“I enjoy the national team coaching, where you’re going towards a specific goal” Sermanni says speaking of his choice to return to national team coaching, accepting the post with the Football Ferns after three years with Orlando Pride. Only four days into the job, Semani took the New Zealand squad to the OFC Women’s Nations Cup, where they qualified comfortably for this year’s World Cup, retaining their OFC title. Sermanni has since brought back to the squad the experienced players of Abby Erceg, Katie Duncan and Emma Kete for their Cup of Nations squad. The ease of gaining the previously retired players aided by his relationship with all three, “it’s like most of the senior New Zealand players, we’ve seen them around the traps at various times”.

With eyes to the Cup of Nations, Sermanni states “the essential thing is for us to get the tactics right as best we can”. In reference to the upcoming match against Australia “I mean Australia has some unbelievable weapons… so we need to first and foremost try to put a plan in place to as best we can eliminate their threats. Then the second thing we need to do is work out a way we can exploit Australia where they might be a little bit weaker and where we can actually find somewhere in the team that we can have an advantage. It’s not easy because the Australian team are fairly strong in every department”.

On the Matildas new coach Sermanni remembers Milicic as “just the lad who enjoyed playing football”. Carrying on the ex-Matildas coach said “he’s actually obviously matured and has turned into a very, very competent coach, with a great reputation. I think he’s got the coaching requirements and credentials to do well with the Matildas”.

Games such as the Cup of Nations are essential to New Zealand’s preparation for the World Cup. Given the ease of qualification, Sermanni admitted there’s a “false sense of security in playing those kind of games”. New Zealand have a game heavy schedule to prepare for France, including games against Norway, the US and Mexico after the Cup of Nations.

Sermanni is having to adapt to being a national team coach where players are increasingly playing abroad professionally, stating “it’s like anything, when a sport progresses, and women’s football has made unbelievable steps in the last five, six, seven - ten years, you just have to deal with a different set of problems. Now what we’re dealing with is the problems of professional clubs and how that impacts national teams, but overall it’s a great thing for the game”.

On the young players who now form the core of the Matildas squad, who Sermanni brought into the fold during his tenure as Matildas coach, he spoke “during my time, when the likes of Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord and Emily Van Egmond, KK and Steph Catley and Alana Kennedy came through… we were like a rogues gallery of teenagers to be honest and you know they were just really brilliant characters, they were really cheeky but dedicated”.

And now? “They’ve really matured into unbelievable professionals, they love their football… and are great players, but they’re also just really good people”.