Who would’ve said that Australia would lose their first match at the Women’s World Cup against Italy, when the Italians were making their debut? A very poor start for the Matildas. Not quite disastrous, and given that the better third-placed teams qualify for the next round, there is still a long way to go. But Australia now need to beat Brazil on Thursday to retain hope of topping Group C. And that won’t be easy.
Against Jamaica, Brazil were obviously the better team and won by an easy 3-0. Brazil might not be among the main challengers for this World Cup, but they showed enough here to suggest they will be dangerous. And all without Marta. At the very least, they’ll be delighted to have ended their nine-game losing run.
Comparing the two sides with Twelve’s tools, we can see Brazilian striker Cristiane leading with 3,192 points. Mostly because of her three goals scored, as she offered a poor production in attack actions and didn’t have a single important defensive action.
Key defender Alanna Kennedy is the first Australian player on the leader board, with 1,601 points and a massive defensive effort with ball recoveries, clearances and pressing. She also missed a chance to score. It is paramount that the Orlando Pride defender repeats the good performance against the offensive Brazilian team.
Possession and good chances
Brazil have very technical players who can combine in tight spaces. The full-back tries to find the forward, while the central midfielder does not drop deep to get the ball. Instead, the likes of Barcelona’s star Andressa stay high to win second balls and/or combine with the attackers.
Taking a look at Opta’s passmaps for Australia and Brazil in their first matches, we can observe how Ante Milicic’s team do not connect from defense to attack. It might be because of the good defensive structure the Italians imposed. But truly it is a sin when you have one of the greatest players in the world – Sam Kerr – and you don’t connect the ball with her.
The Brazilian side likes to connect the ball through the outside corridor. The tireless and unflagging Formiga is a key player in this transition from defense through attack, and the full-backs are too. In front of the good defensive organization the Matildas will have, the girls of manager Osvaldo “Vadão” Alvarez must search for spaces on the side of the pitch.
Sam Kerr needs no special introduction as this prolific striker is well-known to the world and dubbed as one of the best forwards on the planet. She is an obvious target up front and Australia will look to utilise Kerr by constantly trying to find her in rapid exchanges. They will lose no time in retrieving lost balls as soon as possession is yielded to the opposition.
Against Italy, she made four attempts with one goal, one missed, one blocked and a penalty saved. It’s a good production, but the loss of a penalty really made it not good enough.
On Opta’s Expected Goals map, Kerr had the most valuable chance to score against the Italians. Taking xG as a parameter, the Matildas maybe deserved a better scoreboard at the end. Brazil produced almost the same expected goals as scored, so they took advantage of their chances. A regular team performance, we may say.
What’s most intriguing about this game is that both teams are really attack minded and possession based. With that in mind, we should expect a battle of supremacy of the ball as both will want to enjoy greater possession over the other and impose themselves on the opposition.