Saturday, October 30, 2010

What do the Matildas do with Lisa De Vanna?

So today I'm roaring, on what I think is one of the most interesting questions heading into Germany, what will happen to Lisa De Vanna?

You can read the story here, but what's even more interesting is the media release that Perth Glory issued yesterday with the W-League team for 2010/11.

In it, coach John Gibson explained his decision not to re-sign the Westfield Matildas pocket rocket.
"Unfortunately we've had to make some hard decisions on the squad for upcoming season and Lisa didn't fit into the plans of the future direction of the team over the next few years,” he said.

Interesting, not the fact that she's not going back to Perth, that was evident weeks ago that she's probably going to Melbourne. But that Perth are saying it was their decision not to re-sign De Vanna, that essentially, she wasn't wanted in Perth, they forced her to go elsewhere.

It looks like wherever she does end-up, De Vanna is going to have a lot to prove in the W-League this summer.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Matildas narrowly lose to Germany, 2-1, in Germany

A 2-1 defeat to current FIFA World Cup winners Germany is certainly not a bad thing, but I think the most interesting point to come from this is just how different it was from playing in Asia. Cue Kate Gill's comments,

“The football here is very different to Asian Football. They are more physical in Europe," she said.

“You get a very different experience from these matches and we have to learn how to better adapt to these conditions over the next 9 months.”

Which is why playing a friendly in Germany at this stage was a masterstroke, just when the Matildas think they are on top of the World - hit them with the fact they are just on top of Asia.

Although, it does seem Australia did come out on top in one battle of physicality, with Kerstin Garefrekes forced to withdraw after coming off second-best in a clash with Sally Shipard midway through the first half.

There are match report details on the FFA website, but why ruin it all when you can watch it on ABC TV this Saturday at 3pm? Also sets up a nice little reminder, that on Saturday week - that's where you will find live W-League.
GERMANY 2 (Inka GRINGS 36', Martina MÜLLER 71') bt MATILDAS 1 (Sam Kerr 28') at Volkswagen-Arena, Wolfsburg
Referee: Tanja SCHETT (Austria)
Assistant Referees: Inka MÜLLER and Christina JAWOREK (both Germany)
Crowd: 7,229

Germany line-up: Ursula HOLL (gk), Sandra BARTUSIAK, Babett PETER, Sonja FUSS (46' Verena FAISST), Lena GOESSLING, Simone LAUDEHR, Kim KULIG (46' Martina MÜLLER), Kerstin GAREFREKES (25' Célia OKOYINO DA MBABI), Fatmire BAJRAMAJ, Inka GRINGS (69' Dszenifer MAROSZÁN), Birgit PRINZ (69' Ariane HINGST)
Substitutes not used: Nadine ANGERER (gk), Josephine HENNING, Tabea KEMME, Melanie BEHRINGER, Anja MITTAG, Alexandra POPP

Westfield Matildas line-up: Melissa BARBIERI (GK), Clare POLKINGHORNE (Caitlin MUNOZ 63'), Kim CARROLL, Lauren COLTHORPE (Teigen ALLEN 57'), Servet UZUNLAR, Collette MCCALLUM, Sally SHIPARD (Aivi LUIK 88'), Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, Kate GILL (Leena KHAMIS 80'), Kyah SIMON, Samantha KERR
Substitutes not used: Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), Thea SLATYER

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Matildas camp ahead of Peace Cup and Germany friendly

The Matildas have a busy month ahead of them, with the Peace Cup in Korea and then a friendly against Germany in Germany on October 28. Yes, that's right, Germany, the second best women's team in the world. What a test that will be.

Here are the players that went into camp today at the Australian Insititute of Sport in Canberra -

Emma Wirkus (Adelaide), Victoria Balomenos (Adelaide), Collette McCallum (Perth), Sam Kerr (Perth), Laura Alleway (Brisbane), Karla Reuter (Brisbane), Kim Carroll (Brisbane), Clare Polkinghorne (Brisbane), Amy Chapman (Brisbane), Brooke Spence (Brisbane), Joanne Burgess (Brisbane), Elise Kellond-Knight (Gold Coast), Casey Dumont (Gold Coast), Aivi Luik (Gold Coast), Tameka Butt (Gold Coast), Melissa Barbieri (Melbourne), Lydia Williams (Canberra), Emily Van Egmond (Canberra), Sally Shipard (Canberra), Caitlin Munoz (Canberra), Ellie Brush (Albury), Kyah Simon (Sydney), Thea Slatyer (Sydney), Kylie Ledbrook (Sydney), Leena Khamis (Sydney), Teigen Allen (Penrith/Sydney), Michelle Heyman (Sydney), Ellyse Perry (Sydney), Danielle Brogan (Sydney), Caitlin Foord (Sydney)

Head Coach: Tom Sermanni, Asssistant Coach: Robbie Hooker, Goalkeeper coach: Paul Jones

Obviously this camp is missing all those Matildas who do ply their trade overseas, Sarah Walsh, Heather Garriock, Katie Gill, Lisa de Vanna (who if you didn't already notice, has been splashed across news today for all the wrong reasons) and Lauren Colthorpe.

But nice to see Amy Chapman, Victoria Balomenos and Caitlin Munoz back from injury (what else but knee reconstructions), and Ellyse Perry back from her Australian cricket duties.

On Friday morning, the team's patron, Australia's Governer-General, Ms Quentin Bryce AC, will also drop in and speak to the girls about their AFC Cup win and anything else on their mind, over a cup of tea.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

GirlsWithGame monthly wrap in women's football - August 2010

So apologies again for the sporadic posting that has become a trademark at GirlsWithGame. But here is my compromise, in the lead-up to the W-League, a monthly wrap of all the happenings and then from November a more consistent focus on the W-League. Heading into next year's FIFA Women's World Cup, it's going to be a cracker of a season.

So firstly, what's the latest W-League gossip?

Well the hottest property to come from the Mariners collapse is Michelle Heyman, and this story in the Illawarra Mercury seems to suggest she could be in Canberra this season. Fourfourtwo also carried the story, but am not sure they can actually carry that exclusive tag off given the Mercury story was three weeks before? Given United's biggest problem last year was scoring goals, she would be a handy addition. But remember United will also have Caitlin Munoz back this season. I saw Caitlin play in Canberra not long ago, and she is in tip-top shape. Canberra have also signed on former AIS assistant Ray Junna for his second season in the coaches box. Ellyse Perry, who claimed every award at Canberra last season, is also likely to be back for another go round in the capital. Perry didn't play in the Asian Cup this year because she was winning the International Cricket Council's Twenty20 World Cup, but given there is no major cricket tournaments on in the middle of next year, it's very likely she will make a return to the Matildas team in time for Germany. Here's her latest from the FIFA website.

At the Newcastle Jets, Sasha McDonnell and Kara Mowbray have signed on for their third club in three seasons. The pair, who are from Queensland, started with Canberra United, then McDonnell went to Brisbane for season two and Mowbray went to Melbourne. Now both are reunited at the Jets. Read more in this Newcastle Herald story, where coach Wayne O'Sullivan reckons it will be their best yet. Hayley Crawford will be captain again.

Melbourne Victory have a new coach. Vicki Linton will be the second female in charge of a W-League team after Nicola Williams coached Perth Glory in the first season.

Of course, the draw is also now out. Starting on November 6, it will be the longest W-League season so far, but that doesn't actually mean any more games. But because of byes and breaks throughout the season, there will be 12 weeks of action, but each team will play 10 regular season games, the same amount as the first two seasons, and also have two byes. The final will be in February 12. Find it all here.

In Matildas news, Australia's national women's team, have reached their highest FIFA ranking, with their AFC victory pushing them from 14th to equal 11th (with Italy). Matildas mentor Tom Sermanni said that a long term aim is to get into the top-10 and stay there.

Australia's greatest female footballer has been recognised by the Professional Footballer's Association and the FFA, with a new Cheryl Salisbury medal awarded to the best female footballer each year. Of course, given it's a PFA award, it's voted for by the players. Read all about it here.

In related news, Salisbury has been busy since retiring, she's become a mum. See Josh Leeson's story in the Newcastle Herald.

And in some international news, at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, which is where I was lucky enough to be in August, the Chilean women's football team won the Gold medal at the first official IOC youth event. I managed to sneak into the football venue more than once and watched the Chilean girls in their first game against Trinidad and Tobago. Composed, physical and yet pretty technically awesome, I think these girls could go a long way.

For more international news, see FIFA's official August round-up here, including the wrap-up from the second season of the USA's Women's Pro Soccer league.

And lastly, make sure you become a Matildas fan on facebook. Because lately, the page has been updated more often with some great links. So become a fan, make comments, because it seems like the FFA are listening.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Central Coast Mariners out of W-League

So news today is that the 2010/11 season of the W-League will start on November 5 and will another 10-round competition, but without the Central Coast Mariners.

First of all, it's hardly a surprise, given that Football NSW and NSWIS were supporting two teams (Sydney FC and the Mariners) and the Mariners girls were actually based in Sydney, not at all near Gosford like their men's counterpart. So now there will be two NSW teams, Sydney FC and Newcastle (who are backed by Northern NSW football, so a different entity to Football NSW), but I think will work better for women's football overall in NSW. One team per local federation makes sense to me.

Secondly, it may be one less team, but in a league where the difference between the top and bottom teams in the first two years was quite obvious, is that a bad thing? Instead heading into the FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany, it will put more pressure on every single player who wants to play W-League this year. There is about 20 less places than last year, it's going to be more competitive just to get into a W-League side. Which is another positive.

So is there any negatives out of this? Well yes, less girls will get a spot on a W-League roster this season, but in addition to my second point, coming out of an Australian Sports Commission conference on women in sport and media coverage yesterday (more on this later), I don't think that's such a bad thing either. The consensus was there, yes, women in sport should have more coverage in mainstream media, but the product has to be great first. One less team will make a more even field, a more competitive league. And I can't see a problem with that. In just the third season, I think it makes a lot more sense to cut back and make the league solid and viable before going forward.

The only other observation I have is that, well, this is going to make Sydney FC pretty unstoppable if they claim Mariners golden boot winner Michelle Heyman. Can't wait for November 5 to roll around.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

1GOAL - help give girls worldwide some education

So now the World Cup is on and all of Australia's focus is on the Socceroos, although, after the first game, I think there is probably a few broken hearts around the country. But anyway, what is means is that the Matildas are out of the worldwide spotlight.

But that doesn't mean girls have to be completely, and it's today I'm going to ask you to do a little something for me, and sign up to the 1GOAL campaign.

1GOAL's aim is to use the biggest event in the world, the FIFA World Cup and leverage the huge audience watching for a positive goal. Which is simply, education for all. We all know the basics, education is basically the key to a future, for anyone and everyone, right across the world. And it's most important for girls, because in third world countries they are less likely to have access to education than boys.

And all it takes is to sign-up your name to the cause. I've done it and it takes 20seconds maximum. When you do, you will be joining some impressive company, including the Matildas team and eight million other people worldwide.

Right now, there is also lots of pretty awesome competitions, like winning Socceroos stuff by producing a video, and if you are a student aged 13 to 17, you can win a trip to Africa and see an Aid Education project first hand to learn more about it.

