July 9, 2011

Quarterfinals - Game Three

Sweden (#5) vs. Australia (#11)
Augsburg (7 am eastern)

Last Meeting: Sweden 2, Australia 1 (August 20, 2004)

Coach: Thomas Dennerby
Matches: Defeated Colombia 1-0, Defeated Korea DPR 1-0, Defeated United States 2-1.
Goalkeepers: Hedvig Lindahl (3 gms, 0.33 gaa, 2 shutouts), Kristin Hammarstrom, Sofia Lundgren.
Defenders: Annica Svensson (3 gms), Sara Larsson (3 gms), Charlotte Rohlin (3 gms), Sara Thunebro (3 gms), Linda Sembrandt (1 gm), Lina Nilsson.
Midfielders: Lisa Dahlkvist (3 gms, 2 goals), Caroline Seger (2 gms), Therese Sjogran (3 gms, 1 ast), Linda Forsberg (3 gms), Nilla Fischer (3 gms, 1 goal), Sofia Jakobsson (1 gm), Antonia Goransson (1 gm), Marie Hammarstrom (1 gm).
Forwards: Lotta Schelin (3 gms, 1 ast), Josefine Oqvist (2 gms), Jessica Landstrom (2 gms, 1 goal), Madelaine Edlund (1 gm).

Coach: Tom Sermanni
Matches: Lost to Brazil 0-1, Defeated Equatorial Guinea 3-2, Defeated Norway 2-1.
Goalkeepers: Melissa Barbieri (2 gms, 1.00 gaa), Lydia Williams (1 gm, 2.00 gaa), Casey Dumont.
Defenders: Elise Kellond-Knight (3 gms), Kim Carroll (3 gms, 1 ast), Servet Uzunlar (3 gms), Caitlin Foord (2 gms), Teigen Allen (1 gm), Laura Alleway (1 gm), Ellyse Perry (1 gm).
Midfielders: Collette McCallum (3 gms, 1 ast), Heather Garriock (3 gms), Emily Van Egmond (2 gms, 1 goal), Clare Polkinghorne (3 gms), Lauren Colthorpe (1 gm), Tameka Butt (1 gm), Sally Shipard (1 gm).
Forwards: Kyah Simon (2 gms, 2 goals), Lisa De Vanna (3 gms, 1 goal, 1 ast), Samantha Kerr (3 gms), Leena Khamis (1 goal, 1 ast).

Both teams have veteran keepers, Hedvig Lindahl for Sweden and Melissa Barbieri for Australia. Lindahl is having a very good World Cup so far, giving up just one goal to the United States. She is experienced, agile, and has a very good defense in front of her. Australia is a very dangerous attacking team and could pose Sweden and Lindahl problems that they haven't faced yet. She will have to be aware and alert for Australia's varying set piece array throughout the match.

Barbieri played a solid match against Brazil. But in the match against Norway, she appeared to wait for the ball to come to her rather than clearing with a kick, allowing Elise Thorsnes to cut in front of her, which led to a goal. Whether the mistake was on the defense or on herself, she will need to take charge against Sweden and not allow that to happen again.

Advantage: Sweden

Sweden has one of the most veteran back lines at the World Cup. The left side of their defense is almost impenetrable with Sara Thunebro and Charlotte Rohlin. Sara Larssen starts as a central defender on the right side and is a solid veteran, but can have problems with pace against fast forwards. Annica Svensson is the least experienced of the group internationally and probably the most vulnerable. Lauren Cheney had some success attacking that side of the Swedish defense, although nothing came of it.

Sweden did give some chances in that match and were a little lucky that they weren't taken advantage of by the United States. Australia showed that they are willing to attack on the flanks and Sweden must be wary of this. They must also be aware of Lisa De Vanna's position at all times and must be careful that balls struck back to Lindahl have enough pace to get there in front of the speedy attacking Australians.

The Australians generally start steady veteran Kim Carroll and Servet Uzunlar in the middle, with Elise Kellond-Knight at the left back position. Tom Sermanni has inserted 16-year old forward Caitlin Foord at the right back position for two of their three matches. It will be interesting to see if he uses the inexperienced Foord in that position against Sweden.

