WE’RE THROUGH TO FINALS
Our Matildas have qualified for the knockout stage of the Olympics after beating Zimbabwe 6-1 in their final group match of the tournament at Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova Stadium.
The goals came early for Australia with a second minute score from Lisa De Vanna. The Matildas finished the half 3-0 and were able to bag another three after the break.
The Matildas came into the match needing only a win (by any margin, not 6 or 7 goals) to secure a spot in the knockout stage.
Being the 5th ranked team in the world and on the back of an impressive and fearless performance against Germany (only just missing the three points), we entered the game against 93rd ranked Zimbabwe as favourites.
Alen Stajcic made three lineup changes from the Germany game, resting Lydia Williams and playing Mackenzie Arnold in goals, as well as starting Emily Van Egmond and Chloe Logarzo.
Despite the impressive score line and handful of goal scorers, there were signs of some scrappy play as the Matildas were keen to lash out and score more goals (understandably).
That being said, we did put six past them and we are in FINALS. Not a bad day at the office.
Lisa De Vanna started the firing range with a beautiful passing shot off a selfless cross from Katrina Gorry just inside the box in the second minute.
An abundance of chances in our offensive half soon followed as the Matildas found time and space on the ball early on (not previously experienced against medal contenders Germany and Canada).
It wasn’t long before Australia, in the 22nd minute, had their second score on the board after a Elise Kellond-Knight corner that gave Polkinghorne in space a textbook tap in off the floor.
De Vanna looked dangerous again in the 23nd minute as she fired a powerful volley inside the box off a Zimbabwe deflection, hitting the right post.
A poor pass-back from Gorry in our defensive half in the 27th minute gave Zimbabwe their first real offensive charge as they were able to stream past our defensive line and a get a shot away and into Arnold’s arms.
A beautiful combination play between Gorry, De Vanna and Simon in the 31st minute gave Simon her first chance to score, her shot just spraying right of the post.
Just when Australia looks to be getting a bit caught up and needing to settle, Alanna Kennedy responds with a 35th minute goal (her second international goal) off another Kellond Knight corner.
Another defensive error, this time from Van Egmond, sees Zimbabwe slip past our defensive line and make another run up field, stringing a few neat passes together without any on-goal threat.
Caitlin Foord all the while continuing her impressive Olympics presence, looked dangerous as she flew up the left wing in the 41st minute, passing three defenders and firing a shot just wide of the left post.
Australia are able to exit the half with two thirds of the possession and 3-0 up, despite a nice piece of Zimbabwe flair from Msipa as she flips the ball up and past Gorry in the 43rd minute.
Stajcic made no changes to his Australian side at the break, eager to continue the goal count in the second half for a potential second-spot group finish.
A minute in to the second half saw Zimbabwe with their first real shot on goal from Basopo after slipping past Kennedy.
A 49th minute Gorry misfire from long range was followed up by a fourth goal for Australia in the 50th minute, Kyah Simon this time (her first for the match) slotting the finish off a beautiful Steph Catley ball from left back, singling out Simon between two Zimbabwe defenders in the box.
A substitution in the 52nd minute saw Michelle Heyman replace Gorry, rotating Logarzo into left wing, pushing back Foord into defence and Simon into midfield and putting Van Egmond out wide (talk about a versatile team!)
De Vanna hungry for a second goal has yet another serious chance in the 53rd minute with another volley inside the box.
Not to worry, Heyman puts one in the back of the net in the 55th minute (her third for the tournament) as she soars above in the box for a header off the Van Egmond corner. 5-0.
De Vanna strikes again in the 63rd minute, firing the ball above the bar after a super-speed Catley run down the line and perfect cross in.
Hey man, Heyman scored again. Scoring her second for the game and Australia’s sixth, Heyman continued her stellar tournament performance with a classy finish from the outside of her boot into the bottom right-hand corner in the 66th minute, thanks to another lovely Van Egmond assist.
Stajcic made his final changes for the match in the 74th minute, substituting De Vanna off for Larissa Crummer and Caitlin Foord for fellow young-gun Ellie Carpenter.
Australia loses a bit of focus and accuracy following the substitutions and doesn’t fully adjust for the remainder of the game, opening the door to a persevering Zimbabwe in the final minutes.
With nothing to lose, Zimbabwe fire again in the 88th minute with a great cross from Eunice Chibanda into Msipa for a fair shot at goal, soaring above the bar.
A last minute goal (literally, a “90 goal) from Zimbabwe’s Emmaculate Msipa welcomes the procession of a lot of celebratory handshakes between Zimbabwe players.
Five minutes of extra time sees Zimbabwe continue their assault and attain the final scoring chances of the match.
Unable to keep possession and play that neat combination play we know them to dominate with (and saw glimpses of throughout this match) in the final fifteen minutes, Australia just missed out on a seven-goal margin which could have seen us avoid a meet with Brazil or the USA in our next (knockout) match.
Nevertheless, regardless of who we are to play, our Matildas are through to the Olympic finals.
Better yet, they deserve to be there.
If we are to play the way we played against Germany, fearless and clean on the ball, and maintain intensity for the full 90 (plus!) with Williams and Kerr well rested, we are a serious threat and a real medal contender.
Despite a couple of avoidable defensive errors, 22-year-old keeper Arnold, when required, did a great job in goals.
Foord, De Vanna and Heyman continued their dominant presence up front whilst Gorry and Kellond-Knight’s composure through the middle and reading of play were able to attain play forward.
It was great to see 16-year-old up-and-coming star Ellie Carpenter get a run.
The Matildas take on home-favourites Brazil in their quarter final at Estadio Mineirao on Friday Night in Belo Horizonte
Watch it in Aus at 2am AEST Saturday 13th August, Live on Free to Air TV
Australia 6 (DeVanna 2’, Polkinghorne 22’, Kennedy 35’, Simon 50’, Heyman 55’, 66’)
Zimbabwe 1 (Msipa 90’)
Australia Lineup: 3. Katrina Gorry (16. Michelle Heyman 51’), 4. Clare Polkinghorne (C ), 6. Chloe Logarzo, 7. Stephanie Catley, 8. Elise Kellond-Knight, 9. Caitlin Foord (12. Ellie Carpenter 73’), 10. Emily Van Egmond, 11. Lisa De Vanna (2. Larissa Crummer 73’), 14. Alanna Kennedy, 17. Kyah Simon, 18. Mackenzie Arnold (gk)
- Lydia Williams, 5. Laura Alleway, 13. Tameka Butt, 15. Samantha Kerr
Yellow Cards None
Red Cards None
Referee Esther Staubli