Andreatta and Stajcic Speak Ahead Of AFF Opener

Impetus’ Kieran Yap was in the head coaches media conference for the AFF Women’s Championships today. Ahead of Australia’s opening game tomorrow against the Philippines, he heard from Matildas U23 head coach Mel Andreatta and Philippines head coach, and former Matildas chief Alen Stajcic (3/7/22).

Above: Mel Andreatta, who is leading the Matildas U23 representative team at the competition. Photo: ABC.

Australian Under 23’s manager Mel Andreatta is excited to be leading the team into the AFF Cup in Manila.

Australia will face off against the Philippines on Monday night at 9pm (AEST) in the first game of an intense schedule of group games that will take in five games in eight days.

“We’re excited to be here and thank both AFF and the PFF for hosting this tournament,” Andreatta told Southeast Asia’s football media.

“We’re excited to be building on newfound opportunities for these players to gain important experiences in international football against the best Southeast Asian nations in football.”

With both a Senior World Cup and an Under 20’s tournament in the near future. This tournament is another important development step for Australia’s rising talent.

Above: Charli Grant – one of those players who have come directly from the senior Matildas camp in Spain and Portugal at the AFF Championships. Photo: Football Australia.

Australia has traditionally sent an Under 20’s squad to the AFF Championships. But in an effort to improve player pathways, for this event they have formed an Under 23 side. Senior Matildas assistant Andreatta will take the reigns as head coach, with Under 20’s manager Leah Blayney in support.

Of the squad, only Charli Grant was part of the Asian Cup campaign. But she will be joined by a group of players who were in the most recent senior camps in Spain and Portugal. Larissa Crummer, Matilda McNamara, Amy Sayer, Winonah Heatley, Mackenzie Hawkesby, Princess Ibini, and Jamilla Rankin have travelled directly from Portugal to Manila.

Andreatta says that the focus in early sessions has been on recovery for those players, and she is optimistic they will be available for the first match.

“That’s been a big priority for the travel and arrival in the Philippines,” she said of the recovery program. “They’re looking good, we had a start-up session yesterday, so on the ground they’re looking good. “We’ll train today and work with our SSSM team to ensure that they’re in the right physical condition to be available for selection in the first game

“As we spoke about in the FIFA window, for these players, it continues to be the same focus, to build that important international match experience against top opponents. That’s what we’re looking forward to seeing here at AFF and bring their qualities and performing against Southeast Asia’s best teams.”

Above: Philippines head coach Alen Stajcic, who knows the Australian squad very well. Photo: Adam Aidil/Asian Football Confederation.

Although The Philippines is sending their senior team to the tournament, manager Alen Stajcic is not taking Australia lightly.

“Australia’s probably got a lot more depth than most other countries in Southeast Asia,” Stajcic said about the rematch from the Asian Cup group stage. “They’ve been ranked in the top 10 for the last 10 years. They’re there for a reason that they’ve been one of the stronger nations in the region.

“No doubt they’re probably still one of the favourites for this tournament regardless of who they’ve brought. Age isn’t really the issue, its really the quality on the pitch,” he said to dismiss the idea that younger players would make easier opponents.

“I’ve seen a lot of those players grow up including some of the 16-year-old’s that they have in the squad now. I think some of the 16-year-old’s they have in the squad are as good as any of the kids that have come before them.

“Young Daniella Galic and Alexia Apostolakis are two of the best talents in south-east Asia at the moment. I’m not underestimating them. I think they’re a very good squad, and probably the favourites to win this tournament. It’s going to be a good experience for our team

Above: Alexia Apostolakis of Western Sydney Wanderers, one of the youngest members of the Australia U23 squad, but she is highly rated by Alen Stajcic. Photo: AAP/Mick Tsikas.

“There’s no such thing as ‘not full strength’, every game is full strength. It doesn’t matter who’s out there, it’s an international fixture… it’s two nations competing against each other, everyone wants to learn but everyone wants to win.”

Mel Andretta has a strong squad at her disposal. Along with the recently anointed senior Matildas, she has selected some of the best young players in the country.

Chelsie Dawber has joined the squad on the back of her best-ever season with Adelaide United and having flown in from her season with Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL.

Hana Lowry, Caitlin Karic, and Paige Zois are some of the most highly rated attackers in Victoria and Western Australia. This tournament represents an important step for the players and the overall strategy of the national team.

“Last time we were involved was in 2018,” said Andreatta. “For us its continuing to build a bank of tournament experience for these players and get those important match minutes in international football, and to help these players gain experience in world cups and future Olympics games and beyond.

“We’ve seen in the past that many players who’ve been involved in AFF have gone on to experience selection in such tournaments. We’re hoping for the same in this tournament and of course being an Australian team, we also want to perform and do well alongside that.”

Above: Perth Glory’s Hana Lowry, one of the young stars of the Western Australian game is part of the Matildas U23 squad. Photo: Hana Lowry Instagram.

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