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Yalla Shoot :Canada v Australia: Women’s World Cup 2023 Group B – live updates | Women’s World Cup 2023

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“I’m surprised that Canada seem to lack urgency. On the rare occasion they’ve upped their pace, there have been openings in the Australian defence, but the rest of the team hasn’t run into space. Admittedly, there’s plenty of time left.” I agree, Kári Tulinius, it’s all a bit too methodical at the moment without much invention.

“Our feed (TSN) hasn’t shown a lick of VAR footage on the 1st goal,” emails the returning Brian Cruickshank from Canada. “I’d accuse you, Jonathan, of subscribing to to the alternate reality theory had the Aussies not finally bagged the second. Sun’s up. Coffee good . Reality sucks.” Still 45 minutes to turn it around Brian, keep the faith.

Some quick offside chat:

@JPHowcroft Hi Jonathan, not sure the VAR officials fully understand the offside rule. The Matilda’s 1st goal looked offside in the build up but was given. Carpenter was ahead of 2 Canadians but given offside for the ruled out 2nd goal… bizarre

— Dean Edwards (@deanedwards78) July 31, 2023

Both computer generated images indicated the correct decision was made. The first call wasn’t controversial on review, the second – much tighter – relies on Carpenter being considered both offside, and interfering with play. As my colleague Jack demonstrates here:

Elsewhere in Group B, it’s 0-0 between Ireland and Nigeria. “I’m in Hanoi watching the MBM,” emails Nik Hartley. Local TV have Ireland v Nigeria. Not a bad game, but not the one I want. Just in case you are wondering, Ireland are dominating possession but don’t look likely to score.”

“There’s only one explanation for this sudden upsurge in energy and verve from The Matildas: Tony G’s wardrobe department have got his outfit spot on tonight and he is channelling his inner Axwell (of Swedish House Mafia-fame).” If you say so Chris Paraskevas. “Also helps that there appears to be a discernible attempt to… move the ball (along the floor, occasionally) and create shooting opportunities – groundbreaking stuff.”

Anyway, I’ll take the excuse for a half-time banger. Get your glo-sticks out while I freshen up.

Half-time: Canada 0-2 Australia

A dream half for Australia in Melbourne.

45+6 mins: And now another long ball sent into the right channel is allowed to drift out. Canada need some inspiration at half-time.

Meanwhile, word coming through that Gustavsson has been booked for something he’s said or done on the touchline. Perhaps the officials have finally cracked down on a boyband centre-part on a 49-year-old?

Australia’s coach Tony Gustavsson stands on the pitch before receiving a yellow card.
Australia’s coach Tony Gustavsson stands on the pitch before receiving a yellow card. Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters

45+5 mins: Canada again pass among themselves in innocuous areas before sending a hopeful ball up the guts, only for Hunt to head clear.

Clare Hunt and Christine Sinclair jump for the header.
Clare Hunt and Christine Sinclair jump for the header. Photograph: Joel Carrett/EPA

45+4 mins: Strong challenge in midfield from Fowler forces the turnover. The ball is sent early crossfield by Gorry to Foord who skips into the box but can’t pick a target. Some of Australia’s ball movement tonight has been very sharp.

Katrina Gorry stretches to reach the ball.
Katrina Gorry stretches to reach the ball. Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters

45+2 mins: Seven minutes of VAR time to be added on at the end of the half. Canada are back in their routine of shifting the ball along the back four looking for an outlet. They try Lawrence again, but Australia are quick on the draw, stepping out, robbing the forward and allowing Carpenter to gallop 50m down the right wing.

45 mins: Lawrence spins neatly on the left to buy Huitema time to pick out a target with her cross, but she clips it straight into the bread basket of the lesser spotted Mackenzie Arnold.

Ashley Lawrence and Mary Fowler
Ashley Lawrence has been kept busy by Mary Fowler and Hayley Raso. Photograph: Nigel Keene/ProSports/Shutterstock

43 mins: Carpenter’s long throw from the right causes minor panic in Canada’s box after Foord gets her body in the way, but the Matildas can’t string their passes together to create an opening. Canada break quickly but they can’t beat Raso – defending in the left-back area!

