Selection dilemma for Sermanni
Matildas coach Tom Sermanni is faced with a selection dilemma for the do-or-die match against Canada on Wednesday evening in Chengdu, China, with a fully fit squad available to choose from.
Matildas coach Tom Sermanni is faced with a selection dilemma for the do-or-die match against Canada on Wednesday evening in Chengdu, China.
Sermanni reported that every player in his squad is fit and healthy and available for the match and that he now has a (good) headache in terms of his selection for the Canadian match, which will determine which team will go through to the quarter finals.
Australia only needs a draw from the match to advance and sits level on four points with Norway (who play Ghana in Shanghai at the same time), with Canada a point further back.
The good news is that Sally Shipard and Jo Peters are available after injury ruled them out of the Norway game.
“Apart from a couple of niggles and knocks from the weekend, everybody is fit and healthy,” Sermanni said, just prior to heading out to the Matildas final training session before tomorrow-s match. “Everybody walked off the training field yesterday, so that was a good sign.”
“We-ll certainly be making changes. I would anticipate probably from the Norway game at least four changes to the starting line-up, so we bring in some fresh players again.
“We-ve only had four players that have played two full games; they-ve had nine players that have virtually played 2 full games, so the more we freshen up the team that will give us a great advantage, especially the more the game goes on.”
The biggest dilemma has been whether to start star striker Lisa De Vanna, who twice excelled coming off the bench to score three goals and be one of the shining lights of the tournament. However at this stage Sermanni looks reluctant to change something that has so far proved great value for his team.
“I won-t change what has been working for us,” he said in response to whether De Vanna and Sarah Walsh would be used off the bench. “If something is working well for us, there is no use changing it.
“I don-t think starting Lisa or not starting her makes a difference in these games from a defensive point of view (if they are down to early goals). I don-t have any problem starting Lisa, but it-s what we think is best for the team and for her, because quite often she also thinks she is better coming off the bench.”
Canada, who is ranked ninth in the official FIFA rankings, will not be an easy opponent and only lost narrowly to Norway, before also comprehensively beating Ghana 4-0. They offer a different style of play again to the previous two games, but he is confident he players will be able to adapt and dominate.
“If we can control the midfield I think that will give us a good advantage,” he said. “They play a fairly direct kind of game and if we get caught up in the type of game, which you can do, then I think we-ll struggle.
“So I think the key thing for us is try and control midfield; control possession, so we can dictate the tempo of the game.”
He also dismissed thoughts that the team might just go out and play for a draw, saying it would go against the philosophy that he had tried to install in this team and they were only starting to realise.
“We (coaching staff) have worked hard with this team on a philosophy of winning games,” he said candidly. “To change that philosophy would be a poor decision, particularly against a team like Canada, who are on the same level as us.
“So we will be going out to win the game as normal.
“We always felt we could match it with the teams in this group,” he added. “Whether that meant winning the games or not, I certainly wasn-t sure.
“But the team is confident enough; coming up against any team now and believing that we-ve got a chance of winning the game.
“I think that attitude came through against Norway; we had a fairly dodgy first half, but in saying that we still created some really good chances and then we actually turned the game around and I think we finished that game a lot stronger than Norway did. That-s a really good sign that we are not just going out there and hanging on and trying to get a result and we have shown we are serious contenders in the game.
“When you do that it gives the players confidence to believe that when you go out on the park you can beat any team.”
So far the Matildas have been one of the few teams that have looked strong right through to the end of 90 minutes and believes the conditions could play a role in the game and to his side-s advantage. Chengdu is situated nearly 3 hours west of Hangzhou, but are still in the same time zone, and while they are playing at the same time in the late afternoon (as the first game), the difference in the sunlight will mean it will feel more like mid-afternoon. Sermanni is confident these conditions will suit his teams- fresher legs and previous experience of playing in these conditions.
“If it-s a hot, humid day it (the weather) certainly will (play a role in the match) and I think that could be to our advantage,” he said. “We are used to coming up here and playing in these conditions and other parts of Asia. They have also played two games where they haven-t had an awful lot of possession, so hopefully these factors might be our advantage.”
Asked if this was the most important match in the history of women-s football in Australia, Sermanni had no hesitation in saying it was, but every confidence that the girls will put that all behind them and play as they usually have.
“This now ranks as the most important match the Matildas have ever played, to be honest. The last two games were also very important and we have had put ourselves into a terrific position. Now we have to make impact on all the good work that we have done so far; I don-t want us to become a nearly team or people saying ‘you did well but you just fell down at the last hurdle-.
“So its become the most important game we-ve played.”
The match can be seen live on SBS with coverage starting at 6.50pm for the 7.00pm kick-off.