Matildas’ 2-0 win over Thailand confirms positive signs ahead of World Cup | Sport

The Matildas have defeated Thailand 2-0 to finish the year on the longest winning streak of Tony Gustavsson’s coaching tenure and confirm positive signs ahead of next year’s World Cup on home soil.

The final scoreline did not reflect the Matildas’ dominance of a game characterised by missed opportunities.

Australia finished Tuesday night’s match at Central Coast Stadium with 31 shots on goal compared with Thailand’s five, but they needed 14 to finally break the deadlock.

Thailand struggled for avenues in the front third so were never really at risk of upsetting their hosts, who are set for more friendlies in 2023 as the World Cup approaches.

Captain Sam Kerr had three genuine chances to score inside 10 minutes and Hayley Raso and Cortnee Vine were constant threats with their pace down the wings, but the scoreline remained 0-0 until the 40th minute.

Sam Kerr of the Matildas heads her goal against Thailand.
Sam Kerr of the Matildas heads her goal against Thailand. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Thailand’s luck finally ran out when Kerr headed a Katrina Gorry corner into the back of the net, giving the Matildas the advantage at the break.

Gustavsson made no changes to the starting side that thrashed Sweden last week but Mary Fowler, Larissa Crummer and Emily Van Egmond came on after the interval.

A natural striker, Crummer replaced defender Charlotte Grant who appeared to pick up a knock in the countdown to half-time.

Just two minutes after the break, Raso tore through the middle of the Thai defence and showed no signs of the corked thigh she suffered in the first half as she blasted home Australia’s second.

Kerr earned an early mark in the 62nd minute, replaced by Alex Chidiac, and the Australians did not score again despite continuing to enjoy the bulk of chances.

With her 151st appearance for the national side, defender Clare Polkinghorne joined Cheryl Sainsbury as the most-capped Matilda of all time.

In the final 10 minutes, Elise Kellond-Knight made her return from a two-and-a-half year injury lay-off that pre-dated the Tokyo Olympics, while Gustavsson handed Matilda McNamara her debut.

Australia have now won their last four games and are undefeated in nine clashes with Thailand.

Women’s World Cup 2023: England draw Denmark, China and playoff winner | Women’s World Cup 2023

England have been drawn in Group D along with Denmark, China and a qualifying playoff winner at Saturday’s 2023 Women’s World Cup draw in Auckland.

The European champions will begin their campaign in Brisbane on 22 July, but won’t know the identity of their first rival until February’s intercontinental playoffs decide the remaining three entrants in the expanded 32-team tournament.

Sarina Wiegman’s side will then head to Sydney to play Denmark on 28 July and then Adelaide to face China on 1 August, as they begin their bid to knock the two-time reigning champions, the United States, off their perch.

England avoided an early run-in with the likes of 2019 runners-up the Netherlands, who will play a rematch of that final against the USA, this time in Wellington on 27 July. Both sides are in Group E, which also features newcomers Vietnam and another playoff winner.

Co-hosts Australia, already placed into Group B, face their tallest task against reigning Olympic gold medallists Canada, to whom they lost twice in a recent friendly series, and will also come up against the Republic of Ireland, who have qualified for the first time, and Nigeria.

Fellow co-hosts New Zealand, already settled in Group A, kick off their campaign against Norway at Eden Park and will also play the Philippines and Switzerland. France, 2019 quarter-finalists at their home tournament, are in Group F alongside Jamaica, Brazil and another yet-to-be-determined playoff winner.

Spain, in the throes of a player mutiny against their manager, Jorge Vilda, are in Group C with Costa Rica, Zambia and Japan. Sweden, South Africa, Italy and Argentina make up Group G with Germany, Morocco, Colombia and South Korea together in Group H.

England are in a terrific place to better their 2019 semi-final run, on a high of their home Euros triumph and having beaten the USA 2-1 in a friendly at Wembley Stadium earlier this month.

“I think we can take on the world,” said Ian Wright, who was in attendance to help with the official business of ball-drawing. “European champions in our own backyard. The pressure they were under to produce, they did it. We’ve got a target on our back now. People want to beat us. That’s what happens when you’re a good team. We’ve proven we can beat the best – we beat the best recently.”

Also in attendance were the American two-time World Cup winner, Carli Lloyd, New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, Australia’s minister for sport Anika Wells, the Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura and president Gianni Infantino, who declared that “Fifa is the official happiness provider”.

Hours earlier, at the conclusion of Saturday’s bi-annual Fifa council meeting, Infantino criticised broadcasters hoping to televise the World Cup for offering up to “100 times less” than they did for the men’s equivalent.

“When broadcasters – often public broadcasters, but also private broadcasters – offer us 100 times less for the Women’s World Cup than the men’s World Cup, even more than 100 times in some occasions, that is not acceptable,” said Infantino, who added that the tournament would cost Fifa around $US400m. “We are not going to accept this.”

Matildas defeat Denmark to claim first win over top-20 nation in 12 months | Matildas

The Matildas have gained their best victory for a year, capping their European road trip with a 3-1 win against Denmark in Viborg.

Despite conceding a shock goal after just 47 seconds Australia turned the game with three second-half goals in the space of nine minutes.

It was their first win over a top-20 ranked side since beating Brazil in Sydney last October, and arguably their most impressive since defeating Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics.

Two goals from Caitlin Foord sandwiched a stunning strike from Katrina Gorry to deliver the perfect boost before the home double-header against Sweden and Thailand next month.

“That feels very good,” said the Arsenal striker. “We’ve been building and the results haven’t fallen our way. To get the win against South Africa and tonight is huge for us and for our confidence. I am proud of the way we bounced back and turned the game around.”

