Japan game a look to the future for Matildas

The Matildas go into tonight’s double header with Japan, which will also feature our Qantas Under 23’s in the later game, with the future in mind, with coach Tom Sermanni again forced to go with quite a few young players for the clash.

The Matildas go into tonight-s double header with Japan, which will also feature our Qantas Under 23-s in the later game, with the future in mind, with coach Tom Sermanni again forced to go with quite a few young players for the clash.

Injuries and unavailability have again cut a swathe through his squad for the one-off friendly international against the Japanese, who are deep into preparations for their assault on an Olympic Games medal.

Sermanni has no doubts this will be a very tough game for his players, but is hopeful they can turn two defeats by the Japanese at May/June-s Asian Women-s Cup into a result at the Home Stadium tonight in Kobe, Japan.

The Matildas kick-off proceedings in the double-header with their match kicking off at 5.00pm AEST and is followed by the Qantas Under 23-s at 8.00pm AEST.

Sermanni has been forced to dig deep into his depth of talent, with his defence in particular, hit hard by withdrawals. Injuries to regular captain Cheryl Salisbury and Kate McShea, the recent retirement of Di Alagich and unavailability of Karla Reuter, plus continued absence Thea Slatyer means the likes of Brooke Spence and Ellen Beaumont get their chance.

“I think when you go in with a newish team again, with a few changes from before, you are always kind of going into the unknown,” he said from Kobe. “We-ve had two good training sessions; the players know each other pretty well; they-ve played together even though a few haven-t been in the national team together, so we should be reasonably cohesive in that sense.

“The area where we probably have had the biggest changes is defensively, because of injuries and unavailability, we are really kind of strapped and might be a testing time for the back four.”

Sermanni has just one of his defenders that played at last years Women-s World Cup in Japan and that is the relatively inexperienced Clare Polkinghorne. Players adaptability to play in different positions may well see him use more experienced players down back to help out.

“We may look at putting Caitlin (Munoz) at left back; she has played a couple of times for us back there. She is a left-sided player, so we may look at putting her back in there, but it wasn-t against the quality of opposition that we face today, so that is a little bit of a risk.

“What we also might have to do, is be a little bit more defensively in midfield; we may look at playing an extra player in there, just to try and make sure we don-t get exposed; give ourselves as much cover as possible.”

With Japan coming towards the finish of a long preparation for these Olympics, Sermanni expects it to be a very tough match, but despite the inexperience at the back, he still remains optimistic of a result.

“Very much so,” when asked on how tough this game will be. “They are full throttle for the Olympics; basically they-ve had the continuity around the team like we had about a year ago, so they have all those things going for them.

“We always want to go into our games doing well and our Asian Cup preparation was poor, as we had some disruptions and injuries and we were putting players on the field that weren-t fit to play.

“At least in this game tomorrow, everybody-s got a clean bill of health, fit, match fit etc. It will be a tough game, but we-re hoping to hand in there and maybe get a result.”

Given he will field a relatively young team, Sermanni is determined to have his young players in the right frame of mind for the clash and hopes they won-t be overawed by the occasion, with a big crowd expected.

“I think the key for the young players is to be not overawed by the occasion first and foremost; I don-t want them going in there feeling any pressure,” he said. “I just want them to go in there and play confidently and to try and play their natural game and try as early as possible in the game being comfortable playing at international level.

“I don-t want them so stressed out that they can-t play or feeling if they don-t play well their international career is jeopardy. It would be great if they can come in and step up, but at the same time it-s a game for our younger players to really get a taste of what top level international competition is all about.

“When it-s a big crowd and they are not supporting you; there-s the noise, the excitement of the game and that-s when you need cool, calm heads about, who won-t lose their focus, discipline or perspective. That's the great thing about playing these games for our young players, because it throws them in at the deep end.”