Australia entered the tournament thin on options at centreback.
Where are Australia’s goals going to come from?
A key concern going into the final game of the group stage is Australia’s struggle to create goalscoring chances. Australia needs to beat Jamaica by a large margin (and even that may not guarantee qualification), it is uncertain where the goals are going to come from.
Australia’s second and third goals against Brazil came from speculative chances that are unlikely to consistently create goals. For the second goal, Logarzo’s cross/shot from distance lacked power, and only went in because Barbara was briefly unsighted at an inopportune moment.
For the third goal, nine times out of ten, Monica’s attempted clearance from van Egmond’s hopeful long ball to Kerr (who was outnumbered 2v1 and therefore unlikely to win the ball) doesn’t result in an own goal. In other words, no coach or team plans to consistently score like this.
Against Italy and Brazil, Australia’s plan was to play high crosses for Kerr and runners from midfield to attack. The penalty against Italy and the first goal against Brazil came from a high cross.
However, statistics show that high crosses are a particularly inefficient strategy, as it places great emphasis on the quality of the delivery to reduce the handling advantage of the goalkeeper and the numerical advantage of the centrebacks.
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, Australia’s crossing quality has been inconsistent. If Polkinghorne remains unavailable and Catley continues at centreback, this deprives Australia of her crossing ability from the left flank. Simply put, Catley’s crossing is superior to Kellond-Knight’s.
If Australia were to persist with a crossing approach, a more viable strategy would be to play low crosses. It’s easier to play an accurate pass on the ground, and consequently is a much easier ball for a first time shot compared to a ball put into an aerial contest.
Low cutbacks are played into midfield runners (e.g. Yallop and Logarzo) are even better, as this takes the opposition defenders out of the equation.
This Australian squad is, on paper, capable of a big win and going deep into the World Cup. We’ll find out soon enough if they can execute on the field.
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.