‘We kept on believing’: Milicic lauds Westfield Matildas spirit after van Egmond’s late heroics
Ante Milicic hailed the never-say-die attitude of his Westfield Matildas and the influence of Emily van Egmond after their priceless 1-1 draw with China PR on Thursday night.
Australia were staring down the barrel of a 1-0 defeat when the visitors took the lead just four minutes from time through a thunderous strike from Tang Jiali.
But the Westfield Matildas managed to find another gear, with van Egmond rifling home an unstoppable shot in the third minute of stoppage-time to snatch a draw.
The result means Australia finish top of Group B in the 2020 AFC Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament and will face Vietnam home and away next month for a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.
“The girls were excellent. They kept on going, they kept on believing and I feel we deserved to top the group,” Milicic told Fox Sports after the match.
“She’s [van Egmond] been fantastic for us. Tonight as a team we were down, as individuals as well [but] Emily’s been in great form and she deserved that goal.
“You saw what she did in the first two games so I’m very pleased and delighted for her. But all the girls, to keep on trying and at home, it’s a great result for the girls.”
After the ease of the victories in the wins over Chinese Taipei [7-0] and Thailand [6-0], the Westfield Matildas were aware of the size of the task against the powerful Chinese side.
And the visitors set up to make it difficult for Australia to play their fast, free-flowing attacking style.
While China’s shape forced the Westfield Matildas into errors, Milicic is confident the team is on the right track to be at their best come Tokyo 2020.
“A lot of it is technical and it’s decision making, we have to keep being brave and play our style of football,” the Westfield Matildas boss said.
“In the end, because we are that type of team, we got rewarded with the result at the end.
“I understand it’s a different level when you start talking about [playing] America but make no mistake this [China] is a very good side we came up against.
“There’s definitely something to work on, a few mistakes defensively, more so individually, but they things we’ve discussed and we just need to keep working on it.
“More practice and more time together so we can be better prepared for these situations.”
The Westfield Matildas are now just two games away from sealing a place at Tokyo 2020 when they take on Vietnam home and away next month.
The first leg of the play-off will be held in Newcastle on Friday, March 6, with tickets going on sale to the Football Family at 11am AEDT on Friday, February 14, via www.matildas.com.au.
Tickets to the general public will go on sale at 11am on Monday, February 17.
Match Schedule – Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Play-Off
Australia v Vietnam
Date: Friday, 6 March 2020
Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle, New South Wales
Broadcast: Live on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports, ABC TV (iview & eastern states, delayed in other states & territories), and the My Football Live App
Upcoming Friendly Matches – Westfield Matildas
United States of America v Australia
Date: Friday, 10 April 2020 (local time)
Kick-off: To be confirmed
Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah, USA
Canada v Australia
Date: Tuesday, 14 April 2020 (local time)
Kick-off: 7.30pm – 12.30pm Wednesday, 15 April 2020
Venue: BC Place, Vancouver, Canada