News Live Scores
Women's World Cup

Australia vs Brazil vs Italy: The engrossing three-way fight for Group C supremacy

8:00 am AEST 18/6/19
Girelli Marta Kerr split
It all comes down to the wire on Tuesday in the most exciting group at the 2019 Women's World Cup - with three teams still able to come top

Whether it was the adrenaline of beating Brazil or not, giddy and excited, almost like a neutral, Australia’s Sam Kerr could not have previewed the finale of Group C much better.

“Man, [Jamaica’s] ‘keeper had the game of her life against Brazil, so we’re not going to take it easy – and you saw what happened [to us] against Italy,” she told Goal.

In what has been the 2019 Women’s World Cup’s most unpredictable group, it all goes down to the wire tomorrow, with still no real idea of who will qualify in what position for the last 16.

It’s leaders Italy against second-placed Brazil in Valenciennes, while third-placed Australia face bottom side Jamaica in Grenoble – with every team except the latter still able to finish top of the pile.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride to get here, but we should have known that from the first game, as Italy beat Australia 2-1 in what remains the shock of the tournament so far.

Le Azzurre consolidated that with a 5-0 thrashing of Jamaica and, after just two games, have captured the hearts of their nation – and a place in the last 16.

‘An Italy to love: Football discovers women!’ read one sports daily in Italy the morning after. ‘Italy falls in love’, read another. It's success that means so much more to this team than that simply on the pitch.

“The media attention we’re getting is invaluable for the growth of women’s football in Italy,” said Cristiana Girelli, who has become a star back home after hitting a hat-trick last time out.

“We are here trying to win but we are also here to send a strong message to society back home, that there is still so much to do.

“We are here to be role models to little girls who are starting to play football and who could one day experience games like we’ve just had against Australia and Jamaica.”

They now face a Brazil side Kerr called “one of the best in the world” – but who have won just one of their last 11 games.

Their latest defeat was capitulation from 2-0 up against the Aussies, who came back to win 3-2 with the aid of some luck and VAR.

“It's all or nothing now,” striker Beatriz told Folha. “You cannot get down, you need to turn the page,” she added, describing the clash with Italy as “the last game of our life.”

Brazil have only twice failed to escape the group stages of the World Cup – and those two instances came all the way back in the first two editions of this competition.

They’ve finished third and second since, but a winners’ medal still eludes one of the greatest to ever play the game, Marta.

Brazil may be without their star player too, who is slowly coming back from an injury that meant she only played 45 minutes against Australia.

With Formiga suspended, Marta may have to risk it all to help her nation out of this tricky situation.

Of course, qualification is expected for both teams, and the Matildas, but the challenges that may await second and potentially third place are daunting.

While the group winners will face a third-placed team and be thrown into the very open side of the knockout rounds, the runners-up will be set on a collision course with the big guns for the quarter-finals: France or the USA.

If one of them can qualify in third, they will likely take on France or Germany as soon as the next round.

"To win the World Cup you have to beat the best teams to get there,” Australia’s Caitlin Foord, who kickstarted the Brazil comeback, confidently told FIFA.

But with clear issues, particularly at the back, to address, they will want to bide their time before they meet a side like the hosts.

They will have their work cut out in beating Jamaica too. One of the most exciting things about this group’s conclusion is that, although the Reggae Girlz have disappointed so far, no one is banking on Australia to beat them – not with goalkeeper Sydney Schneider in fine form, as Kerr herself pointed out, and striker Khadija Shaw capable of the spectacular. 

“They didn’t give up,” coach Hue Menzies said of his team after defeat to Italy. “We gave it everything. I have to give them credit for that. The more and more we play this level of games, the more we will stay switched on."

Kerr has already issued a warning that they will need to be switched on tomorrow.

Asked whether Australia had sent a message to the rest of the tournament by beating Brazil, she answered: “Hell yes.

“Brazil are one of the best teams in the world, they’ve got the best player probably ever in the history of the game, so if people don’t keep watching the Aussies, we’ll come get you like we did them.”

On whether it was the best win as a Matilda? She wasn’t as sure.

“Coming back from two goals down with the pressure we had on us? It’s pretty special,” the captain said.

“But there’s been some pretty good wins so I’d have to sit down and think about it.”

A win against Jamaica might not be as dramatic, but it may be even sweeter if it gives them top spot in the group. 

However, with so many surprises so far, these four won’t follow the script on Tuesday evening. So strap yourself in, it’s going to be some ride.