Sport Football Meet the World Cup Matildas: Australia’s defenders
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Meet the World Cup Matildas: Australia’s defenders

Rearing to go: The Matildas training in Antalya, Turkey ahead of the World Cup warm-up match against the Netherlands. Photo Getty
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The Matildas begin their World Cup journey with a warm-up match against the Netherlands Sunday morning (AEST).

Australia has some injury worries ahead of the game, with midfield stalwart Elise Kellond-Knight and defender Laura Alleway out.

Both missed training on Friday after emerging from their training camp in Antalya, Turkey, with minor issues, and won’t be risked in Eindhoven.

“They won’t be playing any part.” coach Ante Milicic said. “It’s more more like muscle soreness (for Kellond-Knight) … hopefully she’ll be OK in a couple of days.

“Laura has been going well but had a training ground knock (on her foot). She’s already moving better again.”

Milicic is likely to field a strong side for the outing as he firms up his thoughts for the title assault.

The meeting with the Netherlands, ranked by FIFA as the eighth-best team in the world, is an ideal match-up.

In the first of a three part series, The New Daily looks at Australia’s squad and how it will contribute to coach Milicic’s game plan. Here’s the defenders who will need to stand firm against the best in the world.

GOALKEEPERS

Lydia Williams: Renowned throughout football as one of the best, if not the best, of the goalkeepers around today, Williams is one of several Matildas’ in Head Coach Ante Milicic squad getting set to make her fourth World Cup appearance in France.

One of the best: Goalkeeper Lydia Williams

A towering figure between the posts for club sides Melbourne City in the W-League and Reign FC in the US NWSL, Williams brings not only her abilities as a supremely athletic shot-stopper to the national team but also a fiery determination and will to win. The 31-year-old is never shy in marshalling the defence in front of her.

Off the field, Williams is a proud member of Australia’s first peoples; her American mother meeting her indigenous father in outback Western Australia.

Mackenzie Arnold: Though the task of supplanting Williams as the Matildas’ No.1 will perhaps be a bridge too far in France, Arnold nonetheless brings several qualities with her that make her more than capable should she be called upon to step into the breach.

The 25-year-old Gold Coast native was a strong performer between the posts for Brisbane Roar during the 2018/19 W-League season and, especially with the ball at her feet, even possesses some facets of her game that can be said to outpace Williams.

With 23 caps to her name and a stellar performance against Thailand in Australia’s ’ penalty shootout win in the 2018 Asian Cup semi-final, Arnold will be ready to go if called upon in France.

Teagan Micah: Though she got her start with Western Sydney Wanderers, Micah comes from a pathway relatively untrodden on the path to the World Cup: The NCAA.

The 21-year-old is the undisputed number one for UCLA in the PAC-12 conference, widely regarded not only for its academics but also as one of the premier athletic schools within the American collegiate system.

Uncapped for the national side, it’s unlikely that Micah will see the field in France, but her presence in the squad suggests a bright future for the youngster.

DEFENDERS

Gema Simon: Simon’s journey to France, like a number of her teammates, is one of perseverance.

The 29-year-old Armidale native will be making her first appearance at football’s premier showcase in 2019 and is recognised for her ability to bring much-needed depth to the left full-back position despite only 11 caps.

A W-League veteran, Simon has made almost 100 appearances for the Newcastle Jets during her time in the Australian top flight.

Clare Polkinghorne: A rock in the Matildas’ defence, Polkinghorne is another heading to her fourth World Cup in France, with the 30-year-old likely to be the first-choice centre back for Milicic throughout the tournament.

A rock: Clare Polkinghorne. Photo: Getty 

Making her debut for the national side in 2006, Brisbane-born Polkinghorne has made over 100 appearances for Brisbane Roar during her A-League career – winning the Julie Dolan Medal as the best player in the competition in both 2012/13 and 2017/18 – and has also spent time with Portland Thorns and Houston Dash in the NWSL.

Laura Alleway: ‘Loz’ will enter the Matildas’ World Cup campaign in excellent form; having been a member of a Melbourne Victory side that snapped years of frustration to lift the W-League Premiership in 2018/19 – her second year at AAMI Park.

Afforded the chance to play in her third World Cup under Milicic, Alleway has previously had stints with both English and American clubs and has made 60 appearances for the Matildas.

Steph Catley: Has fully earned her ‘World Class’ label, Catley broke into the W-League with Melbourne Victory at just 15-years-old, going on to make over 50 appearances for Victory.

Making the move to Melbourne City ahead of their first season in the W-League, Catley was an integral part of the squad that won three  championships. The left back has proven herself capable of both locking down opposing attackers and marauding forward, causing havoc.

Also a member of Reign FC in the NWSL, 25-year-old Catley will be playing in her second World Cup, adding to her 71 Matildas’ caps.

Alanna Kennedy: Like Catley, Kennedy has attained veteran status without the advanced years associated with the label. At 24 the Campbelltown native has made 77 appearances for the Matildas’, first debuting against New Zealand back in 2012.

A centre-back by trade, Kennedy demonstrated not only her defensive nous with Sydney FC during their run to the W-League Championship in 2018/19, but also her ability to serve as an aerial ace and free kick specialist.

Has played with five W-League clubs and also spent time in the United States, currently attached to NWSL side Orlando Pride.

Ellie Carpenter: Carpenter will head to France looking to add to her tally of 31 appearances for the Matildas before she turns 20 – supplementing an already impressive resume that has seen her win back-to-back Young Footballer of the Year awards in the W-League and having been the youngest player to appear in a WNSL game.

Ellie Carpenter in action against the United States. Photo: Getty 

The Canberra United and Portland Thorns’ prospect torments opposing defenders with her willingness to bound up the pitch from her right back position. On occasion this expressive play can catch her out in moments of transition, but expect no fear from her.

Teigen Allen: A right back, the world appeared to be at Allen’s feet when she made her debut in the W-League for Sydney FC as a mere 15-year-old and went on to represent Australia at the 2011 World Cup; only a combination of misfortune, injuries and poor form hampered her meteoric rise and led to her missing the 2015 World Cup.

Moving to Melbourne Victory ahead of the 2018/19 season, however, served to revitalise Allen’s prospects, saw her force her way back into Milicic’s plans and now she’s promising to push Carpenter for the starting right back slot.

WORLD CUP: MATILDAS FIXTURE

Warm-up match, Sunday: Matildas v Netherlands at 2.15am

Sunday June 9: Matildas v Italy, 9pm (TV: SBS)
Friday June 14: Matildas v Brazil, 2am (TV: SBS)
Wednesday June 19: Matildas v Jamaica, 5am (TV: SBS)

-with AAP

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