Blayney looking forward to tournament start
Qantas Matildas midfielder Leah Blayney just can’t wait for this Sunday, even though she expects to be sitting around for most of it.
Qantas Matildas midfielder Leah Blayney just can-t wait for this Sunday, even though she expects to be sitting around for most of it.
However for US-based Blayney, a bolter in the Qantas Matildas squad for the AFC Women-s Championships starting this weekend in Adelaide, she won-t be too disappointed, knowing that she has a tough job to oust those players in the starting eleven.
Blayney-s call up at the expense of experienced Lana Harch was the only major surprise in the 20-women squad that plays its first game against the dangerous Korea Republic on Sunday at Hindmarsh Stadium, kicking off at 2.30pm.
“Four weeks ago, I would have said Leah was not in the picture,” said Qantas Matildas coach Tom Sermanni. “So yes, her inclusion in the squad has come late in the piece.”
“Last year Leah was a regular member of the Matildas squad, but going to the US took her out of the picture a little bit.”
However following the AFC Under 20 Women-s Championships in Malaysia, where Blayney was a key member of the side, the former Blue Mountains girl, has impressed at several camps involving the Qantas Young Matildas.
“Leah-s form was very, very good at several Qantas Young Matildas camps we have had recently and continued to improve at each one. She didn-t figure in the series against Mexico and China, but her form was such that we decided to include her ahead of Lana, who we felt had lost a bit of confidence and form over the last few months.”
Blayney is grateful for the chance to get back into the Qantas Matildas squad, having not played for the national team since October 2005 when they played Mexico in the US.
Asked if she thought she would be a chance of starting against Korea Republic on Sunday, while remaining hopeful, she knows she is behind the other girls and will have to force her way into the side with good performances if she gets the chance.
“I would say I wouldn-t start at the moment,” Blayney said from Adelaide. “It will all depend on how well I do in training, to see if I get a start or not. Hopefully if I do get on, I can play well.”
With Australia to play four qualifying games in eight days, Sermanni is sure to play the majority of his squad at some stage in the tournament and Blayney-s versatility could help her get that chance.
“Another reason for Leah-s inclusion was her versatility,” said Sermanni. “She can play right across the midfield and can even play up front. Those are the type of players I want in the squad and those attributes in modern day footballers are invaluable.
As for Leah, she will be looking to make every post a winner if she does get the chance.
“I-ve just got to try and put in a few good performances. It-s tough competition; it-s a great squad, the depth within the squad is awesome.”
“Coming back for the last few Young Matildas camps down in Canberra, I felt like I was in pretty good form. I-ve been working hard, so hopefully if all goes well, I-ll be able to keep it going here in Adelaide.”
As one of five Qantas Young Matildas members in the full squad, Blayney has already experienced a major AFC tournament and believes this will be bigger, especially in front of home fans.
“Yes, most definitely,” she said if this was the biggest tournament she had played in to date. “I have been away in the US for the last year and this is my first time back with the Matildas team and to come back for the World Cup qualifiers is very exciting time.
“I was away with the Youth team in Malaysia for their Asian Championships and that was a sensational feeling, especially that first game (against China). Qualifying (for the World Championships) and defeating Japan was just awesome and hopefully I can relive all that this week.”
“Everyone is really excited within the team and we-re all relaxed and looking forward to our first game on Sunday.
“It-s really good down here in Adelaide, with lots of posters around advertising the tournament, there has been a fair bit of media at our training sessions and things like that, so its really, really good. It will be great to step out in front of big home crowd.”
Blayney has put her US university studies and football career on hold in order to concentrate on her national team commitments with the Qantas Matildas and Young Matildas over the next few months.
Even if she only plays a bit part role in this tournament, she has no doubt the experience will be invaluable come the FIFA Women-s Youth Championships in Russia next month.
“I think its just awesome being amongst the senior players, like the Di Alagich-s and Jo Peter-s, who have been numerous World Cup-s,” Blayney said. “Seeing how they carry themselves at these Championships, hopefully will brush off on some of us girls and we will take back into the youth team.
So what are the girls expectations for the tournament ahead?
“We are confident that we can win,” Blayney said emphatically. “I think the success of the Socceroos at the World Cup was really a confidence booster for everybody and if you use the Socceroos as an example then anything is possible.”