There were positives aplenty to take away from Australia’s 3-2 defeat to Denmark. The Matildas largely controlled the midfield, attacked with purpose, and defended well for 80 out of 90 minutes.
Against a team that had scored 48 goals in their last 10 competitive games this is nothing to be sneezed at.
Strangely they found themselves 3-0 down despite Denmark only having one deliberate shot on target up to that point.
Up the other end, they could easily have had two of their own with Sam Kerr, Hayley Raso and Kyah Simon all denied from good chances.
Late goals to Mary Fowler and Clare Polkinghorne sparked the possibilities of leveling the scores. With Australia in the ascension, had the game gone on another few minutes a third goal would have been deserved.
Next up they face World Cup semi finalists Sweden. Tony Gustavsson is continuing to seek out challenges for himself and his players leading into the Olympics.
Sweden have been dominant during qualification for Euro 2022. Like Denmark they have scored for fun in their group, with 40 goals from eight matches.
These stats seem ominous but with perspective, Matildas fans should not be resigned to a thrashing.
While they have filled the scorers sheets against Hungary and Latvia, against Iceland the results have been more modest. They played them twice in 2020 for a 1-1 draw and a 2-0 win.
Where Sweden have been dangerous have been their spread of scorers. Of those 40 goals, Anna Anvegård leads the scoring with just five. Importantly she was absent from their recent win over Norway.
15 players have scored one or two goals during qualification, the threats from this Swedish side go beyond their Real Madrid stars Sofia Jakobsson and Kosovare Asllani.
Possible Changes to the Starting XI
Gustavsson might be looking to tinker further with his line-up. Tegan Micah deserves an opportunity to stake a claim for the goalkeeping position and the manager spoke glowingly of Caitlin Cooper in his press conference prior to the Denmark fixture.
The best defensive setup is still very much up for debate. Given Sweden’s pace Charli Grant could be given a chance to prove herself.
Tameka Yallop and Emily Van Egmond were both instrumental in controlling midfield last week.
Australia enjoyed 70% of possession in the early stages but most of the attacks and both goals came from the right flank.
This should not be too surprising as Gielnik, Raso, and Carpenter are three of Australia’s most talented players but also have been playing regularly at the club level.
They are fit, in form, and were full of menace against Denmark. The manager will need to find a way to get the most out of these players without them taking up the same space.
Australia’s most promising move through the centre came when Sam Kerr dropped deep and played Caitlin Foord into space over the top.
If Gustavsson is looking for a player to create more chances through the middle Kyra Cooney-Cross is an option.
She might be only 19 but she did not look overawed against Denmark and has an array of skills to unlock a defence.
The Melbourne Victory playmaker can carry the ball, beat players and has both the vision and the passing range to stretch teams.
Amy Harrison missed the last squad but has been a regular for PSV Eindhoven. She is the type of versatile player Gustavsson lauded when speaking to the media last week and could play in midfield to release Yallop or Van Egmond into more attacking roles.
What is clear is that Australia has options and the manager has shown a willingness to explore them.
The squad would have gained some confidence from the performance last week. Momentum is integral going into a major tournament but Gustavsson has been clear that these games are about preparation and performance, not results.
Australia take on Sweden on Wednesday morning at 2:45am AEST
Image Supplied: Matildas