Sport Football Meet the Matildas: Midfielders drive World Cup hopes
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Meet the Matildas: Midfielders drive World Cup hopes

Matildas midfielder Aivi Luik in a match against Thailand. Photo Getty
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After a terrible 3-0 warm-up loss against the Netherlands on Sunday morning, the Matildas know they have only one more week to find the form that made them such a dangerous outfit in recent years.

The Matildas went into the game in Eindhoven without crucial midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight, who has a calf injury.

Coach Ante Milicic was forced to juggle his line-up and says work is needed to stem the flow of goals.

“I’m obviously disappointed and it’s a concern when you concede five against the US and in your next game, you concede three,” Milicic said.

“I’ll take responsibility for that.

“We will definitely learn from this and rest assured that this team will pick itself up and they’ll be ready for the first game against Italy.”

The Matildas play Italy on Sunday night to begin their World Cup campaign, before tackling Brazil and Jamaica to round out group C.

With the midfielders key to success, The New Daily continues its assessment of the squad that Australia hopes can win the World Cup.

Here are Milicic’s key players.

Aivi Luik

Without a doubt one of the biggest feel-good stories in the Matildas squad, veteran Luik will be headed to her first World Cup at the age of 34.

Luik has said the campaign represents her chance to fulfil a childhood dream born from watching the men’s World Cup as a nine-year-old.

A W-League Championship winner with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City and member of the 2010 Asian Cup-winning squad, Luik has most recently been playing at Spanish side Levante. She brings steel and level-headedness to the midfield as a likely backup to Kellond-Knight.

Luik is also one of the few players in the Matildas setup with experience in the United States collegiate system, starting her career with Brescia University in Kentucky before transferring to the University of Nevada, whose teams are known as “the Wolf Pack”.

Chloe Logarzo

Suffering an ankle injury in Sydney FC’s triumph over Perth Glory in the 2018-19 W-League grand final, Logarzo was forced into a battle against time to prove her fitness and earn a spot on the plane to France.

Thankfully for the 24-year-old, she was successful having got field minutes with NWSL side Washington Spirit in order to prove her fitness and earn Milicic’s nod.

Injury battle: Chloe Logarzo. Photo: Getty 

Capable of playing centrally or on the wing, Logarzo has 37 caps for the Matildas and was a member of Australia’s 2016 Olympic and 2018 Asian Cup squads but France 2019 is her first opportunity to shine on the World Cup stage.

In addition to Spirit and Sydney FC, Logarzo has also had stops across Europe with the likes of Danish side Eskilstuna United DFF and Norwegian side Avaldsnes Idrettslag.

Elise Kellond-Knight

One of the centurions in the Matildas’ World Cup squad, 28-year-old “KK” will likely serve as a holding midfielder during France 2019 although, sometimes to the chagrin of the Matildas’ dedicated fan base, she is capable of filling in at left back if needed.

Playing with Melbourne City in the 2018-19 W-League season marked a return to Australia for Kellond-Knight, who had spent time with German side 1 FFC Turbine Potsdam and Swedish club Hammarby IF after departing Brisbane Roar in 2015.

The midfielder has also had spells with Danish side Fortuna Hjørring and Iga F.C Kunoichi in Japan.

One of the stars of Australia’s 2011 and 2015 World Cup campaigns, Kellond-Knight will likely be a bellwether for Australia in the tournament.

If she’s firing, Australia can go a long way. If not, the Matildas may find themselves struggling against some of the more elite competition in France.

Emily van Egmond

Despite being just 25 years old, van Egmond can possibly bring up her 90th cap should the Australians progress to at least the semi-finals in France, having made her debut with the national side in 2010 and featuring in the past two World Cup campaigns.

Emily van Egmond is about to notch 90 caps. Photo: Getty 

Frequently employed as the quarterback of the Matildas midfield – entrusted with scanning the pitch and lacing passes to advancing teammates – van Egmond plays her club football with Newcastle Jets in the W-League and Orlando Pride in the NWSL.

Tameka Yallop

Yallop may have had a disappointing W-League season with Melbourne City, which missed the finals for the first time in its history, but it came as no fault of her own.

The 27-year-old has experienced a revitalisation in her form in recent years and, like Kellond-Knight, will be key to Australia advancing deep into the tournament.

Yallop, who made her debut for the national side in 2007 and has collected 78 caps since, is capable of turning her aggressiveness and willingness to back herself to score or provide assists at her third World Cup.

Katrina Gorry 

Katrina Gorry has football nous. Photo: Getty

Gorry has battled with injuries, form and confidence in recent years to earn herself a spot on the plane to France but, should she find the form that she’s capable of, she may serve as the X-factor the Australian’s need.

The 2014 AFC Player of the Year, peak Gorry is surgical in her precision on a football field, using her football intelligence and instinctual nous to get herself into positions that not only aid her forward movement but also that of her teammates.

Though unlikely to start in France, the injection of Gorry at the right moment in games could well prove the difference between victory and defeat in the knockout stages.

Amy Harrison

Like Luik, the presence of Harrison in Milicic’s squad is one of the better stories accompanying this group to France.

At just 23 years old, Harrison has already bounced back from two serious ACL injuries in her career to secure her first chance at appearing at a World Cup.

A W-League Champion with Sydney FC in 2018-19 and a teammate of Logarzo at Washington Spirit in the NSWL, Harrison brings versatility – crucial in the knockout nature of a World Cup – with her to France; capable of playing as both a wingback and in the midfield.

MATILDAS AT THE WORLD CUP

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

-with AAP