• Milton Ceita Da Costa

AN UNSUNG RIVALRY TAKES CENTER STAGE

FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 | AUSTRALIA vs. BRAZIL | 3-2


Two near-powerhouses faced off today in Montpellier, France at 6:00PM (18:00) local time. It was the 19th meeting between the sides, with Australia the slight lead : 9W, 1D, 8L. The game was highly anticipated as the teams had met recently in world tournaments, when Australia knocked out Brazil in Round of 16 of the 2015 World Cup and Brazil did the same to Australia on penalties in the 2016 Rio Olympics Quarter-finals.


STARTING NOTES :

  • First top 10 FIFA Rankings match at the tournament.

  • Formiga is 41 years of age and playing in her seventh World Cup.

  • There are 12 NWSL players on Australia’s roster. That is the 2nd most, behind USA.

  • Marta, 6-time FIFA Player of the Year, leading goalscorer at the World Cup, is playing in her 5th WC.

  • Cristiane, 34, is the oldest player with a hat trick in WC history after netting one against Jamaica.

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • Foord (AUS)

  • Kerr (AUS)

  • Van Egmond (AUS)

  • Cristiane (BRA)

  • Formiga (BRA)

  • Marta (BRA)


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Australia started with a 4-3-3, Van Egmond the deepest of the midfield three with Logarzo and Butt in front of her and Kerr and Foord often interchanging with each other between left wing and striker. Brazil lined up in what, at first, may have appeared to be a 4-4-2 but later evolved into a 4-1-4-1 with Marta dropping into midfield. That 4-4-2 would later return as Brazil chased the game.


Going into the match, Brazil were undefeated in the group stage since 1995 (14W, 2D) and fresh off a resounding victory against Jamaica, confidence was high. Australia needed to bounce back from a heart-breaking stoppage time defeat to Italy and they began the game brightly.


The women from the land down under started on the front foot playing with a purpose, knowing they put themselves in a difficult position after the loss. Brazil however, did not appear flustered, with multiple players getting their foot on the ball and holding onto it, at times a bit longer than necessary. Before the tournament this felt like a must-watch game and the early moments were filled with promise.


Brazil started with a relatively low block but attacked with numbers, quickly moving their team forward, keeping their defensive line close to their midfield. Australia was looking to be successful early and pressed high on goal kicks as Brazil looked to play out from the back. When they did have the ball, they passed it wide and sent early crosses in.


After doing well with possession to start, Australia allowed Brazil back into the game as they struggled with playing balls into the final third, often going too quickly, fluffing their lines and losing the ball. Brazil’s desire to dribble in all areas of the field, as mentioned above, nearly cost them in the 20th minute when Kathellen lost the ball in her defensive third and Thaisa nearly gave up a penalty. In Kathellen’s defense, there was a handball called as she lost the ball. It was, however, a warning sign. Brazil would continue to play that way ; it’s who they are. Australia though, would not make it easy for them.


As the game progressed, Van Egmond and Cristiane started jawing at each other, displaying the budding rivalry between two sides who have knocked each other out in the both the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics. The game was setting up nicely.


Kerr was visibly getting frustrated. She appeared a bit isolated and one couldn’t help but wonder what devastating effect she might have if she played with a forward or midfielder closer to her.

In the 27th minute, the first act was played as Australia’s early control was rendered mute when the legendary Marta stepped up to the penalty spot after a brief delay for VAR and placed the ball confidently to her left. The (contentious) penalty came as Brazil moved the ball from back to left to front and center with Letícia dragged down in the box. A later possible foul in the Australian box in the final moments of the game appeared to be similar although it was not given. The goal gave an already assured Brazil more confidence and seemed to rattle Australia as they grew more urgent.


The Australians’ main source of attack was through the flanks. Van Egmond in midfield got on the ball too deep to cause Brazil damage and her passes were often limited in ambition. Though astute where she played today, she also looks like she could be a threat farther up the field. Kellond-Knight, a natural defensive midfielder operating as a right back, is an option to move into midfield. There was creativity missing in that Australian midfield, hence the use of early crosses. Kerr was visibly getting frustrated. She appeared a bit isolated and one couldn’t help but wonder what devastating effect she might have if she played with a forward or midfielder closer to her.


In Logarzo, Van Egmond, Kellond-Knight and Butt, Australia have a fascinating blend of silkiness, steel and subtlety. There’s no way of getting them all into midfield without drastically changing the system but alongside Kerr, who had a poor game by her otherworldly standards, and Foord they have the makings of a powerful core.


Though not overly impactful in the game — she struggled to do anything positive on the ball, particularly in the first half— Kerr did make various intelligent runs and in the 37th minute one of those runs nearly paid dividends as Kellond-Knight received a cross field ball on her left foot, cut it back onto her right and put in a low cross for Kerr who did as well as she could. This would be a continuing pattern as the wingers, the fullbacks and Butt and Lozargo looked to send tempting balls into the Brazilian box all game.


