The Westfield Matildas have always loved a challenge. And we certainly have one for next year’s Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Staj and the Aussie contingent at the Official Draw in Ottawa couldn’t have expected a tougher pool after being drawn against world No1 USA, long-time European heavyweights Sweden and Africa’s perennial champs Nigeria.
But Aussies, especially in football, have grown up with being underdogs. In my experience with the Matildas we thrive in adversity. It is almost like we don’t know how to handle it if we are favourites.
My first reaction to the draw was probably like most people, ‘oh no’, or words to the effect. We shouldn’t be surprised really, as our groups have always been tough.
But now that I have had time to think, I actually think such a physically testing group – one where we are seen by many as outsiders - could work in our favour and be the silver lining. Doubly so given we have such younger group.
It probably goes without saying that the US will be our toughest game. They are No1 for a reason. And we have also never beaten them, despite coming close on several occasions. They have an amazing level of experience and have the players that know how to play on the big stage. Getting a point from them would leave us with an advantage over the others in the group. One things is for certain. We can definitely beat them on our day.
Sweden is a fascinating one. They beat us 3-1 in Germany in the quarter-finals in our very last World Cup game. But I think that this is a big banana skin for them. In some ways it is more of a risky game for them than us. A lot of people would think we are underdogs, I don’t necessarily think that is the case. They outplayed us in 2011 on that particular day, but they were an older team. Sweden are a mature team, whereas ours is much younger, yet relatively experienced. I’m not overly concerned about Sweden.
Nigeria is a tricky match for us. Most of our players haven’t played against an African team before. It will be physical and African teams can be both unpredictable and unstructured which presents its own challenges.
If we go through, we will have certainly have earned it.
But with six months of solid preparation we can achieve something special. We will never have enjoyed such a long and solid preparation, one that will also include many matches. We have such an exciting attacking team, with so much x-factor. If we can avoid injury to key players and if all goes smoothly, there is no reason why we can’t beat any of our three opponents.
Bring on Canada 2015, I can’t wait.
**The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not reflect those of Football Federation Australia**