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All You Need To Know: Australia


Kuala Lumpur: The Matildas are among the top seeds for the first time at a FIFA Women’s World Cup and, despite an untimely dip in results, they believe they are capable of becoming world champions in France.

Ahead of the tournament’s kick-off on Friday, the-AFC.com examines the Continent’s five France 2019 hopefuls, starting with Australia.

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The facts
World Ranking: 6
FIFA Women’s World Cup appearances: 7 (1995-2019)
Best result: Quarter-finals (2007, 2011, 2015)
Canada 2015: Quarter-finals (lost 1-0 to Japan)
Group stage opponents: Italy, Brazil, Jamaica (Group C)

 

All You Need To Know - Australia

Road to France

Then under the tutelage of Alen Stajcic, Australia qualified for the Finals with a runners-up finish at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018; losing the tournament decider to a single late goal from Japan’s Kumi Yokoyama last April.

While Australia reached a third consecutive Continental final in Amman, they never quite produced their best football in West Asia, winning just one of their five matches in normal time – an 8-0 win over bottom-placed Vietnam – and needing penalties to get past Thailand in semi-final, having beaten them 5-0 just five weeks earlier.

Head coach: Ante Milicic

Stajcic took Australia to quarter-final appearances at the 2015 Women’s World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics, but his five-year tenure came to an end in January, with former international striker and more recent Australian men’s U-19 head coach and senior national team assistant Ante Milicic appointed as his replacement.

Pre-tournament form

Milicic’s tenure began successfully with three commanding wins as Australia won the Cup of Nations tournament on home soil, but away defeats to the United States (5-3) and the Netherlands (3-0) mean the Matildas have suffered back to back losses for the first time since 2016.

Key player: Sam Kerr

Even in a squad considered to be up there with the best to ever wear the Australian shirt, Kerr stands out as the Matildas’ key figure, and the player carrying the heaviest weight of expectation onto the world’s biggest stage.

Now a major international star, Kerr has won just about every individual award on offer at club, national and continental level – including AFC Women’s Player of the Year in 2017 – and holds a range of scoring records in both Australia’s W-League and the US National Women’s Soccer League.

A total of 23 international goals in the last 22 months, and dozens more at club level, underline the quality and consistency of a 25-year-old who appears perfectly poised to leave her mark on the competition.

Young gun: Ellie Carpenter

A 19-year-old with 32 caps and three years of international experience under her belt, full-back Carpenter is already an important member of Australia’s first-choice line-up and will be expected to start in their tournament opener against Italy.

Still going strong: Lisa De Vanna

De Vanna has been part of the national team setup since 2004, netting 47 times in 148 appearances to become Australia’s all-time leading scorer, with a thunderous recent strike against the world number one Americans showing she can still be effective against any opponent.

Key match: v Brazil

A strong start against the Italians is crucial - and a first-up success would give the Matildas their first winning start to a major tournament since the 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup – but its Australia’s second match, against Brazil, which may hold the key.

Three points against the South Americans could put Australia well on the road towards winning Group C, which would pit them against a third-placed team in the Round of 16.

The final word

Blessed with a squad packed full of talent and experience, Australia come into the tournament with the pedigree and belief to register their best ever performance on the world stage.

Back-to-back losses to the United States and the Netherlands may have tempered expectations externally, but the Matildas have shown they are capable of beating any team in world football; something that makes for endless possibilities in France.

Photos: AFP

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