“Hello Emma,” emails Kári.
“I’ll miss Rapinoe when she retires. She’s never boring, on or off the field. Her olimpico goal, the second ever scored at the Olympics, will live long in the memory. Oh, and the first player to score an olimpico at the Olympics, that was also Rapinoe, back in 2012.”
The ‘Olimpico’ goal – one scored directly from a corner – is here:
Rapinoe goal (from a corner) pic.twitter.com/Oa6hg7Yz14
August 5, 2021
The Matildas will be devastated but, having conceded 13 goals across their six matches in Tokyo, there remains work to do. Gustavsson is still in the early stages of his tenure, and there is time before 2023, AND they made history at the Olympics by getting this far. The attack has improved demonstrably. Sort out the defensive issues and there will be further encouraging signs.
Wolfgang tweets me this: “Both teams are giving something nice to the fans with the back-and-forth match. Probably will take @USWNT a little time to adjust with the new coaching and impending retirements. We don’t want to lose that front foot style.”
It’s interesting that you mention impending retirements, because there is a sense this USA team could look very different very soon. As already mentioned, some of the stalwarts, including Lloyd and Rapinoe, are coming towards the end of their careers. They have young talent waiting, so the next couple of years leading up to the 2023 World Cup could be something of a transition.
The American players are celebrating, the Australians still remonstrating and then in their own world of hurt. Kerr is on the ground and looks stunned. Polkinghorne is in tears. That was some bronze medal match. On balance this was the right result. Defensive errors let the Matildas down and allowed their opponents 19 shots. It was still a laudable display from both sides. But, as ever, there can only be one winner, and Team USA have the bronze medal.
Full-time! Australia 3-4 USA
90+7 mins The Matildas have a throw-in and it might be the last chance. The USA boot it away long and it’s soon sent straight back into the box. A header from Sonnet in an attempt to clear falls for Fowler, who takes a shot that doesn’t have enough on it. The Matildas are appealing now and they want a set piece and are filthy when they aren’t given one. Then the whistle goes.
90+5 mins Micah has the ball and launches it forward for a last-chance saloon. Kerr takes a couple of swings. The ball shifts back with the Americans then it’s out for an Australia throw-in. Wave after wave of desperate pressure is stopped when a challenge from O’Hara has Catley on the ground and then protesting when she isn’t awarded a free kick.
90+3 mins There are four minutes of added time but if the Matildas’ were going to utilise that peach of a hit from Gielnik to push for a late, late equaliser, the momentum has been snuffed out after Morgan goes to ground and takes about three minutes to limp off with the support of two trainers. There are four minutes of added time but there will be further time added due to that break.
Goal! Australia 3-4 USA (Gielnik 90′)
90 mins Morgan is away on the right again with Nevin again in pursuit. She corners her. Morgan simply holds up the ball for as long as she can as the clock ticks down. But the Matildas are off on the counter, hurtling down the other end and the ball is at Gielnik’s feet and she dispatches it from said feet for an absolute screamer from distance. That might be one of the goals of the tournament and came from nothing.
89 mins Another close call for Australia as Lavelle outruns Nevin to get a cross away that only just eludes Morgan. On the next play Morgan has big chance, with time and just enough space to set herself up in front of goal and shoot. It’s heading for a nutmeg on Micah but as the keeper goes to ground she manages to catch it on her legs.
87 mins I thought O’Hara may have come off but it’s Press who makes way for Emily Sonnett, adding some defensive cover to see this match out. Shrewd.
84 mins Time is running out now for the Matildas. O’Hara takes a worrying fall under a heavy challenge from Foord. She lands pretty flat on her back and is looking very uncomfortable. Catley has a free kick. Set pieces are a strength of Australia but this one is on the insipid side. A couple of bounces before Yallop takes a stab. Nothing to report.
