(Australian Associated Press)
For all of Sam Kerr’s magnificence against Jamaica, the Matildas are yet to put together a 90-minute performance at the World Cup.
Having navigated a bumpy passage through the group stage of the World Cup, coach Ante Milicic is hopeful his side can use the experience as the tournament shifts gears into the knockout phase.
“We’re well aware that we need to improve and get better if we want to match our ambition of getting deep in this tournament,” Milicic said, after seeing off Jamaica 4-1 in their final group game.
In patches, the Matildas have been scintillating – the opening half against Italy, the 20-minute spell that yielded three goals against Brazil and for much of the night against the Reggae Girlz.
But certainly not after the break against Jamaica, when Khaija Shaw inspired the world’s No.53 ranked side to run rings around the Australian midfield.
“We get nervous on the ball and then we lose our playing structure,” Milicic said.
“We’re playing the ball into midfield players that are marked or under pressure.
“So once we stick to our principles and play our playing style we’re in control, but there’s phases in the game that we move away from that and then that’s when we struggled.
“It’s a brave playing style, it is. But when we get it right, we look dangerous and then we’re a lot in control.”
Australia’s prize is a round-of-16 clash with Norway on Sunday morning (AEST).
Against the Scandinavians Milicic said his side needed to understand when to hit the accelerator and when to back off.
“We just need to move the ball a little bit quicker and get the ball in those central areas,” he said.
“That’s where we get done, in transition.
“At times we need to realise we don’t have to score from every attack. We need to keep it, go on one side, come back out and go the other way and be patient.
“But in the end it’s 4-1, we go through to the next round as second in a tough group and we back ourselves.”
Milicic said injury-struck pair Tameka Yallop (corked calf) and Clare Polkinghorne (hamstring) were on track to contend for roles against Norway.