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Good win for Matildas before Origin II

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Matildas beat Kenya 2-0, to record their first ever win at the World Cup (Image via ABC News Queensland / ‏@abcnews_qld)

The Matilda's get a win in their second World Cup match and Lachlan Barker plumps for NSW in the second State of Origin, to be played tomorrow.

THE Matildas have righted their World Cup ship by defeating Nigeria 2-0 in their second match and you could almost hear the sigh of relief coming out of coach Alen Stajcic’s mouth when the final whistle went.

A loss would have likely seen Australia out of the tournament AND even a draw would have made situation parlous at best, so this win eases the pressure on Australia significantly.

Things got moving for the Matildas in the 29th minute of the game. Australia began a buildup in their defensive third and got the ball to that exciting runner Lisa De Vanna. De Vanna did one of her trade mark mazy dribbles, twisting and turning like a bird in flight, then played the final pass to release Kyah Simon. Simon ran into the penalty box for a one-on-one with the Nigerian keeper Precious Dede. Dede did all she could, but Simon had too much space and held her nerve to finish professionally.

Half time came and went at 1-0, then in the second half Nigeria became increasingly urgent in their attempts to equalise. No surprises here, as their World Cup was definitely on the line. However, when you are chasing the game like this, the pressure mounts in excruciating fashion and this pressure led directly lead to Australia’s second goal.

In the 68th minute, Nigeria failed to clear their lines adequately and the ball squirted out to Sam Kerr, on Australia’s left flank. Kerr played a precise pass back in, and first half scorer Simon placed it in the net.

At 2-0 with twenty minutes to go Australia remained in the box seat. However Nigeria weren’t finished by any means. They threw everything at the Matildas for the remaining time, struggling, stretching for the goal that would bring them some measure of chance.

However, it was all to no avail and Australia’s defence proved too safe a vault for the Africans to crack.

It should be said, there was one unhappy incident in the 76th minute when Sam Kerr received an elbow to the jaw from a Nigerian defender. The incident occurred off the ball and so received no action from the officials at the time. Kerr went down badly though and was clearly in a lot of pain. To begin with, the fear that she had a broken jaw raced through the crowd. But, thankfully, there was no break and she finished the game still full of running, though protective of her jaw bone.

Finally, the whistle blew and Australia had made it home 2-0, with a precious three competition points now in the record books.

The other game in the group saw the USA and Sweden play out a nil-all draw. This was an important match in context, as it would affect Australia’s finishing position in the group.

In this 24 team world cup, the qualifiers for the next round are the top two from each group and the four best third placed finishers.

If Australia were allowed to choose a result, they would have wanted the USA to thump Sweden unmercifully, thus virtually ensuring second spot for Australia, and leaving Nigeria and Sweden to scrap for the third spot and possible qualification through this measure.

However, Sweden are the real deal, as shown by holding out the world’s number two team for 90 minutes and so things go down to the final round to be sorted out.

I would add, though, that this “group of death” is tight and if the third-round results go badly for Australia, they could still come last and not qualify.

Conversely, if Australia beat Sweden and Nigeria pull off an upset and beat the USA, then Australia could win the group.

So, it’s all to play for and the Matildas will be ignoring the makeup of the table and be out to beat Sweden on Wednesday morning Australian time.

Back home and at gunpoint from our Queensland-based editor, I am forced to make note of the tragic redirection of play by a biased referee in the first match of the State of Origin rugby league series. The evil empire won the first match 11-10, and look once more to extend the darkness of their rule to the farthest corners of the realm.

(Yes, I am a NSW supporter.)

However even though I am one-eyed Blue, my breath was simply taken away by the scale of maroon one-eyeity – a word I just made up – in this headline (repeated in some other Murdoch publications) in Brisbane's Courier-Mail:

State of Origin 2015: Laurie Daley’s NSW Blues side the worst in Origin history’.

The story then goes one to back this claim by pointing out that the number of Origin victories among the Blues players in this match is the lowest in history.

The story gives the two examples:

‘There is reformed fullback Josh Dugan, who has one win in six attempts and winger Brett Morris who has two wins in his 10 Origin games.’

 All true for sure, but I question the Courier-Mail’s sense in pointing this out, as Queensland have for the longest time cultivated the underdog, we-are-popular-NSW-is-not persona.

All this story is likely to do is swing any non-committed voters behind NSW.

Furthermore, Queensland only won the first match by a solitary Cooper Cronk field goal in the shadow of full time, so this second match is too close to call.

However, if NSW do win on Wednesday night, then you will see a unique occurrence on Thursday morning — me looking forward to reading the Courier-Mail. This I will do eagerly, just to see what they’ve got to say for themselves.

And if NSW do win, then I would like to suggest this headline for the paper: ‘Queensland beaten by the worst NSW team in history’.

That’s got a nice ring to it.

Wide-eyed optimist Lachlan Barker blogs at cyclonecharlie88.blogspot.com.au. You can follow Lachlan on Twitter @cyclonecharlie8.

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