Sport Football Meet the Matildas: Going forward the key to World Cup glory
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Meet the Matildas: Going forward the key to World Cup glory

Caitlin Foord is a key plank in Australia's forward structure. Photo: Getty
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The Matildas take on Italy in their opening World Cup match against Italy on Sunday night, with injury exacting a toll on the squad ahead of the start of the tournament.

Just hours after Laura Alleway (foot) was ruled out of the World Cup, Mary Fowler was sent for scans after going down in training in a horror day for Australia.

Fowler, the youngest player at the World Cup, is now a prospect to join her watching on. The 16-year-old felt tightness in her hamstring early in the Matildas’ first training session in France.

Still the key to Australia’s success remains up forward.

The Matildas were demolished 3-0 by Netherlands in Eindhoven in their final warm-up match last Sunday, but Australia has shown an ability to regroup before.

Part of that resilience is due to the quality of the forwards, with star power and experience that makes any Australian attack dangerous for the opposition.

In the final instalment of our three-part series, here’s how The New Daily sees the strengths of the Matildas’ forwards.

Caitlin Foord

Despite being just 24 years old, the 2019 World Cup will be Foord’s third appearance on football’s biggest stage having already appeared at the 2011 and 2015 tournaments.

Initially breaking into the national team as a right back, Foord was named Best Young Player at the 2011 World Cup before going on to capture the same honour from the Asian confederation that same year.

Making the transition to the forward line, she played every minute for the Matildas in the 2015 World Cup and followed it up a year later with the 2016 Asian Player of the Year award.

Foord is a genuine world-class talent and the Sydney FC and Portland Thorns’ attacker is capable of exchanging blows with the best defences on the planet.

Expect her to form a dynamic attacking duo with Sam Kerr.

Lisa De Vanna

The most decorated international goalscorer in Australian footballing history, De Vanna, 34, will be competing in what is likely to be her last major tournament in France after 147 caps.

However, the veteran is wily, experienced and still more than capable of providing a spark to ignite the Matildas chances.

Lisa De Vanna’s experience will be crucial to the Matildas. Photo: Getty 

De Vanna has found the back of the net 47 times for the Matildas across an international career that began in 2004.

In that time she has parlayed her dogged determination and eye for a goal into stints with clubs in England, Sweden, the United States and Australia.

Having most recently had stops with Sydney FC and South Melbourne in NPLW VIC, De Vanna will be appearing at her fourth World Cup in 2019, with one of her most notable achievements being a brace in Australia’s first ever World Cup win against Ghana in 2007.

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Emily Van Egmond congratulates Emily Gielnik after a goal. Photo: Getty 

Emily Gielnik

Unlucky to miss out on selection for the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, Gielnik – who made the move south from Brisbane Roar to Melbourne Victory before the 2018-19 season – has turned a superb season with the W-League premiers into World Cup selection.

A capable weapon on set pieces, Gielnik also possesses an eye for goal that makes her a scoring threat from almost anywhere in the attacking third.

Though unlikely to start in France, the 27-year-old looms large in the role that she made her name in: The super sub.

Hayley Raso

At times in the months leading into World Cup, the Matildas’ dressing room could have been mistaken for a casualty ward. Raso’s broken back suffered with Portland Thorns during the 2018 season was one of the most obvious examples.

Hayley Raso broke three vertebrae, but is on the way back. Photo: AAP 

Fighting back to earn a place on the plane to France, Raso – who is instantly recognisable thanks to the ribbon in her hair and penchant for putting on a gun show by rolling up her sleeves – is fearless in her play and is capable of scoring and creating goals.

Mary Fowler

The 16-year-old Fowler has dominated the headlines before this year’s tournament, with the phrase “teenage sensation” the key headline since being named in coach Ante Milicic’s squad.

Fowler, who at one stage it looked like may be lost to the Republic of Ireland, has been a star for the Young Matildas in recent times and has been praised by Milicic as an “explosive athlete”.

The coach has also said she is “very mature for her age” and is “good [with her] back to goal, [has a] very good left foot and right foot and is a genuine finisher”.

Sam Kerr

The undisputed biggest name in the Matildas squad, Kerr’s resume – despite being just 25 years old – is already legendary.

Kerr, who gave up AFL at age 12 because of a lack of opportunities, is a two-time Julie Dolan Medallist as the W-League’s best player, an ESPY award winner, an Asian Player of the Year, an ABC Sport Personality of the Year, a Young Australian of the Year and record goalscorer in the W-League and the NSWL.

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Sam Kerr celebrates after a goal against Brazil.

Recently becoming one of the worldwide faces of Nike, Kerr will be headed to her third World Cup in 2019 having already appeared at Germany 2011 and Canada 2015.

She will be looking to banish one of the most often statistics cited about her on the international stage –  she has never scored a World Cup goal.

Kerr is capable of scoring from almost any position, but her true strength is when she is afforded the opportunity to run at opposing defences. She can then use her speed and physicality to get into a position where her lethal finishing can take over.

Quite possibly the best player in the world, Kerr has the potential to be unstoppable on a football pitch and is the key player in Australia’s quest to become world champions.

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