Now that Australia has a win under their belt after a tense performance against Ireland, here are three takeaways for their next match against Nigeria.
Find Mary Fowler
With star striker Sam Kerr out for at least through the Nigeria match, most assumed that star-to-be Mary Fowler would take her place as Australia’s primary goalscorer. However, this was not the case. Fowler’s name was rarely called on the broadcast, and for good reason. Ireland was able to lock her down almost completely. If Australia is to move forward without Kerr, Fowler needs to find herself in better positions and the midfield needs to have clearer passes to spring her.
Raso, Raso, Raso
Hayley Raso was the key to unlocking Ireland. Although captain Steph Catley took the penalty that netted Australia the win, Raso is the one who drew it. Her speed and positioning posed a serious problem for Ireland, as even in a five-back system they could barely stop her. Raso needs to continue to make the runs she did in the Ireland match. The rest of the team (namely Fowler and fellow forward Caitlin Foord) need to go with her. If they are able to support Raso’s runs on the wing, the Matildas offense will look much better.
Opening Night Jitters
Listen: hosting a World Cup is stressful. There is an unthinkable amount of pressure put on any host nation, but the Matildas are keenly aware that their success could open the floodgates for women’s football in Australia. All of this tension was visible from kickoff. Crosses to nowhere, missed shots… it seemed as if Australia’s confident offensive unit was scared to pieces. As the game went on and the Matildas acclimated to the world stage, they got more comfortable, but the entire performance could be described as “nervy.” Hopefully now that they have a win at home under their belt some of those jitters will dissipate, but the Matildas just need to relax and stay confident in their game plan.