Australia bounced back from a World Cup-opening defeat to the United States with a 2-0 victory over Nigeria on Friday, with Kyah Simon scoring both goals in hard-fought win. It was nevertheless a deserved victory for the Matildas, for whom a patient tactical approach paid dividends.
Nigeria started the match with typical gusto, looking to maximise the pace of their attackers by playing long, ambitious passes in a bid to catch the Australian defence out of position. However, though the Matildas initially struggled to match Nigeria's attacking intensity, they successfully dug in, sat deep and saw off the early pressure. It was clearly a strategy they had worked on, with coach Alen Stajcic at one point in the first half urging his defence to not go "too high" up the field when in possession.
The result was that the Matildas bided their time, waiting for the right moment to pick Nigeria off. With the quality of their creative players it was only a matter of time, and the opening goal was the result of a moment of magic from Lisa De Vanna -- whose World Cup looked at risk just a few days ago when she picked up an ankle injury in the defeat to the United States. She laid on a great assist for Simon, whose delicate finish gave the Nigerian goalkeeper Precious Dede no chance.
Though Nigeria seemed to have Australia intermittently on the ropes throughout the match -- in particular applying pressure early in the second half -- Stajcic's side had just too much quality. Where Nigeria tried to force things with passes that were often too long to give their attackers a chance, Australia were calm and collected, and made the most of their time in Nigeria's third with some excellent attacking invention. They also were particularly dangerous on set-pieces, and passed up a couple of good opportunities to kill the game off before Simon added a second with just over 20 minutes left.
They'll be looking for a repeat performance against Sweden on Wednesday in what will likely prove to be a very close game. Nigeria, meanwhile, will be looking for a little more accuracy in their passing heading into their final group game against the USA. If they can add more composure to their spirited attacking play, they'll be a force to be reckoned with. In the meantime, they're still just a little too raw to go toe-to-toe with the serious contenders.