We’ve reached that point in the competition where the permutations get scrutinised and broken down. Where anything less than a victory could see a team either miss out on a 100% record in the group stages and finishing top of their group or get knocked out. Its matchday three and a crucial matchday for two of the four nations in Group C.
Brazil and Australia are on the cusp of qualifying for the round of 16 and both sides are looking to seal their passage to the knockout stages without the need for strenuous calculation.
The South American heavyweights take on group leaders and the already-qualified and unbeaten Italians in Tuesday’s final group clash – an incredibly tough assignment for a team that does not have its fate entirely in its own hands. Meanwhile, the Matildas have it a little easier, they’re up against newcomers Jamaica, who’ve already collected two hidings from the Brazilians and Azzure.
Therefore, the Australians are expected to supply the Reggae Girls with another mean beating, to finish on a positive goal difference, but their biggest concern will be what Italy do in the corresponding match against the Selecao.
Australia suffered a surprise loss to Italy in the opening match, but the women from down under redeemed themselves in emphatic style as they came from 2-0 down to beat the Marta-led Brazilians 3-2.
That game was not without its fair share of drama, from a remarkable goal from Chloe Logarzo to a controversial VAR decision overturning a ruled out own goal. The result made for what will certainly be an exciting conclusion to the group’s round-robin phase.
Looking at the Caribbean nation’s report card going into their final match of the tournament, they’ve only managed to hit the target four times in their two games, scoring no goals but conceding a crushing eight. So you wouldn’t be blamed for predicting that the die-hard Matildas will dominate the match in all areas, including possession, passes completed, shots on target and, of course, goals.
A player they will be hoping recreates the brilliance she displayed against the South Americans is Logarzo, but she will need more of the same assistance she got from the likes of her midfield partner Emily van Egmond, so as to properly dictate the tempo of the game and give Jamaica no room to breathe.
Although she didn’t have the kind of impact she’s known for, Samantha Kerr is another Matilda the Reggae Girls will have the displeasure of having to silence and should they succeed, it will only give Emily Gielnik and scorer of the first goal against Brazil, Caitlin Foord, the freedom to wreak havoc.
The potential Jamaican threat.
The only player in a Jamaican jersey that will be of any real threat to Australia is Khadija Shaw. The 22 year old came into the World Cup with a reputation that raised several eyebrows, following her impressive performances in the qualifiers that led to her country making their debut at the showpiece.
However, she’s encountered the misfortune of not being able to fully express herself in France, given the intensity of the competition and the calibre of players she’s come across.
Her unfortunate experience in front of goal will most likely continue against the Aussies as she comes up against Alanna Kennedy, who had an astounding game against the Brazilians, barring the two goals she and her defensive partner Stephanie Catley conceded.
It’s safe to say the writing is on the wall for the ladies in the Caribbean Sea, but football is called the “beautiful game” for a reason and it would be unwise to completely rule out the possibility of the debutantes throwing a cat among the pigeons.
It must be said though that all is not lost if Australia fail to finish second in the group behind Italy, because the four best third-place finishers will still advance to the round of 16 and they happen to be the best of the third-place teams going into the final round of group games.
So a draw might work for them, but it’s that strenuous calculation they will be desperate to avoid. A resounding victory for them and a loss, by whatever margin, for Brazil is all the Matildas will be willing to settle for.