I thought the World Cup would be the peak of football stress for the year, but man was I wrong. After winning comfortably against Brazil 3-1 to then play the USA and concede our 1-0 lead in the 90th minute, the Matildas really know how to make a girl scream.
The Tournament of Nations is a great addition for international women’s football providing a great spectacle, four of the best teams in the world.
No surprises – Kerr has done it again – A goal in our 3-1 win over Brazil and a goal in our 2-0 win over Japan. Is it a coincidence the only game we didn’t win was the game Kerr didn’t put one away?
But now that I’ve given the typical Sam Kerr mention let’s talk about Lydia Williams. She was our X factor against Brazil, our desperate hero in our 1-1 draw against the USA and our vocal leader against Japan. I
f you watched the game I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, the commentator smoothly ignored hearing the girls swear over the touchline microphones. The tournament may not have worked out the way we wanted, coming runners up to the USA on goal difference, but we can take away several exciting learnings.
1. We are the best team in Asia.
With our results from this Tournament we have secured our place as the best ranked AFC team, which will also put us as a favourite leading up to the world cup. A position the Matildas are not all too familiar with, it’s going to be an interesting way to enter a World Cup.
2. Caitlin Foord is back and firing after being out with an injury for nearly six months.
She was subbed on in the 86th minute against Brazil which meant she didn’t have much time to make an impact however the few touches she had were positive, with a chance to put the game to bed in the 89th minute, only to be overcome by Brazilian defenders. After such an impressive season in the W league it was disappointing to see her end her season with an injury, however she still managed to sign a contract with NWSL club Portland Thorns FC who have been tirelessly working to get her fit, lucky for us.
Foord got a longer stint against Japan, and she has definitely not lost her touch or her ability to read the game putting down some excellent through balls and passing well.
3. We have future stars on our hands.
Mary Fowler made her debut against Brazil. With only a minute of game time she didn’t get a chance to show her stuff. Just like Sam Kerr who also debuted at the tender age of just 15, Mary Fowler no doubt has an exciting career ahead of her with more game time, hopefully coming her way.
Another teenager made her debut against Japan, 16 year old Amy Sayer subbed on for Kyah Simon and immediately the final whistle blew as she ran onto the field. Disappointing that Alen Stajcic didn’t give these two more opportunity, but a good sign that he’s including young talent in the squad and no doubt their time spent in camp with the veterans will have been a learning experience.
4. I love Portland Thorns.
Look, I just wanted to mention how great the Thorns girls are. Ellie Carpenter (took a ball to the face, what a champ), Hayley Raso (marry me) and Caitlin Foord (above) are our own. Emily Sonnett (follow her on twitter, trust me.), Lindsey Horan (both villain and hero of this piece, after heading home an equaliser against us) and Tobin Heath all had a fantastic Tournament for the USA.
Heath turned on some silky moves to put up the cross for the USA’s third goal against Japan, I personally have watched this particular clip 37 times. She is the nutmeg queen and for me the hands down player of the tournament. Putting in another flair performance, netting a goal and adding another assist to her tally, she is definitely one to watch.
Andressinha is another Thorn who had a rather impressive tournament for Brazil, but unfortunately their results didn’t go her way with Brazil finishing third in the tournament with only a 2-1 win against Japan. Also, I just want to point out that Horan was just named NWSL player of the month so we shouldn’t feel too bad about getting the draw because of her 90th minute header.
5. Sam bloody Kerr.
She does it again and again folks, unstoppable when she’s in front of goal. I’m personally a little disappointed we didn’t get a backflip, but hey, there were goals so I will take it. Not only was she good on the ball, her off the ball movement was sensational as always. She put up quite a few dangerous crosses that we were unlucky not to finish.
Again, with all the chances we created it was unlucky we didn’t have more goals. Sam managed to seal our win against Japan netting our second goal after Kennedy opened the game up with a stellar free kick goal, and of course Lydia Williams managed to control the back end keeping our only clean sheet of the tournament in what was probably her best game of the tournament.
6. Polkinghorne and Kennedy are the best Centre Backs in the world right now.
Big statement perhaps, but they’re both fantastic and consistently so. Why, oh why are Houston Dash playing Polks as a CDM? Good to know even with her playing regular football out of position for the Dash in the NWSL doesn’t affect her factory reset when she comes into Matildas camp.
Kennedy had such a strong tournament topping it off with an absolute thunder bastard of a free kick slotting into the bottom left corner to open the score against Japan.
Coach Alen Stajcic has been a little bit experimental with positions this tournament, quite evident against Japan when he subbed Polks off for Crummer, who is a natural attacker, and had Hayley Raso playing at Right Back for most of the game. To all the girls credit, they did play well out of position but the game felt a bit unsettled. Hopefully Staj can work out the kinks and find a solid formation come France next year.
7. Roommate synergy.
Chloe Logarzo allowed Lisa DeVanna to take-over her Instagram whilst in camp and boy, was that a fun time. I felt like I was watching my nanna try to text. You all know where I’m going with
my actual point. DeVanna is like a fine wine. I don’t drink wine, but I don’t need alcohol to watch her play anyway. That counter attack she singlehandedly led, powering through the middle of the field, past what seemed like the entire USA team, with a perfect layoff to roommate Logarzo who finished it off and put Australia 1-0 up.
I must admit, for a while there I was keen to see her start to move on, but this chemistry with Logarzo has leant new life to her legs and I could watch her all day.
8. It’s coming home.
France 2019. The Matildas are coming at you.
So overall, we had a good tournament, the results went our way we just didn’t capitalise on all our chances, unfortunately the USA did and consequently raised the trophy. As defending Tournament of Nations Champion, we had opportunity to be back to back winners, the USA as hosts had a point to prove and they managed to uphold their 18-match unbeaten streak.
Definitely no shame in being Runners up, and the USA had an impressive last game beating Brazil 4-1 to beat us for the title on goal difference. This Tournament stressed me out a lot with so many shots on goal saved by Williams, and a lot of last ditch defensive work I didn’t think my heart would hold out. The fact we won our last game but still came runners up crushed me a little but hey, there was some great football, so the persistent heart palpitations were worth it.
With Brazil only winning one game against Japan they finished third, and Japan losing all three of their games saw them finish bottom of the table. Japan had a good approach to the tournament playing quite a young team, unfortunate that they couldn’t win a game, but they will be a force in years to come, by then hopefully we will be too. A solid performance by our Matildas, lots of positive signs.
Bring on France 2019.
By Kianna Aquilina