Youngster Fowler named in Matildas squad
Sydney: Mary Fowler's stunning rise to prominence will take her to the biggest event in the women's game, after Australia head coach Ante Milicic named the 16-year-old prodigy in his final squad for the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019.
The striker's inclusion - which is set to make her Australia's youngest World Cup player - is among the biggest talking points in an otherwise richly-experienced 23-strong squad, which features 15 players to have previously appeared in the tournament and 12 with over 50 international caps.
The teenager's selection comes after four previous appearances for the Matildas - including a substitute appearance in their most recent outing against the United States - as well as seven goals in three matches in last month's 2019 AFC U-19 Women's Championship Qualifiers.
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Milicic said that, despite her young age, Fowler will be expected to make a contribution to Australia's cause in France.
"I think, when we go to such a major tournament, we have to have one eye on the future, but first and foremost, for her age, she's a very good footballer, and we always revert back to the footballing quality," the former Socceroo said.
"I was quite pleased with the way she was with the group in the (United) States most recently. She's a different type of player to Sam (Kerr), and I just think in our environment, with the players she has around her, she's going to learn a lot.
"It's going to be a great learning experience for her, but she's definitely going to add and contribute to the group."
While Fowler, and uncapped goalkeeper Teagan Micah, are relatively new additions to the Matildas camp, the squad is adorned with the familiar international stars that have helped Australia surge to sixth in the FIFA Women's Rankings.
Star striker Kerr will captain the side, with Steph Catley serving as vice-captain, while former AFC Women's Player of the Year winners Caitlin Foord and Katrina Gorry have also been selected, as has all-time top scorer Lisa De Vanna, who will play in her fourth World Cup.
The most notable absentee from the 23-name list is Kyah Simon - scorer of five goals at the last two World Cups - although she will travel to the team's pre-tournament camp in Turkey as one of two standby players alongside youngster Kyra Cooney-Cross.
Milicic said a lack of recent game time was the main reason for the injury-hit Simon's omission.
"Kyah's a fantastic footballer, make no mistake about that, and she's got a lot of experience," he said.
"However, when I've been following her match minutes and her football that she's played both in club and in international football particularly in the last 18 months, it has dropped off a bit.
"I just felt, at this stage it was too much of a risk to bring her in the 23, but I think at the same time she deserves to come into camp and be around the group."
Australia will face European champions the Netherlands in their final pre-tournament friendly, before beginning their FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 campaign against Italy in Valenciennes on June 9.
Goalkeepers: Lydia WILLIAMS, Teagan MICAH, Mackenzie ARNOLD
Defenders: Gema SIMON, Clare POLKINGHORNE, Laura ALLEWAY, Stephane CATLEY, Alanna KENNEDY, Ellie CARPENTER, Teigen ALLEN
Midfielders: Aivi LUIK, Chloe LOGARZO, Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, Emily VAN EGMOND, Katrina GORRY, Amy HARRISON, Tameka YALLOP
Forwards: Sam KERR, Catilin FOORD, Lisa DE VANNA, Emily GIELNIK, Hayley RASO, Mary FOWLER
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