by Ben Gilby (2/2/23)
Above: (Left to right): Cortnee Vine, Tameka Yallop, and Tony Gustavsson at today’s Australian national squad selection announcement in Sydney. Image: Football Australia.
Western Sydney Wanderers defender Clare Hunt has been rewarded for her consistently high-performance levels in the A-League Women with a call-up to the Australian national side for the forthcoming Cup of Nations round-robin tournament which also involves Spain, the Czech Republic, and Jamaica.
The 23-year-old defender has captained the Wanderers this season in impressive style. Her form has picked up where it left off before her devastating injury last season as Kat Smith’s side look to push for only their second-ever qualification for Finals football.
Returning to the squad after missing out last time due to injury are Emily Gielnik, Tameka Yallop, and Mackenzie Arnold. Clare Wheeler, who has settled in well with Everton in the WSL is also selected.
Speaking to the media today to address his squad announcement, Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson revealed: “We’ve actually been keeping an eye on her (Hunt) for a long time. She was meant to go to the AFF tournament last year, but she dislocated her shoulder. She performed phenomenally well before that injury. I’ve been there live for a lot of her games to really dig into her play.
“She really deserves a shot in the national side to see if she can perform at her A-League standard in the national side. We’ve looked for the last two years at depth in the back line, and this might be the last opportunity to look at that (before the World Cup).”
Reflecting on the wider squad selection for the Cup of Nations, Gustavsson outlined: “This has been one of the most difficult squad selections so far. I have said before that this country is overloaded with attacking talent. Selection for this tournament is based on the last two years, not the last two matches.
“We’ve looked at 57 players in the senior national team environments, with 17 debutants. We want to keep track of the cohesion over World Cup year. The squad is based on the best team, not the best individual players, and some tough decisions have been made and some players have been left out who deserve to be there.”
With the vast majority of his squad based in Europe playing for their clubs the weekend immediately prior to this international window, Gustavsson spoke about the particular challenges that this will impose on his side going into their opening game of the Cup of Nations against the Czech Republic.
“Our first game is a Thursday and some players will not arrive until the Tuesday night…that will be one proper training session before the first match.”
Whilst the Matildas’ head coach outlined his belief that “80-85%” of the selected players this time should be part of his World Cup squad, he provided an update on the situation regarding three injured key players Chloe Logarzo, Ellie Carpenter, and Kyah Simon.
“Chloe – she hasn’t played much after her (injury), we’ve had a lot of discussions before making the final decision. She needed to get 100% focus on getting right. We want to give her time to do that. She needs minutes to build up before maybe coming back in April.
“With Ellie, we had another long discussion about whether to bring her in or not. She can actually train with full contact. But there is research that travel and jet lag can impact an ACL injury and we don’t want to take that risk right now. We have a really good dialogue with Lyon and she will be integrated in their team soon.”
“Kyah – I went up to Newcastle to see her in her rehab. She is committed to doing everything she can, but it’s too early to speculate. What I’m really pleased with is the passion and desire in her.”
Also present at the media conference in Sydney were Matildas players Tameka Yallop and Cortnee Vine, who both reflected on the reality dawning on just how big the interest is becoming in the Matildas now home World Cup year has finally arrived.
“This is a whole different thing, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” enthused Yallop. “The atmosphere surrounding football in Australia is very different. As a player who played in the first W-League season to now, it’s humbling. Not just in Australia but worldwide.”
Sydney FC attacker Vine highlighted the symbolism in Australia’s opening World Cup game against the Republic of Ireland being moved to Accor Stadium, saying: “Changing the stadium to an 83,000-capacity one is amazing. I’ve never played in front of more than 23,000!”
The Matildas open their Cup of Nations campaign against the Czech Republic in Gosford on 16th February, before facing Spain (Parramatta) on 19th February, before concluding the tournament against Jamaica in Newcastle on 22nd February. Tickets are available from $15 for juniors and $25 for adults at matildas.com.au/tickets.
|Mackenzie ARNOLD||Goalkeeper||West Ham United FC||29 (0)|
|Steph CATLEY||Back||Arsenal WFC||106 (3)|
|Alex CHIDIAC||Midfielder||Melbourne Victory on loan from Racing Louisville FC||22 (1)|
|Kyra COONEY-CROSS||Midfielder||Hammarby IF||22 (0)|
|Larissa CRUMMER||Forward||Brisbane Roar FC||30 (4)|
|Caitlin FOORD||Forward||Arsenal WFC||106 (27)|
|Mary FOWLER||Forward||Manchester City FC||32 (8)|
|Emily GIELNIK||Forward||Aston Villa FC||57 (11)|
|Katrina GORRY||Midfielder||Vittsjö GIK||88 (16)|
|Charlotte GRANT||Back||Vittsjö GIK||13 (0)|
|Clare HUNT||Back||Western Sydney Wanderers FC||0 (0)|
|Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT||Midfielder||Melbourne Victory FC||114 (2)|
|Alanna KENNEDY||Back||Manchester City FC||108 (8)|
|Sam KERR||Forward||Chelsea WFC||116 (61)|
|Aivi LUIK||Back||BK Hacken||41 (1)|
|Teagan MICAH||Goalkeeper||FC Rosengård||14 (0)|
|Courtney NEVIN||Back||Leicester City on loan from Hammarby IF||18 (0)|
|Clare POLKINGHORNE||Back||Vittsjö GIK||151 (14)|
|Hayley RASO||Forward||Manchester City FC||66 (9)|
|Amy SAYER||Midfielder||Stanford University||6 (0)|
|Emily VAN EGMOND||Midfielder||San Diego Wave FC||124 (30)|
|Cortnee VINE||Forward||Sydney FC||11 (2)|
|Clare WHEELER||Midfielder||Everton WFC||11 (0)|
|Lydia WILLIAMS||Goalkeeper||Brighton Hove & Albion FC||102 (0)|
|Tameka YALLOP||Midfielder||SK Brann||109 (12)|