42 mins: Australia are buzzing. Canada have a mountain to climb. Carpenter should free Raso down the right again but smashes her pass way too hard.

GOAL! Canada 0-2 Australia (Raso, 39)

Australia do have a second after all! After the resumption of play Catley wins a corner on the left. Cooney-Cross whips it over, Sheridan can’t get a punch to it over Kennedy, and after it pings off a Canadian defender it falls to Raso who cannot miss from near the goalline. Raso and the Matildas have two!

Hayley Raso scores her second.
Hayley Raso scores her second. Photograph: James Ross/EPA

GOAL OVERTURNED!

Devastation for Australia! On review, the back heel of Ellie Carpenter was shown to be offside – and Carpenter was adjudged to be interfering with play, blocking the onrushing Buchanan when Fowler slammed home the finish. Very very marginal call.

Mary Fowler’s goal was disallowed.
Mary Fowler’s goal was disallowed. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

36 mins: Hold on, Frappart has been invited to check the screen by the VAR…

Australia have two! Carpenter and Raso link well down the right to move the ball forward, thereafter it’s chaos. The centring ball is misplaced but Foord keeps it alive. Then it breaks for Raso whose cross-shot is parried by Sheridan and looks all set for Carpenter to tap home – but she slips! Fortunately Fowler is storming in at the nick of time to wallop a finish high and hard into the roof of the net. Delirium in Melbourne for the Matildas.

33 mins: Canada are increasingly struggling to find a release ball out of defence. Australia’s forwards are pressing effectively and the midfield is disciplined. Whenever the ball is in dispute an Australian looks the hungrier to claim it.

31 mins: Close for Canada! The corner from the right is canny, swinging out to the corner of the six-yard box where Grosso flicks out a boot to divert the ball across the face of goal, but not close enough to another red jersey to lead to a shot.

30 mins: Canada return to their sideways passing inside their own half. Australia remain unfazed. But they do concede a free-kick when Carpenter is adjudged to be too rough on Huitema over on the touchline. The set-piece is launched deep into the box and almost reaches Huitema at the far post but it skims off an Australian head and behind for a corner.

28 mins: Australia haven’t gone forward in a while but they look dangerous when they do. A quick break in the left channel earns a throw-in, from where van Egmond cushions a sumptuous angled through-ball for Foord to run on to. Unfortunately her cross is poor and claimed easily by Sheridan.

Caitlin Foord and Quinn contest the ball.
Caitlin Foord and Quinn contest the ball. Photograph: Alex Pantling/FIFA/Getty Images

27 mins: It’s all going according to plan for Australia.

26 mins: The set-piece can’t beat Raso at the near post and Canada are soon back passing around their defence. This time Sheridan’s long ball finds touch and Australia can reset.

25 mins: Most of the play so far has been along Canada’s back four as they patiently look for the pass through the lines. Australia are doing a great job of covering the channels and tracking runners. Eventually Canada go long from Sheridan to the left – and it’s a lovely ball that Lawrence takes on the full to win a corner.

23 mins: Canada are growing into this contest nicely, moving the ball at speed, dragging Australia around probing for a gap. So far none have been forthcoming, but Leon looks lively when she gets on the ball, and Sinclair has the bit between her teeth.

22 mins: A long free-kick from deep finds Huitema at the far post but she can only glance her header wide.

21 mins:“Even here in Canada, where the sun is just coming up, it looked offside,” emails Brian Cruickshank. “We’ll wait for the pundits to chime in. I’ve got coffee to make.” It looked offside in real time, I agree, but the world feed has shown the computer animation based on all the reams of VAR data, and Catley on the left was being played on in the middle of the field. I’m not a fan of VAR, but that was a good demonstration of its application.

