Matildas stun France

The Westfield Matildas have finished their European tour with a promising 2-nil win over a highly-fancied France side in Angers, France.

The Westfield Matildas have finished their European tour with a promising 2-nil win over a highly-fancied France side in Angers, France.

Despite only four places separating the sides in the world rankings, Australia was rated as heavy outsiders against a team that had finished fourth at the last World Cup and Olympics.

The sides went into the match with contrasting preparation, with the Matildas being out-of-season in terms of their domestic competition. Meanwhile the world number six side were meant to be hitting peak form before travelling to Sweden for the European Championships starting this week, where they are one of the favourites to take out the event.

New Coach Hesterine de Reus made two changes from the side that went down 3-1 to the Netherlands with Kyah Simon and Elise Kellond-Knight coming into the starting line-up. The Matildas were also trialling some positional changes with Alanna Kennedy partnering her captain Clare Polkinghorne in central defence, one of a raft of changes to their regular formation.

The French got the jump on the Matildas in the opening exchanges, controlling possession and creating numerous chances. Goalkeeper Brianna Davey displaying confidence and experience beyond her 18-years to close down multiple opportunities.

The best of these came in the twentieth minute when after some strong lead up work the ball fell to French midfielder Elodie Thomis on the edge of the six-yard box. She seemed destined to score but some fearless defending from Polkinghorne got her body in the way to close down the chance.

The Matildas were resolute in defence throughout the first-half and took an unexpected lead on 35-minutes when Tameka Butt was able to fire in the opener from a set-piece.

Having won a corner, Kellond-Knight whipped a ball into the box that found Polkinghorne, who headed away from goal. The ball fell to Butt who hit a brilliant first time volley into the top right corner of the net, leaving the French side and crowd stunned and the Aussies to celebrate.

The Matildas took their 1-nil lead into the half and made three changes on the resumption with Chapman, Gorry and Williams replacing De Vanna, Van Egmond and Davey. With fitness levels identified as a concern after the Dutch match, it would be interesting to see how the Matildas defense would hold up.

The second-half started much like the first, with the Matildas forced into making some last ditch defense in order to protect their lead. This was none more evident than in the 53rd minute, when Katrina Gorry and Tameka Butt both cleared the ball off the line in remarkable succession.

The French hit the crossbar a minute later and it seemed only a matter of time before they would equalise.

France were given another opportunity to do so just shy of the hour mark when they were awarded a spot-kick. However a brilliant save from Lydia Williams, diving low and to her left, denied the goal bound effort from France-s Camille Abily.

Against the run of play, Australia doubled their advantage shortly after when Amy Chapman found Katrina Gorry outside the box. A powerful right-footed strike swerved into the top-right corner of the net, giving the France goalkeeper no chance and Gorry her second international goal in as many matches.

The Matildas hung on for the rest of the match, repelling the French attack with great commitment and Williams making some fine saves in order to preserve a cleansheet. The result finished 2-nil to Australia in what is a great result ahead of their World Cup qualifiers in the Asia Cup Championships next year.

Much has been made of the fact that the Matildas are a team in transition. A new coach, a new system and a relatively inexperienced squad, this tour was all about adapting to a new style of play.

While the Matildas were outplayed for much of the contest, there were some promising signs that the possession focused game style they want to play is beginning to take effect.

Ultimately the Westfield Matildas took their chances with some sublime finishing, while the French were wasteful in front of goal.

After disappointing loses in their first two tour matches the signs are there that this side can definitely mix it with the world-s best.

Australia 2 (35- Butt; 70- Gorry) France 0

Australia 1. Brianna Davey (gk), 2. Teigen Allen, 4. Clare Polkinghorne, 8. Elise Kellond-Knight, 10. Emily Van Egmond, 11. Lisa De Vanna, 13. Tameka Butt, 14. Alanna Kennedy, 16. Stephanie Catley, 17. Kyah Simon, 23. Michelle Heyman

Substitutes 6. Servet Uzunlar, 8. Lydia Williams (gk), 3. Kim Carroll,15. Amy Chapman, 19. Katrina Gorry, 7. Teresa Polias, 12. Vedrana Popovic

France 16. Sarah Bouhaddi (gk), 2. Wendy Renard, 4. Laura Georges, 6. Sandrine Soubeyrand (c), 7. Corine Franco, 9. Eugenie Le Sommer, 12. Elodie Thomis, 15. Jessica Houara, 17. Gaetene Thiney, 18. Marie Laure Delie, 23. Camille Abily

Substitues 1. Celine Deville, 21. Karima Benameur, 3. Laure Boulleau, 5. Ophelie Meilleroux, 8. Elise Bussaglia, 10. Amandine Henry, 11. Julie Soyer, 13. Camille Catala, 14. Louisa Necib, 19. Sandrine Bretigny, 20. Viviane Asseyi, 22. Sabrina Delannoy, 24. Marina Makanza