The Matildas have to first get out of a tough Group D containing two-time winners United States, Sweden and Nigeria, but experienced striker Lisa De Vanna says the group stage is a challenge to embrace, rather than fear.
The Australians, runners-up at last year’s Asian Cup after winning the regional tournament in 2010 and ranked 10th on the FIFA rankings, are a team on the rise.
“I honestly believe that this team is going to go all the way,” De Vanna said.
“I’ve been in this team for a very long time and this is probably the most prepared Matildas team that we’ve ever had.”
De Vanna, with 33 goals in 97 internationals, will be a key player for the Matildas and ranks as one of the most intimidating in Australia.
“I think (Matildas coach) Alen Stajcic has come up with every bit of tactical information you can possibly think of to help us prepare for these games,” she said.
“It’s now up to us to go out and do it. There are only two ways the players can go, either believe in themselves or fear their opponents, so it’s their choice in the end.”
Stajcic, who was appointed coach in September last year, has made some big calls, none more eye-raising than leaving Kate Gill out of his 23-player squad for Canada.
Gill, 30, who has scored 40 times in her 83 matches for Australia since 2005, one more than Socceroos great Tim Cahill’s record tally, heard of her shock omission a day after collecting the W-League Golden Boot award for her 12 goals last season.
– Dynamic team –
While Gill had been a valuable member of the Matildas for so long, Stajcic said the selected strikers had the edge over her during an intensive training camp.
“Kate missed out by a small inch but they’re the decisions that have to be made at this level. It’s very hard. It’s heartbreaking for those players. It’s the end of their dream,” Stajcic said.
Goalkeeper Melissa Hudson is headed to her fourth World Cup in a Matildas squad that contains 10 first-timers.
The 35-year-old Hudson, nee Barbieri, is the most experienced member of the squad, which includes three players -– De Vanna, Clare Polkinghorne and Lydia Williams -– who will be at their third World Cup.
Asian player of the year Katrina Gorry headlines the squad which contains 18 members of the group that finished runners-up at last year’s Asian Cup.
“Going on from our philosophy and style of play, it’s a dynamic, mobile team that can attack and score goals,” Stajcic said.
“It is a team that has lots of variations in attack so I believe we can cause a threat to any team in the world, and the players that were picked were certainly picked with that in mind.”
Australia’s first big test will be against the United States in Winnipeg on June 8.
“All teams are beatable,” De Vanna said. “The thing about the US is they’re mentally tougher than any team in the world.
“They can be 3-0 down with 10 minutes to go and they’ll figure out a way to score those three goals and that’s what makes them so good, but I think that, on a good day, when we’re ready to play, we can beat any team.”
Australia’s squad for the women’s World Cup in Canada (age, team in parentheses):
Goalkeepers: Lydia Williams (27, Washington Spirit), Melissa Hudson (25, Adelaide United), Mackenzie Arnold (21, Perth Glory).
Defenders: Clare Polkinghorne (26, Brisbane Roar), Laura Alleway (25, Brisbane Roar), Servet Uzunlar (26, Sydney FC), Steph Catley (21, Melbourne Victory), Elise Kellond-Knight (24, Brisbane Roar).
Midfielders: Ashleigh Sykes (23, Canberra United), Emily van Egmond (21, Newcastle Jets), Leena Khamis (29, Sydney FC), Tameka Butt (24, Brisbane Roar), Alanna Kennedy (20, Perth Glory), Teresa Polias (25, Sydney FC), Hayley Raso (20, Brisbane Roar), Katrina Gorry (22, Brisbane Roar), Nicola Bolger (22, Sydney FC).
Forwards: Larissa Crummer (19, Brisbane Roar), Caitlin Foord (20, Perth Glory), Lisa De Vanna (30, Melbourne Victory), Kyah Simon (24, Sydney FC), Samantha Kerr (21, Perth Glory), Michelle Heyman (27, Canberra United).
– Agence France-Presse