Little more than three years until hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Football Federation Australia has a major decision to make to replace Ante Milicic as Matildas coach.
Milicic, 46, confirmed on Sunday he was quitting as coach to focus on his position as the inaugural boss of A-League expansion club Macarthur FC.
The ex-Socceroos striker was appointed Matildas mentor in early 2019 after the controversial sacking of Alen Stajcic, despite having no experience coaching in women’s football.
He took the Matildas to the round of 16 of at the Women’s World Cup in France last year and then successfully qualified for the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year.
His future, however, has been in doubt ever since the Olympics were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, having already accepted to take charge of Macarthur for its debut A-League campaign in 2020-21.
.@FFA today announced Ante Milicic has stepped down from the role of Head Coach of the Westfield @TheMatildas, and will honour his pre-existing three-year contract with incoming Hyundai @ALeague club @mfcbulls. https://t.co/Z6AjNCWVZX
— Football Federation Australia (@FFA) July 19, 2020
Milicic was forced to choose, with the FFA not keen on having someone with split roles at the helm before a crucial period for the Matildas, which includes next year’s Olympics, the 2022 Asian Cup and then the potentially financially rewarding World Cup on home soil in 2023.
Former Matildas midfielder Alicia Ferguson-Cook believes FFA may well have to look outside the women’s game to find the best person to replace Milicic.
Ferguson-Cook, who made 66 appearances for Australia from 1997 to 2007, can see no issue appointing a new coach without women’s football experience due to a dearth of obvious candidates from within the game.
“There’s just not that many at that level,” Ferguson-Cook said.
“If you are going to get someone else it’s probably going to be from the men’s game like they did with Ante, or it’s going to be someone with less experience.
“That’s another risk … they have to think about whether they want to take it or not.”
The leading candidate for the position is Arsenal boss Joe Montemurro, but it remains unclear if he would be willing to give up his role at the English giants for an national-team position.
After significant W-League success at Melbourne City, Montemurro won the English WSL title with the Gunners in 2018-19 and has recently recruited Matildas stars Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley and Lydia Williams to London.
An intriguing option for the FFA would be to tempt American Jill Ellis to Australia.
Ellis won two World Cups with the United States in a five-year stint, but is available after stepping down from the American role after last year’s tournament in France.
Ellis would be a huge acquisition – in a similar vein to luring Guus Hiddink as Socceroos coach for the 2006 World Cup – if FFA chief James Johnson could manage it.
Locally, W-League premiership winner Mel Andreatta and W-League grand final winner Ante Juric are potential candidates.
Andreatta, as the former Brisbane Roar head coach, worked as an assistant to Milicic at last year’s World Cup.
Andreatta is a long shot for the role but knows the national team set-up and almost all of the squad’s senior players.
Juric is a former Young Matildas coach who led Sydney FC to a W-League grand final victory last year against a Sam Kerr-inspired Perth Glory.
Juric has a long history of coaching in women’s football but his experience at the highest level is limited.
The Milicic exit has wiped the slate clean in terms of coaching teams, with his assistant Ivan Jolic and technical analyst Kate Cohen also joining him at Macarthur.
FFA has confirmed the process to find a new coach would start immediately.
“We expect there will be no shortage of interest in this prestigious role, particularly given all that the team has on the horizon,” Johnson said.
Brock joins Matildas in Europe
Experienced Melbourne Victory defender Laura Brock has become the latest Matildas player to sign with a European club.
Brock, 30, is leaving the W-League club to join En Avant de Guingamp for the upcoming French Division 1 Feminine.
After captain Sam Kerr (Chelsea), Caitlin Foord (Arsenal), Hayley Raso and Chloe Logarzo (Bristol City) became the first Matildas regulars to sign at English clubs, they have been joined by vice-captain Steph Catley and first-choice goalkeeper Lydia Williams (Arsenal), Ellie Carpenter (Olympique Lyonnais), Mary Fowler (Montpellier) and Emma Checker (FC Fleury 91).
Alanna Kennedy, Jenna McCormick and Emily van Egmond are also tipped to make the move to Europe.