. To launch the sponsorship, Ben Gilby spoke to Smara about her career.Graphic supplied by Helston Athletic.
Smara has been part of the women’s footballing scene in Cornwall for a while.
“Where do I start with my footballing journey? I feel like I have played the game for years now, although I guess looking back it has been 20 years which instantly makes me feel old and questions whether it’s time to hang up my boots?!
“Whilst I didn’t start playing for a team until I was 10 years old, My twin Sasha and I would be at the local park every day kicking a ball around with our Dad desperate to play.
“My Dad would really push me from a young age to be the best I could by encouraging me to use both feet, practice skills and be confident to shoot. The local park was where I actually spotted by Falmouth Town Girls U12’s manager who invited Sasha and I to play for them. This was exciting and the first opportunity to play for a team and whilst we enjoyed the opportunity, it was short lived as we were desperate to play with our friends who played for Falmouth United U12’s. Falmouth United was a fantastic junior team managed by Steve Oliver who pushed us to win the league four times consecutively- it felt great being so young but being involved such a successful junior team, we begun to be named ‘unstoppable’.
“Unfortunately, after such success, there was a little lull without much team football due to the lack of opportunities to transition in girls’ football. I am so fortunate that today young girls are supported and given the opportunity to naturally transition from youth to ladies’ football – especially at Helston.
“Whilst playing for a team stopped, meeting my friends in the local field and playing competitive World Cup or heads and volleys didn’t stop – the love grew.
“Hitting the age of sixteen was amazing regarding my footballing career and I was given the opportunity to step into ladies football and play for Penryn Ladies. I loved the challenge that ladies football brought – tougher opposition, more physical, longer matches and more fixtures.
“After Penryn folded, I went and joined Falmouth Town Ladies managed by Neil Phillips.
“Neil was a natural in the world of management and pushed me to be the best player I could be. I can hand on heart say Neil made me fall in love with the game more and is a huge part of the player I am today in my blue Helston shirt. Whilst I miss Neil, I do not miss the blood, sweat and tears caused at his training sessions which consisted of endless fitness and drills – but hey it made us be one of the best women’s teams in Cornwall.
“After a few seasons, we decided to merge with Truro City to form Truro City Ladies which was an unbelievable team full of great players. We came runners up in our first season in the Premier Vivision. Unfortunately, this league brought on lots of travelling and became difficult to retain committed players which eventually caused us to fold.
“Still wanting to play football, Sash and I decided to join Torquay United for a season to keep up the high standard of football and continue challenging ourselves. This saw us having to travel to Torquay twice a week for training and fixtures and therefore could only be done for one season.
“After Torquay, I decided I still wanted to play football with my friends but locally to home and less travelling- this is when I decided to form Helston Ladies with Charlotte Sparkes-Bond. It took a lot of commitment to form Helston but eventually we got accepted into the Cornwall Women’s league and had an extremely successful starting season.
“At Helston, we celebrated being league cup winners and also league runners up, but again, similar to other teams we lost commitment and the team ended up folding after a few years.
“From Helston I went to play briefly for Illogan, before getting the message I had been waiting for that Helston was reforming and Paul Parfitt would become manager.
“I met with Paul back in January 2019 and his plans for Helston made me excited and I knew I wanted to be back in a blue shirt so without hesitation signed – which brings me to the present day.”
Smara’s development and standing in the Cornish game is down to the amazing support she has received from an early age.
“There have been many people involved in my footballing career who have encourage and inspired me to keep playing and to play at the best level.
“The first and most important person involved is my Dad. My Dad was the most supportive parent I could have asked for throughout my footballing career and was always my number one fan. My Dad took Sash and I to every game and every training session regardless of distance and always encouraged us to do better.
“It was my Dad who got me into football before I started, taking Sasha and I to watch Liverpool and buying us our first kits. My Dad still comes and watches my games now.
“The second inspiration is my twin Sash. Playing alongside her throughout my whole footballing career has been amazing. Sash has always played the opposite position to me and therefore it’s been funny in training when we have had to play against each other.
“Sash does a lot for the ladies at Helston and is the perfect captain encouraging the whole team and doing as much off the pitch as she does on the pitch. Sash has always been a unbelievable goal scorer and I can’t remember any seasons where she hasn’t won top goal scorer.”
I asked Smara to describe herself as a player for those who have not seen her play.
“My playing position has changed over the years and I have been described by others as a versatile player who can comfortable play in any position within the defence or midfield.
“I have historically been known as a sweeper throughout my footballing career and have taken up this position again at Helston. I play with a confidence, believing in my ability to take on any challenge from any player. Through my experience in the sweeper position, I am vocal with supporting my team mates around me and often command from the back as the last man. I like to play out from the back. I have never been afraid of putting in a tackle and enjoy the successful sliding tackles.”
Helston Athletic are a side on the rise in Cornwall. Last season ended with them them winning promotion to the tier six South-West League Division One West and play Southampton in the FA Cup. Smara outlines what life is like at the club.
