Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Latest team news - Sarah Walsh is in! - Plus first eleven

So just a matter of days away now and the good news from Matildas camp in Chengdu is that Sarah Walsh has passed a fitness test on her knee and will be in the squad for the 2010 AFC Women's Asian Cup. That means Michelle Heyman is back on a plane to Australia. But overall for Australia's chances, it's a GREAT thing that Walsh is fit because she is one of just four Australian gals plying their trade overseas and that experience is going to count for a lot come May 19.

The top Matildas goalscorer in the current squad was pretty relieved to get there, “It’s been a long four weeks and I’m very grateful to our medical team and Tom (Sermanni) who worked so hard and showed me so much support to get me back in time for the cup,” Walsh said. “Now my knee is strong it’s about concentrating on my fitness and getting out there to help the girls qualify for the World Cup and win the Asian Cup.”

But when the match kicks-off at 5pm Australian time on Wednesday, who will actually be out there? I'm not sure if Walsh will be on the field, although she is usually first-choice striker with DeVanna coming off the bench, but will her knee be up for the 60 or 70minutes she will have to play if she starts? So there are still plenty of questions as there are a few players in the mix in this squad that didn't play in the last four friendlies. So here is my guess at the starting eleven, in four-four-two although they are probably just as likely to play four-three-three, for the first game against Vietnam.

GK - Melissa Barbieri
Defenders - Clare Polkinghorne, Thea Slatyer, Kim Carroll, Heather Garriock
Midfielders - Collette McCallum, Lauren Colthorpe, Elise Kellond-Knight, Sally Shipard
Strikers - Katie Gill, Lisa de Vanna
Bench - Sarah Walsh, Karla Reuter, Tameka Butt, Kyah Simon, Lydia Williams (GK)

But a few reasons, given Barbieri is now Matildas captain I expect her to start in every-game, with Williams and then Dumont as the back-up order in case of injury. I think the central defenders will be Kim Carroll and Thea Slatyer, an experienced duo who are also just very very tough, but with some speed on the outside in Polkinghorne and Garriock because the Matildas will need it to shut down those speedy Asian attacks. There is so many quality midfielders it's hard to pick which way Tom Sermanni will structure it there, but Collette McCallum is the best set-piece taker in the Matildas and will start. I really like the way KK plays the game, so she's in my team, but could also be Kylie Ledbrook in a more defensive position, or Aivi Luik, or Kyah Simon in a role there. I'd also like to see Sal Shipard get a go, because after last year's W-League season debacle which you can find more about here and here (although they have spelt her name wrong, come on Half Time Heroes), I think she deserves it. She was a starting member of the team in the 2007 World Cup, when she was still a teenager. But compared to lots of other players, she doesn't have that much game-time under her belt, so you can see how other players would be ahead of her. I think Tameka Butt will definitely play, but just whether it's an impact player off the bench or as a starter, I'm waiting to see. The strikers, well that's probably the easiest. It will be Katie Gill and either Lisa de Vanna or Sarah Walsh. I'm 99 per cent sure on that one.

Given I have been overseas and not actually been able to watch any of those lead-up games (which has frustrated me no end), this is probably way off, but I thought I would give it a go anyway. So please chip in with your starting XI's and let's see who is closest to pinning the tail on the donkey!

And remember, for all of you lucky enough to be in Australia, watch the game live on ABC. After all, they have also just agreed to cover the competition until its conclusion on May 29, on top of Australia's group matches. So if the Matildas do make it through to the finals, they will be live on TV too. And finally,



  1. I think we are going to see a very similar line-up to what we saw against DPR Korea recently. Tom seems to like the idea of a 4-3-3 formation, utilising the speed of both Walsh & DeVanna more as wide attacking players, & Katie Gill in a holding-type role in the centre of the forward-line.

    The 3 midfield spots will come from either Ledbrook, Shippard, McCallum or Colthorpe, all very 'naturally' central players.

    The defence will be key to our success in this competition. DPR Korea's small, agile strikers definately opened our eyes to a weakness in behind our defensive line. Although I think Tom will choose a very settled backline, we will have to keep an eye on how our girls adapt to the challenge of keeping out the speedy little strikers we will face throughout the competition.

    My predicted line-up:

    GK: Barbieri
    DEF: Polkinghorne, Slatyer, Carroll, Garriock
    MID: Colthorpe, Ledbrook, McCallum
    FOR: Walsh, Gill, DeVanna

    Bench: Williams (GK), Uzunlar, Butt, Simon, Kerr

    Your thoughts?

