The Matildas’ unexpected loss to Italy in the opening game of their World Cup campaign is history repeating itself.
In Canada 2015, they lost their opening match 3-1 to the USA but still proceeded to make the knockout phase, following a win against the Nigerians and a 1-1 draw against the more highly fancied Swedes.
The missed points in the opening game are unfortunately where the similarities will end.
The Aussies are a lame horse and won’t make it out of their group.
I do not take pleasure in saying this, but when all is said and done, my prophecy will be akin to saying the weather will be hot this summer.
Frankly, the Matildas and Ante Milicic have been on a hiding to nothing. The players themselves are immune to any liability. Following their coach being sacked coach five months before the tournament, the new boss has implemented a high defensive line and style of play, naively introduced with such a limited amount of time to adapt.
Mike Tuckerman’s excellent article delves into the dysfunctional decisions from the governing body and effects on the pitch, which sabotaged any aspirations for victory at an international tournament.
He is not wrong but doesn’t go so far as yours truly. Fixing the defensive issues within a relatively new structure in a tournament is unlikely.
Milicic should not be crucified for this, he is as much a victim of circumstance as the players. Milicic’s limited CV as a head coach means he should not have been put in this position.
Just as Graham Arnold learnt from his premature first tenure as Socceroos boss, Milicic will come out a better coach from this venture.
However, the fallout from France 2019 was already underway the day Alen Stajcic was sacked. I can only imagine what the playing group and Milicic are saying after what’s happened the last couple of weeks.
Firstly, the FFA issued a formal apology for the handling of the sacking, as did board member Heather Reid.
The apologies and Stajcic’s vindication came out on May 30, just days before Australia’s 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands in a warm-up match.
Furthermore, news that Reid herself is in France, on a self-funded trip at the invitation of FIFA, must be a bitter pill to swallow for a camp who have done so much to leave recent history behind.
It’s pure speculation of what the mood is in the dressing room, but after a disheartening loss on the back of what has transpired, players would be forgiven for any acrimonious thoughts.
Milicic should also be forgiven for not having the capacity to handle such an unprecedented situation.
With the campaign in serious trouble, likely the result of historical off-field issues, it should come as no surprise the Matildas will bow out at the group stage.
A Ronaldo-esque performance from Sam Kerr, of which she is more than capable, is our only hope.