It has been a wild rollercoaster of emotions during the group stages of our Olympic campaign.
Our girls in green and gold have much to be happy about, continuing a 27-year unbeaten run against our Kiwi sisters with the Matildas walking away from their opening Olympic match, with a 2 – 1 win.
As well as recently playing fairly well against the Swedes, it was a promising start in the first 45 minutes as they faced them again in their second Olympic match. Two Goals from Captain Kerr injected serotonin into our veins, sending us into a frenzy of scrolling through the IKEA catalogue for furniture puns, that lasted for the remainder of the 90.
(Söre not Söre…hehe.)
All that, along with then conceding, having our penalty curse continue and threatening to burn all IKEA furniture, as well as boycotting Spotify, ABBA and Volvo as the Matildas were eventually beaten 4-2.
Leaving that loss in the past and moving forward, we head to our third and final game of the group stages against the famous United States Women’s National Team (USWNT).
We currently sit in third on the group stage ladder, with three points. Jaws are clenched and all fingers are crossed for our 6pm AEST kick off, against the Americans. We can only hope and pray that we pull a “Sweden” on the 2x World Cup winners, and walk away with a win. (Preferably a 3 – 0 win, too.)
But where do we stand, compared to our opposition and what needs to be done to ensure we go through to the knockouts?
Our keepers are our first major key.
We need a strong and confident set of hands between the sticks.
Between long-time and well-respected shot stopper, Lydia Williams and Tilda rookie, Teegan Micah, our third option is Mackenzie Arnold. But will Gaffer, Tony Gustavsson, take a gamble and put Macca between the sticks, looking past her bumpy WSL season at West Ham or will he return to ol’ reliable Williams? Or will Teegan Micah get her second start of the tournament?
Even though Micah has faced this Swedish side months prior and managed to keep a clean sheet, something was very different about Sweden this time round.
The first 45 minutes played, showed a shaky Micah warming up to the European Powerhouses. Following the second half, the powerful and fast shots proved to be too much to reach, seeing Micah give away 2 goals and awarding Sweden their 4 – 2 triumph.
If Tony G wants to play it safe and not risk the fury of the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd or Christen Press, he’ll put his confidence back into Williams and her impressive reach and reflexes for this important match.
As for our defense and midfield, a reliable change to the backline would start with introducing Kennedy and Logarzo slotted into the midfield.
Both these two are familiar with a handful of their US opponents, playing alongside them in the NWSL in seasons prior. The knowledge they have of these US players could be the missing link that will strengthen the back and midline. This is something we were starting to lack and show weakness in, numerous times during our match against Sweden.
Last but not least, a FIRM and I mean “FIRM” front line, to send shock waves through the US defense, very early on.
Someone as firm as Emily Gielnik (in my opinion), along with Raso, Kerr and especially Kyah Simon, not too far behind.
If any player has been slightly overlooked, it’s Kyah. Especially over the last few years after her multiple injuries before and during the 2019 Women’s World Cup. But in between returning to the field, signing and playing for PSV and earning her spot back on the National Team, she has proven that she still has it in her to assist, position herself to create critical attacking opportunities or take the chance, herself.
Being unafraid to send countless shots into the box is something these quick, unforgiving and feisty players can bring to the US game, making things difficult for their 10 on the field and #1 in the box.
As we got up against first place in the FIFA Rankings, the title of 2x World Cup Winners and best in the world does not make the USWNT invincible.
Keep those fingers crossed, this will be our do-or-die match but whether a Matilda or a Matildas fan, we never say die.