Westfield Matildas: Algarve Cup preview

Westfield Matildas boss Alen Stajcic with Co-Captain Lisa De Vanna.
When Sam Mac met the Westfield Matildas Play Video
It’s been a while but the Matildas are back in action, this time in Portugal at the Algarve Cup 2017 kicking off on Thursday March 2 (AEDT), and you can see Australia’s games live on Fox Sports.

Coach Alen Stajcic sees the tournament as important for a few reasons and is convinced Sweden, China and Holland will be excellent opponents when they meet in Australia’s group.

Fox Sports to show Algarve Cup

“The main objectives are firstly to win the tournament,” he told www.footballaustralia.com.au

“The second one would be if we can find another two or three players who can step up to this level and show that they can not only compete at this level but dominate at this level.

“And then if the team can continue to evolve and mature and become more consistent. So there’s probably three main objectives for us going into this tournament."

“It’s always about results but it’s about balance as well and trying to develop the squad and develop the depth within the squad," he added. 

“We want to give a lot more players experience and caps and seeing how they perform at that level and seeing what we can learn about our team and those individuals and how we can get better moving forward to the major tournaments like the Asian Cup, World Cup and Olympics.

“We’re on the cusp of being a top-six nation at the moment and the top six countries get seeded for a World Cup. For me that blends into the notion that it’s a balancing act of results versus development.”

The squad that Stajcic has picked should see new faces enjoy game, with the likes of Alex Chidiac, Ellie Carpenter, Emma Checker and Amy Harrison joining a core of experienced Matildas who’ve played at Olympics and World Cups over the last couple of years.

Westfield Matildas squad announced for Algarve Cup

Chidiac in particular is one who’ll excite fans.

 “She’s [Chidiac] had a really good backend of the season. Adelaide had a good team but the time she came in they were pretty much one of the best teams in the comp over the last half of the season. That’s what kind of an impact she had on the team.

“Just seeing her play 90 minutes week in, week out was a tremendous boost to her.

“She’s a great technician, she knows the game, is extremely competitive and feisty and she’s come into this camp at a really good level.

“She’s pushing for a starting spot in the team in a competitive midfield with people like [Katrina] Gorry, [Emily] van Egmond and [Elise] Kellond-Knight.

 “No doubt she’ll get a lot of game time," he predicted. 

Australia face Sweden in the opener, followed by Netherlands and China PR.

“They are all very good teams. We’re lucky that even in a tournament like this we’ve managed to draw the group of death.

“We’ve got pretty much three of the best teams at the tournament. 

“Sweden are Olympic silver medallist, have been up at the top of women’s football for 15 or 20 years now.

“They are a fantastic team, have great team discipline, team spirit, their knowledge of the game is top shelf, technically good, an experienced coach that has been around the game for a long time.

“I think we’ve only beaten them once in our history.

“We played them at the World Cup last year, it was a 1-1 draw and it was a game they needed to win and I don’t think they ever really looked like winning that game. We know we can compete and beat those teams but we certainly have to be at our best to beat a top-level nation like them.

“Holland are an improving team. They are hosting Euros this year. I expect them and Norway to be two of the most improved teams over the next few years, just with the kids they have coming through. 

“We’ve played China three times in the last two years in a couple of non A-internationals and one A-international and they have all been 1-1 draws.

“Three 1-1 draws against China, a 1-1 draw against Sweden and the last time we played Holland a year and a half ago it was 1-0.

“So you can see the games are going to be tough and tight and competitive and a great learning environment for our team.”