'We came here to test ourselves against the best': Stajcic reflects on France defeat
Westfield Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic was impressed with his side’s resilience during Australia’s 2-0 defeat to France on Saturday morning (AEST).
Eugenie Le Sommer’s second half brace killed off a spirited performance from the Westfield Matildas, who fielded an exciting line-up of youth and experience against the world superpower in Saint-Etienne.
And although Australia never quite got going on the day, the Westfield Matildas boss says the defeat will prove a valuable learning experience ahead of next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.
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“[It was] certainly not the best result but we came here with an objective to test ourselves against two of the best countries in the world in France and England, and to see the levels that we need to ensure that we get to for the World Cup next year,” Stajcic told www.matildas.com.au.
“For us it was a great learning experience. It wasn’t our best performance but considering where some of the players have come from in terms of their rehab and pre-seasons or post-seasons, and a little bit of injury and illness combined with that, it was a resilient performance.
“We know we have got a lot more quality within ourselves to play at a high level and we know that we need to play at a high level to compete with some of these top countries in the world. It is in times like this that you get to learn and reflect the most about yourself and as a group and we have a lot of learnings that we take out of this match.”
With several experienced heads rested for the Westfield Matildas’ European tour, Australia’s depth of options and young talent was on full display during the narrow defeat to Les Bleus.
Despite failing to trouble France from an attacking standpoint, Australia’s last-ditch and recovery defending was stellar on the day and Stajcic was eager to praise several members of the Westfield Matildas rear-guard.
“I thought there were a number of players who stood up – Steph Catley, who is carrying a knee injury and having surgery next week, was exceptional at the back and really held the team together," he continued.
"I thought ‘Polks’ (Clare Polkinghorne), who hadn’t played in five weeks after recovering from a joint injury, really stood up at the back and was strong, and I thought ‘Macca’, Mackenzie (Arnold) in goals did quite a number of saves as well.
“On the flip side, Lisa De Vanna, who hasn’t really been in a professional training environment for a while now, showed that she still had it to play for 70 minutes and cause the France back four some problems at different times.
"Seeing Caitlin Foord back in our team after being out for six months as well is a positive. When you wrap all those things together it certainly was a resilient performance from our team but one where we probably lacked quality and in a brutal kind of way the score line probably flattered us.”