Formiga (suspended for the final group stage game after picking up a debatable second yellow for the tournament), midfielder extraordinaire, was very assured and made it difficult for Australia to play through the middle. Cristiane looked confident early and would soon pop up with a decisive effort.


Brazil’s second goal came in the 38th minute goal from Cristiane as she received an excellent left-footed cross from Debinha who made an intelligent run (although she was left in ACRES of space) after a cheeky nutmeg of Gielnik by Tamires on the left side. First time seeing it, it felt as if Catley could have done better with the header. Cristiane is an expert at what she does and she timed the header and importantly, her explosion towards the ball as only an expert can. Watching the replays, one still has the feeling Catley could have done better. She was between the ball and Cristiane and knew where her opponent was, judging by the smart, quick glances she took to check. She allowed Cristiane to jump a millisecond before her and, more damagingly, she reached for the ball with her head, concentrating more on attempting to stop Cristiane from getting a clear header instead of taking her body towards the ball and attacking it full on to clear.


Australia, though, stayed alive as they scored in the 46th minute. Unsurprisingly, the goal came from a cross. It started with a whipped ball from the right from Gielnik, who was disappointing in the game. Kerr almost got an assist but the ball was partially cleared out to the left. Butt picks up the ball and sends it back in as Logarzo attacked it and placed an excellent flicked header towards Food who stuck out a foot to bring the Matildas with in one to end the half.


The second half began with two stalwarts for Brazil coming off at half time, Marta and Formiga replaced by Ludmila and Luana, respectively.


Australia started the second half well again but we witnessed something similar in the first half. The difference was Brazil lost the quality and composure provided by the departed veterans. Those substitutions, even more than the later removal of Cristiane, proved to be disastrous for the team as they struggled a bit more with possession and positioning. The positioning was also affected by the coach’s specific game plan of shifting and pressing, and the tweaks he made, particularly during the second half.


Brazil’s, at times, scintillating attack was again on display in the 48th minute on the left flank as Debinha picked up the ball with speed after Australia lost possession poorly near the halfway line. She dribbled with a devastating directness and went for the spectacular when she had teammates in the box for the speedy attack and the ball sailed wide of the post.

Australia responded with a near-miss at the other end. Bârbara, who for the first half had been extremely solid, particularly with aerial balls, made a dangerous mistake. She missed the ball completely on a cross and was fortunate to not be punished.


The equalizing goal did arrive in the 58th minute as— no surprise — a cross out wide right from Logarzo goes directly into goal, with Kerr’s run causing Bârbara trouble.

Two thirds into the game, it was all in the balance, the tension was rising, and in the 66th minute the tables were turned as fans erupted when the ball found its way into the back of the net off of Monica’s head. Cheers died down as the assistant raised the flag for offside. The referee checked VAR as thousands of people held their breath. The initial ruling was overturned and the goal was declared as confusion reigned amongst players and audiences alike in regards to the offside rule. 3-2 Australia.


With the game completely flipped on its head we were in for a fantastic final 25 minutes. Brazil however was too individualistic relying on their individual exploits of brilliance that, to be fair, nearly came off on a few occasions. In the 75th minute, Cristiane checks out for Beatriz who is non-too-shabby herself but Brazil’s three substitutions did cause a few questions.


Andressa (#7), who started to get on the ball more often in central areas when Marta went out, looked to be a threat. and Ludmila moved from the right flank to up top, joining by Beatriz. In those final stages, Brazil lacked the fluidity and incisiveness they had with the starters.


In the end, referee blew the whistle after five additional minutes of stoppage time. Brazil, though fiery and easy on the eye, was unable to play the complete game and may have shot themselves in the foot with the half-time substitutions. Australia showed why it has been chosen as one of the teams to watch with their quality going forward but their worrying frailties at the back. The game lived up to the promise, proving to be a fabulous cocktail of footballing theater. If we learned anything from this game, it is that the rivalry is real, the legacy is growing. 2015 World Cup, 2016 Olympics. The 2019 World Cup rematch was more than a worthy addition.


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NEXT GAMES

AUSTRALIA VS. JAMAICA in Grenoble, 9PM local time

BRAZIL VS. ITALY in Valenciennes, 9PM local time


FINAL NOTES

Big fan of the headbands that have taken the women’s game by storm at all ages.


Brazil may have been playing their own nutmeg game, seeing who can get the most.


Congratulations to Hayley Raso! You made it back from a horrible vertebrate injury to play in the World Cup. Your drive and perseverance are absolutely inspirational. We’re cheering for you!

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