As FIFA and Football Federation Australia are battered by allegations of grubby bribes and corporate greed, the Matildas will restore your faith in the world game.
They’re as far removed from football’s slimy, dark and corrupt stench as you could imagine – elite athletes playing sport just because they love it.
In fact, these Australian women are losing income, forced to take time off from their day jobs to prepare for the Women’s World Cup in Canada.
The Matildas’ group includes seven-time African champions Nigeria, two-time world champions USA and perennial female football powerhouse, Sweden.
One of the Matildas’ gun strikers, Samantha Kerr told The New Daily: “We like being the underdog and we like the challenge. All the girls are really excited for it.
“We feel super confident in what we’ve been doing the last couple of months,” Kerr said.
“We believe … we can win this World Cup.”
Forget the Asian Cup, Cricket World Cup, the Ashes or Tomic and Krygios at Wimbledon – the Matildas have Australian sport’s toughest challenge of 2015.
Their first group game (Tuesday morning AEST) against the USA is as daunting a challenge world sport throws up, but our girls are unfazed.
“It’s no secret how big USA soccer is,” said Kerr, 21. “They play 40 games a year and every one is televised … but that means we know what they’re going to do … that works in our favour.”
Kerr, the sister of West Coast Eagles’ champion Daniel, injured her knee badly in late 2014 but reports she’s now fit and ready to go.
“The knee is coming along well, I have been lucky enough to have good medical staff around me,” she said.
“It feels good and I feel fit going into the first game.”
Despite a late hamstring injury to co–captain Claire Polkinghorne, the Matildas go into the tournament at full strength.
“I think we play exciting football, it’s football that you want to watch, Kerr said. “There is a lot of action and we’re always going forward and attacking.
“We have a lot of speed up front which is the kind of flair that people like to see. We play really exciting football and it’s always good to watch.”
She’s right – it’s never a chore watching the Matildas play as their strike force alone of Kerr, Lisa De Vanna, Michelle Heyman, Caitlin Foord and Kyah Simon are a lethal assault squadron of relentless pace and precision.
They made the quarter-finals in both of those tournaments before falling to Sweden and Brazil respectively.
The ladies’ riveting performances there and in the Asian Cup (which they won in 2010) were especially pleasing through Pim Verbeek’s and Holger Osieck’s dour spells in change of the men’s national team.
A team united and fearless
The man charged with getting the team settled and primed for the World Cup is coach Alen Stajcic, and he’s remarkably calm.
“It’s all exciting to me,” Stajcic told The New Daily. “These are the things you look forward to as an elite coach.
“Putting yourself up against the best people in the world and doing it representing the country is even better.”
He took over the side in April 2014 after Hesterine De Reus left the position amid rumours of team disharmony and anger toward the Dutch coach.
The period of unrest came after Tom Sermanni’s successful managerial period that lasted for eight years, but with Stajcic leading it seems the Matildas are back to their confident best.
“We don’t care that we’re playing America to be honest,” Stajcic says. “We’re going to go out there and back ourselves and try and win.”
“We’ve been together as a group since January so we’ve had a four-month lead-up to the World Cup.
“You’re going to see a team that backs itself, a team that is positive … our two key words are positive and proactive.”
Every 2015 Women’s World Cup game is LIVE on SBS.
See the Matildas play:
– Matildas vs USA, Tuesday 9th June, 9AM AEST
– Matildas vs Nigeria, Saturday 13th June, 7AM AEST
– Matildas vs Sweden, Wednesday 17th June, 10AM AEST