After months in hiatus, the Matildas were back in action against Sweden in the Algarve Cup.
After a strong first half for Australia, Sweden adjusted and edged out Australia in the second half of the contest ending in a 1-0 win. Here’s what we learned on Wednesday.
Sam Kerr is world class
It was Sam Kerr skipping through defences, teeing up chances for her team mates and creating her own opportunities. She made the Swedish defence look like a heat struck W-League team at times.
Kerr’s ability to stay in the game has risen in the past season. Perhaps captaincy at Perth Glory has locked in this trait, or perhaps it’s a mental strength that comes with experience. Perhaps she believes that she is the gel this team needs to be victorious. Kerr has almost all the pieces needed to be a top forward in the world but, to join the true upper echelon, being able to finish half or full chances is the last piece of the puzzle required.
Defensively still have a way to go
This game saw Australia test out two players in the full back roles with Gema Simon (left back) and Hayley Raso (right back) getting their turn to be tested against a top team. Both Simon and Raso looked shaky early in the piece but slowly settled into the pace of the game against very experienced forwards (Lotta Schelin and Kosvare Asllani).
As a whole their performances were solid with plenty of pace there were several instances where inexperience showed, particularly when they, and the defence, were able to get turned inside or outside. The second part of the equation for them will also be gaining the confidence to provide width and bomb on down the flanks. Raso was able to do so as time progressed and her confidence grew. For Simon, in just her 6th international, it will be the next step to display those qualities already present at W-League level.
Australia come a long way, and to play most of the game with three at the back and hold out the Olympic silver medallists is no mean feat. Generally the backline was one of the more confident we’ve seen, even delivering perfect sliding tackles in the box. In past generations we’ve been guilty of not making tackles in the box. But there is a bit missing in the defensive organisation of the team, and switching from offence to a compact defence at pace is not a natural action for this team yet.
Dead ball specialist
Wasting deadball opportunities is akin to giving away points at this level. Set pieces used to be Australia’s bread and butter with many Matildas goals coming from these situations in the past.
The Matildas continue to revert to short corners, only one this game thank goodness, and have not found the sweet spot when it comes to free kicks. Alanna Kennedy and Elise Kellond-Knight have shown promise at club level but are yet to translate that consistently at national level, and more often than not are deposed by Emily Van Egmond who is yet to prove her perfection in this arena.