Coach Sta­j­cic wants no Matil­das let-up

Shepparton News - - SPORT -

It is the homecoming Matil­das coach Alen Sta­j­cic be­lieves his team de­serve.

It might only be a twogame friendly se­ries, but the per­fec­tion­ist coach wants to main­tain Aus­tralia’s win­ning streak in front of packed sta­di­ums.

The high-fly­ing Matil­das take on Brazil in Pen­rith this af­ter­noon and again in New­cas­tle on Tues­day.

It is partly prepa­ra­tion for the Asian Cup and World Cup cam­paigns, very much in Aus­tralia’s sights af­ter steady im­prove­ment un­der Sta­j­cic.

But the games are also a richly-earned re­ward.

The of­ten-over­looked na­tional women’s team has won a place in the spot­light in re­cent years with runs to the quar­ter-finals at the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

This year, they claimed sil­ver­ware at the Tour­na­ment of Na­tions by knock­ing off world No.1 Amer­ica, Ja­pan and Brazil.

In an of­ten un­mer­i­to­ri­ous sport­ing land­scape, the pub­lic have re­sponded with a sell­out at the 17 000-ca­pac­ity Pep­per Sta­dium and Sta­j­cic is de­lighted.

‘‘It’s a great re­ward for the play­ing group,’’ he said.

‘‘A lot of them have had to over­come a lot of ad­ver­sity that comes with be­ing a fe­male foot­baller in this coun­try. It’s given them all a great boost and lifted their spir­its.

‘‘We’ve also sold over 13 000 tick­ets at New­cas­tle, so to have more than 30 000 peo­ple com­ing to our games, it’s a great tes­ta­ment to how they’re per­form­ing on the field and how they carry them­selves off the field.

‘‘They all can’t wait to get out there and hear the roar.’’

The se­ries also con­tin­ues a strong ri­valry be­tween Aus­tralia and Brazil.

The Matil­das knocked Brazil out of the World Cup, be­fore Brazil re­turned the favour at its home Olympics.

Sta­j­cic’s side then ran ram­pant last month with a 6-1 suc­cess against the Brazil­ians.

He is ex­pect­ing a strong re­sponse in Pen­rith and New­cas­tle, with a full­strength trav­el­ling party named, in­clud­ing five-time world player of the year Marta.

‘‘They’re bring­ing all their big guns and it will be a mas­sive chal­lenge,’’ he said.

‘‘You’d have to think there will be a bit of ret­ri­bu­tion from them too.

‘‘We knocked them out of the World Cup and you’re never go­ing to be happy with a team that does that.

‘‘But they knocked us out of the Olympics. ‘‘That’s all part of sport. ‘‘There’s no bad blood . . . it’s a fierce ri­valry but all within the spirit of the game.’’

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