Melbourne City’s experienced duo Steph Catley and Lydia Williams played 90 minutes each for the Matildas in their comprehensive 4-1 win over Jamaica in Grenoble on Wednesday morning (AEST).
A tight schedule saw Head Coach Ante Milicic make a number of changes to the starting XI that produced a remarkable comeback against Brazil in their previous fixture. Two of those changes were City duo Tameka Yallop (nee Butt) and Elise Kellond-Knight, who were rested for the entire 90 minutes against Jamaica following minor injury concerns.
With all to play for heading into their last fixture of Group C, the Matildas attacking intent was on display from the first whistle.
Pressing the Jamaican’s deep into their own half, the Matildas looked eager to break the deadlock in the early stages of the match. Following a number of near chances, the Aussies took a 1-0 lead through in-form skipper Sam Kerr. Latching on to Emily Gielnik’s cross, the attacker made no mistake with a towering header to put her side ahead inside the opening 11 minutes.
On the stroke of half time it was Katrina Gorry’s turn to assist her captain, this time playing a perfectly weighted cross for Kerr to again nod home and double the Matildas advantage heading into the break.
Despite the dominance of the Australians in the first half, it was the Jamaicans who burst out of the blocks in the second period. A turnover in midfield saw second-half substitute Solaun capitalise, rounding Lydia Williams with a composed finish to make it 2-1.
Fighting to finish as high as possible in Group C, the Matildas hit back as Hayley Raso’s determined run saw the ball fall to Kerr within the six-yard box, with the potent attacker making no mistake from close range to secure her hat trick and a 3-1 lead.
With Brazil taking a 1-0 lead over Italy in the other Group C clash, the Matildas needed one more goal to leapfrog their counterparts in to second place in the group.
With seven minutes of regulation time to play that opportunity came, as Kerr pounced on a goalkeeping error to secure a 4-1 win and second place in Group C. It was an inspirational performance from the Matildas captain, who became the first player in Australian football history to score a hat trick at a FIFA World Cup.
City duo, Catley and Williams, were yet again important for the Matildas. Williams made a number of saves, while Catley again showcased her class and versatility in the heart of defence.
A second-placed finish in Group C sees the Matildas book a date with Norway in the Round of 16. The 12th ranked Norwegians finished second in Group A, behind hosts France and will prove to be a difficult opponent for Milicic’s side in the knockout phase.
The Matildas take on Norway at the Stade de Nice on Sunday 23 June, kick-off 5:00am (AEST).