Sermanni talks Matildas

Injured Matildas star Sally Shipard catches up with her coach Tom Sermanni, while in camp recently?

Sally Shipard (SS): I assume your happy with the team dynamics and how the Matildas have grown and developed as a team over the past couple of years. Have you been enjoying taking care of us?

Tom Sermanni (TS): Most of the time (grins)…I think it-s made enjoyable by the fact that the team has made progress during the period of time I-ve been involved. The thing is that with every team the ‘progression- curve does not go diagonally up all the time, there are always going to be ups and downs much like the stock market curve. In general I think we have made a reasonable amount of progress. We have a team now that when everybody is fit and healthy, we are competitive against any team in the world. We have a group of players who are very dedicated towards the team and for the team to be doing well. The players aren-t intimidated by where ever we travel or who we are up against, which is a very good sign.

SS: The Matildas have been winning matches but the competition hasn-t really been that strong, how have you and the girls been coping with this?

TS: I suppose that-s been a slight concern, since the beginning of the year. The record on paper looks terrific, but we haven-t really come up against a team that-s really tested us. Our two most important games are about to come up; we are going to be severely tested against North Korea. It-s always a nagging question mark at the back of your mind, would we have been better off playing tougher, more competitive teams up to this stage. What I will say is the teams we have played against and how we have performed has been great. With the weaker teams we have gone about doing the job in a really ‘professional manner-. And that-s pleased me, it-s easier to drop to the level of the opposition and get slack and sloppy, and I don-t think we have done that so I think that-s a positive. Overall though, I probably would still have liked some tougher competition leading up to the North Korean matches. But outside of that, when the games come around, again if everybody is fit and healthy, the team will approach the games confident enough to win them.

SS: You have mentioned a few times before about the consistent performances of the team, do you think this will benefit the team leading into the Olympic Qualifiers and the World Cup in September?

TS: I think the Olympic Qualifiers are good preparation for the World Cup. The only downside is the fact that we wont be playing against any teams of different styles, apart from New Zealand. And that-s maybe something we would of benefited from, but I think we benefit more by coming into camp on a regular basis and practicing more. I think that-s what provides consistency within the team. The good thing about the consistent practice that we are then able to get results regardless of whether we play well or not.

SS: So the game on Saturday morning against the men was a good run for the girls?

TS: Well, yes of course. Guys like Ian Ferguson who represented Scotland and played in the Scottish Premier League for 12 years, Tony Vidmar, ex-socceroo. Three or four internationals and another 3 or 4 who have played or are currently playing in the Hyundai A-League or the equivalent, so that in itself is great competition for the players.

SS: Do you think having a goal advantage over the North Koreans will give us the edge we need heading into the games against them?

TS: It will if the games end up being drawn, or a win and a win apiece. The three-goal edge is handy to have because ultimately this group could come down to goal difference and the more goals you get in front the harder is it to chip away, even if you-re playing against poor teams. In particular if you have to be scoring goals then the pressure is really put on you. So its better to be in front by three than be three goals behind!

SS: What-s your plan of attack for the North Korean games?

TS: I have had several thoughts about this and it has been playing on my mind for about six months now. My initial thought was that we would play defensively, but the way we have taken the team over the last year; I think that would be a counter productive message to the players and to the way that we now play. I don-t think we could just revert back into a defensively minded team. What we have to do is play with a bit more caution, than we perhaps have done over the past year. I think we need to focus on how we defend again. During these next two games we are unlikely to have the bulk of possession. Regardless of how well we play or how well they play, or how badly either of us plays, there probably going to have more possession than we are going to have. We have to be in tune for that and be able to cope with that

SS: Realising that the World cup is not your priority at the moment. How do you feel about the draw? After all we missed the powerhouse teams of the USA, Germany and host nation China…

TS: In the seeded group we got the team that we wanted, Norway (out of the four). It-s still a tough draw though, it could have been worse, it could have been a lot better. It-s a draw that gives us a chance. I think all four teams in the group feel they have a chance. To our potential advantage is that Canada and Norway have not played us many times before, and Ghana only really at the last World Cup. So hopefully these teams will underestimate us a little bit, or perceive us as a team that has been the traditional Australian team of ‘roll your sleeves up and get stuck in but not much skill-. So hopefully we can surprise them with our skill factor.

SS: Thank you very much for your time Tommy… Just one last question am I still beating you in a cross bar competition?

TS: Well you were in front back in Russia, but you left the competition early. I-m willing to keep the competition open even if you pulled the plug after 70 minutes so to speak…. Score: Sally 12 Tommy 8