Despite the Matildas being drawn in Group D alongside the United States, Sweden and Nigeria, Head Coach Alen Stajcic is respectful but not cowed by the challenge ahead.
“It’s pretty obvious that it’s the toughest group in the World Cup but there is never going to be an easy game at the World Cup,” said Stajcic exclusively to The Women’s Game.
“The focus and the motivation will be highly intrinsic and I am sure the players are excited at the prospect of competing against America at a World Cup. It is all there for us to do.”
For Stajcic the Women’s World Cup draw was his first official duty as full time head coach after being appointed in September 2014 following an interim period during the May World Cup qualifiers.
While an easier group would have been preferable for his baptism into the World Cup fire, the former Sydney FC coach is not backing away from the tasks ahead; instead the 41 year old is enthusiastic to take on the world’s best.
“I certainly don’t fear the USA, I certainly don’t fear Sweden or Nigeria.”
“I have a lot of respect for those countries, they are superpowers of women’s footballing history but history is history. We want to create our own.”
“I am so confident in the group of players that we have got, that we really can compete against these countries and cause them lots of problems at this World Cup.”
First up will be USA on 8 June 2015 followed by Nigeria (12 June 2015) and Sweden (16 June 2014).
Australia have never defeated the USA and the last time they met Sweden they were dispatched 3-1 in the 2011 quarter finals, while it will be a first meeting with Nigeria.
The Matildas have qualified for the knock-out stages in the past two World Cups (2007, 2011) and the expectation pre-draw was that the World No.10 should do so again.
There is no denying that the task has been made more difficult however, with four 3rd placed group teams to qualify for the Round of 16, Stajcic is comfortable that Australia has the talent and firepower to do so again.
“We have an exciting group,” he stated.
“We have got such pace and mobility and creativity in the midfield. If we can fix up our defensive unit and make sure that we are tight at the back, we have got a lot of good ingredients to be a competitive force at this World Cup.”
“It is just a matter of putting those ingredients together and doing everything we possibly can in our preparations to make us peak in that time.”
The attention now for the coach and his staff, of which an announcements are imminent, turns to preparations for the opening encounter with the 2011 finalists.
“The fact that we have been given America is blessing in so many ways.”
“You just know the players are going to be focus and you know that they know they are coming up against the best team in the World and the No.1 team in the world.”
At the conclusion of the W-League season, he is set to call a group of 30 for the first training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in mid-January.
It is anticipated to be a mixture of experienced Matildas and several players who have made an impact in the W-League this season.
Following the camp Australia will compete in the Cyprus Cup from 4 – 11 March 2014 before a series of 8 – 12 internationals in the lead up to their June 8 tournament kick off.
On the back of the draw, one set of internationals now off the table is a series games against the USA in April. Stajcic says they will now return to the drawing board to obtain relevant competition for that time period.
Australia’s preparation will also include intra-squad matches and games against appropriately skilled and physical boys teams.
“I am sure we will be ready for the challenge and I actually can’t wait to get stuck into the preparations in January.”
“We have got 5 months ahead of us to prepare our own team and it really gives us good focus now for that big clash against the World no.1 in the first game.”
As with players, the World Cup is the pinnacle of a coaches career and Stajcic is no different. After 12 years coach elite players, he will now get his opportunity on the biggest stage, pitting wits against the biggest teams in the women’s game.
“I’m just excited and motivated and can’t wait to get out there.”
“Knowing that I’ve a got a good group of players to work with and a group of players who are winners, who want to compete, who want to learn; I can’t wait to get started and showing them off to the world and showing our country off to the world.”
“It’s now down to the hard gritty work and we’ve got to get out there on the pitch and do all the hard work down there so we can be prepared for the extremely hard group which we know we have got.
“[In the past] we have certainly showed that we are going to go out and try and win games and we will be no different here.”