ALBUFEIRA, Portugal — Australia takes on familiar opponent China in their final Group C match of the Algarve Cup.
The Matildas come off a 3-2 win over the Netherlands where, after cruising for most of the match, the situation became nervy in the last 15 minutes of the game as the Dutch mounted a fight back.
“I think we built on the other day [against Sweden] but for me the most pleasing part was the new players who came and showed that they could play at this level and compete against some of the best players in the world,” said Stajcic post match.
“Looking back on this game we should have buried the game at 3-0. We had three gimmes there to make it 4-0 and that is something that we need to improve as well.”
A win and a loss in the opening two matches sees Australia – alongside the Netherlands – sitting in second place in Group C.
Alen Stajcic made four changes to the starting line up in the last game with Alex Chidiac receiving her first start in just her second game while Emily Gielnik repaid the faith of her first start since the 2016 AFC Olympic Qualifiers last February.
With the evaluation of players still continuing, a number of personnel changes will again be on the cards against China.
“It good to see Chidiac play 90 minutes, it was pleasing to see Gielnik play 90. That is four players now who have come into the team with Raso and Gema [Simon] who have performed at a good level and add to that depth we wanted to achieve before we got here.”
“If we can introduce another couple of players and see how they go and keep building on the spine we already have.”
It was on a cold Osaka night that last time these two sides met. While Australia were not at their best following their qualification for Rio 2016, a late Emily van Egmond strike rescued a point for the Australians after China took a first half lead. That draw was enough for Australia to claim top spot at the Olympic Qualifiers and ultimately in Asia.
— The Women's Game (@TheWomensGame) March 9, 2016
Australia’s Player to Watch: Alanna Kennedy
Defenders don’t always get the love and centre back Alanna Kennedy has quietly forged a reputation as a dependable defender for Australia. Kennedy has again been good this tournament as referenced by mostly containing two excellent strikers in Vivianne Miedema and Lotta Schelin. Offensively Kennedy has also contributed with driving runs from deep in defence as well as that headed goal against the Netherlands.
— The Women's Game (@TheWomensGame) March 4, 2017
What to Expect?
To have any chance of a place in the final (and other results will have to go their way) Australia need to defeat China.
China are arguably the more defensively vulnerable of Australia’s three opponents so looking to exploit them out wide will be one of the keys for Australia.
The Matildas themselves will be looking to put in a more consistent defensive performance particularly in the transition. Two of the three goals Australia has conceded has been through the sudden loss of the ball and the Netherlands and Sweden have both taken advantage of that.
Centrally, the encounter with China is Australia’s chance seize control of the midfield especially with the strong form Katrina Gorry is in. The Roar midfielder added quite a bit of focus and energy to the Australian midfield and that was assisted by the release of Steph Catley in the flanks to provide several points of attack.
Speaking of attack, while Australia has been active in the front third this tournament, the finishing has let them down on several occasions. If the Matildas are to give themselves a chance against top teams, it was one area that needs to improve.
“We created a lot of chances against Sweden and again against the Netherlands and we have to finish teams off. To go to that next step we have got to improve our execution in the penalty box. Hopefully we will do a little bit better against China.”
Australia take on China on 7 March 2017 with kick off at 2.o0am live on Fox Sports 505 and on The Women’s Game twitter.
China PR v Australia
6 March 2017
Albufeira Municipal Stadium, Albufeira
Kick off: 15:00 local (7 March 2017 – 2.00am AEDT)
Last 3 fixtures
3 March 2016: Australia 1 – 1 China (Olympic Qualifiers)
25 October 2015: China 1 – 1 Australia (Friendly)
27 November 2013: Australia 2 – 1 China (Friendly)