Invaluable trip for Westfield Young Matildas

Westfield Young Matildas coach Alen Stajcic believes the experience his girls will get on the 3-week tour of Europe will be invaluable preparation for the upcoming AFC U19 Women’s Championships in China.

Westfield Young Matildas coach Alen Stajcic believes the experience his girls will get on the 3-week tour of Europe will be invaluable preparation for the upcoming AFC U19 Women-s Championships in China.

His squad left yesterday for Varese, Italy, where they will spend the next 3 weeks training as well as playing two matches against Finland and one against Germany. They will play another on their way home in Thailand, which will get them used to the conditions they are likely to face in China.

“Extremely important and invaluable,” Stajcic said of the importance of this trip. “It-s something we-ve never had before; a trip to Europe and playing high quality opposition.

“The fact we can spend three weeks together will be invaluable in terms of games and training and preparation for that tournament, because when we get back we-ll only have a few more days together before we have to go, so very important.”

Stajcic will take a 20 player strong squad to Europe and all the women know that this is crunch time for them. Starting spots and even places in the squad are up for grabs, with the likes of Emily van Egmond still come back in, as he recovers from as serious injury.

“Definitely crunch time,” he said, just hours before departing for Italy. “There are a lot of players battling for starting spots and also you-ve got players battling to keep their spot in the squad and they all know that.”

The Sydney FC W-League coach believes the squad is coming together well after a series of camps down at the Australian Institute of Sport over the past few months and that this 3-week tour will indicate where the team is at in its preparations.

“It-s really good,” he enthused, in reference to the team development. “They have progressed really well over the last couple of months and this is a good test for us to see where we are at.

“The first game against Finland I think will be a little bit tough; getting off the plane and having to play a couple of days later, but the other two games against Finland (again) and then Germany will really show us where we are at and how far we have come and whether we are heading down the right path.

“We-ve also got a game against Thailand on the way home that will show us if we are ready for the conditions we are going to face in China, which will be 37, 38, if not up to 40 degrees and high humidity.

“So the conditions are good to practice in as well, as is the game itself.”

Asked about the prospects and if there is anything that excites him about this squad, Stajcic believes that many of this group have very exciting futures ahead of them.

“There are 6 or 7 or probably more than that that have been already been in the Matildas squads,” Stajcic said. “There are a few that have a few caps for the Matildas which has certainly helped the development of the girls.

“Tameka Butt and Elise Kellond-Knight from Queensland have really kicked on over the last 3-4 months and improved significantly. They were in my last Young Matildas squad and were starting players, but this time they are not just starting players, they are the standout players from the pack and being good leaders on and off the field.

“Kyah Simon is another in that category and the likes of Ashleigh and Nicole Sykes, who came from the country a year or two ago and were unknown and they are progressing up the ranks really quickly.

“There is a lot of good stories in there and players that are improving at different rates. Casey Dumont in goals was a standout for Queensland all last year in the Westfield W-League and we are really glad to have at the back.”

A lot of the players have gained a lot of confidence from being involved in the Matildas camps and also from the Westfield W-League and has been particularly noticeable for Stajcic in the four days he had with them before leaving yesterday.

“As I said, the number of girls that have been called up to the Matildas camps and made a few caps is quite significant.

“As the Matildas are going through their transition phase before Tommy (Tom Sermanni) settles on a team for next year and knowing they are in the mix and knowing you are competing at the senior level, it-s definitely a good confidence boost.”

“The more games they play at senior level (with reference to the W-League) the better they are going to get, which is the same for the boys. It-s no different for the girls in the W-League and most of these girls got to play quite a bit of game time and it definitely helped them.

“You can-t beat confidence and it has done wonders for them to know they can play at that level.”

Stajcic confirmed that Ellyse Perry will not be available for the squad after her cricket commitments earlier this year, although he is confident Newcastle Jets W-League midfielder van Egmond will be ready by August.

“She (Emily) has been in camp with us and is running and is now moving on her feet, which is really good. I am hoping by the time we get back, she will be right or close to getting back to full training.

“We come back in early June which will give her a good 6-7 weeks before we go away to the qualifiers to get ready. She will be an integral part of our team and we really need someone of her ability.

“Ellyse was eligible for this team but unfortunately she has made herself unavailable and we have sort of missed the boat with her, which is unfortunate as she would have given us that little bit extra depth in the squad. So that-s a little disappointing.”