Three Burning Questions: Matildas v Brazil

by Ben Somerford on Jun 12, 2019

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On paper things look bleak for the Matildas. Sunday’s first-up Women’s World Cup loss to 15th ranked Italy made it three consecutive defeats ahead of Thursday’s must-win clash with powerhouse Brazil.

But, of course, there’s more to this situation than meets the eye and plenty of reason for optimism for Ante Milicic’s side.

It’s simplistic to think Brazil, based on reputation, are world beaters but the reality is they’re ranked 10th in the world nowadays and came into this tournament in losing form.

So too did the Matildas, but Brazil’s losing run was nine consecutive matches dating back to last year’s Tournament of Nations. Plus six-time World Player of the Year Marta is not the force she once was.

That’s not to underestimate them at all. Cristiane was brilliant with a hat-trick against Jamaica in their opening 3-0 win too. They possess truckloads of danger and threat.

But Australia have nothing to fear and cannot afford to get swept up in the criticism of high lines, Alen Stajcic’s sacking and Milicic’s style right now. They should never have lost to Italy and they should win this match if they remain focused.

With this in mind, GGArmy’s Ben Somerford asks three burning questions.

Does Milicic change the starting XI?
Probably not. There is a train of thought that Katrina Gorry should take Emily van Egmond’s role in midfield but beyond that the line-up against Italy, excluding the injured Elise Kellond-Knight, seems Australia’s strongest on paper.

A lot depends on the reported injury concerns among the squad but it’s likely Clare Polkinghorne, Caitlin Foord and Lisa de Vanna will be fit to play and Kellond-Knight limited to a role off the bench.

Chopping and changing the back four won’t help build cohesion when that’s exactly what they need.

Should Milicic persist with the defensive high line?
Yes. Robbie Cornthwaite articulated this perfectly on Fox Sports, noting that a lot of the perceived issues against Italy, occurred when the assistant referee raised her flag belatedly. It worked but the backline needs to be diligent.

The high line will be important against the skillful Brazilians who will want time and space on the ball. The premise of the high line is to restrict that, rather than catch opposition players offside.

Maintaining the same back four will help everyone get on the same page too. Arguably the bigger concern was Australia’s determination to play out from the back, leading to Italy’s equalizer. The second goal also came from a set-piece, so keep that in mind.

Can the Matildas bounce back?
There’s plenty at stake so this will be a test of the side’s mental fortitude against a seasoned opponent who love tournament play. If the Matildas are short on any confidence, they only need to reflect on their achievements of the past two-three years.

Of course, you don’t want to live in the past and this side has a new boss and methodology, but the point is these players can produce against the best. They were wasteful against Italy and then let it slip in the second half. If they add ruthlessness and total resolve to win, this will look different.

It’s worth noting all is not lost if we lose to Brazil, potentially getting into the knockout as one of four best-placed third-place getters. But if that’s the case, the best we can hope for is a sudden death clash against either hosts France or world number two Germany. Let’s avoid that and beat Brazil.