Cup of Nations to prompt hard decisions for Stajcic as key players return
Next year’s Cup of Nations looms as a fantastic chance for Australia’s widening pool of players to press their claim for FIFA Women’s World Cup selection, according to Alen Stajcic.
Australia will host New Zealand, Korea Republic and Argentina in a six-match tournament played across three-double header match days commencing on Thursday 28 February 2019.
After a rocky 2018 in terms of injuries and tournament preparation, Stajcic and the Westfield Matildas know how important the Cup of Nations is in building momentum for France.
And with a host of key players returning to fitness and form in the Westfield W-League, the 45-year-old is relishing a full complement of talent at his disposal.
“It’s very important from a team perspective to bed down the style of play that we want to, to evolve the playing style,” he said.
“We’ve had a rocky year in 2018 in terms of injures and in terms of preparation we’ve had six to seven players out for every tournament that we’ve played.”
“We went to Algarve at the start of this year we were missing eight or nine players. We went to the Asian Cup, some of those players came back, some didn’t, some others got injured along the way.
“It’s been good in terms of building depth of the team, which is always something that is probably the biggest principle in terms of this team, ensuring that there’s competition for spots.
“At the moment, touch wood, they’re all healthy and playing in the W-League.
“Steph Catley’s returned to play, Kyah Simon's returned to play, Hayley Raso’s return to play is imminent.
“So a lot of our key players that have missed a lot of time are now getting back into playing and getting back into form.
“We’ve seen a couple of the players playing in the W-League like Sam Kerr and Emily Gielnik that we know, Caitlin Foord, Lisa De Vanna, Amy Harrison just come back after a knee reconstruction.
“To have the whole group now playing as I said, 25-30 players from a team perspective the harder that decision becomes the better off the teams going to be.”
Cup of Nations opponents New Zealand, Korea Republic and Argentina are all competing at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and will offer a great examination of Australia’s credentials.
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Furthermore, the chance to play on home soil – where the Westfield Matildas have pulled incredible crowds against the likes of Brazil, China and Chile in recent times – represents an ideal springboard for Australia’s FIFA Women’s World Cup conquests.
“The different styles of play is important and staying at home is important from a prep point of view and then from a fan engagement point of view nothing beats the momentum that we’ve developed over the last couple of years,” Stajcic continued.
“We’ve had nearly 100,00 people walk through the gates to watch our team now.
“So if we can add another 50,000 fans who can come and watch this team in three matches, it’s just further going to cement our team as one of the teams of the country that’s really representing us in all the different forms we’ve come to appreciate.”