Julia Grosso works the ball around Kyra Cooney-Cross.
Julia Grosso works the ball around Kyra Cooney-Cross. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

19 mins: Australia are playing a very structured game, Gorry directing traffic in midfield, shutting down passing lanes, forcing Canada to repeatedly return to their goalkeeper looking for an exit ball. To their credit, Canada are refusing to go long or panic. And they demonstrate why, eventually picking their way on the right, Leon and Sinclair dovetailing well again, but there’s a home boot ready to stab away the cross.

Canada's Adriana Leon chases Ellie Carpenter.
Canada’s Adriana Leon chases Ellie Carpenter. Photograph: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters

17 mins: Almost in spite of themselves Australia’s front three force an effective press as Canada try to switch play from right to left. Raso is just so quick and busy she can’t help herself. Canada don’t lose composure and come back out on the right where Leon looks bright, nipping in the right channel and curling over a dangerous cross that arcs just our of reach of Huitema at the far post.

15 mins: Canada get on the ball briefly, lobbing a cross from the left towards the penalty spot, but that woman Catley is there to head clear. She has been everywhere in these early exchanges.

Quinn and Kyra Cooney-Cross battle in midfield.
Quinn and Kyra Cooney-Cross battle in midfield. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

13 mins: RASO ALMOST MAKES IT TWO! Catley again the provider, overlapping on the left, cutting inside, and another superb low centring ball finds Raso timing her run to perfection, firing off a controlled effort with her left foot that Sheridan does superbly to save on the line low to her left.

Hayley Raso takes a shot
Hayley Raso is firing early for the Matildas. Photograph: Hamish Blair/AP

11 mins: Just what the Matildas needed. That Catley-Foord Arsenal partnership down the left worked wonders, and the new Real Madrid winger Raso did the rest. Over to Canada to play catch-up. Got to love tournament football.

Sam Kerr supports from the bench.
Sam Kerr supports from the bench. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

GOAL! Canada 0-1 Australia (Raso, 10)

Cooney-Cross takes it, but it’s too high for Hunt’s initial header. The second ball is lobbed back into the mixer and Canada allow it to bounce before clearing. Australia come back hard through with Catley charging down the left, fed by Foord, and her square ball to the top of the box reaches Raso, who takes a touch and drills lows into the bottom left corner! Australia with the early lead! Or, maybe not. The Offside flag is up on the far side. But hang on, VAR is getting involved. GOAL!

Raso lets fly.
Raso lets fly. Photograph: Morgan Hancock/Shutterstock

9 mins: Foord does well to accept a throw-in at her feet on the byline and earn Australia’s first corner of the night.

8 mins: Van Egmond does a Gorry – winning the ball with strength, then failing to hit Raso with her pass. Canada rebound down the right and the cross to Leon looks destined for its target but Catley hacks clear. Canada have very quickly slowed the tempo down, trying to take the sting out of the game, and Australia are happy for them to do so, dropping into a much lower block that we saw against Ireland or Nigeria.

6 mins: Riviere with her first long throw from the right. It’s towards Sinclair but Australia win the second ball and clear. In a departure from the opening two matches the process for moving the ball downfield is structured, going through the feet of Gorry and van Egmond, rather than heading quickly for the vertical ball into the channels.

4 mins: Gorry does well to fight for possession in midfield but she can’t find Raso with the release. Australia are snapping into their challenges, as you’d expect, but Canada look composed in these early exchanges.

2 mins: Australia get their foot on the ball early but there’s a turnover in midfield that Sinclair and Leon use to drive towards the penalty area. The final ball is cut out by Carpenter and the Matildas clear.

Structurally, Fowler has moved into the central striker position with Foord moving out to the left to link up with Arsenal clubmate Catley.

Kick-off!

The biggest match of the World Cup so far is off and running.

Australia in blue, Canada in red, the refs in black. Here we go!

There’s allsorts in the crowd – blow up boxing kangaroos, cockatoo glove puppets, and enough face paint to resurface Bourke Street Mall.

As the anthems ring out, the TV cameras pick out a fair smattering of Canadian fans in the stands, as well as FIFA head honcho Gianni Infantino.

