Matildas coach Ante Milicic has named the 23-player squad that he’ll take to the USA for a friendly next month.
Women’s football in Australia continues to take huge strides forward as the Matildas position themselves as not only participants but contenders at next year’s FIFA World Cup, in France.
The recently completed Tournament of Nations in the USA saw the Matildas finish runners-up to the host nation, due only to goal difference.
Alen Stajcic’s team were undefeated throughout the tournament and would have beat the No.1 ranked USA if not for a last-minute equaliser.
Football within Australia is facing many questions in regards to administration and cost of playing but Stajcic’s team continue to defy the odds, especially when compared to their male counterparts. The Socceroos’ struggle for a clear identity is in contrast to the Matildas’ enterprising and attacking values, which have seen them gain admirers within the congested Australian sporting landscape.
The exuberance of youth has helped, as highlighted by the debut of 15-year-old Mary Fowler during the Tournament of Nations, while 18-year-old Ellie Carpenter again highlighted the development of players under Stajcic’s tutelage with her outstanding displays in defence, in place of Steph Catley, who was absent for personal reasons.
In fact, the Matildas only fielded three outfield players born in the 1980s in their game against Japan.
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This positive development was non-existent in the men’s World Cup only a few weeks ago, as the Socceroos failed to break out of their short-sighted defensive mentality. Daniel Arzani was the only bright spark, as he attempted to inspire a one-dimensional playing style by playing with uninhibited confidence.
The continued push by the Matildas to be part of our mainstream sporting dialogue has also been aided by the success of Samantha Kerr, who is now one of the nation’s most recognisable sporting personalities, and recently picked up the ESPY as the best international eomen’s football player.
Stajcic has also reiterated the need for football to tap into the talent pool of remote Indigenous communities. The Tournament of Nations squad included Kyah Simon and Lydia Williams, who both proudly acknowledge their Indigenous roots.
Stajcic believes the inclusion of Indigenous talent has been overlooked, telling the ABC, “I look at sports like NRL and AFL and see how many Aboriginal players are in there, and they’re not just making up the numbers – they’re generally the best players in the team.”
This lack of pro-activeness was highlighted in the men’s squad for the World Cup, which did not include a single player who identified as Indigenous.
The USA is the only country where the women’s team passes the men’s team in regards to popularity. This trend though may very well find its way to Australia, especially with the women’s World Cup on the horizon, where the Matildas find themselves in a position to create history.