by Ben Gilby (28/2/23)
Above: Matildas star Elise Kellond-Knight and assistant coach Mel Andreatta pictured at Marvel Stadium today. Photo: Aleksandar Kostadinoski/Football Australia.
Australia today announced their final friendly ahead of the World Cup, with France due to take on The Matildas at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium on 14th July.
The announcement means that the only member of the world’s top ten ranked nations that Australia have not faced in the past two years is North Korea, who are presently not playing international matches.
This importance of completing preparations for the tournament against France was emphasised by Football Australia CEO James Johnson who told the media today: “It is only four months before the World Cup kicks off. Our sport is just a little bit special as it has the ability to bring the whole of Australia together.
“2023 will be the biggest years in our sport. As one of the key preparations, we are very excited to play France here at Marvel Stadium on 14th July. By the time we play France, the Matildas would have played all nine top-ranked FIFA teams.”
Also present at the announcement was Matildas assistant coach Mel Andreatta who underlined the importance of taking advantage of the current positivity around the national team by packing out the 53,359 seater stadium. “In terms of the send-off, I can’t wait to see the fans show the world and every other nation (in the tournament) what it is like to face the Matildas.”
Andreatta puts down the team’s current run of seven straight wins to a focus on more consistency in national team selection after an 18-month period of giving opportunities to a large number of uncapped players.
“If we go back to September last year, we mentioned how the process was starting to narrow in and focus on continuity. You can see that now with how each game and window, we’re getting closer. The door is not shut and there are opportunities for players who are performing before we lock down that final 23.
“The team has to have the right balance, experience, positions, and profile. We found that process difficult going into the Olympics, but that experience as a staff was good and it will help us to make the right decisions when the time comes. It normalises those experiences of playing the top teams in big stadiums in big grounds.”
Matildas star Elise Kellond-Knight reflected on how important it was that the squad will go into the World Cup on the back of another game against top opposition saying: “It’s a big opportunity for us to test ourselves six days before our opening World Cup game. Being able to play in a big stadium will also test us. It’s another challenge with the communication on the field.”
France have, over the past week been hit by further major disagreements between players, their federation, and head coach – a sequence of events that has been repeating itself since the 2019 World Cup.
It is yet another example of players stepping back from selection for their national teams due to long-term issues with the national federation and/or their head coach. Kellond-Knight emphasised how important it is that all players in the women’s game remain united.
“It’s about the next generation and we want to improve things. All the players around the world support each other. We went through it with our own federation in 2015. We now hope France, Spain, Canada, and Chile can get through it. We’re not professional footballers forever, so we need to enjoy it.”
“The team is flying, we’re playing our best football and we’re full of confidence.”