The favourites for the 2022AFC Womens Asian cup have just completed the clean sweep of the group stage games. The Comm Bank Matildas finished up the group stage with a seemingly hard fought 2-1 win over Thailand whose tournament ends with that loss. Now the focus for the Matildas switches to the knockout round, kicking off Sunday night at 7pm against South Korea.
But for this game, despite the close score line there were plenty of positives for the Matildas. Starting with the Line up coach Gustavsson sent out. There were starting debuts handed to Remy Siemsen, Cortnee Vine, Holly McNamara, and Charlie Grant while the best in the world Sam Kerr was given a well-earned rest to start this one. It was a new look back ling with Carpenter, Kennedy, and Polkinghorne with Courtney Nevin and Avii Luik both moving into the backline. So, a very different looking starting line up for the girls in what was to be the toughest challenge in the group stage. But with 2 wins from 2 and already qualifying for the next round, it was the perfect time to rotate the squad and give some of the veterans a rest.
For much of the first half it was very frustrating for the Matildas. Dominating possession but unable to manufacture a real clear-cut chances until in the 39th minute, a perfect pass from Siemsen found Emily Van Egmond on the edge of the area with enough time to settle and finish perfectly across the keeper to give the Tillies a 1-0 lead going into the break.
The second half was largely the same for the Matildas, A lot of domination when it came to possession, but again not many clear-cut chances. It stayed 1-0 until the 80th minute when the Thai keeper gifted Sam Kerr a tap in to make it 2-0. The mistake from the Thai number 1, Tiffany Sornpao was the only blight on an otherwise great game from her. Thailand managed to score a consolation goal in the 94th minute through Nipawan Punyosuk, but the game was all but over as the referee blew full time just after the kick-off.
So, 3 from 3 in the group stage with a final tally of 9 Points, 24 goals Scored and only 1 Goal conceded which I’m sure will be the part the annoys the gaffer the most. But a thoroughly dominant performance so far and every player in the squad getting game time gives the Matildas a great starting point as they look to win the trophy again for the 1st time since 2010. South Korea will be no easy game for the Matildas. Currently ranked 18th in the world, just 7 spots behind Australia, this will definitely be a tough game, especially after the Koreans held Japan to a 1 all draw in their final group stage game.
Manager Tony Gustavsson has silenced both myself and my Circle in Rectangle show co-host Nugget for now, but there is a long way to go in this tournament and the truly tough games are yet to come. While I haven’t agreed with all of his line up decisions and I still don’t see a clear tactical style, he has definitely proved he may be worth his wages as the top man for the Matildas. Time will tell.