Matildas called into question after 'exploiting the rules' in World Cup victory

Steph Catley's actions raised a few eyebrows as the Matildas turned the momentum in their win over Denmark.

Tony Gustavsson talks to Matildas players after Steph Catley went down.
Tony Gustavsson called the Matildas into a huddle after Steph Catley went down. Image: Getty

Matildas vice-captain Steph Catley has laughed off suggestions they flouted the rules on Monday night in order to take a tactical timeout in their win over Denmark. The Matildas advanced to the quarter-finals of the Women's World Cup after dispatching Denmark in a clinical 2-0 victory.

However the Aussies appeared to be off the boil in the opening exchanges, with Denmark finding plenty of space and freedom with the ball. But things seemed to turn around for the Matildas following a break in play in which Catley received some treatment from trainers.

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Catley went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury, prompting coach Tony Gustavsson to immediately call his players to the sideline and into a huddle. Gustavsson could be seen drilling his players about their tactics and appeared to ask for a few things to be switched up.

Catley managed to continue and the Matildas looked much more switched-on after the break in play, eventually finding the back of the net via a superb run and finish from Caitlin Foord. It left many questioning whether the break in play had been a tactical move to stall Denmark's early momentum.

Steph Catley, pictured here during a break in play in the Matildas' clash with Denmark at the Women's World Cup.
Steph Catley speaks to the trainers during a break in play in the Matildas' clash with Denmark. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Channel 7 commentator Grace Gill said: “It’s a good question as to whether this moment was just a quick tactical discussion, because... there was a quick gathering of the players around Tony Gustavsson. Just to take, perhaps, a little bit of momentum out of Denmark, who have started this opening stanza really brightly.”

Fellow commentator David Basheer remarked: “You just wonder whether that was a tactical ploy. Other nations do it."

Sideline reporter Adam Peacock said: “I’m not sure if she’s called this so the rest of the team can go over and talk to Tony Gustavsson. Hopefully it’s OK. As soon as Catley hit the deck, Gustavsson was waving to say, ‘Come over and have a chat’.”

Sam Watson of SEN wrote on Twitter: “Imagine the outrage amongst footy fans if what Steph Catley just did happened in an AFL game. Talk about exploiting the rules to stem the opponent’s momentum.”

Steph Catley smacks down claims she faked injury

But Catley was quick to shoot down the suggestions after the game. “Nah, had a little roll, but yeah it’s okay,” Catley said when asked if she'd feigned injury.

“Once I got up and got moving, it (was) fine. We’re definitely looking after the body tonight, making sure it’s all good and ready for the next game back.

“It’s a great coincidence. Sometimes it’s a good reset when there’s a break in play, and the girls got over and talked to Tony. But I’m all good, healthy and ready for the next game.”

Hayley Raso scored the Matildas' second goal in the second half as they advanced to a quarter-final date with France on Saturday. Superstar striker Sam Kerr came on for a 15-minute cameo late in Monday night's match and got through unscathed despite her troubling calf injury.

"I'm very proud of the players' maturity tonight," Gustavsson said afterwards. "Denmark, they surprised us and we knew we'd have problems between the midfield and the backline, but the maturity showed tonight. We found our way into the game and with some individual brilliance on the break that was enough to get away with the win tonight.

"Sam coming back now could be a good thing in the sense that we don't need to look to her to carry everything on her shoulders. It's a team effort and a team tournament and (having her back) is like the icing on the cake."

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