When the pressure was on during their final group game, Australia were able to deliver and the tournament co-hosts will hope to build on that positive momentum when they take on Denmark in the round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup on Monday.
The Matildas were staring an early elimination from their home tournament in the face following a surprise defeat to Nigeria in their second group fixture, but they responded in style by thrashing Canada 4-0 to book their place in the knockout stages as winners of Group B.
Next up for Tony Gustavsson’s side is a clash with a Danish team that are yet to set the world on fire at these finals, finishing second in Group D after claiming solid if unspectacular wins over China and Haiti, either side of a narrow defeat to England.
The big selection issue that has surrounded Aussie head coach Gustavsson throughout these finals regards star player Sam Kerr, who did not feature during the group stage due to an ongoing calf issue.
Kerr is unlikely to be risked from the start for Monday’s match at Stadium Australia, but she could be handed her first minutes of the tournament at some stage.
Denmark are unlikely to make too many changes from their 2-0 victory over Haiti last time out, although Stine Pedersen and Josefine Hasbo are among the players pushing for recalls.
Australia to win to nil @ 9/5
Australia showed they may finally be clicking into gear at this World Cup following their thrashing of Olympic gold medallists Canada last time out and they are a team that tend to build much of their success on keeping things tight at the back.
The Matildas have won five of their last seven matches, keeping clean sheets in all of those victories, and they will fancy their chances of shutting out a Danish team that have looked anything but free-flowing in the final third at these finals.
Lars Sondergaard’s side did score twice against a Haiti side that sit 40 places below them in the world rankings, but that is the only time across their last six internationals that they have found the back of the net more than once.
The Red and White have also never won a knockout match at the World Cup – a run that could well be extended by the improving co-hosts on Monday.
Steph Catley to score anytime @ 11/2
In the absence of Kerr during the group stage, Australia have had to rely on other members of the squad to step up to the plate in front of goal and five different players have found the back of the net at the finals.
Forward Hayley Raso has struck twice, as has a more unlikely source in left-back Steph Catley, who has assumed penalty duties in the absence of Kerr, scoring from the spot against both the Republic of Ireland and Canada.
With Kerr unlikely to start Monday’s match, penalty duties are likely to remain with the Arsenal defender, who could prove to be the value option in the anytime scorer market.