So what are you waiting for, just hop on over to 1GOAL Australia website, and sign-up. It's as easy as that, and you will have helped football bring a little light to a worldwide problem. And while you are there, check out the 1GOAL Australia blog from South Africa, that includes this tweet from yesterday '1GOAL Ambassador Christiano Ronaldo was named after Ronald Reagan. True story.' See, charity and entertainment!

Now get back to some World Cup watching, and hopefully there will be a Matildas camp to report about here soon!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Matildas win the Asian Cup - a week in Australian news

So this time last week the Matildas were just about to get their hands on Australia's first ever Asian Cup, and since then they've been able to soak-up a little of the spotlight.  Here is my round-up of the best stories that appeared in the last week.

One of my all-time favourite writers Greg Baum, tackles the entire issue of Matildas and other women's media with perfect prose. Read his thoughts on The Age website.

Matildas captain Melissa Barbieri is also on The Age website, speaking her mind on Sunday, although you only need to read my previous post to see that I don't actually agree with what's said. It's still interesting to read her words though.
Peter Wilkins, although I cringed at some of his efforts while actually commentating the girls, has written a piece on Clare Polkinghorne, at ABC Sport, who I think is one of the most important players in the Matildas future.

Dan Silkstone's piece, that reveals the delicious detail that goalkeeping coach Paul Jones and Melissa Barbieri were faking it with a dossier of notes during the penalty shoot-out, making the Koreans think the Matildas captain knew which was the kick was going to come.

And from the horses mouth, one of my newest favourite writers, Australia's brilliant first-penalty-taker Sal Shipard. Read her blog here.

Shipard again (she's becoming a bit of a media star) in the fourfourtwo podcast.

Technically it's a cricket and soccer story, but with Ellyse Perry in it, how can it not be in the SMH.

Finally, while it isn't actually about them winning the Asian Cup but a preview, a special mention to Aussie magazine Women's Health and it's fashion spread, starring Barbieri, Katie Gill, Thea Slatyer, Elise Kellond-Knight and the girl-of-the-moment, Kyah Simon. See a video from the shoot, here.

Don't forget the great coverage from the oft-forgotten small-town papers. Here's to you, Newcastle Herald, Rouse Hill Times, Blue Mountains Gazette, the South East Advertiser and the Daily Advertiser. In fact, a double cheer to the Newcastle Herald, who I believe now offer the best Matildas and W-League coverage in the country. They don't just state what happened, they actually talk to the players, about tatics and stuff that actually relates to the game. Amazing!

So are there any other great stories I have missed? Which is your favourite? For me, it's hard to go past Sal Shipard's blog entry. Not only informative and interesting, it's just beautifully written as well. Thanks for sharing Sal!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Matildas in the media - time for a change

WAIT...stop there for just a minute...I know what you are thinking, it's just another rant about the Matildas should be getting more media coverage. But my point is different.

I think it's about time they stopped whining about it and did something instead.

Now, don't jump straight to the comments, just let me explain myself.

I've worked at a daily newspaper, I've seen how television newsrooms work too, as much as the world has progressed, sports newsrooms have not. Men’s sports are the way, but there is a reason for that. Simply, more people care, there are more letters to the editor, more comments on the internet, more readers. It’s actually vicious cycle for women’s sport, many Australians don’t know much about Aussie girls teams, that’s because they aren’t on the TV or newspaper every-day. The newspapers and TV then don’t cover them because they think people don’t care.

But people, we're in the age of the internet, Facebook, Youtube, blogs and Twitter. These days, anyone can create their own media. So the way Australian mainstream media works isn't going to change soon, but the way the Football Federation Australia put together its own Matildas media can.

So how about a Youtube channel with Matildas interviews and maybe even a few skills? Facebook and Twitter inviting fans to ask the Matildas their own questions and have that put up in a public forum? More stories on the FFA website, or a separate Matildas one where fans can interact with the players more? Cost is also an issue, but Youtube, Facebook and Twitter? Free. There is already 1500 supporters on the Matildas Facebook page, there is a video of when Aussie World Surfing champ Steph Gilmore visited the camp. It’s a great start, but let’s have more.

I think the most important thing is to break this self-defeating cycle that's been across what media the Matildas did recieve this week. The whole, we did something amazing, but respond with a 'now, we should get more media coverage,’ comment. As a result, the story ends up being how women’s soccer hasn’t changed.

Actually tell the story of how amazing that game was, the conditions they had to overcome, you could make people who read the story realise, wow, these girls didn't just win the Asian Cup, they put in a bloody good performance. Maybe I should have watched. Maybe I will watch next time.

Here is a story from Dan Silkstone in The Age. It's just what happened in the game, and gosh, it's interesting and also kind of hilarious. On Tuesday, that story was the third most popular item on the The Age sport website.

Heather Garriock makes this comment at the start of the ABC's 7.30 Report story, “It's important for the newspapers to report on all our games and just try and do individual things, publicity things, with us.” This is a story on how female football in Australia is behind the eight-ball and she was obviously asked that question, but this is exactly what I think needs to stop. This plea is not getting the Matildas anywhere. Instead, I think it’s time that Football Federation Australia took some steps to help the Matildas make it on their own.

Hopefully it will start with the W-League this year.

I cringed last year when a quiz on ABC Grandstand asked 'Would you go to a W-League match if it was a curtain-raiser to an A-League game?' I heard a number of people call in and say, sure, I'd love to watch the girls play if they did that. Problem was, there has already been several games played as A-League curtain raisers that season. Similarly in a comment on a fourfourtwo story on the girls return a few days ago, one said they would go to curtain raisers if they put them on. THEY ALREADY DO. But unfortunately it just seems the message isn't getting out.

So why do I even care? Well I love the Matildas, I love the W-League and I believe there IS the support from fans out there in Australia. Last year I won an Australian Sports Commission media award for the best coverage of women's sport for my stories on Canberra United in their first season of the W-League. I hate to boast, but I'm super-proud of this one. But the reason I was able to do so many Canberra United and women's football stories, I pushed and pushed and pushed. Why? Because I believe that women's football is damn entertaining. And people responded, they read it, they came out and followed the team.

In the first year of the W-League, when Canberra United made the grand final, I annoyed my boss until I got a huge broadsheet pull-out team poster. It went in and the following night at an open training session, I had a huge grin plastered on my face as little girls (and boys for that matter) brought along their posters and had them signed. The reality is that Canberra is a different market to any other major city, there is no major men’s sporting team in summer, so United already had a step-up in a limited sporting market and I had more space to fill. But I think it shows there is potential.

I believe that Women’s football in Australia can be huge, but instead of feeling defeated all the time, how about we empower this Matildas team? Stuff the mainstream media, let’s give the fans more using this new amazing set of interactive social media tools we have.

Then before the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, get together the major players in Australian media, after a bit of self-promotion. Show them the W-League attendances, the fans on Facebook, the followers on Twitter, show them how many people do care about the Matildas. Tell them the amazing stories, like Sal Shipard’s return to the game after two-years out and everything that goes with it, how almost every player has had a knee reconstruction, plenty of them three, but keep going. Show them the characters, how Tom Sermanni never gives a boring quote, Heather Garriock’s honesty, Lisa de Vanna’s wild streak. Show them just how bloody well they actually do play. Show them the Asian Cup penalty shoot-out, those five perfect penalties.

Dare them not to cover the Matildas then.

Monday, May 31, 2010

2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup final - Australia 1 bt DPR Korea 1 (5-4 on penalties)

Wow, what a final, for a host of reasons and not all of them good. (Um, did you see the pitch? More like a swamp), but this is how the final moments of the AFC Womens Asian Cup in Chengdu went.

After tied of 90minutes of normal time, then another 30minutes of super-painful extra-time, no-one could have made playing in that torrential rain and the swamp easy, it all came down to penalties.

DPR Korea go first, Korea score. Nicely taken penalty to the corner.
Sal Shipard - SCORES!
DPR Korea, a big miss.
Kylie Ledbrook - SCORES! Almost exactly the same spot as Shipard's.
DPR, Barbieri went the right way, but just missed getting a hand on it and it goes in.
Kate Gill - SCORES! Another one pretty much straight down the middle.
DPR, put it into the top corner and scores, very very hard for any keeper to get that one.
Heather Garriock - SCORES!
DPR Korea, score as Barbier gets stuck to her spot.
Kyah Simon - SCORES! And the Asian Cup is all Australia's! Way to make a bit of history girls!

MATCH DETAILS - AUSTRALIA 1 (Sam Kerr 19’) bt JAPAN 1 (Ra Un Sim 73'), Australia win on penalties 5-4 at the Chengdu Sports Center Stadium, Chengdu, China
Referee: Sachiko Yamagishi
Australia starting line-up: 1.Melissa BARBIERI (gk) (c), 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE, 5.Lauren COLTHORPE, 6.Servet UZUNLAR, 7.Heather GARRIOCK, 12. Kate GILL, 14.Collette MCCALLUM (27.Aivi LUIK 97’), 15.Sally SHIPARD, 16.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT (10.Kylie LEDBROOK 101’), 22.Sam KERR (17.Kyah SIMON 75’), 23.Kim Carroll
Substitutes not used: 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 3.Karla REUTER, 13.Thea SLATYER, 19.Leena KHAMIS, 25.Casey DUMONT (gk), 31.Teigen ALLEN
Injured: Tameka Butt, Sarah Walsh, Lisa De Vanna
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
DPR Korea starting line-up: 1.Hong Myong Hui (gk), 4.Yun Song Mi, 5.Choe Yong Sim, 6.Ra Un Sim, 8.Jo Yun Mi, 9.Rei Ye Gyong, 10.Kim Yong Ae (14.Yun Hyon Hi 53’), 11.Kim Kyong Hwa (15.Mun Chol Mi 70’), 13.Kim Chung Sim (20.Ri Hyon Suk 103’), 16.Yu Jong Hui, 21.Song Jong Sun
Substitutes not used: 3.Kwon Jong Sun, 7.Choe Un Ju, 12.Kim Un Ju, 17.Jon Myong Hwa, 18.Jo Yun Mi (gk), 22.Ri Jin Sim (gk)
Yellow cards: Choe Yong Sim 45’
Red cards: Nil

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Tom Sermanni's new hair

Anyone else notice anything different in that pre-match interview? Umm, yes. Where is your mo and silver locks Tom? It seems they have been the victim of the Matildas success.

Thanks to Sal Shipard's insight here, Sermanni made the promise that the girls could get rid of said moustache and dye his hair if they qualified for the World Cup, so hello Germany, goodbye facial hair!

Can the Matildas make history? 2010 AFC Women's Cup Final

So it's almost time, in just a little under an hour we'll be able to find out whether this Matildas team can make a little history of its own. Which is all pretty amazing really when we think about where the Matildas have been since the last Asian Cup, there has been retirements of legends and plenty more who had a break from the game, but also a new women's league in Australia and with it more games and more time for the new generation to develop.

Ie, what looked like a pretty dire situation two years ago, has now actually turned-out to be a great one. There is no doubt the W-League has played a role. I'm sure that players like Elise Kellond-Knight, Teigan Allen and Sam Kerr would have been part of the Matildas senior team some-day, but perhaps not as quickly as they have thanks to the experience in the W-League. There they showed Tom Sermanni that they aren't just promising young players, they are already mature enough and good enough to play senior international football. That's certainly what we have seen from them in the Asian Cup.

