Sermanni hoping for more surprises

Matildas coach Tom Sermanni is hoping his team will surprise him once again, as they kick-off their AFC Asian Women’s Cup campaign on Thursday against Chinese Taipei in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Matildas coach Tom Sermanni is hoping his team will surprise him once again, as they kick-off their AFC Asian Women-s Cup campaign on Thursday against Chinese Taipei in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Sermanni goes into the teams second Asian Women-s Cup tournament, with a somewhat different team that performed so well in last year-s FIFA Women-s World Cup in China, with injuries in particular depriving him of key players.

Already minus the likes of Thea Slatyer, Sally Shipard, Danielle Small and Jo Peters to injury, the fractured tibia suffered by Sarah Walsh in last Friday-s friendly international against Canada, robs him of another star player. Coupled with the withdrawal of Jo Burgess for family reasons, Sermanni will now have to rely on a fairly inexperienced bench during the tournament, but he has no doubts these players can lift for the challenge.

“We-ve always got high expectations about this team,” Sermanni said, just prior to their departure for Vietnam. “They keep sort of surprising me in some ways.

“Obviously we are going to try and win any tournament that we play in, but we-ve got to be realistic. Losing Sarah and Joey, two senior players is a massive loss; we-ve already lost Joey Peters, Sally Shipard, Thea Slatyer and Danielle Small to injury and bringing players back from Europe that haven-t been with us for a little while; so our preparation has not been ideal.”

Having finished the last tournament as runners-up to China and making the quarter finals of last years World Cup, has also made Australia a profile team in the region, which means the likes of China, North Korea and Japan will not be underestimating the Matildas this time around.

“I think in the previous Asian Cup, we surprised teams and they didn-t expect us to have made the progress we had made by that stage. The Asian teams that we had played a year before (in 2005), saw a different team.

“When we go into this one, we-ll go in as a more profile team and that makes it a little bit tougher as well. I-m not trying to make excuses, but our first aim is to qualify for the semi finals; that-s a key thing.

“Once we do that, we are either going to play China or DPR Korea and on the day any team, can beat any team in a semi final as you see in all major tournaments. So we-ll just see how we go from there.”

One of the keys for Sermanni is to keep building momentum that the team has developed since the 2006 Asian Women-s Cup in Adelaide and continued on at the World Cup last year.

“The key thing we are trying to do now is keep the momentum going that we built up at the World Cup,” he said. “We have played six games this year; we beat New Zealand three times, lost narrowly to the US in two really good games and beaten Canada, so it-s important going into the Asian and Peace Cups, whether we win or lose games that we feel we are still making progress and keeping up the momentum.

That momentum includes developing young players and bringing them into the national team and getting them to fit in as smoothly and quickly as possible. That has been forced on Sermanni with the injuries to senior players, but as these players showed against Canada last Friday, they have fitted in well.

Tameka Butt, Kyah Simon, Ellyse Perry and Amy Chapman, who ages range from 16 to 20 all played in the 2-1 win over Canada and played a major role in the win, including Chapman scoring Australia-s opening goal and Perry setting up the second goal with a brilliant cross.

“One of the good things we-ve had about the team and the system is that we all work really, really well together. The states, state coaches and the national team structure of the 17-s, 20-s and Matildas; because we-ve had that continuity for three years, when these younger players are coming into the team now.

“They are coming into an environment that is conducive to them performing; it-s not intimidating, the senior players don-t feel threatened by them; the system in place encourages them to come in and settle in quickly and perform.”

Australia takes on Chinese Taipei in the opening game on Thursday at 8.00pm (AEST time). They will then play Korea Republic on Saturday at 10.30pm (AEST), with the final group game against Japan on Monday also at 10.30pm (AEST).

Highlights of all matches can be seen on SBS from 5.00-6.00pm the day after each game.