Knockout football has come early for The Matildas.
There remains a good chance that Australia will go through as the best third-placed side but there is zero chance that Tony Gustavsson will be relying on that.
The equation for both these teams is simple, win and guarantee second place.
Both the U.S.A and Australia are equal on points with three each, a draw will put The Matildas into third on goal difference.
The last time the two teams met was in 2019. In a pre-World Cup friendly, the USA won 5-3 in a frenetic and entertaining game.
Previously the Australians had drawn 1-1 and won 1-0. Importantly all of these games were played on American soil and bizarrely they were played with American referees.
This is not to suggest that there was anything untoward but only to point out that the final game of the Olympic group stage is a different prospect entirely.
It is on neutral territory. Australia performed better against Sweden than the USA did and our players know that they compete with them.
Keys to Victory:
The Matildas have to outwork them in all areas of the pitch. The World Champions have the talent and the experience to create from all parts of the pitch and Australia will need to pressure them and keep the intensity up.
If given time or a run is left untracked they will hit the scoreboard.
Sam Kerr is in form.
A missed penalty aside she has three goals in two games but her general play has been encouraging. She is linking well with the midfield and the front three of Kyah Simon and Caitlin Foord.
Mary Fowler slid a perfect through ball into Kerr’s feet that was another missed opportunity but it was another player on the same wavelength as the captain.
Contrary to the friendlies in June, Kerr is not being isolated or marked out of the game.
She is still the NWSL’s record scorer, she knows she can score on these defenders and they know she can.
If Australia is on their game, they can either get the most of Kerr or use the fear factor to free up other players as they did with Yallop against New Zealand.
The current world champions are one of the pre-tournament favorites to win Gold.
The USWNT has brought an experienced side to Tokyo and after a 3-0 loss to Sweden, they bounced back with a 6-1 thrashing of New Zealand.
They have threats all over the field, Sam Mewis is a very dangerous midfielder, Megan Rapinoe is a dead ball specialist but also a crafty winger and Julie Ertz returned to the pitch to dominate against The Football Ferns.
The Americans brought good warmup form into the Olympics. They brushed aside Mexico with two 4-0 wins, beat Nigeria 2-0, and accounted for Jamaica 4-0.
While this sounds ominous, none of these sides are in the top 20 in FIFA rankings and none played in the knockout stages of the last World Cup.
Make no mistake, they are an excellent side but as their loss to Sweden shows, they are not unbeatable.
They like to attack and score early to open the floodgates. They will likely come out aggressively against Australia, if they succeed early it could spell trouble for The Matildas.
The Australian manager is in a unique position. Gustavsson has been credited as the tactical architect behind the recent U.S glories. A video of him breaking down how Rose Lavelle was unlocked to score in the World Cup final went viral after he was given the Matildas job.
Australia’s form has been patchy since he took the reigns and if they don’t make it out of the group the questions might grow louder. However, there has not been a Matildas manager better placed to defeat the Americans.
As an assistant for seven years, he will know the best approach to playing them. If Australia can match them physically and technically, Gustavsson is the key to matching them tactically.
Australia vs U.S.A Group G
Date: Tuesday 27th July
Kickoff: 6:00 pm AEST
Venue: Kashima Soccer Stadium, Kashima Japan.