The other great thing about this campaign is that it will keep those senior players who are still there in for at least one more W-League season and one more international one, in the lead-in to the FIFA 2010 Women's World Cup. Someone like Thea Slatyer (who has now captained the Matildas twice in the Asian Cup, the first time she's worn the armband for her country), who only played a handful of minutes in the W-League this season after returning from an overseas adventure, will no doubt play every-single game this year. And that's great news for the next generation of Matildas coming through, because the better the W-League, the better the Australian women's football program will be.

And of course, it doesn't need to be pointed out that going to the FIFA World Cup is another huge positive, but the point I'm going to make here is exposure. While people are still banging on about the Matildas being so far behind the men in media coverage, money etc (which is still mostly true) people still forget that now, as opposed to even 10-years ago), women can earn enough to live-on playing football in Europe or America and I reckon there are plenty of Australian's that could hold their own in those leagues, playing against the best in the world in Germany next year might convince those clubs too and that can also only be a benefit.

But all that is still in the future, right now, this group of girls has a chance to make history now as the only Australian team to win an Asian Cup. On the AFC website, Tom Sermanni thinks that Australia’s ability to score goals from all across the park will be the difference. I think it’s not just that that could set this team apart, it’s just how entertaining they could be at scoring goals too. Sarah Walsh, Katie Gill, Heather Garriock and Sam Kerr are all capable of a spectacular shot and I hope that now with the pressure of actually qualifying for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup off, they will just go for it and produce some of that brilliantly entertaining football that we know they can.

North Korea have won three out of the last four tournaments, but they have brought a younger team this time and aren't the powerhouse they used to be.

So what will happen? I'm not going to predict the starting line-up as I've been terrible so far, but I am thinking Lydia Williams will be in goal (like the ASEAN final last year), and that the Matildas will win. Go get it girls!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Matildas qualify for 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup!

It was close, it was sometimes scrappy and sometimes brilliant, but Katie Gill's half-time goal was just enough last night to clinch the Matildas place in the 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup final and with it, a place in next year's FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany.

So yay for that! Great effort girls! Some interesting choices, with Elise Kellond-Knight in defence and Clare Polkinghorne playing an attacking role, but it all worked out somehow in what looked to me to be a frenetic, crazy kind of game. (Like, just how many goal kicks did Barbieri have in the first 25-minutes? A bucketload). Tommy was certainly very pleased with the effort at last night's presser in Chengdu, China, you can read what he had to say here.

Now the next thing is, can the Matildas capture their first-ever Asian Cup title when they meet Korea DPR in the final on Sunday night? Well given they beat Japan, the roaring favourites to win this, you would have to think the Matildas are in with a chance.

Here is the match details re Japan, more re the final to come later!

AFC Women's Cup semi-final - AUSTRALIA 1 (Kate Gill 45’+1) bt JAPAN 0 at the Thursday, 27 May 2010 at Chengdu Sports Center Stadium, Chengdu, China
Referee: Pannipar Kamnueng
Australia starting line-up: 1.Melissa BARBIERI (gk) (c), 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE, 5.Lauren COLTHORPE (27.Aivi LUIK 82’), 6.Servet UZUNLAR, 7.Heather GARRIOCK, 12. Kate GILL, 14.Collette MCCALLUM (22.Sam KERR 90’), 15.Sally SHIPARD, 16.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 23.Kim Carroll, 9.Sarah WALSH (31.Teigen ALLEN 61’)
Substitutes not used: 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (GK), 3.Karla REUTER, 10.Kylie LEDBROOK, 13.Thea SLATYER (c), 17.Kyah SIMON, 19.Leena KHAMIS, 24.Tameka BUTT, 25.Casey DUMONT (gk)
Yellow cards: Collette MCCALLUM 37’, Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT 50’
Red cards: Nil
Japan starting line-up: 12.Kaihori Ayumi (gk), 2.Iwashimizu Azusa, 3.Yano Kyoko (Megumi 88’), 4.Kumagai Saki, 5.Kinga Yukari, 6.Sameshima Aya, 8.Miyama Aya, 9.Nagasato Yuki, 10.Sawa Homare, 13.Yamaguchi Mami (Ando KOZUE 35’), 16.Sudo Akiko (Utsugi Rumi 59’)
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And the rest of the Matildas AFC Women's Cup Group B matches

Oops-a-daisy, but unfortunately this whole travelling through Canada thing hasn't helped when it comes to regular internet access. Luckily I've been able to catch-up on all the Matildas news thanks to kind people who have emailed me, but if you missed it, here is a recap.

What happened in their Group B matches? Since we last spoke, the pretty much full-strength Matildas beat the Korea Republic 3-1 thanks to three second-half goals, but then a half-strength (or would we even call it that?) team lost 1-0 to China. Which certainly wasn't the end of the world, but it does mean we have to now play Japan in the semi-final - which is a lot harder than North Korea.

What about Lisa de Vanna? Yep, that's a broken leg folks, suffered against China. Which seems to be a bit of unfortunate trend when it comes to Australia's top strikers. Sarah Walsh first (last year), now Lisa. Let's hope that it doesn't come in threes.

What's next? A semi-final match-up against Japan, who topped Group A. Not only did they finish up there, they scored 14 goals in three matches and conceded only one. They did have the easier group, but still all those goals and the fact that the are undefeated, that has got to instill some confidence. The loss of de Vanna could also affect Australia to two ways. One is that the Matildas will step-up to cover the loss and just find goals from elsewhere (or give Sam Kerr a start, which is kind of an exciting thought), the other is that they may be a bit lost. Which they can't really afford to do against Japan, a team with all those goals and all that confidence. Because the simply reality is that win this semi-final against Japan (on May 26th at 6pm Australian time), they are into the AFC Asian Women's Cup final and will have qualified for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany. Lose and they face the third/four play-off game, which they must win to make it. After what happened to the Australian under-17 team earlier this year, went through the group stage undefeated, lost a heart-breaking seven-goal semi-final and then lost the third/fourth game to miss out on their spot at the under-17 World Cup. Of course, the senior Matildas team is a lot more experienced and most have been playing at this top-level for years, but that might still linger in the mind of a few in this team - included Sam Kerr and assistant coach Robbie Hooker (who was the coach of that 17's team). Whatever happens, I'll be sure to be tuned in to this one and I hope you do too, live on ABC TV.

MATCH DETAILS for those other two group-games -
bt Korea Republic 1 (Kang SUN MI 70’) on Wednesday, May 19, at the Chengdu Sports Center Stadium, Chengdu, China.
Referee: Sachiko YAMAGISHI
Assistant referees: Takahashi SAORI and Ayukai SHIHO
Fourth official: Pannipar KAMNUENG
Australia starting line-up: 1.Melissa BARBIERI (gk) (c), 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE, 5.Lauren COLTHORPE, 6.Servet UZUNLAR, 7.Heather GARRIOCK, 11.Lisa DE VANNA (22.Sam KERR 63’), 12. Kate GILL, 14.Collette McCallum (15.Sally SHIPARD 78'), 16.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 23.Kim Carroll, 31.Teigen ALLEN (9.Sarah WALSH 56')
Substitutes not used: 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (GK), 3.Karla REUTER, 10.Kylie LEDBROOK, 13.Thea SLATYER (c), 17.Kyah SIMON, 19.Leena KHAMIS, 24.Tameka BUTT, 27.Aivi LUIK, 25.Casey DUMONT (gk)
Yellow cards: Melissa BARBIERI 74’, Kate GILL 88’
Red cards: Nil
Korea Republic starting line-up: 18.Kim Jung Mi (gk), 3.Yu Ji Eun, 6.Jeon GA Eul, 10.Ji SO Yun, 12.Choe Su Jin (15.Lee Jang Mi 59’), 13.Kim Do Yeon, 14.Kwon Hah Nul (7.Yoo Young A 78’), 20.Jung Hae In, 24.Cho So Hyun, 27.Kang Sun Mi, 28.Kim Soo Yun
Substitutes not used: Nil
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil

GROUP B MATCH 3 - CHINA 1 (Zhang RUI 9') bt AUSTRALIA 0 on Sunday, May 23 at the Chengdu Sports Center Stadium, Chengdu, China
Referee: Sachiko YAMAGISHI (Japan)
Assistant referees: Ayukai SHIHO (Japan) and Takahashi SAORI (Japan)
Fourth official: Semaksuk PRAEW (Thailand)
Australia starting line-up: 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (GK), 3.Karla REUTER, 7.Heather GARRIOCK, 9.Sarah WALSH (11.Lisa DE VANNA 53’) (22.Sam KERR 73’), 10.Kylie LEDBROOK, 13.Thea SLATYER (c), 15.Sally SHIPARD, 17.Kyah SIMON (14.Collette MCCALLUM 60’), 19.Leena KHAMIS, 24.Tameka BUTT, 27.Aivi LUIK
Substitutes not used: 1.Melissa BARBIERI (gk), 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE, 5.Lauren COLTHORPE, 6.Servet UZUNLAR, 12. Kate GILL, 16.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 23.Kim Carroll, 31.Teigen ALLEN, 5.Lauren COLTHORPE, 25.Casey DUMONT
Yellow cards: Karla REUTER 20’
Red cards: Nil
China starting line-up: 1.Zhang YANRU (GK), 2.Liu HUANA, 3.Yuan FAN, 5.Weng XINZHI, 7.Bi YAN, 8.Xu YUAN, 9.Han DUAN (13.Ma JUN), 14.Li DANYANG, 15.Sun LING, 16.Zhang RUI (11.You JIA 84’), 24.Ma ZIXIANG (19.Lou JIAHUI 76’)
Substitutes not used: 4.Jin XIAMOEI, 6.Zhang NA, 12.Guan JINGJING, 17.Pang FENGYUE, 18.Weng XIAOJIE (gk), 20.Zhou GAOPING
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Matildas 2 bt Vietnam 0 in 2010 AFC Asian Women's Cup Group B Match 1

So the Matildas kickstarted their 2010 AFC Asian Women's Cup with a win! And even more interesting, in the other match in Group B, Korea Republic and China played out a 0-0 draw. That has two great benefits, that Australia already have three points while the two teams they really have to beat to get into the finals only has one and the Matildas already have a better goal difference. But aside from that, let's look quickly at last night's game and what it all means.

The good parts: A relatively easy win to get confidence up and experience into Australia's most inexperienced line-up. I though Leena Khamis was great, she just has that bit of anger, and she uses it to perfection. Her aggressive style, which was just to run straight at Vietnam's defenders, worked very well. Kylie Ledbrook was great too and I think she deserves to stay in the midfield when the A-team comes in against Korea. Defence was fine, Slatyer and Uzunlar the best, but they also didn't get very much of a work-out.

The bad parts: Some terrible passing early on in the game and getting too caught-up in Vietnam's game, which was basically to try and boot the ball anywhere they could out of defence. It didn't really work for them, and it didn't really work for the Matildas. But still enough quality there to show the Matildas deserved the win. Aivi Luik and Sally Shipard had a few 'oops' moments where they lost the ball, but both always chased it up. Plus for Luik that game was mostly about experience and for Shipard, getting back in the swing of it, they'll both be better for it. Not anything bad actually, just showed that some players were a little rusty, and some inexperienced, which was to be expected in that starting XI.