81 mins The USA begin another phase that ends with Lloyd (Lloyd!) winning a footrace with Kennedy. She’s under enough pressure though that she can’t get an accurate enough cross away and has little support anyway. Alice Morgan is on her feet now in the technical area and looks as if she’s being prepared for a likely swap with Lloyd. Sweat is dripping off Lloyd’s face – of all the players’ faces. There’s that anticipated change taking place.
78 mins Fowler turns in the midfield and boots it long as Foord, Kerr and Gielnik fly like birds in formation. Gielnik is the one who crosses from the right. It doesn’t work, but the winger soon has another chance and takes an audacious shot that skews just a little wide.
75 mins The Americans are on the counter again and look to Press, who has been a constant thorn in their opponents’ side. But an uncharacteristically loose ball gifts possession back to Australia, just as Emily Gielnik makes her entrance at the expense of Polkinghorne. An attacker on for a defender. Kerr, meanwhile, is testing Tierna Davidson and wins a corner. Kerr has the header but Franch successfully leaps for it.
71 mins Llloyd has another chance for a hat-trick courtesy of Lavelle, and she turns on the ball and desposits it neatly in the net. But the flag goes up and the replay shows she was indeeed marginally offside. Let’s take a Carli Lloyd appreciation moment. She is 39 years old. 39! Most of us can’t run a lap of the block at that age.
68 mins Simon takes her leave for Fowler, who has been one of the standouts for Australia this tournament. She’s unpredictable and runs at players, and scored in extra-time against Team GB in the quarters. It’ll be a triple substitution from Gustavsson, who introduces Kyra Cooney-Cross for Logarzo and Courtney Nevin for Raso.
65 mins Press dispossesses Australia and darts this way and that towards the target. The end product is wide of the post. Now O’Hara comes off the better in an encounter with Kennedy and puts Lloyd into space. She’s on a hat-trick and she’s in the area. Can she? Nope. Not a strong shot and Micah cleans it up effortlessly.
62 mins The Matildas aren’t dropping their heads here. They believe they are still in this. And they are. There are 30 minutes still to play and Australia are full on intent. Andonovski is the first manager to go to his bench and it’s Rose Lavelle who comes on for Mewis. Lavelle is generally a regular starter but her fresh legs here won’t go amiss. Tobin Heath replaces Rapinoe.
58 mins I should mention that was a sublime ball in from Simon to set up Foord. Less than an hour has passed and six goals have been scored. A seventh is surely coming! Raso uses her formidable speed down the right flank and barrels a cross to Kerr who is a smidge in front of the back post. She will surely nod this in from here. But she does not! It rebounds of the upright. Oh my days that was close. Better signs from Raso and Simon this half though.
Goal! Australia 2-4 USA (Foord 54′)
54th min Foord is onside and the ball is a just a touch behind her but she manages to redivert its momentum with enough force to make that a very quick reply from the Matildas.
Goal! Australia 1-4 USA (Lloyd 51′)
51 mins Lloyd is pressing. Kennedy’s error – she inexplicably heads the ball towards her own goal – gives Lloyd all the time in the world to set herself up and roll her finish calmly past Micah. A brace to both Lloyd and Rapinoe now.
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51 mins Kerr attempts a volley and oh, is that a handball by Julie Ertz. Kerr certainly thinks so and duly appeals. The referee hasn’t stopped play. Wonder if the VAR will look at that. Question is whether her arm was in an unnatural position. The USA continue play.
48 mins Horan sticks out her leg to bring down a ball and it ricochets off her boot and straight into Simon’s face. Now Raso is down briefly under pressure from Crystal Dunn. Raso hasn’t been all that present in this game. Kerr this time is on the wrong end of a Samantha Mewis challenges that has Gustavsson off his seat and earns Australia a free kick.
Just before play restarts there are tactical discussions under way. Kennedy and Micah are deep in conversation, as are Catley and van Egmond and even Logarzo, who is receiving some kind of pep talk from Laura Brock (who, by the way, is in her very last international – will she get some time off the bench)? The US players emerge a couple of minutes later, presumably ready to further contribute to this bloodbath.
