With only a matter of days until the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off, we've dusted off our Matildas jerseys and begun making bold claims about our prospects of taking home the trophy (biased, much).
Our girls got knocked out of the quarters back in 2015, but in the years since they've climbed up the world rankings to hold the number six spot. With an impressive mix of young talent and experienced players, many are tipping them to make it all the way.
We spoke to some people in the know – legendary SBS sports reporter, Tracey Holmes, and former player and SBS Chief Football Analyst, Craig Foster – to see if these predictions will come to fruition and find out who our major competition will be.
What do you think of Australia’s prospects in Group C?
Tracey: Australia should top the group. The biggest challenge in the group will come from Brazil, ranked 10th in the world and keen to lift the World Cup trophy having previously finished as runners up and in third place.
Craig: Brazil, at number 10 are sliding but always a threat where our best performance is a necessity, but Italy are a concern as they’re using quickly and possess an element of uncertainty for Australia. This first match is critical.
In the entire competition, which teams are favourites to make it to the final and to win?
Tracey: The biggest competition comes from the USA, defending champs and ranked number 1 in the world... they know how to win on the big stage having won three of the seven Women’s World Cups. In my final I have pencilled in Australia versus the USA. No prizes for guessing which team I pick as the winner.
Craig: USA are clear favourites and Australia saw their power in our recent friendly loss. I’m hoping this match proves portentous as we play them in a glorious Final win.
Which Aussie players are ones to watch in the tournament?
Tracey: All of them! Under the leadership of Sam Kerr you have debutants like 16-year-old Mary Fowler through to veterans like Lydia Williams, Lisa de Vanna and Clare Polkinghorne playing in their 4th World Cup tournament.
Craig: Our goalkeeper, Lydia Williams does not receive due recognition, she may well be the world’s best and I hope she proves this to the world come June/July. Caitlin Foord has exploded in form recently for club and country, which is timely, I feel sure that Allana Kennedy will smash a few free kicks over the wall and of course we have Super Sam, she’s a phenomenon and we hope to see her press her case for the Ballon d’Or in 2019.
How will the Matildas’ coaching changes affect our performance?
Tracey: New coach Ante Milicic came in quickly, announced the new captain in Sam Kerr, and pushed a re-set button allowing the team to focus on the job at hand. Good leadership shows how to turn a critical incident into a positive catalyst.
Craig: We cannot know what Ante Milicic will deliver until France. A camp in Turkey and subsequent match against the Netherlands are important indicators. So far, so good and we are hopeful that Ante will manage his first tournament well, having seen two male World Cups from pitch side as assistant.
What do you think will be the most interesting match up in the first round?
Tracey: The first: France v South Korea which airs on SBS on June 8th. It is the opener, it is a sellout, the atmosphere will be terrific and it means Australia’s first game against Italy is only a day and a half away!
Craig: Spain v South Africa is interesting. Spain are a dark horse, are developing quickly as a nation playing great football and I’m concerned they might perform well in France, hopefully not at our expense.
Watch the Matildas in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019™ on SBS from June 8.
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