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Gutsy but goalless, Matildas face must-win match up

by Sebastian Hassett on Jun 30, 2011

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They couldn't have been much braver. The Matildas threw their all at Brazil in the opening match of the Women's World Cup this morning but just came up short.

Surely they deserved a point given their efforts? Sadly it wasn't to be. Now they have to win against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday night if they want to give themselves any chance of progressing to the next round.

That's football. Especially when you can't take your chances. Whether it was nerves, a lack of cohesion or a gulf in class, the Matildas couldn't quite get it done. And boy - they had their moments. But if they can keep this level of performance up, they'll go a long way.

Australia completely controlled the flow of the match in the first half and dominated possession - sometimes as much as 60 per cent of the ball was theirs. Even if Brazil lifted their pressure in the second stanza, it's hard to say Australia wasn't deserving of at least something.

If there was a criticism of the Matildas, sometimes they looked as if they weren't quite sure how to build from defence right through to attack. They tried, however, and should be commended for trying to play the right way. Some of the passing was pleasing on the eye but it remains an area to work on.

As for Brazil, they hardly looked as if they'd come to play. They were cautious and uninspiring early, and did what they had to do once they took the lead.

But that's the difference between good teams and great teams. Brazil were able to rely on a moment of individual brilliance from Rosana to get the job done 14 minutes after the restart. How good was that left foot? She just stole an inch behind the defence and rifled in a shot that Melissa Barbieri could only watch race by.

It was a good lesson. At this level, you can't go to sleep, even for a moment. And when the Matildas watch the tape tomorrow, they'll wonder why they didn't put the ball into neighbouring Holland when they had the chance.

The introduction of Sam Kerr on 78 minutes was a good move by coach Tom Sermanni, but perhaps a little late. She's just so explosive - I hope she gets to put her best foot forward as the tournament rolls on. Sally Shipard looked lively when she came on and may be a candidate to start from here on in.

While Brazil were better after they scored, Australia did have some last-ditch chances.

When Tameka Butt raced through on the right-hand side after 80 minutes, a bleary-eyed nation was on the edge of their seats. But that much-dreaded moment of confusion - to shoot or pass - cost the Matildas a golden opportunity.

Then Lisa De Vanna, with three minutes to play, had a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, on her preferred left-foot, only to balloon her effort over the bar. However, credit should go to De Vanna for running out the 90 minutes, for she soldiered on admirably despite a lack of match fitness.

Also, mention has to be made of Caitlin Foord. She's just 16, but she didn't put a foot out of place. She might be a Matilda for the next 16 years if she keeps playing like that.

The girls must now move on quickly and focus on what lies ahead - principally Equatorial Guinea. If it was hard to take them seriously on the cusp of the tournament, we know a bit more about them now after their 1-0 loss against Norway.

Question: did you pick up on the stats of that game? There were 49 shots, and 26 of them came from the tournament newcomers. 15 of them, no less, were from captain Genoveva Anonma.

Perhaps she was just fine-tuning the radar. Norway escaped with a win, now the Matildas must repeat the dose.