Pacific conditions are test Junior Matildas need, says Assistant Coach Popovich

The Westfield Junior Matildas’ Pacific tour is proving to be the ideal preparation for the 2019 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship, according to Assistant Coach Njegosh Popovich.

Head coach Rae Dower’s side will compete against the cream of the Asian continent in September, where they will need to endure high humidity in Thailand’s Chonburi Province.

Having island-hopped from Tonga to Vanuata on Friday as the first Australian national team to visit the Pacific in 14 years, the girls are familiarising themselves with similar conditions they will face when they play the hosts, Japan and Bangladesh in Group A.

The two finalists from the AFC U-16 Women’s Championship qualify for the 2020 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in India, so Popovich believes the experience on the Pacific Step-Up Tour could be invaluable.

“I think it’s really good preparation for our girls going into the Thailand tournament because the qualifiers will be very similar,” Popovich told matildas.com.au in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

“We’ll have to deal with [the humidity] there and I think it’s important for the girls to have the opportunity to experience it.”

Following a strong performance in the 6-0 win against Tonga’s Under-19s on Thursday, Popovich is expecting the team to maintain their high standards when Australia face Vanuatu Under-19s on Monday.

“They are a little bit of an unknown quantity,” he added. 

“I think that [Vanuatu] won’t be as physical as the Tongans but maybe a little bit more technical. I’m sure that our girls with have the power in the end.”

Upcoming matches

Vanuatu U-19 Women’s National Team v Westfield Junior Matildas
Date: Monday, 12 August 2019
Kick-Off: 3pm local time, 2pm AEST
Venue: Korman Stadium, Port Vila, Vanuatu


Solomon Islands U-19 Women’s National Team v Westfield Junior Matildas
Date: Thursday, 15 August 2019
Kick-Off: 4:00pm (local); 5:00pm (AEST)
Venue: Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara, Solomon Islands