*Melissa Barbieri is a former Matildas captain and played 86 games between 2002-2015.
No Sam Kerr it is a very painful encounter but The Matildas have their World Cup trophy and three points under lock and key – and wasn’t the sky lights in front of 75,000 fans at Stadium Australia?
I was out there and I can tell you that the Irish agents were working. It was absolutely electric.
Player settings: How the Matildas fared against Ireland
If you had asked me before the game, I would have won 1-0 against a strong Irish outfit. I also predicted the goal. Ireland coach Vera Pauw made it clear that her team would be a tough team to beat, and they were.
WHICH WAS GOOD
The Matilda on they were brave, hardy in the face of adversity and like the Irish people. So the match was not pretty, but it showed character. Katrina Gorry doing some solid ground in the midfield and Kyra Cooney-Cross meant we had an extra wall in front of the back line. Gorry’s efforts to create further challenges in midfield which led to the Irish going forward were thwarted before he had a chance to make a profit.
Hayley Raso was always there, keeping Ireland captain Katie McCabe on her toes. McCabe is known for his challenges and disagreements with the ref, and he did not disappoint. Raso assisted to win a penalty which the Matildas captain on the night, Steph Catley, slotted home.
Offensively, Caitlin Foord was very dangerous as she could outrun Mary Fowler or Raso, who were close and could get behind the defense with one play. Foord is very dangerous in front of goal, supporting a central striker, not being a central striker. So we can forgive him for being a bit rusty as a No.9.
After her impressive performance as a substitute against France, Mary Fowler was not impressed with the much stronger team. Denise O’Sullivan did not give her time on any ball and was sometimes taken out of the game. His power as a sub was sorely missed.
Pauw scored five goals in a row, so to see Australia consistently attempt a long cross or high ball into the box was disappointing. The Irish trained for months thinking they were going to have Kerr to tackle him… the ball going into the mixer just didn’t work. But this can be difficult to see when you are inside it.
If we are to go deep into the tournament Australia need to see things now rather than waiting for the halfway mark. Close allies, moving and moving opponents before entering the box is essential for clinical kills.
Not one player had a bad game in Australia, let’s be clear. Ireland were sure to spoil the party on opening night and they almost did. Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson, in an attempt to secure a victory, went to the back of the fifth after we won 1-0.
This immediately put the Matildas in a bad mood. Adding Clare Polkinghorne to the back line is a huge improvement but sends the message, ‘we’re stopping the bus’. I’d love it if we could be a team that plays games, and I’m still holding out for more.
WHAT TO DO
We need three more points against Nigeria in Brisbane next Thursday. They play in Canada on Friday, so we’ll have more on both teams at 3pm.
My first thought for any change for Nigeria would be Mary Fowler at centre-forward, with Foord on the floor. This way we can have Fowler’s deft touch up and Foord’s forward look running at the players. That’s win, win.
It is important that we recover, as Nigeria will be another tough, physical opponent. They may not be as well trained or organized as Ireland but they are fast and competitive.
There will be a few sore bodies after the Ireland game, so fingers crossed they all pull through well.
Not having Sam wouldn’t be a problem, but multiple injuries affecting three attacking players in the 23-man squad could be. So if we lose some attacking players, it will be difficult to get inside the competition.
Currently three points in the bag and a win is all that is needed in the opening game.
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