What Tom said: “Vietnam played very well and it was a tough first game. They were disciplined in defence and had some good passages of play,” said Sermanni.
“We are pleased to get the win which was our aim as we knew it would be difficult. I am satisfied with the win, but I think we could have played better.
“We have come to expect tough games against the likes of Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar, so to come through unscathed with a win is a positive.
“But we did have quite a few nerves and we didn't quite reach the high expectations we could have.”

“When we play in these tournaments it is very important to use the squad as a whole instead of just relying on the same starting 11.

“Both China and Korea will be very difficult to play against and to beat.
“There will be significant changes for the next game and we’ll see where we are placed following that.”

What comes next: Korea Republic - who opened with that aformentioned 0-0 draw with China in their match last night. And almost a whole team full of changes, with Polkinghorne, Garriock, McCallum, Walsh, Gill and de VVanna still to come in. I'd be very surprised if any of those players didn't play next game.
Interesting that Elise Kellond-Knight didn't play, which makes me think she is now considered one of the top Matildas midfielders. I'm a huge KK fan, she's gritty and tough but also technically very good, so I'd be very happy to see her holding down a central position in there.

AUSTRALIA 2 (Leena KHAMIS 28’, Kylie LEDBROOK 52’ (pen)) bt VIETNAM 0 at the Chengdu Sports Center Stadium, Chengdu, China on Wednesday, May 19, 2010.
Referee: Ri Hyang OK
Assistant referees: Hong Kum NYO and Liu Hsiu MEI
Fourth official: Sachiko Yamagishi
Australia starting line-up: 18.Lydia WILLIAMS (GK), 3.Karla REUTER, 5.Lauren COLTHORPE (31.Teigen ALLEN 64’), 6.Servet UZUNLAR (22.Sam KERR 53’), 10.Kylie LEDBROOK, 13.Thea SLATYER (c), 15.Sally SHIPARD, 17.Kyah SIMON, 19.Leena KHAMIS, 24.Tameka BUTT, 27.Aivi LUIK
Substitutes not used: 1.Melissa BARBIERI (gk), 4.Clare POLKINGHORNE, 7.Heather GARRIOCK, 9.Sarah WALSH, 11.Lisa DE VANNA, 12. Kate GILL, 16.Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, , 25.Casey DUMONT (gk)
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Vietnam starting line-up: 1.TRINH (gk), 4.Nguywen Thi Hanh, 7.Nguyen Thi Nga, 8.Dao Thi Mien, 13.Nguyen Thi Muon (19.Oanh 76’), 14.Chi, 15.Anh, 16.Le Thi Thuong, 18.Nguyet,23.Hong,29.An
Substitutes not used: 3.Nhieu Tuy Linh, 5.Nhu, 10.Nguyen Thi Thanh, 12.Phu, 17.Nguyen Hai Hoa, 20.Nguyet, 28.Do Thi Thu Trang, 27.Duong Thi Danh (gk), 28.Ngoc
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Matildas v Vietnam - AFC Women's Asian Cup Group Match 1

The latest news on the squad that is set to start the 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup opener for Australia is this, Lydia Williams in goal, Melissa Barbieri on the bench. Defender Thea Slatyer will wear the captain's armband. And two wonderful stories in that Aivi Luik will play, completing the journey she set out to when she came back to Australia from America at the end of last year, with a goal to get into the Matildas, and so will Sally Shipard, who is back on the international stage after a two-year-break and a W-League season where she signed for Canberra United but couldn't play at all due to an international transfer hold-up.

Thanks for the update FFA, and go get-em girls!

So looks like I was rather off in my starting XI predictions, this is who is out there. Williams (GK), Slatyer (C), Colthorpe, Luik, Khamis, Butt, Shipard, Simon, Uzunlar, Reuter and Ledbrook. Six minutes in and going ok so far.

Game update: 29minutes, goal! Lovely Leena Khamis header. Matildas have dominated so far, but at times got caught up in Vietnam's tendency to just kick the ball around anywhere instead of to a teammate. Am watching the game via dodgy internet stream with no commentary, but at least it's on!

Half-time update: still 1-0 to the Matildas and they are looking very much in control, although at sometimes kind of uncontrolled. What do I mean? Well the Matildas are dominating, but there has been some errant passes and too many lost long balls. So still plenty to work on in the second half, but if they can, the goals should start to flood in.

51st minute: Kylie Ledbrook very nicely finishes the penalty that Tameka Butt earned. 2-0 Matildas.

And oh dear, there goes my internet feed. Well, it's been fun so far. See you again soon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Latest team news - Sarah Walsh is in! - Plus first eleven

So just a matter of days away now and the good news from Matildas camp in Chengdu is that Sarah Walsh has passed a fitness test on her knee and will be in the squad for the 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup. That means Michelle Heyman is back on a plane to Australia. But overall for Australia's chances, it's a GREAT thing that Walsh is fit because she is one of just four Australian gals plying their trade overseas and that experience is going to count for a lot come May 19.

The top Matildas goalscorer in the current squad was pretty relieved to get there, “It’s been a long four weeks and I’m very grateful to our medical team and Tom (Sermanni) who worked so hard and showed me so much support to get me back in time for the cup,” Walsh said. “Now my knee is strong it’s about concentrating on my fitness and getting out there to help the girls qualify for the World Cup and win the Asian Cup.”

But when the match kicks-off at 5pm Australian time on Wednesday, who will actually be out there? I'm not sure if Walsh will be on the field, although she is usually first-choice striker with DeVanna coming off the bench, but will her knee be up for the 60 or 70minutes she will have to play if she starts? So there are still plenty of questions as there are a few players in the mix in this squad that didn't play in the last four friendlies. So here is my guess at the starting eleven, in four-four-two although they are probably just as likely to play four-three-three, for the first game against Vietnam.

GK - Melissa Barbieri
Defenders - Clare Polkinghorne, Thea Slatyer, Kim Carroll, Heather Garriock
Midfielders - Collette McCallum, Lauren Colthorpe, Elise Kellond-Knight, Sally Shipard
Strikers - Katie Gill, Lisa de Vanna
Bench - Sarah Walsh, Karla Reuter, Tameka Butt, Kyah Simon, Lydia Williams (GK)

But a few reasons, given Barbieri is now Matildas captain I expect her to start in every-game, with Williams and then Dumont as the back-up order in case of injury. I think the central defenders will be Kim Carroll and Thea Slatyer, an experienced duo who are also just very very tough, but with some speed on the outside in Polkinghorne and Garriock because the Matildas will need it to shut down those speedy Asian attacks. There is so many quality midfielders it's hard to pick which way Tom Sermanni will structure it there, but Collette McCallum is the best set-piece taker in the Matildas and will start. I really like the way KK plays the game, so she's in my team, but could also be Kylie Ledbrook in a more defensive position, or Aivi Luik, or Kyah Simon in a role there. I'd also like to see Sal Shipard get a go, because after last year's W-League season debacle which you can find more about here and here (although they have spelt her name wrong, come on Half Time Heroes), I think she deserves it. She was a starting member of the team in the 2007 World Cup, when she was still a teenager. But compared to lots of other players, she doesn't have that much game-time under her belt, so you can see how other players would be ahead of her. I think Tameka Butt will definitely play, but just whether it's an impact player off the bench or as a starter, I'm waiting to see. The strikers, well that's probably the easiest. It will be Katie Gill and either Lisa de Vanna or Sarah Walsh. I'm 99 per cent sure on that one.

Given I have been overseas and not actually been able to watch any of those lead-up games (which has frustrated me no end), this is probably way off, but I thought I would give it a go anyway. So please chip in with your starting XI's and let's see who is closest to pinning the tail on the donkey!

And remember, for all of you lucky enough to be in Australia, watch the game live on ABC. After all, they have also just agreed to cover the competition until its conclusion on May 29, on top of Australia's group matches. So if the Matildas do make it through to the finals, they will be live on TV too. And finally,


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Matildas 2010 Asian Cup squad vs the 2007 Matildas World Cup squad

So the Matildas leave for China tomorrow for the 2010 Asian Cup, and as of today have one extra passenger, Central Coast Mariner Michelle Heyman.

Heyman, who was voted the best player in the W-League last season and the golden boot winner, is in as injury cover for senior striker Sarah Walsh. Now Walsh will still travel to China and be given until May 17, when the FFA has to submit it's full squad to the AFC, to prove her fitness. Otherwise it looks like Heyman will be going from local women's premier league in New South Wales, to an international stage in 12-months. It's funny how a little thing like opportunity, wouldn't have happened if not for the W-League, can help out with that.

So shall we talk about the squad? How it's all coming together and if they are really a chance to qualify for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany? Well, I could, but first let's start with something that requires a little back-tracking, but I think is certainly worth it.

Because what I want to know is, after all this talk of a complete rebuilding period in Australian women's football after a host of post 2007 World Cup retirements - how different is this actual squad from that World Cup edition?

So I decided to crunch the maths, and here is the comparison.

Goalkeepers – Melissa BARBIERI, Lydia WILLIAMS, Casey DUMONT
Defenders –  Heather GARRIOCK, Clare POLKINGHORNE, Thea SLATYER, Teigen ALLEN, Kim CARROLL, Karla REUTER, Servet UNZULAR,
Midfielders – Lauren COLTHORPE, Collette McCALLUM, Sally SHIPARD, Tameka BUTT, Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, Aivi LUIK, Kylie LEDBROOK,
Forwards – Lisa DeVANNA, Kate GILL, Sarah WALSH, Sam KERR, Leena KHAMIS, Kyah SIMON

Goalkeepers – Melissa BARBIERI, Lydia WILLIAMS, Emma WIRKUS
Midfielders – Lauren COLTHORPE, Alicia FERGUSON, Collette McCALLUM, Joanne PETERS, Sally SHIPARD, Danielle SMALL
Forwards – Joanne BURGESS, Lisa DeVANNA, Kate GILL, Caitlin MUNOZ, Sarah WALSH

But what does it all mean Basil?

Well there are 12 players returning from the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. They are, Melissa BARBIERI, Karla REUTER, Lydia WILLIAMS, Heather GARRIOCK, Clare POLKINGHORNE, Thea SLATYER, Lauren COLTHORPE, Collette McCALLUM, Sally SHIPARD, Lisa DeVANNA, Kate GILL and Sarah WALSH.

The new faces in 2010 are: Teigen Allen, Tameka Butt, Casey Dumont, Kim Carroll, Elise Kellond-Knight, Sam Kerr, Leena Khamis, Aivi Luik, Clare Polkinghorne, Kyah Simon and Servet Uzunlar. And now possibly Michelle Heyman.

So pretty much the squad is half new. But is it a completely new generation of Matildas? I think it can probably be argued both ways.

One is that yes, it is, simply because of the players who aren't there. Cheryl Salisbury was a once in a lifetime player. She simply could not be directly replaced in the Matildas team, because there isn't anyone else like her. Then there is Jo Peters, Di Alagich, both players with a huge amount of international experience who also retired.

But there is also a lot of familar faces in all positions and in particular in the attacking half. Although if Walsh is injured it will be a huge blow, Lisa de Vanna and Kate Gill are a more than capable duo. Add in Sam Kerr off the bench and there is a world class attack. The defence and midfield will be a lot less experienced together, but stick Heather Garriock and Sally Shipard in the middle with some new Matildas and it will always be a dangerous line-up. Thea Slatyer and Clare Polkinghorne are great tough defenders, and if you put them at centre-back it could allow for some more attacking players on the wings, or even put Polkinghorne out there on a wing and Servet Uzunlar in the middle. Another interesting storyline will be what happens in goal. Melissa Barbieri's selection as captain suggests she will start every game, but in the past two years she and Lydia Williams have had an on-off type arrangement. Casey Dumont is also right-up there if we are going on W-League form, not age and experience.