Half-time! Australia 1-3 USA
The players head towards the bowels of the stadium, and the Matildas have some serious work to do to get back in this game. Will Gustavsson go to his bench early? Perhaps Mary Fowler might get a run? The possession is almost smack bang on even at the break but the shot count tells the story of this affair. USA have 13 with seven on target; Australia five with two on target. See you back here for another 45 minutes.
Goal! Australia 1-3 USA (45+1′)
45+1 mins Almost half-time, and another goal to the Americans would almost put this game to bed. There’s a pause while Catley receives some medical attention after being cut down. Play restarts with three minutes of added time. And USA are in again! I must have jinxed. But I can’t have because that was a peach of a goal. The build-up play from Lindsey Horan, who robs Kyah Simon in midfield then provides Lloyd with an inch-perfect pass. That finish from Lloyd, we salute you.
43 mins Triangular passing is the order of the day for USA (rhyming not intended). They rush yet again into Australia’s third and well well well, Rapino is appealing for a penalty on the basis she was clipped by Kennedy while receiving a cross. The VAR is taking a look. Kennedy waits nervously for almost a minute, before the review finds it was not a foul.
39 mins Kerr tries to make something of very close to nothing. She has the capacity to do such things, but this time she’s alone in the box. Australia appear to be struggling to play with any real width. They are bombing the ball through the middle. An American counter-attack with help from Lloyd ends with Press taking a shot from right in front of goal. A deflection off Catley sends it out for a Matildas corner. Press has the ball again and she finds Lloyd. It’s fortunate for Micah that her finish is on the tepid side because Micah fumbles it big time and the ball bobbles back in front of her before being cleared to safety by a teammate.
35 mins Catley is such a consistent figure in this team. She has perhaps been a little hamstrung in an attacking sense in Gustavsson’s favourite formation. Still, she has created 13 scoring chances this tournament which is the most of any player in any team. She boots a thundering pass forward to Yallop on the left.
32 mins Kennedy wallops the ball long. Route one straight through the gut. Yallop picks it up, passes to Kerr, who engages Catley in a one-two. The USA steal the ball back and work it up the other end. Logarzo intercepts and embarks on what I would call a partial mazy run before getting rid of it once she spots Kerr in her peripheral vision.
29 mins O’Hara has a throw-in on the right. She slips a pass back to Press then rushes into a wee gap inside and receives again. Yallop marshals well. Australia are scrambling admirably. Polkinghorne stiffens her body to block Rapinoe.
26 mins Press concedes a foul for a challenge on Yallop. And here’s another, with Chloe Logarzo felled. Catley sets herself up for a free kick from quite a way back. Foord is loitering but caught, well, loitering.
24 mins Australia are back in possession now and Foord is on the move towards the left byline. She sweeps the ball to the right in the nick of time, but the final ball is missing. This has been very entertaining so far
Goal! Australia 1-2 USA (Rapinoe 21′)
21 mins Anyone sensing a goal-fest here? A smorgasbord of finishes? Rapinoe turns it on again. A defensive mix-up between Polkinghorne and Kennedy sends the ball straight into her path and she puts her laces through a first-time volley.
19 mins A high ball into the box fins Kerr’s head this time. She’s side on to goal, catches the ball on the left and pops it off to the right to draw a save from Adrianna Franchz.
Goal! Australia 1-1 USA (Kerr 17′)
17 mins No sooner have I written to my wit’s end about the USA’s superiority in this first third of the first half, Foord slides a delicate through ball for Kerr. The striker looks too far to the left, too close to the goal, to put this in. She does anyway. An acutely angled finish to rival any, helped on by a mistake from Adrianna Franchz.
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16 mins Kennedy has the ball at the back and takes her time looking for an opening. She passes to Catley, who gives it back. They have taken too long, for the American line approaches and forces the Matildas back into their own third. They are pressing high.
