Senior team inspires Qantas Young Matildas

Qantas Young Matildas coach Alistair Edwards believes his young players will draw on the performances of the senior women’s team at the recent AFC Women’s Asian Cup tournament in Adelaide, to inspire them in Russia. Edwards and the squad of 21 players set off on Tuesday for Russia, where they will compete in the 3rd FIFA U19/U20 Women’s World Ch

Qantas Young Matildas coach Alistair Edwards believes his young players will draw on the performances of the senior women-s team at the recent AFC Women-s Asian Cup tournament in Adelaide, to inspire them in Russia.

Edwards and the squad of 21 players set off on Tuesday for Russia, where they will compete in the 3rd FIFA U19/U20 Women-s World Championship.

Despite being drawn in a tough group that includes hosts and reigning European Champions Russia, the team goes to the tournament with five players who played in the Qantas Matildas squad that finished runners-up to China in Adelaide.

Their inspirational performances, following on from the Socceroos fantastic showing at the World Cup finals in Germany, has lifted the spirits of the squad according to Edwards, who is quietly confident the team will do well in Russia.

“It was a massive, massive boost (for the Qantas Young Matildas) with the way the Matildas performed,” said Edwards, just prior to the team-s departure from Sydney.

“That combined with the Socceroos winning, or doing so well in Germany, the Matildas doing so well and then the camp this week in Canberra has been a bit special with the old Socceroo boys from the 1990-s coming down and playing against the group.”

With five players backing up from the AFC Women-s Asian Cup, Edwards was hopeful that his trump cards for Russia would not be burnt out from the gruelling tournament that saw Australia play six games in 14 days, which included a testing final against China that went to penalties. He didn-t really have to worry though and was more than pleased with how they came into camp.

“I have thrilled with the way they have come back into camp,” he said. “The likes of Sally (Shipard), Collette (McCallum), Kylie Ledbrook and the others have come back with an absolutely amazing, positive experience from Adelaide and that has rubbed off even further on the other players.

“They seemed to have even stepped up a gear. They have been away with the Young Matildas and had success and now they have had the success at the Asian Championships. The girls have been really, really positive and you can just see that the other girls really look up to them so much, so they are vital to the team and they are also vital for women-s football for years to come.”

Edwards was not going to make any extreme predictions as to how far they would go in the tournament other than to say, the team has progressed significantly over the past 18 months and believes they will be very competitive at the tournament.

“The expectation is, the players have come a long way over the past 18 months. They have had some really good results and some really good competition along the way.

“Qualifying through Asia was fantastic and I think we are going over there knowing that we are there or thereabouts in terms of our competitiveness. Although we are playing against some decent teams, which obvious at a World Championships, I think our results have shown that we are going to be there and putting on a decent show.”

However much is expected of this team, despite being in a tough group, which consists of Russia (host and European Champions), Brazil (South American Champions) and New Zealand (arch rival and Oceania Champions).

The previous two U/19 teams that competed at the World Championships in 2002 and 2004 both reached the quarter finals, with most people agreeing this group of players is far better and more experienced team than the previous two squads.

But Edwards doesn-t believe there is any extra pressure on the players or himself to reach that same level and he just wants to concentrate on the players achieving the best they possible can.

“There is always pressure when you are playing for your country and there are always expectations,” he said candidly. “It-s a credit to the players and what has happened lately to have that expectation there, but to be honest, if you are speaking to the players and myself we are under no real pressure, because we know how we can play as a team and we are just focusing on just doing that one thing at a time and reaching each rung on the ladder, so to speak.

“The players are developing into very, very good players. We-ve got five players in the national team and there-s probably three or four that are probably going to progress to the senior team as well.

“We know full well that we are playing against the best teams in the world and at this level there is such a thin line between success and failure. In qualification we came away with qualification with three minutes to go, so there is a self-belief within the group that-s for sure.

“The one thing that Australian sportspeople have got, is the fact we want to go there and win and that steely desire and never-say-die attitude.”

While much of the focus will be on the team-s five Qantas Matildas players to lead the way in Russia, Edwards however believes several other players could hold the key to the teams success or failure at the tournament.

“Sasha McDonnell, who is our striker, she was absolutely brilliant in the Asian Football Confederation Championships and she scores quite a few goals for us and was probably a bit unlucky not to be in the Adelaide squad.

“You-ve got Clare Polkinghorne from Queensland, one of our right-sided defensive players, and she shows all the attributes to be a top-class international player. The likes of Jenna Tristram, whose actually trained with the Matildas squad before; Olivia Kennedy who comes in and no matter which team you play against is the most consistent player we have got in our group and there are a few other players, who continue getting better each time we go through (to a new tournament).

“It-s a fairly decent set of players to work with and its really been a joy to see them develop as a unit and see where they have come from 18 months ago.”