Aussies' De Vanna dilemma

"I felt we were comfortable. But then Australia, as they do, put on De Vanna, and with her sensational speed and great goalscoring ability, she proved herself once again to be one of best forwards in the world."

It was high praise indeed, and Bjarne Berntsen's rueful post-match tribute to Lisa De Vanna is far from the only accolade to have landed at the feet of a striker who has contributed three goals in just two substitute's appearances at China 2007. The strike that left the Norway coach in awe, a late 25-yard thunderbolt, took the 22-year-old clear as Group C's top scorer and capped another irrepressible performance against a defence utterly at a loss as to how to contain her.

Inevitably, it also left Tom Sermanni facing a recurring question: why not unleash the dazziling De Vanna over 90 minutes rather than 45? Bente Nordby, the Norwegian keeper, was certainly left mystified: "That substitute changed the game, no question. But it's strange she was on the bench because, if she started, I think Australia would maybe have won."

Sermanni himself is not without sympathy for this school of thought. He too has been left near-speechless at the quality of De Vanna's displays, and knows that it is not by accident that Australia's smallest player proved a massive hit with fans in Hangzhou, amassing a large and vocal fan club.

Yet it remains almost certain that when Australia take to the field against Canada on Thursday in a match that will decide their China 2007 fate, it will be with a tracksuited De Vanna following behind, making a familiar beeline for the bench. Even more surprising is that the player herself, according to Sermanni, wouldn't have it any other way.

He said: "Lisa has been an impact player for us and has preferred that role herself because she felt she couldn't maintain that level for 90 minutes. Now she's getting a bit older and more mature as a player, she actually probably could last the full 90 now but with the strikers we have at our disposal, it is still beneficial for us to use her in that role. At the moment things are working the way they are, so why fix something when it's not broken?"

It is a rare breed of player that prefers to watch from the sidelines as a game kicks off, but De Vanna was quick to confirm her coach's claims - and equally eager to shoot down the suggestion that she has become a victim of her own success as a 'supersub'.

"I actually don't think I'd be too effective starting" came her candid admission after scoring against Norway. "Up front you have Sarah Walsh, Caitlin Munoz and Kate Gill, who have done their jobs really well, worn defenders out... then I come on in the second half and try to terrorise them!"

Canada's defenders will be praying the first half never ends.