WWC 2015 Round of 16: Australia

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What a tournament it has been for the Matildas so far, it seems like some sort of wonderful dream! But there has been no stroke of fortune with the Australians undoubtedly deserving their place in the Round of 16. Can their incredible run continue or have they reached their peak?

Image credit: Football NSW

Group performance

When the Australians drew Group D many of the Matildas faithful groaned at the enormity of the task the young squad faced escaping the Group of Death. But the Matildas excelled against the strong opposition finishing runners-up to the second place nation in the world, the United States, gaining automatic qualification for the Round of 16.

The Aussies faced the US in their opening match playing all over the Americans in the first half and signalled to the rest of the competition that their trip to the quarter finals in 2011and 2007 was no fluke and would be the minimum expectation this time around. The Matildas driving performance from the midfield saw the two teams locked 1-1 at halftime but a lacklustre performance in the second half allowed the US to steal the victory 3-1.

Australia went on to take all three points against Nigeria in a vital clash for both team’s progression hopes. The Matildas dominated the match all over the park with big-game star Kyah Simon scoring a double to give the Aussies a fighting chance to qualify in their final match against Sweden.

A 1-1 draw against the Scandinavians thanks to another goal from captain Lisa De Vanna was enough to see the green and gold move through to the next stage where they now face the number seven nation Brazil.

AUSTRALIA TAKE ON BRAZIL IN THE ROUND OF 16. READ OUR BRAZIL PREVIEW HERE.

They’ll beat Brazil because…

There have been two factors to the success of the Australians and if they get them right again on Monday they’ll be able to beat the South Americans. Every player on the pitch knows their job and plays as part of the team. This is the simplest concept in football but it’s surprising how often teams get it wrong. The midfield has been providing effective distribution to the attackers while protecting the back four, in turn Caitlin Foord and Stephanie Cately have been effectively overlapping out-wide to provide support in attack.

The other key to beating Brazil is that the team remains composed at all times, especially if they fall behind. The Australians have looked best when they control the pace of the match, maintain possession and play touch-pass football. After the Swedes equalised against the Aussies in their last matchup the Matildas immediately panicked and resorted to searching long balls that were easily cut-out be the Swedish defence. When they started playing their natural game again, passing the football around in triangles and playing back when required, the Matildas again started to dominate the game. If the Australians can play calm, collaborative football they can beat Brazil.

They’ll be knocked-out by Brazil because…

The Brazilians have been flying under the radar thus far despite making it through Group E without dropping a single point. They’re a powerhouse in South American with few other neighbouring nations able to compete with them due to their skill level and quality in every position. Leading the way is five time FIFA World Player Marta Vieira da Silva. Marta is a legend of Brazilian football and is the highest goal scorer for the national team. Their strong defence is led by Captain Bruna Soares and they are yet to concede in the competition. If the Brazilians go ahead in the match they’ll try and choke the Matildas out of the game which they’re more than capable of doing.

Can they win the World Cup?

Yes. Come on, like we’re going to say no. Despite the young squad the Matildas have shown they are more than capable of competing with the best teams in the world including the number two and five ranked nations on the world, the United States and Sweden. Beating Brazil would give them yet more confidence to go all the way and a lot of Matildas fans are already seeing the sky as the limit.

Best moment of the tournament so far

The first half against the United States cannot be ignored and was as good a 45 minutes as any to be played so far in the tournament by any team. But the highlight of the tournament so far was the moment straight after the fulltime whistle in their match against Sweden. The pure and unbridled jubilation displayed by the players and staff showed just how much progression means to everyone involved. The team will need all of that motivation against Brazil if they wish to go further but to this point the whole tournament has been one constant and incredible endorsement for the game.

Key Player

If you’ve been following the tournament closely you’ll have no doubt noticed how much we (well maybe this writer more specifically) admire Katrina Gorry. But after her performance against Sweden, defensive midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight has emerged as possibly the most player for the Aussies. Her distribution was first class with her accurate passing capable of bypassing Gorry and Emily van Egmond and finding the forwards if required. Her work screening in front of the back four was also exceptional against the Scandinavians and the 24-year-old’s excellent positioning frequently cut-out the Swedish attack. Do yourself a favour and spend five minutes – that’s all you’ll need – watching her against Brazil because her performances so far have been masterful.

Injuries/suspensions

Claire Polkinghorne is fit again and would most likely be capable of playing 90 minutes against Brazil. However based on the performances of Alanna Kennedy and Laura Alleway in the group matches it’s unlikely Alen Stajcic would risk making a change now. Apart from that there are no other injuries or suspensions to report.

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