The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Matildas Olympics group stage

by Ben Somerford on Jul 28, 2021

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The Matildas will take on Great Britain on Friday in the Tokyo Olympics quarter-finals after squeezing into the last eight as one of the two best third-ranked sides but are they a medal hope?

Australia are one win away from being guaranteed to play for a medal, although GB will not be easy, with the bulk of the side hailing from the England side ranked sixth in the world, but sprinkled with top class co-captains Kim Little and Sophie Ingle and Scotland's Caroline Weir.

There is reason for optimism with the Matildas, however, given they have managed to resolve some of the visible issues which loomed prior to the Olympics.

GGArmy's Ben Somerford has witnessed the whole campaign and took a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly so far.

The Good
Sam Kerr's return of three goals has been critical to Australia's ability to reach the quarter-finals. The Matildas skipper had not scored once for Australia since coach Tony Gustavsson took over but has ended that drought emphatically, and also provided an assist for Tameka Yallop's goal too.

All three of Kerr's goals have come from headers, where she is a Tim Cahill-like threat, although some of her finishes with her feet have left a bit too be desired, particularly the missed penalty against Sweden, which was at a good height for a goalkeeper. She's had her penalty issues in the past but with her confidence up, she seemed a good candidate to take a penalty.

Yallop also deserves credit for an excellent tournament too. She has been busy and offered good support to the front line, which has allowed Kerr to get into the game. Ellie Carpenter has also been impressive, as always, with her reliable and tireless work at full-back.

It has been pleasing to see more attacking intent from Gustavsson's side, for the most part, with plenty of yellow shirts in the box against New Zealand, and pressure in the front third leading to the opening goal. To win the opening game of an Olympics for the first time, eased a lot of pressure.

The Bad
Kerr's penalty aside, the major concern was conceding four goals against Sweden, although they appear one of the genuine gold medal favourites. There was no consistent theme among the goals conceded, with Sweden finding different ways to score.

Lina Hurtig's equalizer to make it 2-2, only four minutes after the Matildas took the lead, was frustrating. It was also simple in design with a good through-ball cutting Australia open and none of the defenders were able to keep up physically with Hurtig who got on the end of a low pass. Fixing goals like that is difficult. Sweden were clinical with all four goals and that's the level the Matildas face.

Another concern was Australia's game management, sweating late unnecessarily against New Zealand by conceding when they should have been three or four goals up already. Conceding shortly after taking the lead against Sweden was similarly naïve.

The Ugly
Barring a miracle, Australia only needed a draw in the final group game against the United States and the tactics employed were designed to ensure that. It wasn’t great.

It created an absolute snooze-fest with the Matildas passing the ball around the back four with minimal intent to chase a win, particularly in the second half. In fact, Australia's midfield was non-existent, with the back four sharing it around before pumping long balls forward.

Coach Tony Gustavsson will argue the end justified the means, and it is fair to say no one will remember that game if the Matildas claim a medal, but you do need to ask if that's what we want from the national team, particularly when football gets centre stage for once with the Australian public.