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.

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