The Matildas will have to do without almost their entire senior squad when they face European Championship favorites Spain and emerging Portugal in a pair of friendlies later this month.
Most important points:
- The Matildas will have to do without captain Sam Kerr and a host of older players when they face Spain and Portugal later this month
- Football Australia’s sports science team has recommended several players take an extended break after their European club season
- Several A-League Women players have instead been called up for standout campaigns, including six players from Sydney FC
Head coach Tony Gustavsson announced his roster of 25 players on Monday with captain Sam Kerr, who was recently named PFA players’ Player of the Year after her Golden Boot-winning season at Chelseathe biggest name is missing from the roster.
Vice captain Steph Catley, forwards Kyah Simon, Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler and Hayley Raso, centre-back Alanna Kennedy, and midfielders Kyra Cooney-Cross and Aivi Liège will also miss the international window, while defender Ellie Carpenter is out indefinitely condition with an ACL tear.
The changes come as a surprise, as Gustavsson said in April that 2022 would be a year in which we would “narrow the focus” and focus on the players likely to represent Australia at the Women’s World Cup next year.
Spain, led by Ballon D’Or winner Alexia Putellas and filled with nearly a dozen record-breaking Barcelona playersis one of the favorites to take the title, which would have made this upcoming friendly series a perfect preparation.
However, ABC understands that Football Australia’s sports science, medical and technical teams have recommended several senior players take extended breaks to manage lingering injuries, fatigue and fitness after their club seasons abroad.
Captain Sam Kerr arrived in Perth on Friday and told local reporters she was here for a month to spend time with family and friends.
She will be joined by most of her senior teammates who have also returned to Australia during their European off-seasons, including Tottenham striker Kyah Simon.
“You only really appreciate it when you get this time [to rest]Simon, who is dealing with an Achilles tendon, told ABC in Sydney last week.
“We’ve never really had it in our careers because we’ve played so long consecutive seasons between Australia and America. So we underestimate the importance of a low season.
“And it refreshes you to go into the next season and cycle, which is super important as athletes, as we have stayed at this level for the past 10 years without rest.
“It’s certainly taken a long time, so we’re enjoying it for what it is.”
In their place, Gustavsson has called in a host of new faces for the matches of Spain and Portugal.
Mackenzie Hawkesby, Taylor Ray, Princess Ibini-Isei, Remy Siemsen, Cortnee Vine and Rachel Lowe have been rewarded for their stellar seasons with Premiership-winning team Sydney FC, while fellow A-League Women players Matilda McNamara (Adelaide United), Larissa Crummer (Brisbane Roar) and Winonah Heatley (Melbourne City) have also been named.
They will be joined by a handful of young and up-and-coming Aussies currently trading abroad, including: Celtic’s Jacynta Galabadaarachchi, who recently won Scotland’s Young Player of the Year award, Fortuna Hjørring duo Angela Beard and Clare Wheeler, Alex Chidiac (Racing Louisville), Courtney Nevin (Hammersby) and Remy Siemsen (AIK).
Just over half of the roster now has 10 caps or less, with the median age dropping from 26.9 to 25.
The youthful squad will be stabilized by more experienced players, including Emily Van Egmond (San Diego Wave), Vittsjö pair Katrina Gorry and Clare Polkinghorne, Emily Gielnik (Aston Villa) and Lydia Williams (Arsenal), the latter of whom is set to become the first goalkeeper to score 100 games for the Matildas when she takes to the field.
“The roster for this June roster is based on a combination of factors, but ultimately it was all about individualizing player programs with a long-term vision,” Gustavsson said of the roster.
“When drawing up the specialized plans, we evaluated where the players are currently and where they need to be and determined the best course of action for each player.
“For some players, it meant being part of these priceless matches with Spain and Portugal, which was an opportunity to show how they can make our team stronger.
“For another cohort, it results in being proactive about recurrent conditions and restoring a fitness baseline without having to focus on pre-competition peaks.”
The Matildas will take on the two euro countries on Sunday, June 26 and Wednesday, June 29, with live and free coverage on Network Ten and Paramount+.
Spain v Australia
Date: Saturday June 25 (local) / Sunday June 26 (AUS)
Time: 9:30 PM (local) / 5:30 AM (AEST)
Location: Estadio Nuevo Colombino, Huelvac
Portugal v Australia
Date: Tuesday June 28 (local) / Wednesday June 29 (AUS)
Time: 9:00 PM (local) / 6:00 AM (AEST)
Location: Estádio António Coimbra da Mota, Estoril
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