The Australian women’s football team, the Matildas, have brushed aside New Zealand in their opening match of the Cup of Nations. The four-team tournament, featuring Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Argentina, is being hosted in Australia at the moment, is meant to be a lead up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France later in the year.
This was also the Matildas first match under new coach Ante Milicic, and the comfortable win is a positive sign leading into the World Cup. The 2-0 scoreline also did not accurately reflect the dominance of the Aussies, who had 21 shots at goal compared to the Football Ferns’ 8. Accuracy let the attack down slightly, with only 7 of those shots on target, however New Zealand only had 4 of those.
The Australian defence was also more disciplined, giving away 2 offsides compared to 8 from the Ferns. However, the Matildas committed more fouls, 5-2. This will be something for Milicic’s women to work on before their match against Korea tomorrow night.
The match also featured a great comeback story, with substitute Haley Raso scoring the second goal just three minutes after being put on the field. 6 months ago Raso had to be stretchered from the field in the National Women’s Soccer League in America, after she took a copped a knee to the back that broke three vertebra.
Raso’s goal, in the 75th minute, was the nail in the coffin for New Zealand after Emily Gielnik scored just before half time. Gielnik’s goal should have been stopped by the Ferns goalie, but she had already made some phenomenal saves (stopping a fantastic shot from Sam Kerr in particular) and the Matildas perhaps deserved a stroke of luck after being by far the better attacking team in the first half.
Considering the disruption in the coaching ranks for the Matildas this was a very impressive win, although there are still plenty of improvements to be made. This will give the team a good base to build on as they try to take out the Cup of Nations on home soil, and prepare for a charge at the World Cup.