Barcelona 2013 world championships: Australia V Russia
August 2, 2013 Leave a comment
Women’s semi-final: AUSTRALIA 9 : 6 RUSSIA
By half time, the game was equal with both teams exchanging action goals. Experienced Russian leaders, Evgeniya Ivanova and Ekaterina Prokofyeva, hit the target twice with their trademark outside shots. The latter being a 5 meter lob with 1 second remaining before the end of the first quarter. Australia responded with centre-forward and quick counter-attack goals by Nicola Zagame and Zoe Arancini. During this time both teams failed to convert a couple of almost identical goal-scoring opportunities from close range that could be described as 100% chances.
To me, the following factors made the difference between the winners and losers:
Australia took full advantage of its players’ bigger size, good physical form and the power that comes with them over the Russians in this match. Rowena Webster, Holly Lincoln-Smith and Ashley Southern’s centre-forward goals in the 3rd and 4th quarters broke not only the score equilibrium but also – it seems – their opposition’s spirit. In two of those instances the Australian forwards were marked by their opponents who either did not specialize in the centre-back position and/or were too small and unable to prevent the Australians’ sophisticated back-hand shots directed to the far corner catching Russia’s goalkeeper, Anna Karnaukh, on a counter move. The Russian players, Anna Timofeeva and Anna Grineva, whose physical frame could have matched that of Webster, Lincoln-Smith and Ashley Southern, for some reason, entered the field for very short periods only – 23 seconds and 3.19 minutes respectively.
Unlike Australia, Russia had only one capable centre-forward, Olga Beliaeva, in this match. She earned most of Russia’s extra-player opportunities. But, in the end, her attacking efforts were successfully neutralized by the Australians and the Russians did not have other CFs of similar quality to maintain sufficient pressure on Australia’s defense. Russia’s Anna Timofeeva is capable of filling in this key position but, as I have mentioned, she was in the water only for a short period.
Overall, Australia scored an impressive number of 8 field goals whereas Russia responded with only 5 of those. This difference coupled with poor extra-person conversion by both sides – Russia scored 2 from 7 (29%), Australia 1 from 4 (25%) – proved too significant and that was another decisive reason as to why Australia ended the game on top.
The gold medal final will be between Australia and Spain. Whilst the Spaniards have been gaining form with each match, the Australians have maintained their good form throughout the entire tournament. Physical form as well as state of mind will be among the most important factors and it will be interesting to see which team gets it right on the day.