The two teams make the short walk up the MRS race and out into the crisp night air. Canada’s players line up, high-tenning one another, full of energy. The Matildas have their game faces on.

The stands are full, the floodlights are on, the players are lined up in the tunnel. Destiny awaits.

As kick-off approaches it’s time for the formalities, starting with Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin’s Welcome to Country.

Tactically, what do Australia need to do tonight? Glad you asked:

1. Don’t always look for the direct option over the top. Gustavsson has identified that in the speedy pair of Cortnee Vine and Hayley Raso in wide areas his team is likely to have an advantage when there is room in behind for balls clipped over the top. However, when that space isn’t there, Plan A becomes a very low-percentage option.

Canada will surely follow the lead of Ireland and Nigeria and defend deep, denying Australia the space they crave. To counter this, the Matildas need to be patient and play the ball around in front of the Canadian defence, picking their moment to time their killer passes with precision.

Over the 90 minutes, this is where the likes of Alex Chidiac, Emily van Egmond, and Mary Fowler come into their own. But for them to excel they will require Alanna Kennedy, Clare Hunt, and Katrina Gorry behind them to keep their powder dry and only look for the long pass if it’s 100% on.

2. Cross better In Australia’s opening two matches players found themselves repeatedly in wide areas only to deliver crosses that were easy to defend. Caitlin Foord showed the way for her assist to Emily van Egmond against Nigeria, calmly picking a target and rolling the ball into the path of her teammate arriving at the penalty spot. Similarly, against France in the send-off match, Raso lifted her head and pulled the ball back for Fowler instead of blindly crossing to nobody in particular. This also applies to free-kicks and corners with the Matildas lacking variety in set-pieces so far this World Cup.

3. Be bold coming out of defence. Once the match settles down there’s every chance the pattern of play will feature Australia probing and Canada defending the space around the edge of their penalty area. If that proves to the case, Australia’s back four must back themselves to carry the ball into midfield and draw the Canadians out of their shape. It will be all too easy to ping hopeful diagonals, or invite Gorry or Cooney-Cross to accept possession on the halfway line, but the brave call will be for the likes of Kennedy and Hunt to advance into unfamiliar territory and allow the more creative players to receive the ball in more advanced positions. This is not without risk and players may be caught in possession or find themselves out of position in transition, but the longer the game wears on with Australia chasing a goal, the more necessary the approach becomes.

Mary Fowler’s composure in the final third will be crucial for Australia if they are to unlock Canada’s defence.
Mary Fowler’s composure in the final third will be crucial for Australia if they are to unlock Canada’s defence. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

When Sam Kerr’s name is read out in the stadium it receives a huge cheer, but the Australian skipper is keeping her physical activity to a minimum while teammates warm up. I can’t see her doing much, if anything, tonight.

Sam Kerr has her boots on but isn’t moving much before Australia’s vital clash with Canada.
Sam Kerr has her boots on but isn’t moving much before Australia’s vital clash with Canada. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP
Mostafa Rachwani

Mostafa Rachwani

Excitement is building at the Fifa Fan Festival in Tumbalong Park, Sydney, where thousands of people have already gathered and picked their spots to watch the Matildas’ final group game.

There’s little sense of tension here, with fans buzzing around the viewing site, eating pizza, dancing along to the official entertainment and telling me they are confident the Matildas will win their group stage finale clash against the Canadians.

Sisters Alice and Myrtoxan Thakos tell me they are “pumped” for the match, and their faces, painted in green and gold, don’t betray them.

“I’m confident because we have to win this,” Alice says.

“All we can feel is confidence because this is it, its do-or-die, this is it. We’d be ecstatic if they win, absolutely over the moon.”

Alice and Myrtoxan Thakos are at the Fifa Fan Festival in Darling Harbour and say confidence is “all they can feel”. pic.twitter.com/VPd8Z5zjd0

— Mostafa Rachwani (@Rachwani91) July 31, 2023

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