Two nations playing the beautiful game meet for a place in the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-finals. So set your alarm clocks and prepare for something special as the Matildas meet a familiar foe on Monday morning (AEST).
In their way? Superstar Marta and the unbeaten Samba Queens Brazil.
The two teams meet in Moncton – reputed to be Canada’s most polite and honest city. But don’t expect too many niceties from the Brazilians.
They are known – if you talk to any of the ex-Matildas – as one of the less pleasant teams to play. They are very hard in the contest and not averse to the odd underhand tactic to put off their opponent.
Matildas confident ahead of Brazil clash
But they are also a typically Brazilian side as you'd expect – full of individual brilliance and, in the case of the 2015 side, harbouring enough experience and class to go all the way in this tournament.
It should be an utterly intriguing clash and perhaps one of the games of the tournament so far.
Australia’s group stage was impressive. A loss – albeit playing some technically adept football for an hour till they ran out of gas – against powerhouse USA, a win over the skillful Nigeria and a draw with waning power Sweden saw the Aussies through in second spot on four points.
The Brazilians with a marginally easier group stormed home to top their group – winning three contests against Korea Republic, Spain and Costa Rica. They scored four times and did not concede a goal.
Where will this game be won?
Well, with both sides opting for a 4-3-3 midfield supremacy will be crucial. Australia’s midfield troika – Van Egmond, Kellond-Knight and Gorry – have been all class so far. “KK” in particular has been sublime in her role screening the back four and cutting out balls through the channels.
But the Aussie trio will need to have the game of their lives shackling Marta when she drops deep while the evergreen Formiga will provide a huge challenge across the middle at the same time ensuring Gorry has no room to create.
What’s more, Andressa Alves has also enjoyed an eye-catching tournament in midfield and at 20 is clearly the next generation for this ageing Brazilian team.
However ex-Matildas midfield great Joey Peters – herself a former player in Brazil with Santos in 2003 where she was a teammate of Formiga no less – sees another danger in the Brazilian set-up.
“Fabiana their full-back, she’s almost like a playmaker the way she sets up attacks,” the former player turned coach says.
At 25 Fabiana is at the peak of her career and clearly one to watch down the flanks.
“But if we can break their high press and catch them high, we’ll be in with a chance. Both sides have a similar structure so who can take advantage?
“Brazil will show De Vanna respect but Brazilian teams generally are very physical along with playing the beautiful game.
“Can we win? It’s more than possible, it’s probable. The Aussie girls have so much belief and Marta, Cristiane and Formiga are not as powerful as they used to be,” she says.
Peters tipped Caitlin Foord as the ideal player to mark Marta. I agree.
The Wollongong flyer is having an outstanding World Cup and the 29-year-old Brazilian star would not want to have Foord nipping at her heels. Foord is an unbelievable athlete. If Marta changes wing, don’t be surprised if Foord follows and swaps with Catley .
The Matildas have proven they’ve already taken the next step by maturing into a team that plays modern, tactically astute, technical football.
Now, it’s crunch time on the biggest stage of all. It's all about belief and mental toughness - one of these fine football sides will be flying home after Monday morning's (AEST) clash.
For Australia, the next level in their development is learning how to win knockout games at the World Cup. It’s something the Brazilians know well.
Ironically, the Matildas have lost to Brazil in the last two FIFA World Cups. Once in the group stage four years ago (1-0) and in the quarter-final of 2007; that time a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss I've never forgotten and I'm sure De Vanna hasn't either.
Third time lucky the Australian women? I sense that’s not entirely out of the question.
Brazil v Matildas
Sunday 21 June 2015
Moncton Stadium, Moncton
Kick-Off: 2.00pm local (3.00am AEST Monday 22 17 June)
Referee: Teodora Albon (Romania)
The match will be broadcast live on SBS ONE and SBS HD with coverage starting at 2.30am AEST
Westfield Matildas squad: 1.Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 2.Larissa CRUMMER, 3.Ashleigh SYKES, 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE, 5.Laura ALLEWAY, 6.Servet UZUNLAR, 7.Steph CATLEY, 8.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 9.Caitlin FOORD, 10.Emily van EGMOND, 11.Lisa DE VANNA, 12.Leena KHAMIS, 13.Tameka BUTT, 14.Alanna KENNEDY, 15.Teresa POLIAS, 16.Hayley RASO, 17.Kyah SIMON, 18.Melissa BARBIERI (gk), 19.Katrina GORRY, 20.Samantha KERR, 21.Mackenzie ARNOLD (gk), 22.Nicola BOLGER, 23.Michelle HEYMAN
Brazil squad: 1.LUCIANA (gk), 2.FABIANA, 3.MONICA, 4.RAFAELA, 5.ANDRESSA, 6.TAMIRES, 7.BEATRIZ, 8.THAISA, 9.ANDRESSA ALVES, 10.MARTA, 11.CRISTIANE, 12.BARBARA (gk), 13.POLIANA, 14.GESSICA, 15.TAYLA, 16.RAFAELLE, 17.ROSANA, 18.RAQUEL FERNANDES, 19.MAURINE, 20.FORMIGA, 21.GABRIELA, 22.DARLENE, 23.LETICIA (gk)comments