The Matildas will go into the 2023 Women’s World Cup on home soil battle-hardened and ready to test the best, according to Football Australia chief James Johnson.
Working in unison with coach Tony Gustavsson, Football Australia has lined up a who’s who of top echelon nations in lead-up matches in a hectic 18 months of pre-tournament preparation.
And, in a boost for fans, Johnson plans to stage the majority of matches on Australian turf.
The hit-list of opponents includes Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Brazil, world champions USA, Sweden, Japan, England, Spain and Italy.
“A key element of performance is turning the odds in our favour by eliminating beliefs and replacing them with evidence and data," Johnson told FTBL.
"That’s why we analysed the Matildas’ performance over the past decade through the Performance Gap report we published in 2020.
"One key outcome of the report was that we struggled to progress in major tournaments when coming up against teams such as the United States, Brazil and Japan.
“Our response has been to invest in a match schedule against the hardest and most respected opposition in world football.
"Perhaps it will humble us, and sure we might lose some matches, but the experience will be invaluable and it’s the best way to get the team ready for the main event.
We’ll be as good as we can possibly be in ‘23. We have an 18 month window before the 2023 Women’s World Cup and we want to be playing as many of those games as possible at home to bring the Matildas closer to their fans.
"We are excited to build on an already incredible bond with the Australian public.”
Johnson’s strategy is a continuation of the current theme of pitting the Matildas against the most dangerous opponents possible between major tournaments - a ploy exemplified by the recent series of games against Brazil and USA ahead of next month’s Asian Cup in India.
“The 2020-2024 cycle can be broken down in four sub-cycles,” he explained. “Cycle one was the Tokyo Olympics, then comes the Asian Cup in 2022, the 2023 Women’s World Cup followed by the Paris Olympics in 2024.
“The objective is to normalise playing the best in the world. It needs to be normal to compete with these teams if we want to progress to the latter stages of major tournaments because the fact is will meet the best in the world at this point.
“In the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics we lost to Germany, Netherlands and Japan and had challenging matches against Sweden (0-0) and Denmark (3-2 loss) - they’re all top nations.
"I think we saw the benefit with the team reaching the semi-finals, which is the furthest we have gone at the Olympics."
Johnson insists Australia are going to India to claim glory in January, with Gustavsson’s experimentation limited to warm-ups between marquee tournaments.
“Absolutely,” he added. “We’re going to India to win our last game in the tournament."
Expanding on the theme of being prepared to take a hit in friendlies in pursuit of a greater cause, Johnson added: “Although it’s in the DNA of Australians to give everything in every game, the big picture is peaking at the right time and being successful at tournaments.
"That’s when it means something and that’s what gets remembered."
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