If the matches against Germany and Netherlands games taught us anything it is that The Matilda’s need depth.
One of the key lessons from this season’s W-League was that the answers might be found at home.
The realities of modern travel mean that it was impossible to reinforce the senior side with local players in the last two games. In preparation for the Olympics, assistant coach Melissa Andreatta has named a 26 player squad, giving a chance for the W-Leagues best to be included in the final squad.
There were some significant omissions. Allie Green and Chelsie Dawber had terrific seasons. And If not for injuries, Michelle Heyman, Princess Ibini, and Cortnee Vine would have likely been included.
Some welcome additions were center backs Jessika Nash of Canberra and Adelaide United’s Matilda Mcnamara. As a reward for a career-best season, Melina Ayres was added and Nikki Flannery has been given a chance to impress.
The big news for long-time Matildas fans is the return of Lisa De Vanna. The veteran was instrumental in Victory’s run to glory and even at the age of 36 is still almost unparalleled in what she can do with the ball.
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Some Players Can Make A Significant Difference
The fullback areas are a strength and a weakness for the national side.
Australia has two of the world best in Ellie Carpenter and Steph Catley but when either is missing it has a domino effect on the team.
Revelatory form by Polly Doran at right-back and Angie Beard on the left was a key to Melbourne’s success. They were vital in a defense that kept eight clean sheets for the season.
Jamilla Rankin is another option at left-back after a breakout season. At just 17 years old, the best is yet to come and if she is not in Tokyo she will get other chances.
After returning from injury, Georgia Yeoman-Dale was one of Western Sydney’s best players. She was strong defensively and dangerous with the ball in attack. Importantly she can play further up the field and can score goals. Her versatility would be a huge asset for Tony Gustavsson.
A Mini Opportunity
Katrina Gorry is a unique player. She can play a variety of midfield roles and can score goals. Despite not always starting in a talented squad she offers the game-changing ability. She will miss the Olympics leaving space for a classy creator.
The rise of Kyra Cooney-Cross and the resurrection of Alex Chidiac offer the easiest solutions.
Both players have been in contention for the 2019 World Cup squad and they can score goals and create chances from midfield. Cooney-Cross’s dominant finals series and dead-ball ability might give her the edge.
Emily Condon was a driving force for Adelaide United’s best-ever season. Along with Clare Wheeler, this is a role that could give Gustavsson a positive selection headache.
Bandaged, bruised, or under siege, Jenna McCormick was a shining light for Melbourne City this season. She offers a scoring threat from set-pieces, can pass the ball confidently forward, and is a strong, fast defender.
Matilda Mcnamara was a pivotal figure in Adelaide’s season, she loves to defend, is strong in the air, and offers youth to a position that will need rejuvenating soon.
Either player would have been very handy in the European matches and one should be in the Olympic squad. The World Cup showed just how thin the defensive stocks are beyond the established duo of Kennedy and Polkinghorne.
McCormick’s familiarity with the team might make her the best option here. Considering the scant opportunity to gel and the importance of the center back position it might be too big a risk for Mcnamara.
On talent alone, she can do the job. But the tournament is a sprint and there’s no time for players to adjust to each other.
Goalkeeping opportunities have gone to Sally James, Sarah Willacy, and Jada Whyman. Should one of the first-choice keepers be unavailable Whyman should get the nod. She was incredible, particularly in the Grand Final.
Most Australian forwards share similar attributes. They are usually quick, clever, and apart from Sam Kerr, not known for aerial abilities.
Tara Andrews offers something different. She is a pure center forward, she is a physical presence and can hold the ball up with little support. If Gustvasson wants a “Plan B” Andrews offers one. The type of striker who can score out of nothing and can have a long ball played to her.
Going against her is the limited size of the squad. Only 18 players can be selected and multi-positional players are valued for this reason. As effective as Andrews can be, it would be hard to see her displace any of the established forwards.
Lisa De Vanna, Jenna McCormick and Kyra Cooney-Cross