by Ben Gilby (23/3/23)
Above: Matildas boss Tony Gustavsson has unveiled a strong squad for the April international window matches against England and Scotland. Image: Football Australia.
Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson has named a 24-player squad for next month’s internationals against Scotland and England.
Whilst Steph Catley and Emily Gielnik are unavailable, there is the huge boost of the return of Ellie Carpenter and Holly McNamara after both players recovered from ACL injuries.
Speaking about his selection, head coach Tony Gustavsson said: “Ellie Carpenter and Holly McNamara are back in the fold, and we’re really excited about that.
“Ellie is back, but Steph (Catley) is not available, so they’re not both available (still) at the same time. Come June and July, we haven’t had two of the world’s best outside backs in the team for over a year. But sometimes it’s not the strongest who survive, it’s those who adapt the best and this group of players have shown that they are adaptable. They have a very clear identity and a very clear idea about what we are about as a national team.”
Carpenter’s return to the international fold for the first time in 10 months is huge for Australia. The opportunities she provides along the flanks and in combination play is well known. Gustavsson also highlighted the qualities that the Lyon star brings off the pitch too.
“I’m excited for Ellie. I know how hard she has worked to get back. She has learned a lot through this journey, not just about her rebab, but to get distance from the game, to appreciate the game.
“We’re so happy to have her back in camp, as not only is she a world-class player, her personality is awesome for our group. She always gives so much energy and there is always a smile on her face. I hope to use her as much as possible going into this camp. I would love to play her both games.”
Holly McNamara’s return is also welcome. After her meteoric rise in last season’s A-League Women, the Melbourne City attacker was rewarded with a place in Australia’s Asian Cup squad where she produced several impressive performances before succumbing to an ACL injury on her return to the club game. The youngster’s rate of progress since returning to the sky blue of City over the past month has really impressed the national coach.
“She was one of the younger players who came on board who really impressed us both in training and in games the first time. She had that injury a short time afterwards, but has done phenomenal work to be back where she is. We have been surprised at the quality and the intensity and pace she has been playing with.
“We kept a close eye on her, and she definitely deserves to come back. We need to work closely with her club (Melbourne City) to manage the load, but we’re really excited to see her in our training camp and then take it from there.”
In terms of providing updates on the situation surrounding Gielnik and Catley’s injuries, Gustavsson said: “Em Gielnik has an ankle strain and Steph has a non-contact injury in her foot. She is not available for the April camp. It’s too early to speak about the World Cup.”
Whilst Catley’s loss is a big one, the Matildas’ head coach believes that he has plenty of depth in the squad to cover the Arsenal star’s absence. “We know that Charlotte Grant plays most as a left back in club land. Courtney Nevin plays consistently as a left-back in England now (for Leicester City). Tameka Yallop has played left-back for us before. We have multiple options for us in the roster. It’s also about the players we are playing against and who is in form.
“There have been a lot of scouting behind the scenes. This is a selection based on the past two years’ investment in the depth of the roster. It’s about selecting the best team, not the best players. It’s also based on the last performances on the tournament (Cup of Nations). Six of our starters from the Olympics were not available for that tournament and it was an interesting depth of roster.”
Also back in the squad after missing recent international matches is Manchester City’s Alanna Kennedy, although Gustavsson added a note of caution about how many minutes she may be able to put in during the April window.
“We’ve sent staff to watch her in training. She is training very well. The concern we have is that she has had limited game time for a long time. We’ll see when she comes into our environment where she is and take it from there.”
Whilst the Matildas boss recognises that England will pose potentially the stiffest test his side could face, he believes that Australia have more than enough weapons to cause Sarina Wiegman’s European champions problems.
“England are the team that people are talking of as the best team in the world right now and to play them in England is very important for us. I’m happy with the different qualities we have. We have different profiles of players to play in different positions. We have impact players that can come on and impact the game – half-time subs, 60-minute subs.”
Australia star Ellie Carpenter spoke of her sense of excitement at being called back into the international set up after recovering from her ACL injury.
Carpenter revealed that she has used the last eight or nine months to get her hunger back for the game and that the potential of a home World Cup was the major carrot that kept her going through rehab, which she described as the hardest work she’s ever faced.
“I was very excited to be called back into the national camp, obviously it’s been a long time since I’ve been called into the green and gold. After my injury, I’ve had some good months and building up my game fitness with Lyon so I feel ready to play international football,” the Cowra-born star said.
“Being away from the national team for so long gives you that extra drive and hunger to get back. Obviously, it’s a World Cup year as well, so that was a massive motivation for me to get back after my injury – there was such a big goal at the end of this.”
Reflecting on the serious challenges she faced, and how she got through it, Carpenter highlighted how it has made her feel more energised than before for the opportunities ahead.
“There is no good time to be injured, but I knew I had the time to get back before the World Cup. I had a lot of support, and I wouldn’t be here without them. There were some ups and downs, but the most important thing was to take it day by day. I don’t think I’ve worked as hard in my life as I did through that rehab. I feel stronger, I feel faster than before. I feel like a refreshed Ellie!
“It’s worse watching than playing in terms of the nerves you get. I never want to experience that again! It was also a good chance to switch off from football for eight or nine months. I didn’t watch as much football, and that was great to step away from the game for a bit and really refreshed me and bring the hunger back. I feel really good. I’ve played three 90-minute games so far. I’m building up well here in Lyon.”
AUSTRALIA SQUAD FOR MATCHES AGAINST SCOTLAND AND ENGLAND:
Mackenzie ARNOLD (Goalkeeper – West Ham United), Ellie CARPENTER (Back – Olympique Lyonnais), Alex CHIDIAC (Midfielder – Racing Louisville), Kyra COONEY-CROSS (Midfielder – Hammarby IF), Larissa CRUMMER (Forward – Brisbane Roar), Caitlin FOORD (Forward – Arsenal), Mary FOWLER (Forward – Manchester City), Katrina GORRY (Midfielder – Vittsjö GIK), Charlotte GRANT (Back – Vittsjö GIK), Clare HUNT (Back – Western Sydney Wanderers), Alanna KENNEDY (Back – Manchester City), Sam KERR (Forward – Chelsea), Aivi LUIK (Back – BK Häcken), Holly McNAMARA (Forward – Melbourne City), Teagan MICAH (Goalkeeper – FC Rosengård), Courtney NEVIN (Back – Leicester City on loan from Hammarby IF), Clare POLKINGHORNE (Back – Vittsjö GIK), Hayley RASO (Forward – Manchester City), Emily VAN EGMOND (Midfielder – San Diego Wave), Cortnee VINE (Forward – Sydney FC), Clare WHEELER (Midfielder – Everton), Jada WHYMAN (Goalkeeper -Sydney FC), Lydia WILLIAMS (Goalkeeper – Brighton & Hove Albion), Tameka YALLOP (Midfielder – SK Brann).