The Young Matildas set-up need to ask themselves a few questions after a deja-vu inducing 5-1 thumping at the hands of North Korea in their opening AFC U/19 Championship match. Here are our suggestions for a few of the answers...
Pace is our biggest weakness
We were generally crucified on fast-breaks and counter attacks by a fast-paced, ruthlessly efficient Korean team. They attacked with poise and regularity, knowing they could exploit the same weakness time after time.
What they lack in spontaneity, the Koreans more than make up for in considered, tactical fluidity. They play at a high tempo consistently, which allowed them to wear down the Young Matildas and eventually have their way in a walkover.
Playing at a high tempo for an entire match is only possible when everybody knows their roles like the back of their hand.
Even when the Young Matildas were competitive, it was due to the heroics of Chelsea Blissett, who saved five or six scoring opportunities early in the second half. It's no coincidence that after her withdrawal, we shipped two quick goals.
We must be able to learn from defeats like these. First and foremost, our defensive resilience needs to be greater: our susceptibility to fast-paced counter attacks has seemingly become systemic and needs to be looked at as a matter of urgent priority if we are to
a) qualify for youth World Cups and...
b) make an imprint when we get there.
There's no doubting our individual quality, which is why constructive criticism is crucial. Due to the way our youth system, various competitions and clubs are organised, we are always going to possess greater individualism.
But we're currently making that look like a weakness, when we clearly have the talent for it to be a strength. Hopefully these two losses in very similar circumstances to North Korea can be treated with the significance they deserve.