Whichever way you look at it, it's an interesting mix of old and new. It's a team with plenty of talent and let's hope it's enough to earn a second FIFA Women's World Cup berth.

I'll be following with interest, and I hope you are too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Notes from a WPS match

So one part of being overseas is that today I actually was able to catch some WPS action, that's the Women's Pro Soccer League. Unfortunately not live, but through Fox Sports World's broadcast. So my thoughts after watching an entire game? Well it's pretty damn similar to Australia's own W-League.

I caught the Round 4 game between Sky Blue FC and FC Gold Pride, the team that has the best women's player in the world - Marta. But apart from Marta, whose skill-level is amazing, most of the players looked on par with the W-League. Of course the American game was fast and physical, but that's the way they play, and going on the game I saw yesterday, the Australian league is a more technical game and even more focused on possession. So the leagues have their differences, but going on yesterday's match, there is no reason why more of Australian couldn't get gigs there. Someone like Sam Kerr, with her physicality combined with great foot skills, I'm sure would carve it up.

But there is one thing that the WPS has that the W-League doesn't. And that is FC Gold Pride's Kiki Bosio and her flip throw. Yep, the flip throw. Here is her explanation of it, from an interview with her college team before she graduated last year.

SCU: What, if any, are the secrets behind your flip throw? How have you been able to make it such a valuable asset to your game?

KB: I don't think there are any secrets to my flip throw. It honestly is not hard to do once you get over the fear of doing it. It is a skill that I learned when I was nine years old so I have had 13 years to develop it. It has definitely been a useful tool to my game and the team's game. We've scored a number of goals off of it this year and play it similar to a corner kick.

Well anyway now Bosio is a first-year WPS player, but is starting to become a dangerous asset off the bench thanks to the craziness that is the flip-throw. Well that's what the special comments girl on the TV said, and yes, she apparently does it for every throw-in. So my question is, who will be the first to bring it into the W-League?

And to round it out, some other interesting WPS facts. If you couldn't get to the game yesterday, or the Fox Soccer TV broadcast, the game was also on an internet stream and for those lucky enough to have iphone's, a phone stream. Three different ways to watch the game? Yes please. Then there is my favourite, fantasy women's football. Check it out here. Perhaps one of the first female-athlete fantasy games out there?

Oh and the game? FC Gold Pride won 1-0 thanks to a nicely-finished set-piece goal from Canadian Christine Sinclair, who then did the chicken dance afterwards.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Matildas squad to tour New Zealand announced

So the squad is out and isn't it an interesting one! Certainly pretty different from the players who attended the training camp in Canberra a few weeks ago and one that actually isn't as inexperienced as perhaps thought. Helping that is a few players back in the line-up, like Sally Shipard and Kylie Ledbrook, who have both been out of the set-up for two years. In particular it's great to see Shipard back, after she retired at just 19 and then had her W-League comeback cruelled by an international transfer, but more on that later. Thea Slatyer is another who hasn't played a whole lot lately, but was a starting member in defence at the 2007 World Cup. Then there is the talented youth, Sam Kerr, who cleaned up at the W-League awards despite hardly playing any games. Aivi Luik will be on her first Matildas tour after ending her American college career to do just that.

Technology issues prevent me from easily putting it all up here, but briefly here is the squad and I promise more will follow!
Melissa Barbieri (gk), Tameka Butt, Kim Carroll, Lauren Colthorpe, Lisa de Vanna, Heather Garriock, Katie Gill, Elise Kellond-Knight, Sam Kerr, Leena Khamis, Kylie Ledbrook, Aivi Luik, Collette McCallum, Clare Polkinghorne, Sally Shipard, Kyah Simon, Thea Slatyer, Servet Uzunlar, Sarah Walsh, Lydia Williams (gk).

The squad will play games against New Zealand on February 17 and 20.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cya later Los Angeles Sol - First WPS team goes bust

So it might be happy days in Australia thanks to the Matildas new pay deal, but on the other side of the world Women's professional soccer took a small step backwards yesterday.
 The Los Angeles Sol has folded.
Yes, the WPS's marquee team, with none other than Marta as their best player, the inuagural grand finalists and league champions. Well they won't be doing any of that in 2010.
 The Anschultz Entertainment Group handed back it's ownership stake back in November. They are the same group that owns MLS team LA Galaxy (yes, the one that Beckham plays for) and had owned a host of other MLS teams, but just decided they didn't want to own the girls anymore.
 Women's Pro Soccer league management took over and tried to find a new owner, but couldn't and yesterday announced the franchise was kaput, for this season at least.
 The players will be drafted out in a re-assignment draft next Thursday. Which could either be kind of awesome for Atlanta Beat, who has the first pick in this draft, or kind of stressful.
 On one hand, it's a clear choice, pick-up four time FIFA women's World Player of the Year Marta. On the other hand, will any other team have enough to pay her the $500,000 salary that she got in her first season at the Sol?

 Overall though, for the league that was supposed to reinvent women's football when it started last year and unlike it's predesscor, the WUSA, do all that without going broke - it's not a great step. Or is it?
 If you want to hear from the frustrated, read LA journo Jo-Ryan Salazar's excellent piece here on the Bleacher Report.
 But delving further into the story, there are plenty more that suggest it's not the end of the world, or at least the start of a crumble.
 On World Soccer Digest, Richard Barley has put together a story using lots of other links to other stories including a long five-part piece from Jeff Kassouf at the Equalizer, that sums up what happened. Although Kassouf is kind of angry with it all, Barley sums it up as not entirely bad. Perhaps just weeding out the owners that aren't actually that serious. You can also read Jeff's full piece here.
 But perhaps the one that makes most sense is from Tom Dunmore on Pitch Invasion, where he actually wonders if them folding is a good thing. Which it may be. It's a very eloquently put piece.

So what's the down-under view from GWG? Certainly I think there is positives to come out of this. The big-one? The debate above. When it comes down to it, even this professional women's league isn't anywhere near the men's when it comes to the crunch, but what will help it get there? A generation of fanatical fans and interested media who are committed to spreading the stories. At least from the hoopla happening on the interweb right now, it's obvious there are a whole lot of people from both sides who care about women's football. A tad soppy? Well, yes. But it's the lesson that I'm going to take from it. And it seems the lesson that some of the club's already have. The Chicago Red Stars have just posted on their website a statement saying they are strong, but please, if you like women's football show your support by attending a game, or buying a membership. The main message? Assert that this league matters. It's a good one for any women's football league, or any women's sporting league anywhere to take. So girls and boys wherever you are, get on board and support your team!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Matildas pay deal - is professionalism almost here?

So by now, I'm sure all you female football fans have heard the great news. If you haven't already over at The Women's Game, SBS, the ABC, the AFC or others that are covering the news, this year the Matildas will start to recieve match payments and have new and improved contracts with Football Federation Australia. So what does it mean? GWG has a stab at telling you.

THE CONTRACTS - In case you missed it, the story is this. For this year's Women's Asian Cup, a minimum of the 23-players in the Matildas squad will all receive six-month contracts. They will range in salary, but the top few players will earn $17,000. All players will then receive between $500 and $1000 for each game they play. It's the first-time ever the Matildas will be paid match-payments. The Professional Footballer's Associtation played a huge role in the negotiations to get this far, particularly with the Matildas players representatives, Melissa Barbieri, Kate McShea, Lauren Colthorpe, Sarah Walsh and Heather Garriock.

WHAT THEY SAID -  PFA chief executive Brendan Schwab,“We are determined to work with FFA to make football the sport of choice for elite athletes of both genders,” Mr Schwab said. “This agreement is a significant step towards the development of a professional career path for our best women footballers.”
“The new arrangements are a significant improvement on the previous agreement and are a result of constructive negotiations between all parties. As well as an increase in payments there are some other new conditions that will make being a Westfield Matilda much more beneficial.”
Matildas and Brisbane Roar defender Kate McShea, "It's guaranteed income which will hopefully help us focus more on football," McShea said. "We'll still have financial worries but they'll be a bit less of a burden.
"Our entire budget is probably what one Socceroo gets but in terms of female sports we're sitting pretty good. We've definitely come a long way."

WHAT IT MEANS - The immediate benefit - The Matildas 2011 World Cup qualifying campaign, which starts in May in China. In a year where they are focusing on trying to qualify for a FIFA Women's World Cup, the players can now spend a bit more time doing that than having to work to earn a living.
 It also means the Australian's that played in overseas leagues last year, Heather Garriock, Sarah Walsh, Lisa de Vanna, Collette McCallum, Katie Gill and Lydia Williams, will not be so much out of pocket if they do stay at home instead of returning to the professional teams they belong to overseas. They could be earning actual enough to live-on wages in the Women's Pro League in America, or in Gill's case, Sweden. So this new Australian contract will at least help them pay the bills while they focus on getting Australia to a FIFA Women's World Cup.

The incentive - The contract will also be able to give Tom Sermanni an incentive for which to garner commitment. For example, after 2007 World Cup Thea Slatyer took some time off football. She played the first W-League season but then went travelling overseas, before coming back right at the end of the season and ended-up playing 30minutes for Canberra in one game. But if Tom Sermanni wants Thea Slatyer in his team, and as pretty much the only starting defender left from that 2007 World Cup team I'm sure he does, Slatyer will need to commit to a contract.  Before those involved in the Australian set-up didn't have anything to really keep player's in the system for, apart from a love of the game. That can get hard to keep-up if you have a full-time job, plus a partner or family to contend with. Canberra United midfielder Grace Gill once said to me "I wonder how many men would keep playing if they weren't being paid for it?" and it's a quote I bring up again and again. Of course, they still need a love for the game. But it must be so much easier to love the game if it loves you back a little bit.

The career pathway - I think this announcement isn't just about the current players, although it is great for them, but it's about the impact it has for the players in the future.
For this argument, let's not even touch the old women versus men topic, because that's probably never going to change, but let's just talk about the female sporting landscape in Australia.
What do I mean there? Well, After the old WNSL collapsed and football was in no-women's land for four-years, Australian cricket, basketball and netball made steady increases.
The WNBL continues to be a strong league, none more so than this year where a host of Opals returning to the league means the title-race is right-open.
The WNCL has added two new women's teams this year, the ACT and Tasmania (although Tassie were just in the Twenty20) and has had national annual contracts for its players for years.
Netball has had a huge overhaul, with the old Commonwealth Bank trophy replaced by the Trans-Tasman competition with half and half Australian and New Zealand teams. Given that netball is the second-biggest sport behind Rugby Union in NZ, it was a smart move. The TV rights deal allowed them to struck a semi-professional league for women, with a minimum wage of $10,000 for a six-month contract. But most players are on more. Now more players from Australia are going to NZ to play as well.
Overall in terms of gaining a career in the sport, cricket and netball are still limited because the sports aren't played that widely across the world.
Football however is more like basketball, it's played almost everywhere, and basketball which has done a very good job of making a career pathway for its players in Australia. Apart from the individual sports (golf, swimming and tennis) do you know many Aussie women making a career from their sport? Well yes, there are some and most of them play basketball. Lauren Jackson is one player that does earn her entire living from her sport and playing in the USA, Korea and then Russia allowed her to do that.
 There have been overseas female football leagues for years, but because Australia didn't have a national league, there was nowhere to really learn at a high-level and make a case to those European teams or American college scouts in football. Some players have done it, but it wasn't easy.
 But now at least football is starting to get on par with providing that international pathway like basketball.
 And as the fastest growing sport for women to play in Australia, there is now reward for making the top level. This new deals, and the promise that another deal will be negotiated in June to take the Matildas through to 2012, are the next step towards professionalism for Australia's footballing females. And yay for that!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Squad for first Matildas camp in January 2010

So Tom Sermanni did tell me there would be 25-players at this camp, but given that five of his 29-squad that was announced by the FFA today are goalkeepers - that was about right in terms of field players. As mentioned in my pre-camp chat to Sermanni, which you can easily scroll down for, it's just below this post! it's now at the pointy-end of selection time.
Meet the players most likely to be representing Australia at the 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup in China in May, and yes, there are some surprises in there.

