After dropping from 7th to 13th in the FIFA World Rankings since August 2020, the Matildas are finally starting to hit some preferred form eight months out of the most prestigious footballing event, hosted on home soil.
As many would predict, the Matildas dominated all aspects of play from the kick-off. Only five minutes in, Australia found the back of the net but was disallowed due to Hayley Raso kicking the ball out of goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing’s hands.
Sam Kerr should have buried the opener a minute later. Katrina Gorry began the play with an incisive through ball to Courtney Vine, who continued the play, threading a pass to Kerr. The pass welcomed her with an open goal, but she hit the crossbar with a first-time shot.
Sam Kerr’s shooting boots must’ve been left in London for the entire game. The multi-time Ballon d’Or nominee uncharacteristically struggled to find the back of the net.
Claire Polkinghorne got a first look at the goal from the game’s first corner. The Matildas staple won the air challenge but could not get over it enough, as would three more of her attempts.
For a change of scenery, Sam Kerr temporarily took herself out to the right flank, and the chance creation followed. The team found immediate impact with Kerr delivering two pearlers to her compatriots Vine and Foord in the centre. Still, the green and gold struggled to get even a shot away.
Australia’s chances continued to present more obviously twenty-six minutes in. Another pinpoint cross from Vine found Raso, who had time to compose herself, but her shot found the gloves of Boonsing. Raso would hit the near post five minutes later in another similar situation.
Thailand’s only opportunity came from an Orapin Waenngoen shot from the edge of the 18-yard box. Catching a lacklustre period of defence, the Thai midfielder’s shot was powerful, beating Teagan Micah. Unfortunately, it was centimetres wide of the far post.
Sam Kerr finally cracked the opener with five minutes to spare before the break. A whipped ball from a corner was directed into a crowded penalty area. Most of the attention targeted toward Polkinghorne allowed Kerr to find space and control the inswinger with the back of her head toward the goal.
With countless opportunities and only one goal, Tony Gustavsson would have hoped his side could find a way to get the goals flowing early in the second half. This is precisely what Hayley Raso sort to do.
Only a minute after half-time, Raso ran through the heart of Thailand’s eleven, finishing the solo effort with a composed shot into the bottom right corner.
Thailand’s second chance of the game was also their first shot on target. Kanyanat Chetthabut’s sneaky run behind the defence opened her up for a first-time shot to the near post. Micah was able to save, and the resulting corner was inconsequential for the Matildas.
Nearly an hour into the game, Raso hit the post for a second time this game, nullifying her chances at copping a sub-10-minute brace.
The second half was much the same, with plenty of opportunities for the Matildas. Still, they hesitated to capitalise on any gifted chance. This theme was especially present after Sam Kerr’s substitution, as the Matildas seemed nearly lost in front of the goal.
Larissa Crummer found herself in a couple of clear-cut opportunities in the second half. But the Brisbane Roar and Capalaba FC attacker choked on both occasions.
Thailand’s defensive work nearly paid off with four minutes to go. A glancing header past the back stick dropped the hearts of the 11,000+ fans at Central Coast Stadium, but the miss killed any chance of a comeback for the underdogs.
Twenty-three-year-old Matilda McNamara made her Matildas debut in the 88th minute. McNamara currently plies her trade in the Danish First Division with AGF Fodbold after rising through the ranks at Adelaide United.
Despite having 30+ shots and a criminal amount of chances, the Matildas could only muster a 2-0 win.
Kerr struggling for form
Sam Kerr received many opportunities throughout the game before being substituted. But, the Chelsea star could not fire one of her potent strikes passed the goalkeeper, resorting to using her head from a corner to give her contribution for the match.
Last season, Sam Kerr secured the hat trick of player awards for the Women’s Super League; the Barclays FA WSL Player of the Season, PFA Players’ Player of the Year, and the Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year on top of being the top goal scorer. The attacker also secured third in the Ballon d’Or Féminin voting for 2021 and 2022.
But in terms of goalscoring, Sam Kerr has struggled compared to previous seasons. She has scored only two goals in her last five Matildas games, albeit in the two most recent fixtures. While in the WSL, Kerr has only scored three after seven games this season.
There is still plenty of time before the World Cup, but the Matildas and Kerr would prefer to change something sooner rather than later.
Two goals from 31 shots highlights a lack in attack.
If you asked anyone who watched the game, there is no doubt that everyone would say the Matildas dominated. But the scoreline did no justice for the displayed performance.
The supremacy in the middle and back end of the park mirrored the FIFA World Ranking standings of 13th and 41st. Still, it did not translate into the attacking phase. Despite the flurry of chances, the Matildas only put away two goals from 31 shots.
The performance of Thai goalkeeper Waraporn Boonsing should not be shunned, as she made plenty of great saves. But, the wariness and lack of quality in front of the goal when Kerr is not present or out-of-form shows a significant issue which hopefully is not exposed leading into the Women’s World Cup.
Matildas back on track
Despite the attacking woes, a win is a win. And the victory against Thailand makes it four in a row, a first for manager Tony Gustavsson.
Tonight’s win added onto a 4-1 win over South Africa, 3-1 over Denmark, and a 4-0 thrashing over Sweden, who are 2nd in the world rankings. The recent form is undoubtedly the best we’ve seen since the Olympics over a year ago.
For a manager who was under scrutiny only a couple of months ago, faith has indeed been restored to an extent leading into the World Cup only eight months from now.
Australia 2 (Kerr 40′, Raso 47′)