June 25, 2011

Group D Preview: Australia

Australia (#11)
Region: AFC
Coach: Tom Sermanni
How They Qualified: Won the Asian Cup in May, 2010.
Prior Cups:
2007: Lost in Quarterfinals
2003: Group Stage
1999: Group Stage
1995: Group Stage
1991: DNQ
Returnees from 2007 WWC: (8) Barbieri, Williams, Colthorpe, Garriock, McCallum, Polkinghorne, Shipard, De Vanna.

Roster (Average Age: 22.39)
Melissa BarbieriGKMelbourne Victory3176/0
Casey DumontGKBrisbane Roar190/0
Lydia WilliamsGKCanberra Utd.2325/0
Teigen AllenDFSydney FC178/0
Laura AllewayDFBrisbane Roar212/0
Kim CarrollDFBrisbane Roar2339/2
Elise Kellond-KnightDFBrisbane Roar2020/0
Ellyse PerryDFCanberra Utd.2013/2
Servet UzunlarDFSydney FC2221/1
Tameka ButtMFBrisbane Roar2020/1
Lauren ColthorpeMFBrisbane Roar2550/7
Heather GarriockMFLdB FC Malmo28120/21
Collette McCallumMFPerth Glory2563/9
Clare PolkinghorneMFBrisbane Roar2244/2
Sally ShipardMFCanberra Utd.2353/4
Emily Van EgmondMFCanberra Utd.174/0
Lisa De VannaFWmagicJack2666/24
Caitlin FoordFWSydney FC161/1
Samantha KerrFWPerth Glory1714/3
Leena KhamisFWSydney FC2517/4
Kyah SimonFWSydney FC2025/5

Recent Matches:
6/23/11EnglandFriendlyW 2-0
6/20/11MexicoFriendlyW 3-2
5/15/11New ZealandFriendlyW 2-1
5/12/11New ZealandFriendlyW 3-0
10/28/10GermanyFriendlyL 1-2
10/23/10Korea RepublicPeace CupL 1-2
10/19/10Chinese TaipeiPeace CupW 1-0
10/17/10MexicoPeace CupW 3-1
5/30/10Korea DPRAsian CupW 1-1 (5-4pk)
5/27/10JapanAsian CupW 1-0
5/23/10ChinaAsian CupL 0-1
5/21/10Korea RepublicAsian CupW 3-1
5/19/10VietnamAsian CupW 2-0

Australia made it as far as the semifinals in 2007, before losing to Brazil 3-2. They return only eight players from that team and this year’s team is a fairly young squad with an average age of just over 22. This will be their fifth World Cup.

Australia qualified by winning a very tough and very competitive Asian Cup, featuring a strong AFC field that included Korea DPR, Japan, China, and the Korea Republic. They won the championship game of that tournament in penalty kicks over Korea DPR, in spite of missing top scorer Lisa De Vanna, who broke her leg earlier in that competition.

Since then, they have competed in the Peace Cup, winning their first two matches over Mexico and Taipei, before a disappointing loss to the Korea Republic. They then suffered a narrow loss to Germany 2-1, becoming one of the few teams that have played the Germans that closely. Their schedule for 2011 has been light to this point, with only four friendlies being played, two against neighboring New Zealand and matches this past week against Mexico and England. Australia won all four.

But perhaps the biggest news for Australia did not occur at one of their matches, but in the Swedish Damallsvenskan, where Kate Gill suffered a torn ACL in a late April match for Linkopings. Injuries are certainly a part of soccer, but this was surely one of the harshest blows dealt to any team. Gill is the current AFC Women’s Player of the Year and a leader on the Australian team. She will be missed at this year’s World Cup.

While Australia will miss Gill’s leadership and presence, the Matildas are deep at forward and as a group, they may be able to somewhat compensate for her absence. Australia has several talented young forwards including Kyah Simon, Samantha Kerr, and 16-year old Caitlin Ford who recently scored in her debut against New Zealand. They also have Leena Khamis, another dependable forward who has played exceedingly well in the Australian W-League.

Then there is Lisa De Vanna, who has scored 24 career goals for the Matildas and plays for magicJack in the WPS. While it sometimes appears that De Vanna marches to the beat of a different drummer, there can be no doubting her ability on the pitch. She is one of the fastest, most dangerous forwards in the world. She scored four goals in just four matches in the 2007 World Cup, including a late game-tying goal against Norway in the group stage.

Australia features a very experienced midfield with veterans Heather Garriock, Collette McCallum, and Lauren Colthorpe. Garriock has over 120 caps for the Matildas and has played in the last two World Cups. McCallum is a consistent player, who usually sets up her teammates, but can score as well. She recently scored twice in a friendly against England.

The defense is very young, with the oldest player being 23-year old Kim Carroll. Carroll is a steady defender and can be counted on to lead the back line. Other mainstays on the back line include Servet Uzunlar and Elise Kellond-Knight.

Melissa Barbieri, the senior member of the Matildas, is their number one goalkeeper and has been for many years. Her experience should help calm the youthful defense in front of her. She gave up just two goals in her three starts at the Asian Cup. Lydia Williams is a dependable backup and the Matilda’s starter of the future.

The Aussies will need fortitude entering this tournament without Gill. They recently showed their composure after falling behind 2-0 against Mexico and coming back for a 3-2 victory. They will face two tough, veteran teams in Brazil and Norway, plus Equatorial Guinea in the group stage. It will be interesting to see if they can advance to the quarterfinals.

Note: Some information for this article was obtained from www.fifa.com, www.the-afc.com, and www.footballaustralia.com.au.