Sta­j­cic can care less for pot luck

The Weekend Post - - Sport -

BEN MCKAY THE great chal­lenge await­ing the Matil­das as they gun for Aus­tralia’s first foot­ball World Cup win will be­come clearer this week­end.

Aus­tralia will be cho­sen from the hat in Paris this morn­ing (AEDT), dis­cov­er­ing their group stage op­po­nents at the Women’s World Cup next year in France.

As a seed, the Matil­das will avoid world cham­pi­ons United States, hosts France and pow­er­houses Ger­many, Eng­land and Canada.

But there are plenty of other chal­lenges like Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Nether­lands, Scan­di­na­vian gi­ants Nor­way and Swe­den, plus Brazil able to take it up to Alen Sta­j­cic’s side.

“It’s ex­cit­ing but I ac­tu­ally gen­uinely don’t care who we get in our group,” he said.

“I know all the teams there, we’ve played against vir­tu­ally all of them.

“They are all at a high level now, so it’s more just an­tic­i­pa­tion of see­ing who we have to pre­pare against.”

The top two sides in each of the six groups, as well as four third-placed fin­ish­ers, make it through to the last 16 in France, repli­cat­ing the com­pli­cated for­mat used at the 2016 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship.

Aus­tralia will fi­nalise a base camp, travel and their match sched­ule lead­ing up to the tour­na­ment in the days af­ter the draw.

Chief among Sta­j­cic’s con­cerns will be en­sur­ing his 23 play­ers en­ter June’s tour­na­ment in cherry ripe con­di­tion.

That’s eas­ier said than done given at the W-League’s con­clu­sion in Fe­bru­ary, some will pack up and head over­seas for club stints, and oth­ers will take a break be­fore France.

The Matil­das have locked in one of sev­eral in­ter­na­tional friendly matches planned in the lead-up to France.

They will re­turn to Amer­ica to play the USA on April 4 in Com­merce City, Colorado.

Sta­j­cic said play­ing against the cur­rent top-ranked na­tion in the world ahead of June’s tour­na­ment would of­fer his side a great prepa­ra­tion lead­ing into the tour­na­ment.

“The USA are one of the favourites to win ... so it is fan­tas­tic we will be able to play them just a cou­ple of months be­fore the start of the tour­na­ment in France,” Sta­j­cic said.

“Come April next year, many of our play­ers will be play­ing their club foot­ball in the Na­tional Women’s Soc­cer League (NWSL), so it also makes sense from a lo­gis­ti­cal per­spec­tive to ar­range a camp and friendly in North Amer­ica as we con­tinue to pre­pare for the World Cup.

“We ex­pect to play a fur­ther five or six matches prior to the start of next year’s World Cup.

“It’s been a roller­coaster ride this year.

“It’s the first time we’ve had full-time pro­fes­sion­al­ism, full­time scru­tiny, full-time at­ten­tion, full-time adu­la­tion, full­time play­ing load.

“Some play­ers have played 50, 60, 70 matches this year.”

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