Thursday, May 27, 2010
This is an achievement not to be understated. Yes, Australia qualified for the last World Cup in China in 2007, but on that occasion they had the advantage of contesting the Asian event, which doubles as a qualifying series, on home turf. This time it was the muggy altitude of Chengdu that played host to their matches, and they came through in fine style despite losing Lisa de Vanna, their quickest and most dangerous attacker, to injury in the first round against South Korea.
Although their victory this evening owed a little to good fortune - Kate Gill's deciding goal was a slightly messy affair - their determination and cool defence at set-pieces made them deserved finalists. In the second half, the Japanese were awarded a number of very soft free kicks, and although the delivery of the talented Aya Miyama was excellent, Japan's finishing was anything but.
Were they to achieve victory in the final against either North Korea or the hosts, the Matildas' achievement would take on even greater lustre. Asia is a powerhouse of the women's game, and the top nations are gaining ground on the likes of Germany, Brazil and the USA; at the Women's Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand in 2008, which I had the pleasure of attending, North Korea took out the title, while Japan were (by practically universal consent) the most impressive team of the opening round.
The Matildas have done their country proud, once again. The old stagers have proved their quality, and youngsters like Teigan Allen have shown impressive maturity. And I for one would suggest that Tom Sermanni is a far more flexible coach than his colleague at the helm of the men's team.
Slightly cheap shot re: Tom, presumably in reference to Verbeek. In fairness Tom has worked with the team for years, does not have to compete much with Clubs, coaches some of the girls (in a very similar way) via the Roar etc. In short I think he has more time with them to develop variations on a system.
How can I not agree that Pim is not as flexible as Guus was able to be? That seems clear. But I think we forget tht Guus is a sort of coaching superstar whereby Pim was our fifth choice. The fact is he doesn't get much time and he has decided, within his competence, to get the team used to one system which, also in fairness, does have tactical tweekability.
Anyway, apologies for the digression from the important good news. Go the Matildas!
Really didn't think we'd get past Japan without De Vanna - China and North Korea are perhaps not quite what they were at senior level right now (I might eat my words after the final) but Japan have been showing a lot of promise lately. Surprise surprise though, they're finishing comes up short.
Thought Garriock on the left wing was an interesting compromise for a game without De Vanna and against a team that twice defeated us comprehensively in the 2008 AC - keep our usual 4-3-3 rather than the suggested move to 4-4-2, but still bolster the midfield by moving a regular attacking midfielder in Garroick forward.
Our last-ditch defending has been excellent at this tournament and I was impressed with how the backline grew in stature in the second half, perhaps gaining confidence partly from knowing they had a lead to defend.
Really looking forward to Germany 2011 and for two reasons: I reckon this feels a bit better than qualification for South Africa 2010, which, as significant as it was having missed out for 32 years, was so low key/unsurprising in the end. We've been at every female WC since '95 and women's football in Asia lacks the depth of the men's but, like you say, the best teams are closer to the best in the world and with only three places up for grabs it's a more cut throat come the decisive part of it.
The other reason is more simple: I'm much more happier with the Matildas and Sermanni than I am with the 'roos and their entire coaching setup, as I have been for, well, a good three years now.
Some of their best movement came from playing it backwards from midfield to defence before pushing the ball wide.
Our blokes could learn a lesson from this.