Japan’s Shiori Miyake and Australia’s Sam Kerr battle for the ball in Australia’s final match.
By COBY RENKIN
The Matildas have been unable to defend their Tournament of Nations title, narrowly coming second to the US last week.
Coming up against three of the other powerhouses in women’s football, the Australian women’s soccer team were undefeated in games against Brazil, USA and Japan.
Australia, which won the tournament last year, just missed out on this year’s title to the USA, which took top spot on goal difference after a 4-1 win against Brazil in the final match of the tournament.
Coach Alen Stajcic said that, despite the loss, the three games showed plenty of positive signs ahead of next year’s Women’s World Cup in France.
Australia 3 – Brazil 1
In their opening match of the tournament, Australia asserted their dominance with an impressive 3-1 win over the South American powerhouse team.
The Matildas took the lead within the first 10 minutes after Brazil defender Poliana deflected Elise Kellond-Knight’s corner into her own net.
Australia then doubled their lead on 38 minutes from another corner as Tameka Butt headed into an empty net.
Shortly after the break, superstar Sam Kerr put the result beyond doubt after she fired a shot past Brazilian stopper Barbara, following a perfectly timed ball from Tameka Butt.
Brazilian midfielder Debinha scored what ultimately proved to be a consolation goal following some magic from superstar Marta.
Australia 1 – USA 1
In their second game against the USA, the Matildas fell just short of another win with the world No.1 American side stealing a draw right at the death.
Australia took the lead midway through the opening half with Lisa De Vanna weaving her way through the middle of the park and playing Chloe Logarzo in on 22 minutes.
The game continued to be an arm-wrestle with the Australians struggling to extend their lead. Lindsey Horan rose above the US defence to nod home a 90th minute equaliser from Megan Rapinoe’s perfectly placed corner.
The final result proved bitterly disappointing for the Matildas following their impressive ability to keep the Americans from playing their usual dominant game.
Australia 2 – Japan 0
In their final game of the tournament, Australia recorded a 2-0 win over rivals Japan in a repeat of the Asian Cup final from earlier this year.
Knowing that they needed a dominant win over Japan to have any chance of retaining the Tournament of Nations title, Australia stepped their foot on the pedal from the opening whistle.
A double substitution midway through the first half from Stajcic indicated that the pressure was already building in what proved to be a frustrating first 45 minutes.
The second half started perfectly for Australia with Alanna Kennedy placing a free kick into the bottom corner only two minutes into the second half.
Kerr continued and looked at her menacing best as she hit the post just after the hour mark.
However, it wasn’t until the 80th minute that she was finally rewarded after Kyah Simon played a long ball straight through the middle of the park allowing Kerr to slot the ball into an open net.
Despite failing to bring home the trophy, the individual results in each of the three matches, as well as the debut for 15-year-old Mary Fowler, was an experience which will prove pivotal on the road to France 2019.