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Hello World Cup: Matildas victorious in last tune-up

 Mary Fowler scores the match winning during a Womens International match between Australia and France at Marvel Stadium.

Mary Fowler scores the match winning during a Womens International match between Australia and France at Marvel Stadium. Photo: AAP

The Matildas will head into the Women’s World Cup high on confidence after Mary Fowler delivered a hard-fought 1-0 victory over France.

Australia had struggled to find a cutting edge against the world No.5 side in the final third, in front of a record home crowd of 50,629 at Marvel Stadium, until 20-year-old Fowler coolly dispatched the only goal in the 66th minute.

But six days out from their opening match against Ireland, Australia will sweat on the fitness of veteran Tameka Yallop.

Yallop’s left knee hyperextended when she challenged for the ball in the 74th minute and she was substituted eight minutes later – though coach Tony Gustavsson indicated she would have kept playing if it was a World Cup match.

Surely particularly pleasing for Gustavsson was that the goal arrived after Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord had already come off, four minutes earlier.

Kyra Cooney-Cross slipped through Hayley Raso on the right and the winger burst forward and cut the ball back for Fowler.

Fowler, who has recovered from a fractured back, took a lovely touch and smoothly finished on her left.

“We felt we created enough opportunities into the final third to be up one or two goals,” Gustavsson said.

“But that final timing of a pass or run or the final touch wasn’t really there.

“Raso’s final pass (was) straight from the training ground … her presence when she’s running with that speed to look up and see that Mary’s open and then the quality of that pass and Mary’s finish is obviously something we’re very pleased with.

“But I’m also pleased with the players’ patience.”

Fowler delighted in her instinctive finish after linking up with former Manchester City teammate Fowler.

“I saw her running and I was like I’m in so much space and then she took a touch and I was like ‘oh no’,” Fowler told reporters.

“But then she still played it. You don’t really think in those moments, you just do it.

“I just took a touch and I was like ‘you better score’, and I did.”
Defender Alanna Kennedy started in her first international since September 3.

Kennedy, who has fought through multiple injuries over the past year, replaced Clare Polkinghorne as Clare Hunt’s central defensive partner – and the pair largely impressed.

For the first 60 minutes, a creative Australia were let down by their final ball, and had to scramble to block three strong France efforts from Selma Bacha, Grace Geyoro and Kadidiatou Diani.

“Congratulations to Australia. I think they deserved to win this game but it’s only a preparation game,” France coach Herve Renard told reporters.

“Sometimes you can lose the first game in the World Cup and then be champions of the world.”

France star Selma Bacha (ankle) was stretchered off in the closing stages.

“I can’t tell you anything more because now it’s swelling and we have to wait for the exams and just to be patient and be optimistic,” Renard said.

More noise please

Matildas star Caitlin Foord has urged Australian supporters to turn up the volume in an effort to drive their side to Women’s World Cup glory on home soil.

The record Marvel Stadium crowd is certain to be smashed again when the Matildas open their WWC campaign against the Republic of Ireland at Sydney’s 82,000-seat Accor Stadium on Thursday.

Foord wants Australian fans to use their voices, as well as their feet.
“It was good obviously to have that many people, but I do hope going into next week and the weeks after that it’s louder,” Foord said.

“We need to hear them and I do hope that ramps up going into the World Cup.

“Obviously, when we scored it was loud – but we need it to be louder.”
As the visitors celebrated Bastille Day, France’s national day, one Australian fan’s homemade banner encouraged the Matildas to “eat those croissants”.

They did, at least metaphorically, as Fowler’s neat first touch and cool 66th-minute strike brought home supporters to their feet.

The 20-year-old was the Matildas’ matchwinner but skipper Sam Kerr remains a clear fans’ favourite.

There were shrieks of excitement every time Kerr, her country’s record goalscorer, went near the ball during her 61 minutes on the pitch.

The turn-out made an impact on Matildas winger Hayley Raso, who provided the assist for Fowler’s goal.

“To see everybody in the green and gold, to see a packed stadium; I think we thrive on that,” Raso said.

“You see tonight, having them behind us was like a 12th man. So to come out in front of more next week, we’re all really looking forward to it.
“Sold out crowd and it’s such a big stadium, I think we’ll thrive.”

All three of the Matildas’ World Cup group games are already sold out.

— AAP

Topics: Matildas
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