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The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: Matildas Tokyo 2020 knockouts

by Ben Somerford on Aug 06, 2021

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The Matildas' Tokyo 2020 campaign came to an end without a medal but it was a hell of a journey as the side finished fourth, exceeding expectations and winning over the general public once again.

The Good
Sam Kerr was the clear standout, netting six goals across six games in the tournament, after doubts about her scoring ability in green and gold coming in, having failed to net under Tony Gustavsson prior to the Olympics. She benefitted from the Matildas having more possession in their attacking third, allowing her quality to shine. That was a major step forward for Gustavsson's side and bodes well moving forward.

Tameka Yallop was excellent with her energy and intensity, as well as the tireless Ellie Carpenter, who unfortunately was sent off late against Sweden, missing the bronze medal match. Mary Fowler offered a bit off the bench and will have gained plenty from playing against top opponents. Her strike against GB, albeit off a wicked deflection, showed intent and confidence.

Goalkeeper Teagan Micah had her moments, namely her penalty save against GB, and will be better for the experience as a 23-year-old, although she seemed uncertain when coming off her line. Megan Rapinoe's opening goal of the bronze medal match exploited that hesitation. It was her blunder against Sweden which was costly too. The number one jersey is a major dilemma for Gustavsson moving forward.

The Bad
Australia conceded eight goals in three knockout games, having conceded five in the group stage. Three of the four goals against USA were avoidable and Micah must be held culpable for a few of those, even if she had some bright moments at Tokyo 2020. The Matildas' leaky defence has long been a concern and they missed the presence of a confident, commanding goalkeeper with a real vocal presence.

Gustavsson's insistence on the side playing out from the back arguably went too far against USA too, given their opposition's high press. Don't get me wrong, it is good to see Australia playing this style and criticism shouldn’t be black and white. It's about degrees. There's times to play out and times not to. Arguably they got this wrong too much.

The Ugly
It'd be wrong to be too pessimistic after a decent campaign by the Matildas, where there was uncertainty about the side's ability to get out the group prior to the tournament.

There were near misses, meaning the side could possibly have gone further. The referee's decision not to award Kerr a volleyed goal late in the first half against Sweden was poor, along with the VAR not intervening. But that is tough for blocking fouls from free-kicks. That will leave a sour taste in the mouth.

However, Australia did get lucky, with three sides progressing via the group and some fortuitous moments against GB, so we shouldn’t lament too much.