Westfield Matildas squad list -Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Training Camp, AIS Football Fields, 14-17 January 2010, Teigen ALLEN (Sydney FC), Laura ALLEWAY (Melbourne Victory), Melissa BARBIERI (Melbourne Victory, GK), Leah BLAYNEY (Central Connecticut State University, USA), Ellie BRUSH (Canberra United), Joanne BURGESS (Brisbane Roar), Tameka BUTT (Brisbane Roar), Lauren COLTHORPE (Brisbane Roar), Casey DUMONT (Brisbane Roar, GK), Heather GARRIOCK (Sydney FC), Kathryn GILL (Perth Glory), Michelle HEYMAN (Central Coast Mariners), Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT (Brisbane Roar), Samantha KERR (Perth Glory), Leena KHAMIS (Sydney FC), Kylie LEDBROOK (Sydney FC), Aivi LUIK (Brisbane Roar), Collette McCALLUM (Perth Glory), Sian McLAREN (Adelaide United, GK), Kate McSHEA (Brisbane Roar), Ellyse PERRY (Canberra United), Clare POLKINGHORNE (Brisbane Roar), Karla REUTER (Brisbane Roar), Kyah SIMON (Sydney FC), Thea SLATYER (Canberra United), Emily VAN EGMOND (Canberra United), Sarah WALSH (Sydney FC), Lydia WILLIAMS (Canberra United, GK) and Emma WIRKUS (Perth Glory, GK).

The youngest: Teigen Allen (Sydney FC). The 15-year-old defender just pips Emily van Egmond, 16, and Sam Kerr, 16, to the post as the youngest in this group. All have played plenty of senior minutes this year in the W-League and dominated much-more senior opponents. It's Allen's first senior camp, while Kerr and van Egmond have both been there before.
The oldest: Jo Burgess (Brisbane Roar). The 30-year-old midfielder was outstanding for Brisbane Roar this season, creating chance after chance. She just comes in ahead of the Matildas no.1 keeper Melissa Barbieri, who reaches the 3-0 mark on January 20. An interesting time for the keepers' in the squad, Barbieri, Lydia Williams, Emma Wirkus, Sian McLaren and Casey Dumont. Although Barbieri I think is still the favourite.
The roughie: Leah Blayney (Central Connecticut State University, USA). The one great thing when it comes to US College graduates, just like Aivi Luik, is that they tend to have lots of stuff written about them on the web. As College sport is big business, although it's actually amateur, in the USA. So Blayney is from Katoomba, came through NSW academy programs and played in the old WNSL. She's also already played for the Young Matildas, at two FIFA under-20 World Cups, was involved in World Cup qualifiers and was a reserve player for the Athens 2004 Olympics. She played for Sydney FC in the first season of the W-League. But has mostly played college in the past three years and has excelled in the Northeast Conference women's soccer league. She's been named in three all-star teams and was named player of the year this season, with 10 goals and 13 assists. Will be interesting to see how she figures in the coming months as she leaves to go back to the USA almost straight after the camp. But she definitely wants to be there as she told the Blue Mountains Gazette. “Going to the Matildas training camp is an opportunity I’m thrilled about because I definitely want to play for the Matildas again," she said. Also could include Thea Slatyer in the roughie category. Although returning to Canberra United for the final three games, Slatyer only played 30minutes this season. After she played almost every game and vice-captained Canberra in the first season. She hasn't played that much football in the past year, since the first W-League season, but she is an experienced and confident defender who could definitely figure in the final mix. She was a starting member of the 2007 FIFA World Cup team.
W-League second-season starlets: Michelle Heyman (Central Coast Mariners), Ellie Brush (Canberra United), Laura Alleway (Melbourne Victory), Aivi Luik (Brisbane Roar), Sam Kerr (Perth Glory), Emily van Egmond (Canberra United), Teigen Allen (Sydney FC) Leena Khamis, (Sydney FC), Kylie Ledrook (Sydney FC). These are players that either were on the fringe or nowhere and made the cut thanks to a good second W-League season. Here's to the W-League for giving them that chance.
The missing Matildas: Where in the world is Lisa de Vanna? After Servet Uzunlar's stellar season in defence, surprising not to see her in there either.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2011 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers - it all starts here for the Matildas

Well, not here on this very computer screen, that would be just silly. But it will start, officially, in Canberra this week with the first Matildas camp in 2010. While Tom Sermanni had close to 40 players in some camps last year, he's about to start whittling down to find his A-team that he hopes will qualify for the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany.
They can only do that by finishing in the top-three teams at the AFC Women's Asian Cup in China this May. Quite a tough ask when you consider that Australia is currently the fourth-ranked team in Asia - behind North Korea (fifth), Japan (sixth) and China (13th). The Matildas are in 14th.
But so back to the numbers at this camp later this week, there will be about 25-players at the Australian Institute of Sport. And no injured tag-alongs, only fit players will be invited.
To quote flight of the concords - it's business time.
So girlswithgame caught up with Sermanni last month to find out his thoughts on Asia, from the under-16 girls failed qualifying, what this AFC tournament is going to be like, and what impact this W-League season has had on his Matildas thinking.

Is this camp where the real preparations for the 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup start?
"We've had basically a year of transitioning. So now it's time to start trying to put together that 18 (field players) and who is going to be in there. But it's been tough, you look at the 18 I had at the last World Cup and this year there was only been two players in that line-up that have been available to be in camps this year. (With Sarah Walsh, Heather Garriock, Lisa de Vanna, Collette McCallum, Katie Gill and Lauren Colthorpe still playing, but just overseas). It's a significant change, so trying to find a balance in the squad to go forward, that's been tough."

Do you have a good idea of who that 21, 18 plus three goalkeepers, will be?
I've got an idea now, I'm still juggling players but we had around 40 players before, now we've looked at players closely in the W-League and we will pare the squad back. From now until getting the team sorted for May, it will be a much smaller squad.

Any standouts from this W-League season who have surprised you? The one who really hasn't been involved in anything at all is Michelle Heyman. She's really come out of nowhere. She's been the one that has stood out. In relation to others that have probably been under the radar, Servet (Uzunlar) playing at the back for Sydney, well we never would have thought of her there that was one out of left-field, but overall most of the players [that were standouts] are already involved in the program. Sam Kerr has also made an impact.

Can Michelle Heyman make that step-up to the international level? I just don't know at the moment. The thing in relation to Michelle, one of the things that makes me thing she might have a chance is that across her goals there have been some really good quality finishes. It's not like they bounced in off her shin, or she's just fallen into goal, some of her finishes have been quite accomplished. She's quite tall and physical, could that help against those smaller Asian teams too? She's is, but she's also quite mobile and she has reasonable speed with her feet in the W-League, whether that transfers over, well we'll have to wait. But I will say, that's the reason why the W-League is so important because of players like that. It gives them an opportunity.

So just how tough is it going to be to qualify for the 2011 World Cup in Germany through the AFC women's championships? It's going to be very difficult. It's going to be a very tough prospect. Three teams qualify and there are three teams higher than us in world ranking s at this stage, that tells you how tough it's going to be. Firstly, we are going in with probably the least experienced team we've ever had. The turnover, we've lost Cheryl [Salisbury], Joey [Peters], Di [Alagich] and more, there is probably 600 caps there. You can't replace that easily. That does make it difficult. Then there is the draw. There are five teams that can really challenge to make it through, [Japan, North Korea, China, South Korea and Australia], but it also means in two groups, well straight away you have three very competitive teams in one group. So we have to get past South Korea and China in our group and then if we do, need to beat North Korea or Japan in the semis. There are no games where we can afford to rest our best team. Which in these tournaments can make a big difference. Japan and North Korea may have a game or two where they can rest players in the group stage, we can't afford to do that.

What about playing China in China? (Who have been known to revert to, well, interesting tactics, before, see here) It's going to be very difficult.  But at the end of the day, in all things, we can't say well we didn't succeed because we had to play China in China. If we don't qualify, we can't use that excuse.

An Australian women's team hasn't qualified for a FIFA World Cup through Asia for three years, was it disappointing to come so close with the under-16 girls team earlier this year? It was extremely disappointing, from many aspects, probably the biggest one was that we certainly believed that we deserved to quality and played well enough to do so. But football can be a cruel game sometimes and we were very unfortunate that we didn't get the break at the right time, in the right game. In the five games we had played, apart from the Japanese game when I think the team had physically and emotionally run out of gas because of the North Korean game, apart from that game, the team played exceptionally well.

How tough has the move into Asia been? It was commented on by the AFC that they thought we were the most improved country that they had seen in the last two years [at the under-16s], but I think we have been playing catch-up since we have gone into Asia. Asian counties have had these tournaments going on for some time, whereas we basically with our younger teams we haven't had the resources or the programs or the indentification in place as well as these Asian counties. So we have been playing catch-up and it's a case of constantly refining what we are doing, what we firmly believe are the types of athletes and players that we need to take the game ahead. What we have now within our younger team is some outstanding individual players, but in a team sense and probably technically in a game sense we are probably playing a little bit of catch-up with Asian teams and that's going to take time and that's going to take us utilising the resources we have to the best of our ability. It's constantly refining, I can't sit here and say we now have to do x,y and z because we are kind of doing the stuff I think we have to do, we just probably have to tweak and refine things a little bit and keep plugging away and hopefully make that breakthrough.

Is Australian women's football getting there then? Definitely, we are getting used to it. It 's not just getting used to the Asian style as a player and this might sound daft, but getting used to going to Asia to play. It's the different temperatures, the humdity, the food. All those things play a big factor and we are still getting used to going to Asia to play. But certainly I think we are doing the right things.

So stay tuned later this week for the actual squad list attending this camp. Also don't forget to scroll down and check-out the girlswithgame 2009 W-League season wrap and the year in Australian women's football. And in other women's football news this week, the 2010 American WPS draft is just three days away. And what's this, an actual live broadcast? Well, thankyou Fox Soccer. Should be interesting to see what the Aussie girls do this year, had heard from a couple that they were staying home this year to focus on World Cup qualifiers instead? But I'm sure all will be revealed, or at least a little bit of the picture, when the draft is on this week. While we are on the international round, make sure you stop by FIFA women's page to see their December wrap-up, including the 2009 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Australian women's football year in review - 2009

So there wasn't any World Cups, or even any World Cup qualifiers, but there was still plenty of women's football action in Australia, or involving Australia, last year. Here is a short-wrap of the year that was 2009 in Australian women's top-level football.

