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The Olympic draw meant the Matildas’ group games increased in difficulty as they progressed through the stage. On Tuesday evening at 6pm AEST, Australia faces its most formidable opponent yet: the reigning two-time Women’s World Cup champions, the United States.
The Matildas’ opening win against New Zealand coupled with the chaos ensuing in Group F means it would take some extreme results for the Matildas to not book a place in the quarter-finals.
A win for Tony Gustavsson’s charges will see them finish second in the group. This puts them on a path to do battle with the winner of Group F.
At this stage that could be the Netherlands, who the Matildas have conceded eight goals against without reply in their last two meetings, or Australia’s perennial foe Brazil, who knocked the Matildas out of Rio on penalties.
If the Matildas and the US share the spoils, America’s superior goal difference keeps them in second. A loss would incur the same end result. If either of these two scenarios come to pass, Australia should qualify as one of the best third-placed teams.
It would take a hiding at the hands of the Americans and China overturning its -5 goal difference against the currently unbeaten Netherlands for the Aussies to miss the quarter-finals.
The third-place route sets up a date with the winner of Group E. Currently Great Britain and Canada sit first and second and will play off on the final match day to decide who tops the group.
The other third-placed teams – Japan and China – will face wildly different opponents. The host nation, currently on a point, take on the winless Chile, while China face the Netherlands.
If results go as expected – that being a Japan win and a China loss – the Matildas and Nadeshiko Japan will make up the final spots in the last eight.
The USWNT always present a stern test. In fact, the Matildas have played them 29 times with only one win to their name. Tameka Yallop’s lone goal created that piece of history in 2017.
When it comes to Tuesday’s game, Australia enter knowing that the USWNT are fallible as well as cut-throat as evidenced by their 3-0 loss to Sweden and 6-1 win over New Zealand.
Gustavsson will come up against his old side for the first time since joining the Matildas. He enjoyed success with many of these players as they won Olympic gold and two World Cups during his tenure.
But Gustavsson isn’t the only one familiar with the Americans. Many players will come up against former teammates thanks to the Aussies spending years over in the American women’s league: the NWSL.
Whether it be Sam Kerr coming up against former Chicago Red Stars team mate Alyssa Naeher in goal or Megan Rapinoe facing off against former Reign player Steph Catley, it is hoped that familiarity proves some sort of advantage for the Matildas.
Kick-off: 6:30pm (AEST)
Venue: Saitama Stadium, Tokyo
TV: Channel Seven
1. Lydia Williams, 2. Sam Kerr, 3. Kyra Cooney-Cross, 4. Clare Polkinghorne, 5. Aivi Luik, 6, Chloe Logarzo, 7. Steph Catley, 8. Elise Kellond-Knight, 9. Caitlin Foord, 10. Emily van Egmond, 11. Mary Fowler, 12. Ellie Carpenter, 13. Tameka Yallop, 14. Alanna Kennedy, 15. Emily Gielnik, 16, Hayley Raso, 17. Kyah Simon, 18. Teagan Micah, 19. Courtney Nevin, 20. Charlotte Grant, 21. Laura Brock, 22. Mackenzie Arnold
1. Alyssa Naeher, 2. Crystal Dunn, 3. Sam Mewis, 4. Becky Sauerbrunn, 5. Kelley O’Hara, 6. Kristie Mewis, 7. Tobin Heath, 8. Julie Ertz, 9. Lindsey Horan, 10. Carli Lloyd, 11. Christen Press, 12. Tierna Davidson, 13. Alex Morgan, 14. Emily Sonnett, 15. Megan Rapinoe, 16. Rose Lavelle, 17. Abby Dahlkemper, 18. Adrianna Franch, 19. Catarina Macario, 20. Casey Krueger, 21. Lynn Williams, 22. Jane Campbell