Clare Wheeler proves key for Matildas in draw against USA

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Clare Wheeler continued to shine for the Matildas on Tuesday night in the team’s 1-1 draw against rivals USA, despite playing just eight minutes.

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While only making her Matildas senior debut this year in a friendly against the Republic of Ireland, Wheeler has quickly gone from strength to strength.

Proving to be the difference between a loss and a draw in their final hit-out of the year, the calls for Wheeler to get more Matildas game time are getting louder and louder.

After being introduced in the 86th minute, Wheeler wasted no time in making her mark on the game. A brilliant challenge saw Wheeler win the ball back after sliding on Ashley Sanchez before she passed to Steph Catley. She in turn found Sam Kerr, who worked it to Kyah Simon, who was able to snatch a late equaliser.

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Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson praised Wheeler for her part in creating the opportunity to tie things up in the dying minutes of the game.

“The key to that goal was Clare Wheeler’s tackle,” he said. “We said we need to be more physical, win our one-on-one duels.

“Clare was the game-changer that came on with that mindset and got that tackle.”

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There were other bright sparks amongst the green and gold, including Hayley Raso and Mary Fowler. Kyra Cooney-Cross also had a chance at goal but was denied by Casey Murphy with 20 minutes to play.

It was, however, Wheeler that everyone was left talking about, with most questioning why the young midfielder hadn’t started for any of the Matildas’ friendlies so far.

Despite Gustavsson praising Wheeler’s work and hailing her a “game-changer” in the equaliser, he had no answers as to why she wasn’t deployed earlier, noting he felt his team had the momentum.

“When we do stops and how we do it is all about the timing,” he said. “Sometimes you do a change too early, sometimes you do it too late, sometimes you get it perfect.

“I need to look at the game to know if we did it at the right time. Maybe it would have been more effective earlier. I’ll need to look at it.”

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In defence of having Wheeler come off the bench, Gustavsson said it’s not about the starting line-up but instead about the tactical changes made throughout the game.

“It’s not about the final line-up,” he said. “It’s about the game-changers and tactical changes that we make.”

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Considering this was the Matildas’ last friendly before the AFC 2022 Asian Cup, only time will tell if Wheeler has done enough to earn herself a starting spot in the line-up.

Feature Image Credit: Sproule Sports Focus 

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Grace Clegg
Covering the Newcastle Jets for the 2021/22 season. Studying a Bachelor of Communication (News Media and PR) at the University of Newcastle. Coffee addict.

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