JANUARY - The first Westfield W-League finals series was played out between Brisbane Roar, Newcastle Jets, Canberra United and Sydney FC. In the two semi-finals, Canberra (third) upset Newcastle (second) to become the first team through to the inaugural grand final. In the other semi-final that followed, Sydney FC pushed Brisbane Roar all the way to penalties in searing heat in Brisbane. In the final that followed, injury hit Canberra hard in the week leading up and Brisbane pounced early to take a 2-0 win and the first premiership to go with their league championship. Lana Harch, who scored the second goal and set the first one up, was named player of the match. Also in January was a friendly match against Italy at Parramatta Stadium in Sydney, where Australian legend Cheryl Salisbury farewelled the game on January 31st.

After 151 games, the most out of any Australian footballer, Salisbury bowed out in the 2-2 draw. She was almost able to complete a fairytale ending, when she scored a penalty to take the score to 2-1 in the second-half. But Italy equalised with 10-minutes to go. Still, it didn't take away much from the occasion. I was one in the stands joining in on the standing ovation when she was substituted with six minutes to go. And there was hardly a dry eye on the field afterwards. As Tom Sermanni said in this Mike Cockerill story, she'll be missed.  "It's like when you're a kid, you come home from school and your mum's there, it makes you feel comfortable," Sermanni says. "Having Shezza around, you know when the team goes out on the field, the leadership is there. Her sheer presence gives you that sense of comfort. That's what we'll miss the most. There's not another Cheryl Salisbury, and there won't be for some time to come. But it's not just about the stature she brings. We talk about her reputation, but she's also been an outstanding player. She can play midfield, defence, or attack. The respect she's got is worldwide. When she played for the FIFA-All Stars, the coach, Hope Powell, said to me, 'I never realised how good a footballer she was.' It's on the field that Shezza is going to be almost impossible to replace." Read the rest of the story here. Pic. Salisbury being chaired off in Sydney.

FEBRUARY - The second of the Matildas friendlies against Italy did not go so well. It was the farewell match for Joey Peters, who was retiring after 110 games, and she took on the captain's armband for the game. But the Matildas lost 5-1 at Canberra Stadium, which is not how home-town debutant Ellie Brush (who just happens to be a central defender as well) wanted her first Matildas cap to go. It marked a changing in the guard for Australian women's football. Tom Sermanni admitted as much in his after-match press conference. “The first thing that went wrong was we conceded three goals in the first 15 minutes ...,” Sermanni said. “I think the second thing that was evident today was the fact that we are having a turnover in the squad.
“So when you put a combination of things together and add into that Cheryl retired last week and Joey retired today, you have I suppose the feeling of an Australian cricket team and it will take us a while to get back to where we were a year and a half ago.”
 Peters for her part was upset, but happy she had made the decision to retire. “I’m very emotional at the moment, It’s just all hit me at once, I was fine leading into the game and it just felt like another game but just as I was about to walk on the field it hit me all at once,” Peters said. “But I’m pleased with the decision and at peace with it.”

MARCH - A new era in women's professional football was also happening across the other side of the world and a handful of Matildas were involved in the inaugural season of the Women's Professional Soccer league. Heather Garriock (Chicago Red Stars), Sarah Walsh (Sky Blue FC), Lisa de Vanna (Washington Freedom) and Collette McCallum (Sky Blue FC) were all picked up in the first draft, and Lydia Williams earned the rookie goalkeeper spot after trialling strongly with Chicago. After the last attempt at a women's pro league in America went bust years ago, the new league started with eight teams across the states and paid all of its contracted players enough cash to live on. Pic: Lisa de Vanna in action in the WPS.

APRIL - The first ever under-14 girls national titles were held in Canberra and a team selected by new under-14 Australian coach Jeff Hopkins went on to compete in Asia. It's the youngest age-group that's ever had a national titles in Australia and adds another step in the pathway to becoming a Matilda.
AUGUST - The Young Matildas team misses out on qualifying for the 2010 under-20 FIFA Women's World Cup in controversial circumstances. And Tom Sermanni didn't hold back, calling the officials incompetent in this story. The story of the brawl that erupted in the match between China and Australia made nationwide news, with the AFC handing the FFA a $4700 fine.

But in happier news this month, Collette McCallum helped Sky Blue FC to complete a fairytale finish to the season and capture the first WPS premiership after defeating Los Angeles Sol (who had none other than Brazilian champion Marta in its team) in the final on August 22nd. In a journey that has to be read about to be believed, after three sacked coaches and then captain/coach Christie Rampone revealing she was actually pregnant while she coached the team and played in the final month, Sky Blue FC still triumphed. "...It was such an achievement to win and also with all the ups and downs that we did have, my team was just crazy in all the stuff we went through, so to get to the end and then actually win it, it was just great," McCallum told girlswithgame.

OCTOBER - The second season of the W-League kicks-off with the same eight teams, Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar, Central Coast Mariners, Canberra United, Melbourne Victory, Perth Glory, Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets, but a host of new faces. There is new coaches at Canberra (Ray Junna), Perth (John Gibson) and Newcastle (Wayne O'Sullivan) and even more new captains. Clare Polkinghorne took over at Brisbane, Lydia Williams became a co-captain with Ellie Brush in Canberra, Melissa Barbieri became a co-captain with Tal Karp in Melbourne, Hayley Crawford stepped into the very big-shoes of Cheryl Salisbury at Newcastle and Chistina Papageorgiou took the armband at Adelaide.
NOVEMBER - The Australian under-16 girls team fail to qualify for the 2010 under-17 Women's World Cup. After going undefeated throughout the round stages at the 2009 under-16 AFC women's championships, the Robbie Hooker coached team just came up against a Korean side that just kept coming and ended-up winning 4-3 in a thriller. It means apart from the Matildas, an Australian underage team hasn't qualified for a FIFA junior World Cup since 2006. They haven't qualified through Asia once. Out of all teams, this one had high expectations with players like Sam Kerr, Emily van Egmond and Tara Andrews, but they missed out by the smallest margin when they went down in the third-placed play-off against Japan. They would have played in the final if they had beaten Korea Republic. Instead North Korea, South Korea and Japan went through. You can re-cap the campaign, including previews with Hooker in my November archives and the original preview here.

DECEMBER - After a W-League season that turned into a three-team race, Sydney FC down the Central Coast Mariners in the final-round of regular season games to take the league championship by a single point. They then thumped Canberra United in their semi-final despite being a player down, with Canberra only just sneaking into fourth spot courtesy of a Perth win over Melbourne and better goal difference than the the Victory, to win a home final. In the other semi, Brisbane Roar ended the Mariners chances of a fairytale season with a 1-0 win in that semi. It set-up the final that everyone had predicted at the start of the year though, with almost every player who started in the grand final either a Matilda or a Danish international (Sydney FC's Cathrin Paaske and Julie Rydahl). In a thriller where Brisbane Roar scored first, Sydney then scored three brilliant second-half goals to claim its second title for the 2009 season. The Roar did score a late goal to make it 3-2, but Sydney already had the game wrapped-up. Alen Stajcic was a very happy coach. "It was a fantastic second-half performance," Stajcic declared. "It often takes us 15-20 minutes to warm up into but once a game settles, we play the football we want and we get on top and that is what happened today."
"I thought in that half-hour spell in the second half we could have got five or six goals."
"We really dominated and scored some good goals, and probably could have scored a few more."
"Brisbane obviously had to come at us in the last 15 minutes so they were a little bit exposed at the back." And while Michelle Heyman couldn't complete her amazing year, from Sydney FC sub in season one to golden boot winner in 2009, with a finals appearance, the Mariner who could did finish with plenty of personal glory as the Julie Dolan medallist for season 2009. Heyman scored 11 goals in the season, including a hat-trick. In the other major awards, Perth pocket-rocket Sam Kerr won Players' Player, Ellyse Perry and Elise Kellond-Knight tied the young player of the year and Ray Junna (Canberra) and Stephen Roche (Mariners) tied the coaches award. For a full list of the winners, see here.

And that's all folks. But did I miss anything? Feel free to comment away!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Westfield W-League 2009 season review

So I think we can all agree it was an amazing Grand Final, even though I haven't written about it here yet. Please excuse my tardiness as that involves an interstate house move and then an across the world move to Vancouver, but here is my (late, sorry) season review for season 2 of the Westfield W-League. A team by team analysis on how each club peformed and a wrap-up of who won the awards. Stay tuned later this week for a Q&A with Matildas coach Tom Sermanni, ahead of the Matildas first camp for 2010.

2008/09 season - fourth, lost major semi-final on penalities to Queensland Roar
2009 season - PREMIERS and LEAGUE CHAMPIONS, finished on top of the ladder with 23-points, one ahead of the Central Coast Mariners and beat Brisbane Roar 3-2 in the 2009 grand final.
So Sydney FC were big underachievers in season one and in season two Alen Stajcic put together a squad list that should have, rightly so, started the league as favourites. It's been mentioned so many times on this blog you are all probably over it, but a team with Heather Garriock, Sarah Walsh, Cathrin Paaske and Julie Rydahl? All experienced international players who are all creative playmakers, it should have been a deadly combination. Took a few games to gel, particulary the first one where a stunned Sydney FC were beaten by the Mariners and a little-known former Sydney FC player in Michelle Heyman. Once it did gel though, they carved up most opposition. Garriock was particulary excellent as captain. She played in defence and also in the midfield and you couldn't get a better example of what she was capable of when Sydney FC went a player down 10minutes into the semi-final against Canberra. She just ran and ran, but didn't lose her excellent skill on the ball either.  But we've already heard plenty about those big-names, but it wouldn't have all come together for Sydney FC this season without the rest of the team. Particulary Servet Uzunlar, who is listed on the FFA's Matildas page as under forwards, making the switch to defence to fill a hole and now looks to be in contention for a starting role there come May and the World Cup qualifiers. The gutsy, tiny, teenage Linda O'Neill in midfield. Leena Khamis, last year's golden boot who was excellent again with seven goals this season. Kylie Ledbrook in the midfield, Alesha Clifford in defence and the one that hardly seems to get a mention anywhere but should, Nikola Dieter. Out of all the teams in the top-four, the least experienced keeper internationally and also one of the youngest, but was confident and agile when needed to be.
VERDICT - All in all, Sydney FC deserved its haul this season as everything came together when it needed too.

2008/09 season - PREMIERS and LEAGUE CHAMPIONS, beat Canberra United 2-0 in the first grand final at Ballymore Stadium in January 2009.
2009 season - second, lost grand final to Sydney FC 3-2.
Brisbane started the season as favourites again, with hardly any changes to its squad and the addition of Aivi Luik to the midifeld. Liuk has an accomplished American career and a stint in Ukraine, read about it here, but has never played for the Matildas so came back to make a go of it this season. Also had a new captain in Clare Polkinghorne, who took over from Kate McShea. They started the season strongly, but then injury contributed to an inconsistent patch in the middle where they were lucky to escape with a draw against the winless Adelaide, who had gone 2-0 up in Brisbane before the Roar came back to draw 2-2 in Round 7. Finished off the season strongly, but not well enough to win another grand final. Bright spots were Polkinghorne, Tameka Butt, Elise Kellond-Knight, Luik, Kate McShea and Casey Dumont. Other than that, perhaps a few too many Matildas in the mix? Jeff Hopkins mixed and matched his starting line-up more this year than last and it didn't seem to work, with a few players in and out of form.
VERDICT - Close to a grand final win, but their season was nowhere near as good as the first one where they were unbeatable. But will no doubt come back stronger from it.

