The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Matildas v Norway

by Ben Somerford on Jun 23, 2019

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Under the weight of expectation, Australia’s 2019 Women’s World Cup campaign came to an inglorious end at the hands of Norway this morning in France.

After a 1-1 draw, the Matildas went down 4-1 on penalties, ending a miserable six months for Australia’s women’s national football team, who had coach Alen Stajcic sacked in January.

The sixth-ranked team in the world, who had been on the rise over the past two years led by one of the top female strikers on earth, Sam Kerr, had fallen short.

In this context, following three straight quarter-final appearances at World Cups, this last 16 exit was disappointing and will be forensically examined.

GGArmy’s Ben Somerford reflects on the good, the bad and the ugly from Sunday morning’s shootout defeat and touches on the campaign as a whole.

The Good
Hayley Raso and Lydia Williams were Australia’s standouts against the Norwegians, with the attacker creating opportunities and chaos at will in the second half with her desire to get forward and take on opponents, while Williams made a series of fine saves to keep the Matildas in the match.

Sadly, Williams couldn’t be the hero in the shootout and many will point to Kerr’s high-and-wide penalty for blame, but the Matildas skipper has had a strong tournament and deserves praise. She will bemoan missing a few chances during regulation time too, but we should cut her some slack.

The Bad
Unfortunately once again Australia’s defence was found wanting, with Norway’s goal coming far too easily from a long ball forward which got in behind the Matildas backline, despite Steph Catley’s full-length stretch.

The Matildas conceded a goal in every game at the World Cup, ultimately leading to their downfall. It’s worth noting Australia scored the most goals in Group C but finished second to Italy on goal difference. Australia will look with envy as Italy takes on China on Tuesday in Montpellier, knowing that could have been them.

The reality is the side was unable to adjust to coach Ante Milicic’s style in his 10 games in charge, particularly defensively and were caught out regularly.

The Ugly
I’m not usually one to point fingers at the officials but German referee Riem Hussein had a shocker. Alanna Kennedy’s red card for a last defender foul was nothing more than a yellow card, given the ball easily ran to Williams in the Australia goal, but the Matildas are justified in having some beef at the non-penalty calls.

It’d be easy to conclude Norway defender Maria Thorisdottir must have something on Hussein, because she got lucky three times with penalty shouts. I will acknowledge the first half decision to overrule for penalty award for a Thorisdottir handball was the right decision but Hussein took an awful long time to make a decision once consulting the video.

Tameka Yallop was bundled over inside the box late by Thorisdottir too, while there was a second half handball which the VAR checked but deemed fine.

At the end of the day, though, the refereeing didn’t decide this contest. Norway were good value and arguably deserved the win. Australia’s shootout display was poor but the reality is we couldn’t get the victory over 120 minutes, despite some good chances. We also required Williams to keep us in it.

Did this team have the talent to go further? Yes. Did they have the talent to win the World Cup? Probably not, but we’ll never know. Did they perform at their best? No. That’s where the review should begin.