Australia beginning World Cup preparations

Decision time for Australia Head Coach Tom Sermanni

By Ann Odong

With the FIFA Women’s World Cup just over eight weeks away, Australia has recently stepped up its preparations for the tournament. With friendlies announced against Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand, traditional sporting rivals England and Mexico, the Australian’s are setting themselves to better their 2007 quarterfinal appearance.

With the Westfield W-League over, 34 Matildas hopefuls have spent the last two months in four selection camps at the Australian Institute of Sport.  With 21 World Cup spots on the line, the camps have been more than competitive, making the jobs of Head Coach Tom Sermanni and Assistant Coach Spencer Prior that much harder.

“The work rate and intensity in the sessions has been incredible, and all 34 players have put a strong case forward for selection,” Sermanni said. “It’s a difficult task because no one has really played themselves out of contention, and it’s the hardest task I have ever had in terms of selection and numbers. The margins between 8–10 players are so small.”

The first cut has seen the squad cut down to 26 players, and this group will taking on FIFA’s 24th ranked New Zealand in a two-match series on May 12 and 15 at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford.

Midfielder Tameka Butt (yellow vest) harrased by striker Caitlin Munoz

“These matches will provide the ideal opportunity to assess where we’re at against a quality opposition and give the coaching staff more to think about before we have to select our 21-player list to send to FIFA,” continued Sermanni. “We’ve got a very dynamic and youthful squad, so competition has been fierce, and I’m certain these games will be fantastic as both squads (Australia and New Zealand) prepare for the World Cup.”

Striker Michelle Heyman looking to press her case

Once in Germany, preparations will step up again with closed door matches against 10th ranked England and 22nd ranked Mexico, both sides who have defeated the No.1 ranked USA in the last six months.