Strangely enough, Australia's best defensive match so far was against probably the most dangerous attacking team they will face, Brazil. Uzunlar had a nightmare game against Equatorial Guinea, getting her pocket picked twice by Anonman. She was better in the last match against Norway, but Australia cannot afford to give away goals now. They will have Lotta Schelin to deal with in this match and she showed just how opportunistic she could be against the US. Look for Sweden to test the right side of the Aussie defense often.

Advantage: Sweden

With Caroline Seger back from her suspension for yellow card accumulation, Sweden will field a formidable midfield for this match. Lisa Dahlqvist had a great match against the United States. She is a strong defensive player. Therese Sjogran is the one of the most experienced midfielders in the world. Linda Forsberg can provide problems with her service into the penalty area. Nilla Fischer also had an outstanding match against the US and is also a possible starter.

Sweden played very well against the United States, passing accurately, working the ball up the field methodically, and waiting for their forwards to make runs in behind the defense. They are also a very physical group, which could make for quite a battle with Australia. Seger is one of the best all-around midfielders in the world and she is Sweden's quarterback.

Australia will counter with veterans Collette McCallum and Heather Garriock, along with Emily Van Egmond. Tom Sermanni used his third forward, Samantha Kerr, as an attacking midfielder in the match against Norway and it worked out rather well. Garriock is a very physical player and she will not back down from anyone. McCallum is the field general, setting up her speedy forwards, controlling the tempo, and taking most of Australia's set pieces. Van Egmond is also a tall, physical player and she has a goal to show for efforts in this tournament.

Australia will want to bottle up Seger as much as possible and keep the space between their midfield and their back line as small as possible. The fact that both team's midfields are experienced and physical means we might see quite a battle and every ball will be contested by both teams.

Advantage: Sweden

Lotta Schelin is considered one of the most dangerous strikers in the world, but she has yet to score a goal in this World Cup. She did set one up in forcing Amy LePeilbet to take her down, which led to a penalty. She can be a handful for any defender, because she has both size and speed.

It will be interesting to see if Thomas Dennerby elects to go with tall Jessica Landstrom or pace with Josefine Oqvist at the other forward position. Landstrom has the only goal of Sweden's forwards, but Oqvist did cause the US back line some problems with her speed. Sweden did a good job at targeting the US weaknesses. But one problem they have had is putting shots on frame. They have been very inaccurate with their shots to this point in the tournament.

For Australia, speed is the name of the game and Lisa De Vanna lives it to its fullest. De Vanna is having one heck of a World Cup. She must be accounted for by whatever back line she is facing and when they have the ball, she will harass them into mistakes, as she did against Norway. Kyah Simon had a bit of a coming out party against Norway, getting both goals in what has been the key match for the Matildas to this point. Samantha Kerr can play forward or attacking mid and she has good speed as well.

Australia is known for it's direct play with long balls over the top, however, they showed the ability to attack from the wings in the last match, beating outside defenders on occasion in that match. Before this World Cup started, I would have given the advantage to Sweden if these two teams had met. However, Australia has raised their play.

Advantage: Even

While Sweden held the advantage in play against the United States, they were also a bit fortunate, especially on the second goal, which in all honesty has to be considered a bit of a fluke. They are a strong enough side, though, not to rely on luck. They are one of the oldest and most experienced sides at this World Cup, while Australia is one of the youngest teams there.

Sweden exploited the United States' high line on defense, sending several balls through and may have been a bit unlucky on an offsides call or two. One would think that Sermanni might have learned a lesson or two from that match. Australia has already played Brazil and they withstood their speed rather well considering. But as already stated, they can't win this match making the mistakes they have made in the last two matches.

Australia will look to take advantage of their speed and play balls into space allowing their forwards to run on to them. De Vanna could be key and she will run at defenders to force them into mistakes. It would be advantage for Australia to attack up the left side (the Swedish defensive right side) and try to find opportunities there.

The battle in the midfield could be epic. I think Sweden has the advantage there, but the Matildas will not give in easily.

My Prediction: Sweden 2, Australia 1