A reinvigorated Team Australia surged into the Olympic Quarter Finals despite a third place Group F finish, disposing of a gallant Zimbabwe 6-1.
Here’s what we learned:
- Belief. Make no mistake, the Group stage of this Olympic campaign has not gone the way Team Australia planned pre-tournament. On the back of a dominating qualifying campaign, the Australians had the Olympics pinned as ‘the’ tournament but early performances did little to live up to the hype.Australia’s lacklustre return to the Olympic stage could have been catalyst for an early exit but, testament to the belief and togetherness within the group, the Green and Gold have been able to rescue their Olympic dream.
With their place in the final eight secured and a showdown against host nation Brazil looming, Australia will relish the opportunity to start anew and thrive on the big game atmosphere waiting for them in Belo Horizonte.
- Closing. On the surface, Australia’s 6-1 rout of Zimbabwe seems an emphatic victory but, and stay with me here, if you consider Australia went into the game searching for 7 goals, and had chances aplenty, you can’t help but feel some disappointment.
For the Australians, a seventh goal, without conceding, would have meant narrowing out Germany to finish second in the group and meeting China rather than Brazil in the quarter finals. An easier route to progress beyond the quarter finals would have also meant Australia, should they advance, would have a better chance at securing two opportunities to medal; the gold/silver and/or bronze medal match.To dispose of Brazil, who have found blistering form in front of their home crowds, Australia will need to be clinical on goal and desperately need to improve decision making in the final third – here’s hoping we’ve seen the last of panic lashing of the ball from distance.
The truth is. this is a champion team in the making and to be the best you have to beat the best regardless of when and where you meet. The ultimate goal for Australia against Zimbabwe was to progress, regardless of the circumstances, and with that they have earned a chance to assert themselves, on Sports most prestigious stage, as a true world-class side.
- Fundamentals. Football is won and lost in the one percenters and, despite dominating from the outset, Australia struggled in patches to execute the fundamentals. With the exception of some brilliant movement created by Katrina Gorry and Elise Kellond-Knight in the opening exchanges, Australia often surrendered momentum and possession at the hands of scrappy passing and unforced errors that allowed Zimbabwe a chance to reset.Spoiled for attacking options and feeling in the mood for goals, Australia were guilty of shades of selfish play opting to try their hand rather than notch a sure assist. At the forefront of this is Kyah Simon, a diamond formed from the pressure of must-win, high pressure games yet to make her mark on this tournament despite netting against Zimbabwe. Australia will look to her to emulate her devastating World Cup form that famously dumped Brazil from contention but will need to adjust to play her into the game.
As the tournament heats up and considering Australia’s dependence on a fast, fluid game where creating space and taking chances is a premium, the Green and Gold will need to ensure they dot their I’s and cross their T’s before meeting Brazil.
- Concentration. After a rousing start, Australia looked primed to exceed their 7 goal quota but a lacklustre final 15 minutes was enough to take the wind from the wings. A blight on the group stage, Australia switched off and were again punished when a lapse in concentration invited a counter attack resulting in a conceded goal and an end to their second spot aspirations.
Against Zimbabwe the repercussions were minimal but Australia risk, what they will consider, a premature exit if they can’t contribute polished, 90 (or 120) minute performances from here on out.
- Bright Side. While social media debated whether their team would be better suited to play Brazil or the USA in their do-or-die round of 8 clash the Australian’s would have been overcome with pure elation at either prospect. The thing about the Australian National Women’s Football team, credit to their inherited never say die, underdog spirit, is that they live for big games; Brazil at home or the USA redemption match they so crave – either way, the Australians will be up to the task. Hitting their straps at the business end of the tournament and with a rested Sam Kerr joining De Vanna, Gorry and Foord who each received an early mark, the Australians will look to capitalise on the confidence gained from their first Olympic win.
Buckle your seatbelts, this will be Australia in their element!