Almanac Olympics – Soccer: Sometimes you just have to admit you were wrong

 

 

by Roy Hay

 

I’m not sure that I believe the end justifies the means, but the bore draw with the United States that I castigated in my last offering turned out to be a bad call. Without it we would not have had last night’s incredible seven-goal thriller as the Matildas overcame Great Britain and qualify for a semi-final strangely against Sweden. Normally tournaments are set up so that teams that meet in the group stages do not come together again until the final. This time the results conspired to have them in opposition again. The USA meantime faces Canada in the other semi-final.

 

Last night’s match was one for the ages. Australia took the lead in the first half when defender Alana Kennedy, who had only forced her way back into the starting eleven after her gutsy work in the previous match, headed home a corner by the excellent Stephanie Catley. Great Britain fought back as expected and led two one after goals by top scorer Ellen White in the 57th and 66th minute. It looked all over for the Australians but Sam Kerr, so often the miracle worker, found space in the penalty area to bury an equaliser in the last minute of normal time.

 

Extra time was even more nerve-wracking for both teams. England got a very soft penalty when Ellie Carpenter was adjudged to have made contact with Nikita Parris. Keeper Teagan Micah then dived full length to her left to keep out Caroline Weir’s well-struck kick. Teenager Mary Fowler then hit a heavily deflected shot over British keeper Ellie Roebuck and Sam Kerr finished clinically from inside the penalty area to put the Matildas two ahead from the start of the second period of extra-time. As expected, Great Britain fought to save their tournament and White completed her hat-trick with five minutes plus stoppages left. It got very nervy on both sides in the final few minutes, but the Matildas held on for the narrow victory.

 

Coach Tony Gustavsson made some excellent changes in the match, bringing on veteran Claire Polkinghorne to help close out the match. But he had earlier introduced Fowler and Kylie Cooney-Cross when Australia was chasing the game. The two youngsters did not let him down. Everyone in the Australian ranks deserves enormous credit for this result, the best by the Matildas in a major competition since they won the Asian Cup of Nations in 2010.

 

 

Read Roy’s original piece about the bore draw HERE

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Peter Fuller says

    Cracking game, Roy and probably compensates for the contrivance against the US. The drama of extra time was extraordinary.

  2. Certainly was a cracker, Peter. One of the problems we have in the football competition at the Olympics on Channel Seven and its other channels is that we don’t get to see much, if anything, of the other teams involved. Sometimes there are replays, but they seem to appear without warning and so are easily missed.
    So just a recap on where we are now. On Monday evening the USA plays Canada followed by Australia against Sweden in the women’s competition. On Tuesday it is Japan versus Spain and Brazil against Mexico in the men’s. Four great games in prospect. New Zealand took Japan to extra time this evening, but lost in the end.

  3. Well said Roy. I had no idea why the Matildas USA game was so mundane until I read your piece outlining the tournament positions of both sides. The Ch7 booster commentary certainly talked it up while I found it numbing. What a contrast to Friday as you say.
    Not many sporting contests keep me captivated from beginning to end, but the Matildas GB Women’s Football QF certainly did. The general standard of women’s football seems to be improving in leaps and bounds – from my casual observation in major tournaments. Very athletic and skilful but generally without the precision of touch as the top male players.
    Sam Kerr’s equalising goal stood out to me because of her deft precision – chesting the ball dead at her feet after it just looped over the heads of two taller players. A metre either way and a defender would have got her. Then with the 2 defenders closer to goal backing off to cover – she sensed that micro-second to size up her shot and bury it. Most would panic and blast it. Made me think of the great Liverpool goal sneak Ian Rush with that calmness of mind and ability to executer under pressure.
    Then the teenager Fowler in the pressure cooker of a knockout final. Miskicking the ball in panic when it rebounded off the keeper from Weir’s failed penalty shot. Uh oh – I thought – the occasion is too much for her. A minute later the ball falls to her in attack with two GB defenders closing rapidly. She does the right thing and takes a strong left foot lash at it. The ball slews left off her boot (probably going 5 metres wide of the goal) into the thigh of a defender and rebounds high into the right corner of the net. From such happy accidents great self belief and careers are born.
    Can’t wait for the Sweden SF.

  4. You should take up a career in football analysis, Peter. That is as clear an appreciation of the contributions of Kerr and Fowler as that of any of the superstars of the profession I have read.

    Frances often says to me that the women play a different game from the men and they do. It is less rapid, less frenetic, but more fluid and open, so that there is space to play the ball on the field.

    Having played Sweden twice recently, Gustavsson should have them worked out now. They will be very hard to beat, but when better than in an Olympic semi-final?

  5. Thanks Roy. One tip on commentary. I watched the first half of the Matildas game on the International Feed via the 7+ App on my computer. Then the rest on 7 Mate on TV. The International commentator was far better. English I think but knowledgeable and dispassionate. If the same is on offer for the SF I’ll chrome cast it to the TV, rather than suffer the banal boosterism of the Ch7 commentators.

  6. Useful advice, Peter. Thanks.

    Roy

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