“We’re an underdog if you look at rankings, but in our beliefs we don’t think we’re far off the pace,” Australian coach Stajcic told reporters on his arrival in Winnipeg yesterday.
The Matildas have good belief and Stajcic has moulded a 4-3-2-1 system of play that he has used to success with Sydney FC in the Australian W League, but whether this will be successful against the 4-4-2 of the USWNT remains to be seen. However, it will not be formations that win this match, it will be the 1v1 battles that take place on the pitch and the ability for either team to capitalise on their chances.
Pound for pound, the USA have arguably the best individual players, playing in their individual positions, but as we saw against Korea Republic those individual players do not always pull it off and chances can go begging. If the same thing happens against the Matildas and the Australians capitalise on their chances then they are in with a chance.
With Van Egmond and Gorry holding the middle you can expect De Vanna and Kerr to push Heyman on to make up a quality, fast paced attack.
With the USWNT expect the unexpected to come from the wide backs, especially on their left side through Klinenberg, Rapinoe and Lloyd combinations trying to find Wambach at the far post and Leroux picking up the scraps.
With USWNT forward Alex Morgan still under an injury cloud it is assumed that Leroux and Wambach will continue their partnership up front and bring Morgan on as an impact player later on in the match, something that Coach Jill Ellis has been developing in recent friendlies.
If the Matildas push forward and keep possession in the attacking third a loss of possession could see a quick counter with USA centreback’s Sauerbrunn or Johnston playing long balls to striker Leroux who will hold up the ball for Rapinoe or Press in support.
“You can talk in whichever language you want, it really comes down to what you do on the pitch and we believe we can beat anyone in the world on any given day and it’s up to us to prove it,” Stajcic said.
The Australian’s will try to counter through the space left by Rapinoe’s runs forward with Catley linking with Van Egmond and trying to set up the third ball to, AFC Women’s Asian Player of the Year, Katrina Gorry who can be devastating from outside the box, if given the time and space on the ball.
Gorry is the key and if she is on her game and can compose herself from outside the box she has the potential to do some damage and could be the difference or at least test US goalkeeper Hope Solo.
It will be up to USWNT Sauerbrunn and Johnston to try to nullify the speedy De Vanna with Michelle Heyman pushing on, creating attacking space for Gorry and Van Egmond arriving at the point and Kerr making runs forward and inside, trying to get in behind the defense.
At the other end of the pitch Australia’s Kennedy and Polkinghorne will have to contend with leading all time goal scorer Abby Wambach who will be out to make a mark in probably her last World Cup.
With Wambach’s height and proficiency in the air, especially on the right side far post, through crosses from Klinenberg, the Australians will have their work cut out to nullify her as the Americans will probably try to bombard the box early.
Expect the USWNT to come out firing in the first few minutes and it is important for the Australian’s to weather the storm and not allow the American’s to score early and build confidence. Saying that, after 4 months together, the Matildas are a tough, resilient and tenacious bunch and will be focused and battle to the final whistle against the tournament favourites.
By Paul Brown