Against the backdrop of “Yellow Vest” demonstrations and an unprecedented police security operation, the Matildas have been handed a dream group at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France after the official draw event was held in Paris on Sunday morning (Australian time).
The Matildas, one of the six seeded teams, thanks to a top six FIFA ranking, have avoided fellow heavyweights United States of America, Germany, England, Canada and hosts France.
The Australians open their campaign against Italy on Sunday, June 9 at Valenciennes.
Four days later, the Matildas face rivals Brazil at Montpellier on Thursday, June 13, before rounding out their group matches against Jamaica at Grenoble on Tuesday, June 18.
— Westfield Matildas (@TheMatildas) December 8, 2018
“Our team has got to the point where it really does not matter who we play,” said head coach Alen Stajcic, in Paris for the official draw.
“We have shown we can compete with the best in the world.”
While showing due respect to the Matildas’ group-phase opponents, Stajcic will be resting comfortable knowing his charges, on form, should top Group C and secure the best pathway into the knockout phase.
Recently elected FFA board member and women’s football pioneer Heather Reid was delighted with the draw.
“It’s a pretty good draw for the Matildas,” Reid told The New Daily.
“For Australia to land with Brazil – who we know very well – and Italy, an emerging nation and future powerhouse of women’s football as well as the Jamaicans, also new on the scene who will provide real vibrancy at the tournament, it’s exciting.”
Reid believes the Matildas should be ambitious and aim to win the World Cup and that starts with topping their group.
“Finishing first in the group is a terrific advantage because then you play a third-placed team from any number of the other groups,” Reid said.
“If we’re serious about winning the World Cup, we need to win every single one of those games along the way.”
It has been 20 years since Italy qualified for a Women’s World Cup, the Matildas have beaten Brazil in their past three outings and Jamaica is the minnow of the tournament. The benefits of being seeded in pot 1 are clear for all to see.
Sarah Walsh played 70 times for the Matildas and told The New Daily the Matildas’ draw was a reward for the hard work Stajcic’s team had done in the past few years to build their ranking and status.
“The Matildas have earned their seeding and have a draw they should be happy with,” Walsh said.
Walsh isn’t concerned that the pressure of expectation might start to tell on the Australians.
“They’ve been transitioning into it for a while now and you could see their maturity in the games recently against Chile. If things weren’t quite going to plan they adapted, got better and dealt with it.”
Walsh believes this talented generation of Matildas is entering their window of opportunity to do something special.
“If they’re ever going to win it (the World Cup) it is at this one or the next. The bulk of this squad have played a lot of international football and are aged between 24-25,” she said.
“There’s no reason they can’t make the semi-finals and then anything can happen from there.”
Other notable match ups in the group phase of the event include England v Scotland at Nice, France v Nigeria at Reims and USA v Sweden at Le Harve.
2019 FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP GROUPS
Group A: France, Korea Rep, Norway & Nigeria
Group B: Germany, China, PR, Spain & South Africa
Group C: Australia, Italy, Brazil & Jamaica
Group D: England, Scotland, Argentina & Japan
Group E: Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand & Netherlands
Group F: USA, Thailand, Chile & Sweden
Australia v Italy, Date: Sunday, June 9
Venue: Stade du Hainaut, Valenciennes
Kick-off: 1pm (local time)
Australia v Brazil – Date: Thursday, June 13
Venue: Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier
Kick-off: 6pm (local time)
Jamaica v Australia – Date: Tuesday, June 18
Venue: Stade des Alpes
Kick-off: 9pm (local time)