Days after a 5-2 loss to Germany, The Matildas faced The Netherlands in another tough test before the Tokyo Games. The result against the World Cup Finalists was a 5-0 defeat but despite this, there were signs of progress as the Olympics near.
Ringing In The Changes
The Germany game saw the Australians overwhelmed in all areas of the pitch. The forwards were isolated, the midfield hurried and the opposition side was able to pass the ball too easily.
The makeshift defence featured forward Hayley Raso at right back in place of Ellie Carpenter which repeatedly was exploited. Overlapping runners created numerous chances for the German attack.
Australia Coach Tony Gustavsson made some alternations. Emma Checker started at right-back and Laura Brock replaced Clare Polkinghorne in defence with Raso moving up to form part of a front three.
Checker stabilized the right flank and supplied the cross for Emily Gielnik’s second goal against Germany but now she had the task of minding Barcelona winger Lieke Martens.
Another Tough Game
Australia conceded early and poorly, a pass across the defence by youngster Mary Fowler was intercepted by Martens. Checker and Kennedy both hesitated and after a scramble in the box, Jill Roord tapped into an open goal.
The second goal was a dipping effort from Martens, it was a well-struck goal but Checker and Luik will be disappointed not to have closed her down better.
After another defensive error, Australia conceded again, Groenen scoring following a turnover deep in Matildas penalty area.
Two more goals in the second half handed Australia their biggest loss in 13 years. Despite a worse margin, this was a better performance than two days prior.
The side pressed more than they did against Germany. The effort and pace of Raso, Kerr, and Foord rushed the defense into some errors. They should have capitalised better but this created more chances.
Beattie Goad was again very solid at left-back. Her emergence is a good sign for a team that has been long over-reliant on the fitness of Steph Catley.
The midfield was able to link up better with the strikers. Against Germany, they were barely able to control or pass the ball. Kerr and Foord were found quicker and faster this time.
The Need For Calm
The Olympics are fast approaching, these results are dismal but not fatal. Things can quickly turn around.
The midfield needs a reshuffle. Both Van Egmond and Fowler are creators and left Luik with too much work to do defensively.
Either of the unavailable Tameka Yallop or Chloe Logarzo would have made a huge difference but the center of the park looked more balanced when Dylan Holmes came on.
Find a third goalkeeper. Arnold and Williams have both had injury concerns and limited game time this season. A fully fit and in-form keeper is essential, Jada Whyman of Sydney FC is a strong candidate.
The team needs to get together more often. The goals conceded were awful at the international level and there was a lack of cohesion in attack. These players have been together for years but have spent too long apart and the rust was obvious.
Do not panic. There is no escaping that these were bad performances, but there are caveats.
Some key players in important positions were missing. Chloe Logarzo and Tameka Yallop in Midfield and Jenna McCormick, Carpenter, and Catley in defence. Kyah Simon is under an injury cloud but a world-class striker, when she is available Australia tends to score important goals
Gustavsson knows the road ahead is hard and intentionally made it so. Australia sought out the most difficult tests, struggling now might be necessary to success later.