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Sudden-death shootout sees Australia win FIFA victory over France

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Australia rejoiced after Courtnee Vine kicked the winning penalty goal in Saturday's FIFA match (Screenshot via YouTube)

Soccer fans witnessed an epic showdown as Australia claimed an exciting victory against France on Saturday in the FIFA Women's World Cup. John Ryan recaps some of the highlights from the match.

THREE DAYS AGO, Olympic City 2032 saw a grand clash between Australia and France. Beautiful Ekka weather was served up for locals and international fans.

There have been several noteworthy things regarding this tournament:

  • the skills of the players, the fairness of the play and the closeness of the outcomes;
  • the ability of Australia to host this huge tournament with barely a ripple of concern. The crowds have been wonderful, the stadiums have been more than adequate and the games have been of high quality; and
  • traditional “football” fans have not gone nuts about the fact that it has been referred to as “soccer”. My guess is that big players such as the USA refer to it as soccer and nobody can be bothered correcting them. Secondly, traditional fans are more than happy that perennial non-observers (such as myself) are caught up in the excitement. Who can be fussed fighting over semantics when it looks as though your favoured code is about to receive a huge boost?

Having next to zero knowledge regarding soccer tactics, I have raced to brush up on some fundamentals. For example, formations. We’ve all heard 4-4-2, 3-3-4 and so on — if you’re a neophyte, you likely had no idea what it meant.

Basically, it’s the positioning of the defenders, midfielders and forwards that the manager can employ to maximise the team’s strengths or nullify the opposition. Four defenders for more defensive strength; three defenders for more attacking options as there can be more midfielders and forwards.

There is a helpful YouTube video where the commentator explains what he predicts to be the formations that the actual quarterfinal teams will utilise. Last night, I watched the Japan v Sweden match and attempted to see if the configurations were correct. Yes, Japan did employ a 3-4-3 but of course, with the dynamics of the game in full force, the numbers were constantly changing.

He has predicted that the Matildas will employ a 4-4-2 which is defence orientated as Les Bleues are reportedly a very fast team. He reckons it’s to be an extremely close match with the French just prevailing. Whatever the outcome, Lang Park is set to erupt and that’s before Sam Kerr enters the arena. My guess is that will be around the 70-minute mark.

À bientôt

Players to look out for:

Matildas: Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler.

Les Bleues: Wendie Renard, Selma Bacha.

Fun fact: Maltidas Ellie Carpenter and Les Bleues Selma Bacha both play for Olympique Lyonnais Féminin.

My first port of call is the Lord Alfred Tavern on Petrie Terrace where I spot an old friend. I have a series of questions that I’m going to ask the punters from both sides.

Trav: Winner — Tillies 2-1; Formation — Oz 4-4-2, Les Bleues 4-5-1; Favourite player — Caitlin Foord.

Adam: Tillies 3-2; 4-4-2; Sam Kerr.

Heather: Tillies 4-3; 4-4-2; Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler.

Don: Tillies 1-0; Oz 4-4-2, Les Bleues 3-5-1-1; Hayley Raso, Sam Kerr.

Off down Caxton Street in search of some French fans.

Guillame: Les Bleues 3-1; 4-5-1; Eugénie Le Sommer.

Lucas: Les Bleues 3-1; 4-4-2; Eugénie Le Sommer, Selma Bacha.

Marie: Les Bleues 4-2; 4-5-1; Wendie Renard.

The upshot is that the fans are expecting a high-scoring game with the winner being their favoured team, with both sides adopting their standard formations. People's favourite player was varied but nearly everyone said Sam Kerr. For the record, my favourite is Mary Fowler.

Kick-off. Watching the game on a big screen at the Caxton Hotel. The roar from the ground, just down the road, is enormous.

Seven minutes: Kadidiatou Diani just misses for France, perhaps the Matildas' Alanna Kennedy is fortunate to not be penalised.

Twelve minutes: Big miss for Maëlle Lakrar for France — open goal and she can’t position herself properly.

Thirty-two minutes: Great save by Mackenzie Arnold for the Tillies.

Forty-four minutes: Élisa De Almeida comes from nowhere to save a Mary Fowler goal.

What an exciting 0-0 that half was.

Fifty-five minutes: Sam Kerr enters the fray, and the stadium and the surrounding suburbs nearly explode. Shortly, she’s making a great run down the left flank and a good pass to the centre but it comes to nothing.

Sixty minutes: Great saves by the French goalkeeper — keeps the score at 0-0.

Ninety-two minutes: Katrina Gorry gets a yellow card.

Extra time.

One hundred minutes: Les Bleues thought they had scored off a corner kick, but denied as a foul was called on Renard.

Penalty shootout.

Round ten. It comes down to this Courtnee Vine lineup — a goal will mean victory for the Tillies.

Goal! The whole of Australia goes mad!

Just exhausting. Absolutely the most exciting draw many have witnessed in sport.

Next up: Tuesday night in Auckland, Spain v Sweden. Wednesday night, Australia v England in Sydney.

John J Ryan was born in Brisbane and spent his youth and teenage years there in the 1970s.

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