Sermanni happy after sweep
footballaustralia.com.au catches up with Matildas coach Tom Sermanni.
The Matildas recently completed a clean sweep of their three-game series against New Zealand, a somewhat bitter-sweet moment for coach Tom Sermanni.
Having guided the under-strength Matildas to a 2-0, 2-1 and 4-2 win on the Sunshine Coast, Sermanni though cannot help but feel some envy for his New Zealand counterpart, who a few days later guided his team to a place at the 2008 Olympic Games after they won their one-off Oceania qualifying game against Papua New Guinea.
Having shown the world of its improvement on the international stage at the 2007 FIFA Women-s World Cup in China, Sermanni laments the fact Australia won-t be at the Olympics after losing out to World No.5 ranked North Korea in the qualifiers.
“There is a feeling at times, wishing we were back in Oceania,” Sermanni told www.footballaustralia.com.au. “When you see New Zealand having the luxury of going to play one game against Papua New Guinea to qualify, while we had to play nine games in total, you do get a bit envious. We had to play six of them home and away last year and we ultimately had to play North Korea, who knocked us out of an Olympics berth.
“So yes, there are those moments where we wish we could revert back to the past, but I think overall the Asian experience has helped our game, helped our players and helped build the confidence and strength of football here, so I can-t really complain.”
With the three-game series being used as preparation for the upcoming Asian Women-s Cup in May, Sermanni was able to get a lot from the matches, particularly when he was missing quite a few Matildas regulars.
“Overall I-m very satisfied with the games. The fact that we won the three games again is always difficult, particularly when you are playing the same team.
“Also given the circumstances; New Zealand were geared up to play their Olympic qualifier against Papua New Guinea, so they were very well prepared for this series. We had barely got together since the World Cup, so we were very much underdone and we had 11 players from the 21 World Cup squad not available for these games, so we were very much a depleted and under-strength squad.”
One of the biggest bonuses to come from the series was the blooding of several Young Matildas into the senior squad, with each performing well and putting their hand up for future representative honours and possibly a place at the Asian Women-s Cup.
“Very much so,” when asked if the younger players impressed him. “We brought in 5-6 players aged between 16 and 19 and most of them had only played 1 game for the Matildas in the past and some who hadn-t played at all.
“They slotted in; had a reasonable amount of game time in all three games and I think at one stage there was five of them on the field at one time for a considerable length of time. So I think its shows the strength we-ve got within our ranks and it shows we-ve got some very talented young players coming through.”
However while he was impressed with his younger players, Sermanni hopes the preparations for May will improve from here on, especially from a defensive point of view.
“Apart from Cheryl Salisbury and Clare Polkinghorne, every other recognised defender was not available for this series, so it meant we were going in very under-prepared. We also picked up some injuries and so I had to play several players in defence and they did superbly.
“In saying that, I think we are confident now, we-ve got a good group of players and players coming through that we feel we can blood into the national team and still be competitive.”
While he envisages some changes to the Asian Cup squad that played at the World Cup, Sermanni has no doubts the performances of the team last year in China, has lifted the confidence of everybody within the Matildas group and they will be ready.
“I think the World Cup helped us take another stepping stone towards that feeling of confidence and belief that we can actually compete against the best teams in the world,” he said confidently. “There is a philosophy within our team now that no matter who we go out to play against that we can actually win the game and we hope to win the game.”
The Matildas are due to play two matches against the US in April and May to complete there preparations.