Alen Stajcic believes the Westfield Matildas are on the right path to being one of the best teams in the world as preparations ramp up ahead of their tilt at Olympic glory in Rio.
Fresh from announcing a new four-year deal on Tuesday which will see him at the helm until the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Stajcic has set some lofty goals he wants to achieve in coming years.
He has already overseen some impressive results by the Matildas in recent years, including an historic quarter-final showing at the recent World Cup as well as qualifying for Rio as Asia’s best women’s side.
But there’s more to come from this young, vibrant and driven side, according to the boss.
“When I first got the job we knew we had a good group of young players. They are not all young but the bulk of the key players in the team are within the 20-24 age group,” Stajcic told reporters in Sydney.
“Looking forward another four years in the next World Cup and Olympic cycle, they should be between 24 and 28 which is the perfect age to be a top-three nation.
“By the time we get to the next World Cup, there’s no reason why we can’t be in the top three in the world,” Stajcic added.
“When I look at America, Germany and France, who are there at the moment, I see fantastic football nations with fantastic pedigree but I don’t see them out of reach of our team.”
Stajcic revealed a 20-player squad on Tuesday for the upcoming friendlies against New Zealand in Ballarat (June 4) and Melbourne (June 7) in the team’s final two matches before heading to Rio.
Overseas-based stars Steph Catley, Elise Kellond-Knight, Kyah Simon and Emily van Egmond highlight an impressive contingent Stajcic has at his disposal for the matches against their Trans-Tasman rivals.
With just over two months until the Olympics, every session and friendly game is crucial as the players vie to make the squad for Rio, with only 18 players allowed for the tournament.
“You’ll see the competitive spirit, you’re going to see the aggression in trying to win the ball back and you’re going to see the same philosophy, just at a better cohesive level,” said the Matildas boss when asked about how his side will approach the coming matches.
“The more we play together and the more time we spend together the better we get at the game plan we’ve got.
“We’re going to take it to every team we play, whether it’s America, whether it’s Vietnam, Uruguay or Brazil, we’re going to play at the same level and the same philosophy.
“The players have embraced it, they know its effective and our job is to perfect it every match we go into.”
“There’s a new belief and a new sense of confidence in the team and that comes with the hard work we’ve done. Looking forward, when you have that level of maturity and consistency you are only going to get better and better,” he added.
Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop was delighted to announce Stajcic’s new deal, meaning both the national senior teams have Australian coaches locked into long-term contracts.
“Personally delighted to be the CEO at a time where the coaches of both the senior teams are Australian, they honed their skills in Australia,” Gallop said.
“It sets up the game for the future where Australian coaches will, more and more, be the ones that come through into these positions. It’s credit to our system that’s been in place for decades to have Ange [Postecoglou] and Alen come through is the pinnacle.
“Coach education and making sure our grassroots coach structure is sound is going to set us up so that there will be many more Anges and Alens coming through the ranks.”
The Westfield Matildas will depart for Brazil in early July and set up camp there early ahead of their opening match of the Rio Games against Canada on August 3.