Australia’s FIFA Women's World Cup run ended with a penalty shootout loss to Norway.
Norway overload the centre, push fullbacks high
Norway lined up in a 4-4-2, with Vilde Boe Risa and Ingrid Syrstad Engen in central midfield. Australia meanwhile lined up in a 4-3-3, the midfield comprising Yallop and Logarzo ahead of sole holding midfielder van Egmond. On paper, this meant Australia would overload Norway 3v2 in central midfield.
On the park however, Norway had their wide midfielders Karina Saevik and Guro Reiten tuck inside (10) as shown below. This meant it was the Australians who were instead overloaded in this crucial zone (11).
With Norwegian forward Caroline Graham Hansen also occasionally dropping deep (12), this frequently left van Egmond outnumbered (see also discussion of Norway’s first goal below).
To maintain width, Norway pushed their fullbacks very high up (13). In particular, left back Minde was frequently seen in the penalty area attacking the far post in crossing situations. The flip side of Norway pushing both of their fullbacks forward simultaneously was that their centrebacks were left to cover the entire width of the pitch. As a result, Australia best chances came in transition moments when both Minde and Ingrid Moe Wold were caught upfield.
Kerr focused on exploiting the space outside the centrebacks, in particular Norway’s right-sided centre back Maren Mjelde (14). Kerr nearly scored after isolating Mjelde 1v1 in the opening 30 seconds, and again in the 5th minute. To mitigate this, Boe Risa would occasionally drop into the right-sided centre back position (15), leaving Engen as the sole central midfielder.
Australia struggle to defend counterattacks
Australia have struggled to defend counterattacks throughout the tournament. Early talk on the topic focused on the high line, although this was misleading. Rather, Australia’s defenders have been caught out by indecision; specifically, when to press and when to drop.
This was evident from Norway’s first goal, shown below. Left back Elise Kellond-Knight went to press Moe Wold (16), leaving Saevik free to receive a pass. This left centrebacks Catley and Alanna Kennedy with a decision - hold the line to catch centre forward Isabell Herlovsen offside, or drop to defend the space.
However, Catley went to drop, while Kennedy went to hold. This is why Kennedy, as the covering defender, wasn’t in a position (17) to cover Catley’s subsequent misread of Saevik’s hopeful ball in behind (18). Note also how van Egmond is outnumbered 3v1 in central midfield, with Graham Hansen dropping in.
With Australia now 1-0 down and needing to be even more attacking, this left Kennedy even more exposed. Her 104th minute red card for pulling back substitute Lisa-Marie Utland, when judged to be the last defender on a Norwegian counterattack, emphasised this.
The author is an experienced football coach, having coached over 200 games at development and senior level. He has completed the FFA/AFC B Licence and runs the Facebook page "Tacticology", covering the NPLW Victoria.