15 mins Special mention to Press, too, who has the ball on the right edge of the area now, betters an outstretched Yallop and press the point to Micah once again. The US already have three shots on target to Australia’s none.
12 mins How’s that for a fast start. That goal followed another very nice attacking wherein Crystal Dunn delivered a cross to Christen Press, who drew a top-drawer tip over of the bar from Micah. But Rapinoe has still got it, doesn’t she. The 2019 Ballon d’Or winner is 36 and not slowing down.
Goal! Australia 0-1 USA (Rapinoe 8′)
8 mins That is a superb corner from Rapinoe! Instead of finding a teammate she opts to go straight for goal. The bend is beautiful and fiendishly difficult for Micah, who I think manages to get a glove to it but too little too late as it’s already in the back corner.
6 mins Tameka takes a throw-in inside the Matildas’ third and pts fpr Foord, who duels with Kelley O’Hara. Rapinoe finds herself on the receiving end of a strong challenge from Polkinghorne but her protests at the referee go wanting. Finally – well, after a few short minutes – the US make some headway. Raso tracks diligently and slips a sneak backpass to Teagan Micah who, by the way, appears to have become the first-choice keeper under Gustavsson. She has been in superb form.
Peepity peep! The whistle goes
3 mins Australia are laying on the early pressure. Caitlin Foord chests down a ball in the box and looks for Sam Kerr, who is behind a few defenders and out of range. They recycle, Emily van Egmond has a stab. She can hit them from distance, can EvE. Not this time, though.
The anthems have played, and the players are heading to their positions after a huddle. Only a minute or so away now.
The players are in the tunnel now. Alanna Kennedy is sharing a joke with Hayley Raso. Their US counterparts are looking serious.
Megan Rapinoe and Team USA during the warm-up at Kashima Stadium. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images
In terms of those starting line-ups, Ellie Carpenter is of course suspended after her late red card against Sweden and is replaced in the back line by veteran Clare Polkinghorne. The XI is otherwise the same, with Tony Gustavsson obviously happy with the output in the other knockout-stage matches. However, they will be tired from recent exertions. Watch this space.
For Team USA, Carli Lloyd spearheads the attack in her 312th international appearance, meaning she surpasses Christie Pearce as the second-most-capped player in history, behind Kristine Lilly’s outrageous 354. Anyway, Lloyd has support from Rapinoe and Christen Press, with Alex Morgan on the bench. That likely means danger in the latter stages of this match.
USA manager, Vlatko Andonovski, had some strong words in the build-up to this match.
““We are of the mindset that we have something to win – we have a medal ahead of us,” he said. “I know it’s not gold but it’s a medal and it’s not like it’s ours; we’re going to do everything possible to win it.”
Doesn’t last Tuesday seem a long time ago. It was on day four of these Games that Australia held the USA 0-0 in their final Group G match. Since then, the Americans have beaten quarter-final the Netherlands – in a 2019 World Cup final rematch – on penalties and fallen 1-0 to Canada in a major semi-final upset. Megan Rapinoe yesterday lamented her uncharacteristically flat world No 1 side don’t “have that juice that we normally do”.
The Matildas, conversely have been drinking some sort of special concoction since that nil-nil result nine days ago, undoing Team GB 4-3 in extra-time before coming undone 1-0 against Sweden and narrowly missing out on a shot at gold.
So here they are at Kashima Stadium, with all to play for and nothing to lose. Well, it’s not entirely true there is nothing to lose – fourth place might be the most frustrating place to finish at an Olympics. The USA, used to dominance, would be crestfallen to meet such an end. Australia would be similarly so, having come alive in a manner unexpected based on their form as recently as a month ago. To win would mean a first football medal – men’s or women’s – at an Olympics. Actually, it is the first time since Barcelona 1992 an Australian football team has even made a bronze medal match.
Kick-off is 5pm local time. As ever, hit me up with any questions or comments.