“I cannot fault life at Helston and life as a blue. It’s the first club I have played at in 20 years where the treatment of men’s and women’s football has been the same.
“The support from the club is amazing and we regularly see Paul Hendy the chairman attending our matches along with members of the men’s first team.
“We have lots of support from the men’s first team manager Steve Massey, who rarely misses our matches and even has adopted the role of our linesman.
“As a women’s team we are extremely lucky to not have to pay any match fees or signing on fees and instead are provided amazing facilities and match day opportunities. My team mates are all extremely talented girls who are committed and motivated to make Helston the best we can be.
“Paul our manager is super dedicated to the team and is always making sure we have state of the art equipment and travelling options to our away fixtures. Off the pitch, we are regularly provided with team bonding days all expenses paid and this shows in our closeness on the pitch.”
Team GB gained the win which guarantees their place in the Quarter-Finals after victory in a tight game against Japan in Sapporo (Ellen White pictured above celebrating her goal by Getty Images).
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.
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.
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.
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.
@DandalBs rounds up all the news from a momentous week for Swedish women’s football (pictured above via Eurosport). As well as some news from the national camp, there’s a lot of movement on the transfer front.
NATIONAL TEAM NEWS:
Magdalena Eriksson missed Sweden’s outstanding win over the USA on the opening day of the women’s football event at the Olympic Games due to her continued recovery from the calf injury that caused her to leave the Sweden v Australia match 15th June. Team doctor Mats Börjesson says she needed a few more days’ full training before she can perform 100%.
These extra few days allowed her to receive the all clear to play against Australia today. She wanted to play already against USA, but the medical team said no, “and I have to trust they knows best” she said.
There also appears to be good news relating to the blow on the head that striker Stina Blackstenius’ received against the USA will not cause any problems, assures coach Peter Gerhardsson.
BK Häcken’s Martin Ericsson has addressed Barcelona’s rumoured interest in Filippa Angeldahl by saying that there are no offers yet and “We will do what we can to keep her, but if you lose a good player, you want it to be to a club of that calibre”.
Staying at the club, Evelyn Ijeh, as well as her younger sister Josephine who is part of BK Häcken’s youth programme, has been called up to a Nigeria national team camp in Austria. Evelyn has about 20 caps for Sweden’s youth teams.
Rosengård have added to their Danish contingent with the arrival of 25 year-old national team midfield/forward Frederikke Thøgersen, most recently with ACF Fiorentina in Italian Serie A. She has signed a two year contract.
The current league leaders have also announced the signing of Iceland’s 26 year-old defender Guðrún Arnardóttir. She comes after two years with Djurgården and has eight caps for Iceland.
Japanese international forward Nicole Momiki has joined Linköping on loan from OL Reign until the end of the year. Momiki, presently with Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, was at Linköping on a previous loan spell 2020, but it was ended due to an injury.
Linköping have also announced the signing of Amalie Jørgensen Vangsgaard after a trial period with the club. A Danish offensive player, Vangsgaard has joined on a two and a half year contract. The 24 year-old comes from FC Nordsjælland in the Danish top league.
In preparation for their UEFA Women’s Champions League qualification ties, Kristianstad have set up a friendly against Norwegian champions and fellow UWCL qualifier Vålerenga on 2nd August.
Djurgården’s 26 year-old American defender Rachel Bloznalis has announced that she will take a break from football for health reasons. She received a head injury in March and is still suffering from symptoms.
The Damallsvenskan is presently on a break for the Olympic Games and returns on 20th August with the set of fixtures below:
Round Thirteen Fixtures:
Växjö v Vittsjö
Hammarby v Eskilstuna United
AIK v Djurgården
Piteå v Linköping
Rosengård v KIF Örebro
Kristianstads v BK Häcken
Ahead of those games, Hammarby have announced friendlies against Rosengård on 7th August and Vittsjö on 14th August.
The Elitettan is currently on a break during the Olympic Games. The next round of matches are scheduled to be played on 7-8th August:
Next matches: IF Brommapojkarna, IFK Norrköping, Bollstanäs SK v Jitex Mölndal, IFK Kalmar v Alingsås FC United, IK Uppsala v Älvsjö AIK FF, Mallbackens IF Sunne v Lidköpings FK, Sundsvalls DFF v Morön BK, Umeå IK v Borgeby FK.
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 (pictured above via insider.com).
“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.”
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.
She returned to home club Perth Glory who she represented in the W-League from 2014-19 in between spells in America. Back in the purple and orange of her local senior side, Kerr led the Glory to two W-League Grand Finals and won the Julie Dolan Medal as the best player in the W-League twice. She was in incredible form for the Western Australians, scoring a total of 52 goals in 49 games. In this period the East Fremantle born star spent two seasons with Sky Blue FC in the NWSL and in 2017, at the age of just 23 became the all-time top scorer in NWSL history. The same season saw her winning the NWSL Golden Boot and Most Valuable Player Award.
