March 8 – Australia’s women’s team won the inaugural Nations Cup on home soil with a 3-0 win against Argentina. The win was welcome news for the Matildas in the lead up to the World Cup after the recent sacking of coach Alen Stajcic.
Victory in the Nations Cup came as no surprise for the Matildas. Australia were the highest-ranked team in the four-team tournament that saw them pitched against New Zealand (ranked 19th), South Korea (14th) and Argentina (36th).
Captain Sam Kerr gave the hosts the lead in the final before Alanna Kennedy and Caitlin Foord scored to complete a comprehensive 3-0 win. Previously, Australia had recorded routine wins against New Zealand 2-0 and South Korea 4-1. The Koreans were the only team to breach the Australian rearguard with a fine freekick.
New Matildas coach Ante Milicic was pleased with his team’s winning run, but acknowledged that the performance against Argentina left a lot to be desired, despite the convincing 3-0 scoreline. “I am probably a bit disappointed,” said Milicic. “I thought we were sluggish from the start, very slow in our build-ups, shifting the ball, and moving the opposition around – we were not decisive in our positioning. I thought we were a little bit naive as well. We played the style of game they were after.”
Milicic was never going to have time on his side, but the result will boost Australia’s confidence ahead of the World Cup after internal turmoil recently embroiled the team. In January coach Stajcic was dismissed, a decision Football Federation Australia (FFA) based on two confidential surveys, as well as conversations with players and staff.
Stajcic was credited for leading an outstanding era for the Matildas, guiding the team to a fourth place in the FIFA rankings. “Ultimately the responsibility for changing culture rests with the head coach,” said FFA chief executive David Gallop. “We no longer feel confident that Alen is the right person to lead the team and staff.”
Australia have been drawn with Brazil, Italy and Jamaica at the World Cup this summer. The Brazilians will be their main challengers in Group C, but the South Americans failed to spark at the recent SheBelieves Cup, finishing bottom of the four-team tournament. At the last World Cup the Matildas eliminated Brazil 1-0 in the second round before falling to Japan with the same scoreline in the last eight.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1600936066labto1600936066ofdlr1600936066owedi1600936066sni@o1600936066fni1600936066