Sport Football ‘New era’: Milicic names Matildas squad for Cup of Nations
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‘New era’: Milicic names Matildas squad for Cup of Nations

Milicic Matildas
Ante Milicic will take the Matildas to this year's World Cup in France. Photo: Getty
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‘Hit the ground running’ is the mission statement for freshly appointed Matildas coach Ante Milicic, who unveiled his squad for the upcoming Cup of Nations which gets under way in Sydney on February 28.

Milicic is yet to spend any time with his players but told Fox Sports he believes this team can win the World Cup.

Milicic Matildas
New Matildas coach Ante Milicic.  Photos; Getty

“We can’t look to the past – how this journey started – but we can start today and have a real impact,” Milicic said.

“The main thing is, the focus needs to go back on to the football to give this group the best opportunity they have to perform well at the World Cup.”

His appointment as coach and the naming of his first squad follows the confusion and rancour surrounding the dismissal of Alen Stajcic as Matildas coach.

Stajcic had been in charge of the Matildas for five years, qualifying them for the World Cup and lifting their ranking to No.6 in the world.

He was sensationally dumped as coach last month with claims of a toxic team culture being slated home as his failure of leadership, something Stajcic has vigorously refuted.

Milicic dismissed the idea that the Matildas coaching gig had become a poisoned chalice.

“I believe there’s a lot of positives with this job. There’s a World Cup and I’m very fortunate I’ve been to two (as an assistant with the Socceroos). I really appreciate how big a tournament they are.

It’s a strong side, one that’s in the top 10 in the world. There’s a really good opportunity to go deep into the tournament.”

The 23-woman squad features the bulk of the players who have been part of the Matildas’ surge to powerhouse status, including Ballon d’Or nominee Sam Kerr, Emily van Egmond, Alanna Kennedy, Caitlin Foord, Elise Kellond-Knight and goalkeeper Lydia Williams.

Veteran attacker and all-time leading Matildas scorer Lisa DeVanna has been named despite a modest W-League campaign.

Melbourne Victory defender Teigen Allen’s strong W-League sees her return to the national squad for the first time in three years.

Sydney FC title-winning captain Teresa Polias has fought her way back into contention and could make her first appearance for the national team since 2015 during the Cup of Nations.

Hayley Raso is back in the squad after recovering from a broken back sustained while playing in the United States for Portland Thorns last year.

Milicic has a long-standing relationship with Stajcic, stretching back to their time playing together as juniors in the New South Wales state team.

He insists his long association with Stajcic wasn’t a problem for him committing to the job.

“When you come into this industry as a coach, these things happen and you’ve quickly got to move on.”

The new Matildas coach doesn’t see his lack of experience coaching women’s teams as being an issue.

“I think it’s an advantage because I’m coming in with fresh eyes and no preconceived ideas. The rules are the same. It’s a World Cup and have experience in that.”

“I’m looking forward to working with this group. They play good football. I look at them as footballers and professional athletes and I’m looking forward to this tournament and our preparation for the World Cup,” Milicic said.

The tournament is a four-team event featuring Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Argentina. All four have qualified for this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

These matches have taken on an added urgency for the Australians following the upheaval in the coaching ranks that resulted in Milicic being appointed to oversee the World Cup campaign.

MATILDAS SQUAD Games (Goals)

Teigen ALLEN Melbourne Victory FC, 39 (0)
Laura ALLEWAY Melbourne Victory FC, 57 (2)
Mackenzie ARNOLD (Gk) Brisbane Roar FC, 22 (0)
Tameka BUTT Melbourne City FC, 74 (10)
Eliza CAMPBELL (Gk) Perth Glory FC, 2 (0)
Ellie CARPENTER Canberra United, 28 (1)
Steph CATLEY Melbourne City FC, 69 (2)
Alex CHIDIAC Atletico Madrid, Spain 14 (1)
Lisa DE VANNA Sydney FC, Australia 143 (45)
Caitlin FOORD Sydney FC, Australia 67 (14)
Emily GIELNIK Melbourne Victory FC, 24 (5)
Princess IBINI Sydney FC, Australia 5 (0)
Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT Melbourne City FC, 102 (1)
Alanna KENNEDY Sydney FC, 74 (6)
Samantha KERR Perth Glory FC, 72 (27)
Chloe LOGARZO Sydney FC, 37 (6)
Aivi LUIK Levante UD, 19 (0)
Teresa POLIAS Sydney FC, 10 (0)
Clare POLKINGHORNE Brisbane Roar FC, 112 (9)
Hayley RASO Brisbane Roar FC, 30 (2)
Gema SIMON Newcastle Jets FC, 8 (0)
Emily VAN EGMOND Newcastle Jets FC, 82 (18)
Lydia WILLIAMS (Gk) Melbourne City FC, 74 (0)

2019 Cup of Nations – Match Schedule

Matchday One
Date: Thursday, February 28
Venue: Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah (Sydney), New South Wales
Match One: Argentina v Korea Republic – 4.35pm kick-off (AEDT) – Live on FOX SPORTS
Match Two: Westfield Matildas v New Zealand – 7.30pm kick-off (AEDT)
Tickets: https://matildas.footballaustralia.com.au/tickets
Broadcast: LIVE on FOX SPORTS & SBS VICELAND* (please check local guides)

Matchday Two
Date: 
Sunday, March 3
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Queensland
Match One: Argentina v New Zealand – 3.05pm kick-off (AEST); 4.05pm (AEDT)
Match Two: Westfield Matildas v Korea Republic – 6pm kick-off (AEST); 7pm (AEDT)
Tickets: https://matildas.footballaustralia.com.au/tickets
Broadcast: LIVE on FOX SPORTS, delayed on SBS* (please check local guides)

Matchday Three
Date:
Wednesday, March 6
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne, Victoria
Match One: Korea Republic v New Zealand – 3.05pm kick-off (AEDT)
Match Two: Westfield Matildas v Argentina – 6pm kick-off (AEDT)
Tickets: https://matildas.footballaustralia.com.au/tickets
Broadcast: LIVE on FOX SPORTS & SBS VICELAND* (please check local guides)