Determined Catley looking to Tokyo 2020
Nice: Steph Catley has turned her attention to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, after experiencing a devastating early exit at the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 on Saturday.
The Matildas rode their luck for much of the tournament in France, but it ran out in dramatic fashion against Norway, as Ante Milicic’s side fell to a 4-1 penalty shootout defeat following a gruelling 1-1 draw.
Both sides had their share of scoring opportunities at Stade de Nice, but Australia’s failure to take any of several early chances, including a narrow Sam Kerr miss within the opening minute, ultimately proved costly.
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Catley believes in Australia’s quality as a team, but their failure to capitalise on moments of dominance remains an area requiring improvement ahead of their Olympic campaign.
“In the first 10 minutes, I thought ‘we’re good’,” said Catley, the only one of three Australian penalty takers to find the net in the shootout.
“We created a lot of opportunities and I honestly thought if we finished some of those - (it would have been a) different story today.
“That’s been the case for us this tournament. We’ve missed opportunities to put games away, so I think we need to work on that. We have the Olympics coming up, so that’s the next major tournament we need to focus on.”
The Reign FC mainstay was forced to play in a central defensive role, instead of her preferred position of left-back, for much of the tournament in order to cover for injuries to Clare Polkinghorne and Laura Alleway.
Catley herself bravely played on despite breaking her hand against Jamaica in the group stage, and the ongoing football version of musical chairs required to cover those injuries did few favours to a side working with limited preparation time under head coach Milicic.
A more stable starting line-up and more time on the path set by the former Socceroo are required ahead of the Olympics, according to Catley.
“As much time as possible that we have together going into a major tournament, always helps,” she said.
“Playing the same way and understanding each other and our system, It’s always a positive. We’re definitely going to be together as much as we can, and play as many games as we can and hopefully be ready for that tournament.”
While the Matildas will be eager to perform in Tokyo, they first must navigate what looms as a tricky final stage of the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which they will enter when third round begins in early 2020,
Catley admits it will take time to get over their World Cup exit but remains hopeful that glory on the world stage is still within Australia’s grasp.
“This team had high expectations and goals coming into this tournament,” she said. “To go out this way, it was pretty rough, and I haven’t really wrapped my head around it. It doesn’t really feel like we’re out.”
“It’s something that we have to figure out as players and regroup as a team. It’s just a lot of feeling and a lot of disappointment right now.
“(But) it’s a very strong group and as you can see in the way that we play, we never doubt what we can do or think that we can win, so taking that, being more clinical and doing all the little things right, we’re going to be fine.”
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