Coach Stajcic wants no Matildas let-up
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.’’