She is about to go to her fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup and Westfield Matildas defender Clare Polkinghorne says there has been a "real step up in intensity" as Ante Milicic's side prepare to go into battle.
Head coach Milicic has put his squad through a gruelling pre-World Cup training camp in Antalya, Turkey, over the last week in readiness for their tilt at glory at the tournament in France, which begins in nine days' time.
The Westfield Matildas boss knows that having his squad in peak condition will be vital if they are to be successful at the World Cup and has been pushing the players to their limits.
For the 30-year-old Polkinghorne, with 116 caps and three previous World Cups under her belt, it has been an invaluable training camp to be part of – and one she believes will have the Green and Gold primed to perform in France.
“I think we’ve seen a real step-up in all aspects of the training, not only the intensity but how long we train for,” Polkinghorne said.
“It’s quite hot over here, so [we've been] training in the heat of the day with some added extra fitness work at the end with our strength and conditioning coach.
“We’re getting a lot of different elements. They have a great gym facility here as well which has been good to use.
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“The facilities here are top notch, we have a couple of pitches to ourselves which have the markings that we need for every session. The training [sessions] are really high quality and high intensity.
“It’s going to be important that the whole squad of 23 is contributing and will be used throughout the whole tournament. It’s going to be a real squad performance, everyone knows that and everyone is ready.”
After working hard for the last week, the players were given a day off to unwind, allowing them to check out some of the sites in Turkey, with some opting to relax at the beach or head to a nearby water park.
“I just had stitches out of my lip so I wasn’t going near the water slide,” Polkinghorne said.
“But it was really nice for the girls to mentally and physically regenerate and prepare for the next phase.
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“We went to the beach, went to the pool…just tried to unwind a little bit, and mentally and physically get ready for the next couple of weeks.”
Before their opening FIFA Women’s World Cup match against Italy on June 9, the Westfield Matildas have one final hit-out this weekend to iron-out any wrinkles.
They take on reigning European Champions the Netherlands in Eindhoven on Sunday (2.15am AEST).
“It’s important we get a good hit-out but I don’t think it will determine how well we are going to do [at the World Cup],” Polkinghorne said of the date with the Dutch.
“It’s still part of the preparation phase for that first game against Italy.
“We’ve come a long way under Ante so it’s going to be good to get another game under our belt and it’s going to be important that we continue to learn and play the way Ante wants us to.”
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