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  • Writer's pictureTone Rasmussen

The Matildas' Secret Weapon in the Midfield: Kyra Cooney-Cross

Kyra Cooney-Cross is a 21-year-old midfielder playing in her very first World Cup. As well as being one of the best young players in the world right now, she is also one of the most well-rounded players. Cooney-Cross’s arsenal consists of impeccable passing, a high work rate, and both body and body control. She is not someone who is afraid to take someone on 1v1 and is an important piece to the Matildas counter attacks with her speed and ability to perfectly deliver a through ball. While Sam Kerr’s injury, which has left her unable to play in the group stages, is what everyone has been talking about, Cooney-Cross has silently been going on about her business in the Matildas midfield. Call her the Matildas' secret weapon if you want. And you're asking if she's got any secret weapons up her sleeve? Well, she's known for scoring Olimpicos when it matters most.

Kyra Cooney-Cross poses during 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup media day. Photo courtesy of @kyracooneyx /Instagram

Cooney-Cross has played every single minute so far in her debut World Cup campaign. The 21-year-old who plays her club football in the Swedish club Hammarby IF has truly had an amazing breakout season. So far this World Cup she's gotten one assist in the 2-3 loss to Nigeria, and despite losing that game she was a standout player. The game picture drastically changed after the first Nigeria goal and Australia. The talk after the game was deservedly mostly about the Super Falcons and their victory, but for Tony Gustavsson's squad, Cooney-Cross was the highlight of a rather shaky performance. Her and Katrina Gorry might be one of the most feisty midfield duos in this World Cup, both are workhorses who will always track back and defend but still join in on a counterattack. They both might be small but their physicality is elite and they use their low center of gravity to their advantage. Cooney-Cross is a versatile player who can play anywhere in the midfield and also on the wing. One of her strengths really came to show in the Canada game where her set pieces caused all kinds of trouble for the reigning Olympic Champions’ defense. The inward curled corner kicks are hurled in with such force that even if they don't sneak in past the post they cause chaos in the opposition box. In that game, she was also dispossessed zero times and won the ball back nine times, one successful tackle, and won 7 out of 10 duels, proving that she is ready to be the next midfield general.

Katrina Gorry #19 and Kyra Cooney-Cross #23 celebrating during the Matildas' group stage game against Canada. Photo courtesy of @kyracooneyx /Instagram

Despite so far only bagging one assist, she is also an offensive weapon. During the Canada game, she almost got her first national team goal when she fired a shot from an optimistic distance which almost rattled the crossbar and forced a save from Kailen Sheridan. She hasn't quite broken the deadlock on the national team just yet but is still very much involved in the Australian attack. With Sam Kerr back for the knockout stages, Cooney-Cross can excel in the spaces that Kerr will most likely inadvertently create. Her name in itself is a big enough threat that defenders will always have to hover around her and the space that she occupies. That gives Cooney-Cross the ability to drive upfield, she can navigate through tight spaces between defenders and take a shot, pass a through ball, or go wide and put the ball on a dime to a waiting Sam Kerr or Hayley Raso rushing in from the wing. The sky's the limit for Kyra Cooney-Cross´ potential, she is determined, fast, impossible to knock off the ball, and has an overview of the game few can compare to. She plays with such poise and calm that one often forgets she is only 21 years old and in her first World Cup campaign.


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