The Matilda’s have progressed to the round of 16 at the FIFA Women’s World Cup thanks to an impressive display against Canada at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
Tony Gustavsson’s side brought the heat early on, constantly pressing the Canadian backline and often having success in forcing a turnover.
It wasn’t long until the Aussies found an opener, after a delicious through ball down the left flank from Caitlin Foord set Steph Catley free-running towards the box, who then delivered a daring low cross to Hayley Raso who drilled it into the bottom corner.
Canada awoke after conceding the opener and had some dangerous attacks in the opening quarter of football, but none coming close to threatening Mackenzie Arnold’s net.
As the half continued, Beverly Priestman’s side continued to mount pressure on the Tillies’ defence, but Alana Kennedy and co professionally dealt with any danger coming to the area.
The Matilda’s thought they had gone two ahead just past the 30 minute mark after Mary Fowler put a catastrophic pinball-like contest away, but the goal was controversially ruled out by VAR, much to the disgust of fans at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
The controversy only seemed to ignite our girls even more, with Raso netting her brace in the 38th minute after a lovely floated delivery from a corner by Catley.
Canada continued to overload the wings and float crosses into the box for the remainder of the half, but the Tillies’ continued to deal with anything that came their way and had a comfortable 2-0 lead at the half.
Bev Priestman was clearly not impressed with her side’s first half display, making four half-time substitutions in an attempt to accomplish what would have been a miraculous second half comeback.
Matilda’s anchor Katrina Gorry sufferred an early second half injury scare after an accidental stamp on her foot but thankfully was ok to run out the remainder of the match.
The Matilda’s started the second half as they ended the first, and skipper Steph Catley continued to whip dangerous crosses into the Maple Leafs penalty area.
Gustavsson’s side continued to push for a third goal early in the half, with Kyra Cooney-Cross unleashing a vicious strike from 35 yards which forced a tremendous save from Canada’s Kailen Sheridan.
It wasn’t long before that much-needed third goal arrived, with Catley once again releasing Caitlin Foord down the left wing, who drove the ball into the box and cut it back to young star Mary Fowler who knocked in her first ever world cup goal.
At this stage, the Matilda’s were cruising to a monumental victory and a round of 16 berth.
The Maple Leafs had a golden opportunity in the 66th minute to get themselves back into the game after a turnover from Caitlin Foord saw Cloe Lacasse release Deanne Rose down the right hand side, only to have her effort terrifically saved by Mackenzie Arnold.
For the remainder of the game, Canada had some half-chances here and there but nothing that really threatened to breach the disciplined Australia defence.
Australia almost netted a fourth nearing the 80th minute after a lethal left footed strike from the impressive Mary Fowler struck the woodwork.
Canada’s Jessie Fleming then fouled Katrina Gorry in injury time resulting in a late penalty to Australia, which skipper Steph Catley comfortably slotted into the left corner of the net to seal an impressive victory.
The Tillies’ ended up cruising to a comfortable 4-0 win to finish top of Group B thanks to Ireland holding Nigeria to a 0-0 draw in the other fixture in the group.
Australia will now play the 2nd place finisher in Group D, with both games in that group commencing at 9:00pm Tuesday night.
Cooney-Cross and Gorry’s energy and work rate won the midfield battle
Coming into this game, it was said that whoever won the midfield battle would win the game. Matilda’s workhorses Katrina Gorry and Kyra Cooney-Cross didn’t just win that battle, they dominated, not allowing the Maple Leaf’s midfield any time on the ball and completing tackle after tackle.
The two are an integral part of this Matilda’s midfield and are vital to our chances of progressing to the late stages of this World Cup.
Mary Fowler stepped up!
Young star Mary Fowler seemed to have no impact in game one against Ireland, and then missed against Nigeria.
She was awarded with a start against Canada tonight, and she really neeeded to deliver. She did, brilliantly.
Fowler was electric for the entire 90, netting her first World Cup goal and constantly pressing Canada’s defence, winning 8/16 ground duels and completing 4/7 dribbles for the night.
If Sam Kerr is unable to start the next match, there is no doubt Australia will have full faith in Mary Fowler being able to deliver once again.
Steph Catley’s wand of a left foot will be crucial in the knockout stages.
Steph Catley’s left foot was the most dangerous part of the Matilda’s attack tonight.
On numerous occassions, Catley delivered unstoppable through balls through the left channel, vicious crosses into the six-yard box and dangerous corners which fell into the lap of her teammates.
She was involved in every single goal tonight, and was brilliant defensively as well. If her opponents continue to give her time and space on the ball, there is no doubt she will continue to put the ball on a silver platter to our strikers.
Steph Catley delivered a brilliant captain’s performance on a night we so desperately needed one.