It’s a big six weeks ahead for the Westfield Matildas and it all starts in the early hours of Saturday morning (AEST) with a mouth-watering clash against France.
Like Australia, Les Bleus are one of the strongest nations in women’s football, ensuring what will be a titanic battle in Saint-Etienne.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of the Westfield Matildas’ clash against France.
WHERE AND WHEN
Date: Friday, 5 October 2018 (local time)
Venue: Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne, France
Kick-off: 9pm (local); 5am – Saturday, 6 October 2018 (AEST)
It’s been four years since the Westfield Matildas last did battle with France and if that match is anything to go by this should be a cracker.
On that occasion, the French raced out to a 3-0 lead by half-time in the friendly encounter in Cyprus.
But a spirited Westfield Matildas stormed back after the break, with Sam Kerr and an Emily van Egmond penalty getting the Aussies back into the contest just after the hour mark.
Unfortunately, there was to be no equaliser for the Westfield Matildas, who went down 3-2.
The two nations also met the previous year in July of 2013, with goals to Tameka Butt and Katrina Gorry enough to hand Australia a 2-0 win in France.
France’s form in 2018 has been superb, with Corinne Diacre’s side unbeaten in their last five internationals.
That run has included a 1-1 draw against the USA, as well as strong wins against Germany (3-0), Nigeria (8-0) and Mexico (4-0).
But the Westfield Matildas have also been in a rich vein of form this year.
While they were beaten in the final of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, Stajcic’s side went unbeaten at the Tournament of Nations, drawing with the USA and beating both Japan and Brazil.
AUSTRALIAN SQUAD NEWS
With one eye on next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, Stajcic has opted to rest a number of his established stars and give some fresh faces a chance in this window.
Striker Sam Kerr, defender Alanna Kennedy, goalkeeper Lydia Williams and midfielders Katrina Gorry and Emily van Egmond were left out of the 18-player squad.
It means a chance for the likes of 18-year-old Western Sydney Wanderers goalkeeper Jada Mathyssen-Whyman, who could make her senior international debut.
Princess Ibini (three caps), Amy Sayer (one cap) and Mary Fowler (one cap) are amongst some of the emerging players who could get some valuable game time.
But there’s still plenty of star power at Stajcic’s disposal, including Lisa De Vanna, who is set to earn her 141st international cap, Clare Polkinghorne, Elise Kellond-Knight and Caitlin Foord.
CURRENT WORLD RANKINGS
A great opportunity awaits the Westfield Matildas on Saturday morning (AEST) in the same country where they hope to be crowned world champions next year.
While the result in this clash won’t have a huge bearing on what will unfold in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, a win would give the Aussies a nice psychological boost heading into the tournament.
But France are ranked number four in the world for a reason.
In players like Lyon’s Amandine Henry and striker Eugenie Le Sommer, they possess some world-class talent.
Le Sommer could be the player the Westfield Matildas will need to shut down, with the attacker scoring in her last five internationals in a row.
But the Westfield Matildas have some firepower of their own and are sure to continue their full-flowing, attacking game.
This has all the ingredients to be a thriller and could just well be a dress rehearsal for a far greater prize in 2019.