Ahead of the second game against Canada on Tuesday, September 6, injuries and depth are at the forefront of Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson.
Before the first game against Canada on Saturday, September 3, which was a 1-0 victory for the visitors, Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord, and Mackenzie Arnold were ruled out due to injuries in camp.
Those three joined Kyah Simon, Hayley Raso, Chloe Logarzo (who was selected as a non-playing member of camp), Elise Kellond-Knight, and Ellie Carpenter on the list of first-choice players for the Matildas currently unavailable due to injury.
Alanna Kennedy also joined that list during the first half when she suffered a hamstring injury, ruling her out of Tuesday’s match.
It is a worrying trend for the national team, and concerning that, there are a number of injuries in the back-line, a positional group where the side has a significant lack of depth capable of performing at the level required.
When asked whether there could be some late in-the-window call-ups in defence as the side moves ever closer to the World Cup, Tony Gustavsson was blunt in his answer.
“We’ve spent almost 18 months looking at different options as backline [depth],” Gustavsson said.
“[The] backline has been one of the lines that we’ve really worked on [in] depth.
“I had the privilege of working with Mel Andreatta here who also coached the U23 national team and was at the AFF tournament and then we looked at the U20 national team as well.
“I would say it’s a long shot right now for another player to break in because we have multiple players in the team like I said, with a Steph (Catley), an Aivi (Luik), a (Courtney) Nevin, Meeks (Tameka Yallop) can play outside back.
“We have multiple options within the roster right now. It doesn’t mean that the door is closed, but there’s a small chance we’re going to bring some new players in as of right now.”
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One area where the Matildas do not have any issues with depth is in the midfield, given Australia’s ability to produce quality midfielder after quality midfielder.
You end up in a situation where you almost have to select a ton of midfielders because they make up a majority of the best players in the country.
But that presents a completely different problem. How do you fit everyone in?
You can only select so many players in the starting squad.
Do you play individuals out of position to ensure they get game time? Do some players have to miss out?
It’s a dilemma Gustavsson is aware of.
“We are definitely overloaded in midfield,” Gustavsson said.
“There are tons of fantastic midfielders in this country and that’s a challenge because there’s not room for every single one of them.
“You saw in the last game that I played a centre midfielder out wide with Kyra Cooney-Cross because she’s been phenomenal in club land when she came back from injury and she’s been phenomenal in training so she deserved a start.
“I think she had a phenomenal second half against Canada in the first game in Brisbane.”
One such midfielder is Alex Chidiac. Arguably one of the better midfielders in the squads that get selected, she can’t seem to crack a regular spot.
This is despite the fact that in her current role at Racing Louisville in the NWSL, she has been dominant, finding time and space on the ball in a league that has such a pressing game, players do not get that opportunity with regularity.
So what does she have to do to crack a regular spot in the line-up?
“When it comes to ‘Chids’ (Alex Chidiac), all she can do is keep focusing on what she is doing right now,” Gustavsson said.
“Meaning, deliver good games in club land, coming in here and try to prove to me that she deserves minutes on the field.
But fighting for that starting job will not be easy.
“But it’s tough competition for her, for Meeks, for Chloe Logarzo, for Kyra Cooney-Cross, ‘EvE’ (Emily van Egmond), Mary (Fowler), you name it,” Gustavsson said.
“That’s just a few of all the world-class midfielders we have.
“Add (Clare) Wheeler to that as well, and ‘Mini’ (Katrina Gorry) who’s normally an eight or 10 and plays in the six role.
“You add ‘KK’ (Elise Kellond-Knight) to that. KK’s coming back and playing games now. A little too early to bring her into this camp. Hopefully, we see her in the October camp.”
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