Almanac Olympics – Soccer: Matildas’ fighting finish comes up short





Roy Hay


Another seven-goal match in the bronze medal game saw the Matildas just fail to force the game into extra-time. The United States were dominant for much of the ninety minutes after a start in which former World Player of the Year Megan Rapinoe curled a corner kick past Mackenzie Arnold. The young keeper has not yet learned how to dominate her goal area, but she will as her confidence grows with experience.


Sam Kerr shocked the Americans with an equaliser in the 17th minute, but parity only lasted for four more as Rapinoe drove home her second after being given the freedom of the penalty area. Carli Lloyd, so long the most impressive player in a career that has won 312 caps, then scored a brace before and just after half-time. That should have seen the Americans home to a comfortable victory, but the Matildas refused to give up the fight despite a shortage of possession. Caitlin Foord drove home a shot in the 54th minute and the Australians continued to create openings. Emily Gielnik came on as substitute and fired home the pile driver she has been threatening in past games. From dominance to  scrambling the Americans managed to see out the remaining minutes, but you could see the relief in their celebrations when the final whistle was blown.


The Matildas can hold their heads up after this overall performance in the tournament. They will need to raise their game a further level when the World Cup comes round in a couple of years’ time, as all the other teams will be improving between now and then. They can take a leaf out of Graham Arnold’s plan-book as he tries to increase the depth of his pool of talent by playing as many of his Olyroos in senior matches. The financial pressure on A-League clubs has meant that they too are turning to local youth more and more. Similarly the drain of Matildas to European leagues means that W-League clubs will have to find more local talent and that should be of benefit to the national team between now and 2023. So this eternal optimist is not downcast by the eventual end of the Matildas’ dreams this time. Onward and upward.




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