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  • Writer's pictureCaleb Powell

Joy for Matildas as late show floors Sweden

Two teams with almost identical FIFA rankings came together at the glittering new Moore Park Stadium in this round of sixteen clash.

Sweden, boasting their powerhouse midfield of Teri Dahlberg and Heidi Bengtsson, would prove to be a difficult opponent to break down.

A first-half goal from Bengtsson was cancelled out by a Jasmin Calloway thunderbolt before Mandy Uhlenstall grabbed the decisive goal in a 2-1 win for the Matildas.

With captain Helen Maxstead in great form and striker Pia Nicholls scoring freely, this game was an exciting prospect. A sprinkling of rain in the afternoon gave the surface a sparkle and a full house welcomed the players for a World Cup occasion to savour.

Tricky winger Uhlenstall quickly showed the skills that earned her a starting spot, racing down the left, Joelle Martins unlucky not to connect with a vicious whipped cross. A snapshot from Shelley Prasad then had Ulrika Urvall scrambling across her goal to push the ball around the post.

Australia were direct. Anna Black and Rhianna Geary combined for Black to deliver an inviting ball into the centre which was hacked over her own bar by Swedish defender Valerie Lundin.

A deft change in tactics by Sweden saw the under-employed Annalies Wallin move up from centre back into attack, and the game changed almost immediately. Wallin outjumped Vic Younis to flick a long ball into Elin Berglund’s path. The pacy midfielder delivered a perfect cross for Bengtsson to finish with a bullet header from the edge of the six-yard box.

A reshuffle by the Matildas, Maxstead joining Younis in the centre of defence, steadied the ship and nullified the aerial threat of Sweden. It wasn’t long before Wallin reverted to defence to look after the live-wire Martins.

Half time was met with a rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda as the players left the field. Bills had some work to do. There were no changes to either side and Sweden started off the second half defending the end filled with the green and gold of the Matildas active support.

The referee was on the scene very quickly to diffuse a situation early in the half, Berglund and Black appearing to tangle after a heavy challenge from the Matildas wing-back.

Abebi Ngom’s firm pass down the left sent Uhlenstall scampering away. She beat her player for pace and pulled the ball back to Calloway whose first-time shot from 25 yards arrowed past Urvall’s outstretched right hand and bulged the net for a majestic equalising goal. The stadium erupted.

Yolana Drury replaced Prasad and Edwina Schott came on for Geary as the Matildas tried to take the sting out of the game with Sweden on top. Uhlenstall switched wings and Martins moved wide out left in a 4-3-3 formation.

Australia were going for the win. Ngom played the ball up to Martins who fed Uhlenstall on the right. The exciting winger feigned to race to the line before cutting inside. A gap opened up and a low ball into the feet of Nicholls was intricately flicked back into the path of Uhlenstall, who raced clear of the last defender and buried a left foot shot under Urvall to give the Matildas the lead.

Sweden rolled the dice and made two attacking changes of their own as they searched for an equaliser. Sweden attacked, Australia counter attacked. Lisa Pirelli saved brilliantly from a long range Bengtsson rocket, Ngom’s last ditch tackle kept out Berglund, and the last action of the game saw Nicholls, so often a bystander tonight, race clear of her defender and choose to run the ball to the corner flag.

The whistle sounded before she had to fend off the Swedish defenders. The Matildas celebrated before both teams went over to the Sweden fans to applaud, and the Matildas set off on their lap of honour.

Bernadette Bills had reacted well with her tactics, and her post-match press conference was full of praise for her counterpart Per Nilsson. Sweden were excellent tonight and can consider themselves unlucky.

Australia now look forward to meeting Germany or Italy in the quarter-finals. The country is going crazy for the Matildas right now. Can they continue their remarkable journey?


Round of 16

  • Australia 2 (Jasmin CALLOWAY 66', Mandy UHLENSTALL 82'), Sweden 1 (Heidi BENGTSSON 27')

  • Moore Park Stadium, Sydney (Att: 49,998)

  • Referee: Melody BERMINO

  • Player of the Match: Mandy Uhlenstall


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