Goals galore as Matildas day with destiny looms large
THE Matildas are another step closer to the Olympics, after gorging on goals once again.
Six goals scored against Thailand at Campbelltown Stadium added to seven at the same venue last Friday, putting Ante Milicic's side in pole position to qualify for the final round of Olympic qualifying.
After Caitlin Foord's hat-trick against Chinese Taipei last week it was Emily van Egmond's turn to notch three goals, with captain Sam Kerr again held back until the last half an hour due to her thigh strain. Kyah Simon added two more and Hayley Raso another as Thailand had no answer in the end to Australia's physical power.
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT
6-0 sounds like a thumping and in some ways it was.
But until a second half blitz of four goals in six minutes the home side began to look a touch flustered as they chased the goals to reinforce their position at the top of the group.
The first half in particular was a disjointed Australian display, partly due to wholesale changes to the side that beat Chinese Taipei but still concerning enough.
Van Egmond's first two goals, both in the dying moments of the first half, put a much-needed gloss on the opening 45 minutes - both close range finishes supplied by Ellie Carpenter from the right wing.
A pair of headed goals in the second half were Kyah Simon's reward for another inventive display, and van Egmond completed her hattrick again from close range.
"There's a lot of variation in the chances we're creating," said Milicic.
"If you go back to the World Cup we were very reliant on crosses, particularly from the right.
"Now we can go through central areas, pass our way into the front third. I'm pleased we're creating clear-cut chances."
Hayley Raso's return a year ago from a broken back was a remarkable enough story, but her professional ascent since has been just as impressive.
The 25-year-old will fly out of Sydney at the end of this week bound for Liverpool in the UK, to join Everton in the English WSL, and her effervescence in these past two games explains why.
Her willingness to run at defenders, and find pockets of space, gives the Matildas a directness in transition - and her second half goal against Thailand showed her finishing ability too, meeting a Sam Kerr cross on the half volley to score emphatically.
The equation now is simple for Australia - get a draw or a win against China on Thursday, and a very reasonable playoff against Vietnam is all that stands between Milicic's side and a place at the Olympics.
That's why those in green and gold tore forward in the second half, knowing they needed a four-goal buffer in victory to better China's goal difference.
Unless China can beat Australia, they will face a play-off with South Korea… a rather tougher proposition.
"If we're going to be a serious football team, we have to win three from three," said Milicic.
"Whether it's home or away we'll go out to attack, we'll play the same way regardless.
"Nothing changes for us with the scenario. On Thursday there's a game of football to be played and a game of football to be won."