Thursday, 27 May 2010

Can Matildas win in Asia? Yes they can!

Australian teams play with spirit, often over skill or so it's said, but anyone who follows the World Game know England, Italy and even Brazil can dig out a victory with character and tactical nous move evident than skill when required.

This Matildas performance had loads and loads of the former. And what joy to the followers of the Matildas.

Coach Tom Sermanni spoke of the 1-0 victory over Japan in the semi-final of the AFC Asia Cup last night as the Matildas greatest ever victory.

It maybe, but it wasn't pretty.

Matildas faced the 14 run unbeaten Japanese side, the best in Asia currently, without the mercurial forward Lisa De Vanna who broke her leg in the previous game.

And didn't we miss her. Her pace, her skills her ability to cause havoc and provide an outlet for the team left the team floundering in attack. In fact we didn't attack, not really.

Japan controlled the game, perhaps more hindered by the dire Chengdu pitch than the Aussies, but they found it hard to make clear cut chances. They hit the post in the first minute and threatened from deep but the Matildas held their shape, the defensive lapses of previous games were gone.

And from no where with shades of the Aussie men, they scored a beautiful, but ugly oh so ugly goal. The improved Katie Gill placing the ball sweetly and delicately over the Japanese player standing on the line. How the technically gifted Japanese players swung and missed the ball in the prior melee only they will know.

In the second half the Japanese continued to press and the game seemed to be the longest game of football I'd ever watched. Could Australia hang on?

We did. Sally Shipard was immense once again. The whole team scrambled, covered and closed down. Melissa Barbieri, the keeper perhaps the player of the match.

Kate Gill had a half chance, and Sam Kerr set-up Clare Polkinghorne at the death, but one goal was all Australia needed.

So to the final. An Asian Final. But the real prize is the World Cup and Germany 2011 already locked in the bag.

Like their men counterparts in Aussie football the women's game need to be at the World Cup for the growth of the sport; and now they are.

Will they win the Asia Cup? They might. If they can get beat the best in Asia, basically nullify the real Japanese goal threat, they could go one step further on Sunday, but it won't be pretty, not on this form.

Long-term though we're sweet and maybe pretty!

Lisa De Vanna will be back and Sam Kerr showed in five minutes what a welcome addition she'll be in Germany with another year of W-League behind her. Bring in Caitlin Munoz and this team could well excite next year.

For now it's all Asia and finals football. Can the Matildas bring home the first Asian prize in Australia football? Yes they can!

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