Knockout results of tournaments past have a tendency to resurface in every subsequent event. Every World Cup or Olympics we media types trot out statistics about how a national team fell short or how deep they progressed into the sudden-death rounds. How much energy the actual players actually devote to such memories is, I suppose, individual. But for tradition’s sake, let’s go there.
At the Olympics, neither of these sides have made it past the last eight. Team GB, in their only other Olympics appearance, were knocked out of their home Games by Canada in the quarter-finals. Australia reached the quarters at Athens 2004 and Rio 2016, the latter being a controversial penalty-shootout loss to host nation Brazil. And thus! One will make history here and the other will not.
Hege Riise’s Team GB topped Group E, are unbeaten and have conceded a single goal (against Canada). Whether the armour is pierced a second time may depend on Sam Kerr, the Matildas captain and striker responsible for three of Australia’s four group-stage goals. But Chelsea’s Women’s Super League golden boot will not be the only world-class forward on the pitch at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium. Manchester City’s Ellen White is in formidable form and has three goals of her own for Great Britain. The question on everyone’s lips is whether Matildsas manager Tony Gustavsson opts for a back three or back four, having changed it up against the US and got away with a stalemate against the world No 1s.
The Matildas qualified as one of the two best third-place teams, but that is not necessarily reflective of some of the football they have played in a tough group featuring the US and Sweden. The winner of this match will face either Sweden or Japan on Monday. Strap yourselves in!