Waltzing Matildas the bright bossa of Brazil
THEY came in their thousands to see the team making waves around the world and the Matildas didn’t disappoint.
Australia put down another marker on its quest to be among the world’s best, beating Brazil 2-1 in Penrith thanks to goals from Lisa De Vanna and Sam Kerr.
Even if only a friendly, the result proved again how strong the Matildas have become.
In a memorable contest, they played with power and panache, and fully deserved the victory – the second time in six weeks that they have bossed it over Brazil.
From the start the Matildas were determined to show that they had earned the nation’s attention the hard way, by mixing it with the world’s best and moving to join that elite company.
Weeks ago, Brazil had been thrashed 6-1 by the Matildas at the Tournament of Nations but the visitor had a stronger squad in Penrith and clearly something to prove.
On a day when the crowd of 15,089 brought the heart of the Sydney suburb to a standstill, the gridlock extended at times onto the pitch in the arm wrestle for supremacy.
Brazil’s strategy was soon clear, moving the ball wide quickly and targeting the Australian fullbacks.
And their intensity spilled over more than once, with Djenifer Becker booked for scything down Kerr.
Australia deserved the lead for offering a greater threat and just before half-time it came.
Elise Kellond-Knight began it with a quick throw towards Tameka Butt on the edge of the box, who steered the ball towards De Vanna 18m from goal. Meeting it with an imperious volley, De Vanna sent a looping shot into the top corner.
It was a glorious strike that left the crowd in raptures.
Five minutes after the break, Caitlin Foord almost doubled the lead, meeting De Vanna’s low cross, but was bravely defied by goalkeeper Daniele Neuhaus.
At 1-0 the lead remained a fine margin and Andressa Alves almost brought parity with a thumping shot from distance that struck the post.
Given that reprieve, the Matildas struck again with another fine goal.
This time the unlikely creator was Allana Kennedy, retrieving a loose ball and crossing into the box where Kerr glanced it over Neuhaus for the second goal.
Debinha pulled one back for the visitors with 11 minutes remaining, giving goalkeeper Lydia Williams no chance.
Smith is remaining tightlipped about selection, insisting a final assessment will be made today.
“We’ve got a few different options and we’ll go with whatever we think is best for each of the conditions,” he said.
Both sides have lost damaging open batsman, with Aaron Finch withdrawing with a calf injury while India star Shikhar Dhawan was granted leave to be with his sick wife.
All-rounder Hilton Cartwright could open for Australia with Travis Head at No.4.
Ajinkya Rahane is likely to replace Dhawan at the top of the order for the hosts.
The decision for Australian selectors is for spin or pace among the all-rounders.
Ashton Agar’s left-arm tweakers yielded 4-44 in a warm-up match against the Indian Board President’s XI.
James Faulkner would bolster the seem stocks with his ability to take the pace off the ball in the middle overs.
“It’s difficult to say how it’s going to play at the moment,” Smith said of the pitch.
“It’s probably still a little bit soft. I’d say it will harden up pretty quick.”
While bat dominated ball in the Australia-India ODI series on the subcontinent in 2013, Smith did not declare a repeat.
“It was a run fest (last time) – 350 was around par I think,” Smith said.
TOP SHOT: Lisa De Vanna scores the first goal.