  2. Hi Douglas! Thanks for joining the conversation!

    So yes, I do think you have some very valid points. Particulary re the four-three-three, which is spreading across all levels of Australian football. Almost every W-League team used it at least some stage this season, and most teams used it all the time. So it isn't a surprise to see it in the Matildas too.

    And well, a front-three with De Vanna, Walsh and Gill is hard to argue with.

    I also think Ledbrook is a good chance to play that holding role in the middle, she did a great job there for Sydney FC this year. Lauren Colthorpe is pretty comfortable in that position too, but I think it will be between those two for the holding role if there is three across the middle.

    And yes, defence will be key. Exactly because of that problem, the tricky, speedy little strikers. The quality of the Matildas attack should mean plenty of goals, whether they win or not will depend on how many they concede. The lack of speed through the middle and back is a slight concern, but I think that's where players like Tameka Butt and Sam Kerr will come in. Both are great attackers, but with their speed and game-smarts, they could also be effective if they played in the middle, and just frustrated the other teams with their ability to keep chasing and just not allow the other teams anytime to play the ball through the middle.
    Still that backline that we both agreed on is pretty physically imposing, if they can stamp their authority on the game early, I think that will go a long way to keeping those strikers out too.

  3. I like both line ups, and won't attempt my own, though I too think and hope that the 4-3-3 is likely.

    It's Effing brilliant that I've seen most of the team live down at Ballymore during the W-League season!

  4. I 100% agree with your comments. I think that the Asian style of play, & the physical attributes of the players, will definately require a different approach then we would take into a clash with a nation anywhere else in the world. Our 1st choice defensive line is a very imposing one physically, & I'm sure that they will win most 50/50 ball in this tournament, but the thing we need to be wary of is the speed & agility of the attacking players we will be up against. We can knock them down all game long, but they will keep coming at us. Our whole campaign will hinge on our defensive end. As you mentioned, we can score plenty, but how many will we concede?

    I agree when you say that a player such as Tameka Butt could be very effective in a central position. She works very hard off the ball, & her speed & physicality over the ball could be quite useful in the back-end of the game, when our taller midfielders begin to tire. Also Servet Uzunlar could be quite handy in a similar type role.

    I just watched a small snippet during the ABC News tonight, with Richard Wilkins talking with Tommy, & he mentioned that they would take the same approach into this tournament as we do in all others. Basically meaning that the 11 players selected for our opening match against Vietnam would not be our strongest. He wants our best 11 players to peak during the back-end of the tournament. Having heard this, I've decided to have another crack at the possible line-up:

    GK: Williams

    They had a 5 sec interview with Barbieri, the impression I got was she would not be starting the first match.

    DEF: Colthorpe, Uzunlar, Carroll, Garriock

    I have a feeling we might see Slatyer given the first match off, & I have selected Uzunlar, who is a very similar style player, to come into her spot. There's every chance Polkinghorne could also be rested, with Colthorpe dropping into the right-side of defence.

    MID: Shipard, McCallum, Kellond-Knight

    How serious Tom is about resting players will be shown up in the midfield selections. I found it quite tough to leave anyone out, but basically I think that Ledbrook could be rested, with Shipard & Kellond-Knight playing either side of McCallum.

    FOR: Simon, Gill, DeVanna

    I would have gone for Walsh in place of DeVanna, but coming off an injury I think there is more chance of her being rested, possibly swapping with DeVanna after 55-odd minutes.

    Bench: Barbieri (GK), Polkinghorne, Butt, Kerr, Walsh

  5. Hmm...more very valid points. I think we may be two peas from the same Matildas-tactical-thinking pod Douglas. My only worry is that they need to win this game. Of course that's completely obvious and everyone knows it. But my humble opinion is that the bigger margin they can win it by, the more confidence and therefore better chance of going undefeated in the group stages. So I do hope that whatever the starting line-up, it's not too different from the one for games two and three, because I think the more the same team can play together, the better they will be. Plus, as Tom says right here in this SMH story, http://www.smh.com.au/text/articles/2010/04/29/1272133775384.html, you can't take Vietnam easy these days. Also it's been soooo long since the Matildas actually played in something other than a friendly, so they will need to up the intensity, quickly.

    Not long now until we see what will happen though, and fingers-crossed it all works out in the best possible way.

  6. And one more thing, it's confirmed, Williams will be in goal.

  7. Ah, there is the first sign that he will be choosing a slightly different side to what we expected. Hopefully it doesn't cost us...