2008/09 season - sixth, with four wins and six losses
2009 season - third, lost to Brisbane Roar 1-0 in the minor semi-final after finishing second on the ladder at the end of the regular season.
With not one senior Matilda in its squad at the start of the season, the Mariners were written off by pretty much everyone and yes that includes me. But they also added three experienced Americans, including a very good goalkeeper in Jillian Loyden and then played host to the coming of age for Michelle Heyman. After a great local season, where she was the top goalscorer in the NSW women's premier league, Heyman scored twice against her old Sydney FC team in Round 1 to hand the Mariners the win. The question was then, could she keep it up? Well yes, and so could the Mariners. Heyman ended up with 11 for the season, the golden boot, and the Julie Dolan medal for W-League player of the year. But what most impressed me is that the Mariners just worked with what they had. They didn't have a huge number of players with great technical skill on the ball, but they instead just played it simple. Simple passes, got it forward and when they were there, took a shot. More often than not it worked. Football can often be overcomplicated, but the Mariners played simple, great entertaining football. With the host of young players they had this season, hopefully they can bring it all together again next year. And by then, Heyman could have a few Matildas caps to her name too.

2008/09 - second, lost grand final to Queensland Roar 3-0
2009 - fourth, lost major semi-final 3-0 to Sydney FC
A new coach, Ray Junna, and an almost completely new team mainly thanks to injury and players being unavailable. Two of United's best in the first season, Amy Chapman and Caitlin Munoz, out with injury, Thea Slatyer was off overseas and Rhian Davies not making that extra-huge long trip from near Darwin. So there is about 150 Matildas caps right there - lost. But United's young team exceeded expectations. Somehow gaining Ellyse Perry was brilliant, as was Emily van Egmond's move to Canberra, and they both added creativity and class to defence and midfield. In fact, Canberra's midfield and defence I matched it with almost everyone. It was just that there was so much pressure on so little out and out strikers that the goals were so hard to come by. Going from a supporting striker to the main role in just one season for Ashleigh Sykes was always going to be a HUGE ask. Sykes created so many chances, and should have scored many more, but I've got no doubt she will. Tseng Shu-O was great too, but still not an out an out striker. Some great second-year performances from some of United's young and returning faces, Cian Maciejewski stepped up another level from her first year, Ellie Brush was great again while Kahlia Hogg and Jen Bisset were excellent in the midfield. Could be a team on the rise. And yay, a team who was updated it's website with the awards! And there was no real surprise with Ellyse Perry sweeping the board. As well as the MVP and the Players' Player award, Perry also scooped the fans award. Although I think there is two players who would have been very close in voting, Cian Maciejewski and Ellie Brush, although the ankle injury late in the season cost Cian two-games, Perry deserves it. Remember this was also her first full football season after having more than 12-months off as she focused on that other sport she also plays for Australia, cricket, and played in an ICC women's World Cup and ICC women's Twenty20 World Cup. She admitted she was a bit nervous coming back into it, but she played like she had hardly missed a beat. A great defender on the right side, her greatest asset is just how much she attacks, her crossing and her ability to strike a deadball. She scored one goal all season, but had at least six assists.
VERDICT - Exceeded their own expectations this year, but if they can get an international class striker next season, either Munoz back from injury or someone else, then they will be title contenders then.

2008/09 season - fifth, with four wins and six losses
2009 season - fifth, with four wins, two draws and four losses
So it was history repeating itself for Melbourne Victory and it must have been painful. In the first season it was Canberra United that won in a 3-2 thriller in Round 9 to put itself into the finals and keep Melbourne out. But the Victory reversed that in the same Round 9 clash in season 2009, with an 87th minute winner from Katie Thorlakson handing them the 1-0 win and a place in the four with just one round to go. There was just one scenario that could put them out in the final round, a Canberra win over Adelaide in Canberra and then the Victory losing to Perth in Perth. Unfortunately for Melbourne fans and the club, that's exactly what happened. But still it was a better season for the Victory, they finished with two more points than in their first season and put in some great performances. The addition of American Julianne Sitch was a great one, while a number of other players did well. They did have a whole host of fly-in fly-out Queenslanders though and speaking to co-captain Tal Karp earlier this season, she said that had been tough. With travel allowances for each team to be cut down even further next season, will this be the case again?
VERDICT - Did well with the squad they had, but will be ruing those few chances, a goal here or there, that would have been enough to secure their first W-League finals appearance this year.

2008/09 season - seventh, with three wins, two draws and five losses
2009 season -sixth, four wins, one draw and five losses
So Perth did finish with more points and one spot higher than they did in the first season, but surely this will be a underachievement? I know that I certainly predicted that it would be Perth, not the Mariners, who would step-up and take Newcastle's spot in the finals this year. But to be fair, the players that I expected to help with that, Sam Kerr, Katie Gill, Lisa de Vanna and Collette McCallum didn't play that much. Kerr was overseas with the Australian under-16 team most of the season, Gill only played the final two games after her committments with her Swedish club, McCallum was injured for almost half the season and well de Vanna was her usual exciting self. Because she lost her temper, as she is prone to do, a few times she was suspended and just went missing in others. But well, when she's on, she's amazing. Without those four on a regular basis though, Perth were going to struggle to match some of the big teams. When they had them, like when they beat Brisbane and then Melbourne right at the end of the season, they were amazing. Still, Perth did play some great football under John Gibson even without those players and great to see someone like Shannon May rewarded, she took home the award for Perth's most glorious player. Sam Kerr also lived-up to the hype, that Tom Sermanni predicted here, and took home two W-League awards, for best goal and Players' Player.
VERDICT - Disappointing, but no doubt having a second season in a row where they only starting performing to their potential in the last four games, will be prepared for a better 2010 season.

2008/09 season - last, two wins, one draw, seven losses
2009 season - seventh, no wins, three draws, seven losses
Well in one aspect, Adelaide did do slightly better than their first season because they didn't finish with the wooden spoon. But going from having two wins to none? Well that wasn't so great. But Adelaide did lose so much experience and class from its first season, pretty much all due to retirement. This year there was no Di Alagich, no Sharon Black, no Kristyn Swaffer. So that was always going to hurt. Then there was the knee injury to Vicky Balomenos, the only Matilda in the Adelaide team. Also, Adelaide did suffer because some of its best players spent a lot of the season with Robbie Hooker's under-16 Australian team. So it was always going to be a struggle for Adelaide, but they probably still could have played a bit better throughout the season. For instance, they went up 2-0 against Brisbane Roar in Brisbane late in the season. Where was that spark the rest of the season? Still uncovered some great little players, like Donna Cockayne and Rachel Quigley.
VERDICT - A bit more consistency and a bit more experience needed for them to make a serious finals challenge.

2008/09 season - third, finished the regular season in second but lost 1-0 to Canberra United in the second semi-final
2009 season - last, two draws and eight losses
The Jets had the biggest fall from season one to two, but when you look at the players not with the team in the second season you can kind of understand why. Emily van Egmond went to Canberra, Katie Gill to Perth and then the biggest blow, two legends of the women's game in Australia, Joey Peters and Cheryl Salisbury retired. Peters had 109 Matildas caps and Salisbury, with 151 caps, is the most-capped Australian player across both the Socceroos and Matildas. It's not just the numbers, Salisbury is arguably Australia's greatest footballer. Then the Jets lost coach Gary Phillips a few months before the season started and his replacement, Wayne O'Sullivan, was only made coach a few weeks out. They also lost some of their best players, like Tara Andrews, for the under-16s AFC tournament. They did regain Hayley Crawford from Canberra and also had another experienced Matilda Amber Neilson in midfield. Alison Logue was also good in goal again after she was great in the first season. But just nothing seemed to work for the Jets. They lost too many games in the final 10minutes and must have wondered where all their luck went.
VERDICT - Like Adelaide, more experience needed here, but also probably just a little bit of luck. They didn't win a game like Adelaide, but in two games against eventual premiers Sydney FC only lost 1-0. Were in almost every game they played.

girlswithgame 2009 WESTFIELD W-LEAGUE SEASON snapshot
The stars that shone - Heather Garriock, Sarah Walsh, Katie Gill, Cathrin Paaske, Collette McCallum
The new ones in the making - Sam Kerr, Ellyse Perry, Tameka Butt, Elise Kellond-Knight, Clare Polkinghorne, Michelle Heyman, Servet Uzunlar, Nicole Sykes, Kahlia Hogg, Emily van Egmond, Casey Dumont, Leena Khamis, Linda O'Neill,
The coaches that shook up the style of game - Ray Junna (Canberra United), John Gibson (Perth Glory), Stephen Roche (Central Coast Mariners)
The internationals - The Danes, Cathrin Paaske and Julie Rydahl (Sydney FC), the Americans, Jillian Loyden, Kendall Fletcher and Lydia Vandenburgh (all Mariners), Julianne Sitch (Melbourne Victory) and Alex Singer (Perth Glory), the Canadian, Katie Thorlakson (Melbourne Victory), and the Tawianese, Tseng Shu-O and Chiung-Ying Lin (Canberra United)
Golden Boot - Michelle Heyman (Mariners) 11 goals
Julie Dolan medal for player of the year - Michelle Heyman
Players' Player - Sam Kerr (Perth Glory)
Young Player of the year - Ellyse Perry (Canberra United) and Elise Kellond-Knight (Brisbane Roar)
What happened? Brisbane started favourite again, but were quickly joined by the Central Coast Mariners and Sydney FC as chances to claim the league champions title. Fourth spot turned into a battle between Canberra, Melbourne and Perth as those three battled inconsistency, but also putting in some stellar performances. Newcastle and Adelaide drew each other in their first game, 0-0, and it took them both several weeks to even score a goal. They didn't get much better throughout the season, while the top-six almost levelled out. It all came down to the final round, when Sydney FC beat the Mariners to claim the league championship and after it beat Adelaide, Canberra snuck into fourth spot on goal difference thanks to Perth beating Melbourne Victory in Perth. In the finals, Sydney easily beat Canberra and Brisbane just beat the Mariners to make it a Sydney/Brisbane final. In the final, Brisbane scored first but Sydney FC came from behind twice to win in a 3-2 thriller at Shark Park in Sydney.
What's going to happen next year? Expect more home-grown talent in each team (although not sure Brisbane and Canberra can fit any more home-grown players in!) as the travel allowance for interstate players is decreased. After the success of all the internationals this year, there was hardly one that didn't contribute, more focus on international players. Different line-ups and a more technical style of football, as introduced by coaches like Ray Junna and John Gibson this year who started the 4-4-3 line-up and focused on possession-based football. I think the competition will even out across the league. But mainly, don't expect to hear any W-League news for the next five months. From now, it's all about the Matildas World Cup qualifying campaign. First camp is at the AIS from January 14 to 17. Stay tuned for more here!