Kerr spent the 2018 and 2019 NWSL seasons with Chicago Red Stars, for whom she played in the Championship game. Her American adventure ended with the honour of being the first player to be named as the NWSL’s Most Valuable Player twice, and top scorer three times.
In November 2019, to great media fanfare, Kerr announced that she would join Chelsea in the FA Women’s Super League, and she made her debut in January 2020 and was part of the team who won the Continental Cup and FAWSL title. Her first goal came in the Blues’ 4-1 win at Arsenal with a header. Early in the 2020/21 season, Kerr was subjected to vicious online abuse – her “crime” was apparently not scoring enough goals.
Kerr has always been far more than a just a goal scorer. To emphasise this, it’s only really in the last couple of years that the Western Australian has become a prolific scorer for the Australian national side, the Matildas. In her first forty-nine caps for her country, Kerr had only scored eight goals. Her partnership with Lisa de Vanna for Australia pre 2019 was one which saw Sam in the role of a link up player – one who worked incredibly hard and created chances aplenty for her team mates. Something very similar to how Kerr began with Emma Hayes’ Blues. When de Vanna moved out of the Matildas side, Sam’s role changed and the goals came.
In the Chelsea side, Kerr built up a great early understanding with Beth England before the Lionesses star had a summer operation and missed much of the early season. In the period that she was receiving the online abuse, she had scored three goals in five FAWSL games – hardly the form of an inferior player. Chelsea and the FAWSL in general have a gem in their ranks and it was only a matter of time before Sam found her place in the new Chelsea side.
Once those early six weeks or so of the 2020/21 FAWSL season were gone, Sam developed one of the most potent striking partnerships with Fran Kirby, who was not able to play when Kerr joined the club in January due to the debilitating medical condition pericarditis, an inflammation of the fibrous sac that surrounds the heart which left the Lioness with sharp chest pain, fever, and a shortness of breath.
Indeed, as we reached the end of 2020, English fans began to see Kerr’s explosive pace and incredible aerial power that those of us who have watched Sam’s career from her teenage days love so much. A typical poacher’s hat-trick against West Ham United at the beginning of December meant that Kerr celebrated Christmas on a run of five goals in three games. Finally, the wider FAWSL became aware of just what a player the Queen of East Fremantle is.
If the end of 2020 was impressive, Kerr’s 2021 was off the scale as those critics were forced to not only eat their words but also forcibly regurgitate them. The partnership with Fran Kirby that was beginning to blossom exploded to maximum impact as the pair became one of the deadliest partnerships that women’s football had seen. A total of 28 goals in 34 games satisfied the critics, but what marked her out as a true star was the additional stat that she led Chelsea’s goal assists for the campaign as well.
Kerr represented Australia an U17 and U20 level before making her senior debut for the Matildas at the age of 15 in February 2009 against Italy. A year later, she scored a goal in the AFC Asian Women’s Cup Final in North Korea when Australia lifted the trophy. Aged 17, Sam was selected in Australia’s 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup squad. Four years later, she was an integral part of the Matildas squad who made the Quarter-Finals of the tournament in Canada. For the 2019 World Cup in France, Kerr was named captain and scored five goals in Australia’s four matches. She presently has a total of 43 goals to go with her 94 caps (up to and including the opening game at the Olympics against New Zealand).
W-League Championship: 2012–13
Western New York Flash
NWSL Shield: 2013
W-League Premiership: 2014
FA Women’s Super League: 2019/20, 2020/21
FA Women’s League Cup: 2019–20, 2020/21
FA Women’s Community Shield: 2020
AFC Women’s Asian Cup: 2010
AFF U-16 Women’s Championship: 2009
FFA Female U20 Footballer of the Year: 2010, 2014
PFA Women’s Footballer of the Year: 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019
Julie Dolan Medal: 2016–17, 2017-18.
W-League Golden Boot: 2017–18, 2018–19
Football Media Association International Player of the Year: 2013, 2014
NWSL Player of the Week: 2013: Week 9, 2016: Week 18, 2017: Weeks 9, 12 & 17. 2018: Weeks 15 & 22
NWSL Player of the Month: 2017: May and June
NWSL Golden Boot Award: 2017, 2018, 2019
NWSL Most Valuable Player Award: 2017 & 2019
NWSL Best XI: 2017, 2018, 2019
FAWSL Golden Boot Winner: 2020/21
Asian Women’s Footballer of the Year: 2017
ABC Sport Personality of the Year: 2017
Young Australian of the Year: 2018
ESPY Awards Best International Women’s Soccer Player: 2018 & 2019
The 100 Best Female Footballers In The World Winner: 2019
Most goals in the NWSL: 77
Most goals in an NWSL match: 4
Most goals in an NWSL season: 18
Most goals in the W-League: 69
Most goals in a W-League season: 16
Ben Gilby writes for Beyond90, Australia’s leading independent women’s football platform. Visit https://beyond90.com.au/