Three burning questions: Vietnam v Matildas

by Ben Somerford on Mar 11, 2020

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The Matildas probably have two feet on the plane for Tokyo after their 5-0 first leg win but they’ll look to seal the deal when they meet again in the reverse leg behind closed doors on Wednesday in Cam Pha.

Given the comprehensive nature of the first leg victory and the fact Australia are ranked seventh in the world compared to Vietnam’s 32nd, this seems a fait accompli.

But there are a few burning questions to be asked, as GGArmy’s Ben Somerford poses questions.

Does coach Ante Milicic tinker?
A spot at the Olympics may be on the line but it would require a miracle for Vietnam to turn around this tie, so the Matildas boss may want to utilise the opportunity to give other a go. After all, given the coronavirus issue causing mayhem with international football calendars, there may be few other opportunities before Tokyo.

Hayley Raso, Elise Kellond-Knight and Emily Gielnik all were used off the bench in the first leg and could all easily have a case made to be regular starters. The number six role currently occupied Tameka Yallop remains a talking point and Milicic may be tempted to offer Aivi Luik or Kellond-Knight a chance in the position.

But it’s unlikely he’ll make widespread changes. London-based Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord have travelled a long way to be part of the qualifiers and may be afforded a rest, while Chloe Logarzo’s knee knock may not be worth the risk.

Does playing behind closed doors affect the team?
I cannot see the lack of a home crowd being detrimental in any way to the Matildas, except arguably generating intensity. It will be an eerie feeling for the players in the stadium, and that will be felt via the TV for those watching at home, look at last night’s Valencia-Atalanta UEFA Champions League match for reference.

Given the lopsided status of the tie and without the backing of parochial and optimistic home supporters, you get the impression this match may meander along in uneventful fashion. You could use the old cliché that an early goal really kills off the tie, but it’s barely breathing already.

Will Australia want to be ruthless and bury the Vietnamese with a barrage of goals? Raso said in the lead-up: “We want to score more than we did the other night.” That’s a nice source of motivation in theory but I’m not convinced it’ll happen in practice. For what it’s worth, I’m predicting another 5-0 win.

What happens next?
I can’t foresee any Vietnamese miracles so I’m going to assume that Australia will qualify. A large bunch of the Matildas will quickly switch their focus to the W-League finals with Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Western Sydney competing.

But around the corner are scheduled friendlies against world champions USA in Utah and world number eight Canada in Vancouver in April. Whether those matches actually go ahead is another question, but predictions are the coronavirus spread will get worse by then, meaning international travel and large gatherings will likely be banned.

That also puts the Olympics, due to start in July, in jeopardy too, although the Japanese authorities are doing everything they can to control the spread at the moment to avoid an issue in 3-4 months’ time. It’s all speculation for now, but the uncertainty creates a vague path forward for the Matildas, although they won’t be alone.