A week ago, Tony Gustavsson had been under pressure. Two wins and seven goals later the narrative has changed and the coach will hope to keep the momentum swing going all the way to the World Cup.

The Swede made one change from the XI that defeated South Africa 4-1 in London on Saturday.

Sam Kerr, recovered after illness, replaced Mary Fowler with Cortnee Vine keeping her place after her two goals. Vine justified her selection with another lively outing.

Sam Kerr goes for a header under pressure from Rikke Sevecke.
Sam Kerr goes for a header under pressure from Rikke Sevecke. Photograph: Johnny Pedersen/EPA

The Danes were without US-based Nadia Nadim while Kerr’s Chelsea colleague Pernille Harder was only fit enough for a spell off the bench, but Australia had plenty of absentees of their own, including five cap centurions.

That, though, was no excuse for Denmark’s flying start, which came after Steph Catley was overloaded on the left.

She was unable to intercept as Janni Thomsen and Sofie Bredgaard exchanged passes before the former fizzed a low cross that was swept past Teagan Micah by the late-arriving Everton midfielder Karen Holmgaard.

“It was less than ideal start but the belief in this group is strong and we felt calm on the bench,” said assistant coach Mel Andreatta. “We’re pleased we struck to our principles, had a great second half and got the win.”

Within a minute Australia could have levelled. Catley burst down the left flank but Kerr shinned her cross wide from 10 yards out.

The half continued to ebb and flow. Foord and Vine tested Lene Christensen in the Danish goal while at the other end Kerr had to hack off the line after a corner caused chaos. A deflected Bredgaard shot then looped over Rosengard teammate Micah and struck the junction of bar and upright.

Australia took control in the second period and after two Kerr headers brought saves from Christensen they gained a deserved, if fortunate 66th-minute equaliser.

Receiving a pass from Hayley Raso on the right, Foord cut inside then took a shot that deflected off the leg of Simone Boye Sorensen and in.

Eight minutes later, substitute Alex Chidiac stole possession, Gorry seized on the loose ball, looked up, and sent a dipping shot over Christensen from nearly 30 yards out.

Almost from the restart Australia struck again to settle the match. Kyra Cooney-Cross drove forward before finding Foord.

In one trademark movement, she turned and shot over the stranded Christensen to bring up her quarter-century of international goals.

Australia subsequently managed the game expertly to secure their first victory away to a European team on their home soil since beating France in Angers in 2013.

Cortnee Vine and Caitlin Foord shine as Australia brush aside South Africa | Women’s football

Tony Gustavsson, Australia’s manager, praised the performance of his players in their 4-1 win over South Africa and credited coming to Europe with giving them more time to prepare for international friendlies before their home World Cup next summer.

Australia and South Africa meeting at Kingsmeadow in the suburbs of south-west London may seem strange, but of the 22 Australians in Gustavsson’s squad only two ply their trade on home soil.

Nine play in Gustavsson’s home country, Sweden, while seven play in England, with the striker Sam Kerr based at Kingsmeadow with Chelsea.But there was no Kerr in Australia’s starting XI, with the Chelsea forward on the bench after suffering an illness during the week. The crowd was also speckled with Arsenal shirts, as Gunners fans came to show support for Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley.

“We love playing on home soil in Australia, especially in a World Cup year – getting that connection with the fans and doing it all together with the football community back home,” Gustavsson said. “So in that sense, it’s important we play in Australia. From a football preparation standpoint, it’s massive that we get these camps in Europe.

“We had five training days now compared to the last training camp in Australia when we had two and a half days. It was massive. You could see that. We’ve been looking for a solid performance over 90 minutes for a long time and this was the most solid performance.”

Desiree Ellis’s South Africa were without a host of key players including their captain, Janine van Wyk, and Racing Louisville’s Thembi Kgatlana. In the absence of Kerr, Sydney FC’s Cortnee Vine, one of the two squad members who play their domestic football in the A-League Women, led the line for the Matildas.

Her impact was swift. A corner from Catley five minutes in was sent goalward by the head of Lyon’s Mary Fowler. The ball came back off a post having slipped through the hands of the goalkeeper Regirl Ngobeni and the 24-year-old Vine poked over the line from close range.

Her first international goal was followed by her second less than 20 minutes later. A wonderful flicked pass from Catley found Foord, who put the ball into the middle and Vine sent a neat back-heel volley in.

Yes, Vine was scoring against a team ranked 54 in the world, 42 places below Australia, but she was lively and potent when called upon.

Shortly before half-time Australia had a third, with Catley’s corner headed neatly in by the centre-back Clare Polkinghorne.

Cortnee Vine is congratulated by her Australia teammates after opening the scoring against South Africa
Cortnee Vine is congratulated by her Australia teammates after opening the scoring against South Africa. Photograph: Paul Harding/Getty Images

This was a dominant and rampant Australia performance, but South Africa were far from bad. There is a reason the Banyana Banyana have risen to the top of African football, having won the 2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations, and the scoreline could have been far more damaging.

In the second half South Africa were tighter at the back but Foord delivered a fourth goal, collecting from Catley before skating free of Bambanani Mbane and sending a shot low into the far corner. Kerr entered for a cameo in the 83rd minute, with the crowd ecstatic at her arrival.

With two minutes of normal time remaining South Africa were rewarded for their battling performance. A goal-kick was pushed past Polkinghorne by the substitute Melinda Kgadiete into the run of Hildah Magaia and the forward, seeing the goalkeeper Teagan Micah bafflingly far off her line, lifted the ball over her and in.

“We were looking for an improved performance, it’s not where we wanted to be but it’s step by step and I felt we have improved,” said Ellis.