Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of Australia’s friendly against the USA from Sydney. Kick-off is 3.00pm.
“This isolated game is kind of once in a lifetime opportunity to handle the game similar to a World Cup feeling,” Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said about the clash against the side five years with as an assistant coach. And although it’s a twice in a lifetime opportunity (with the second half of the double-header in Newcastle on Tuesday) there is no escaping the fact that these powerful nations are meeting as part of their preparations for the 2023 World Cup.
For Australia it’s a chance to measure their progress against the preeminent side in international football for over a generation. For the US it’s an opportunity to familiarise themselves with conditions they will face when the World Cup is hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 18 months or so.
“This could not be a better dress rehearsal for a World Cup final and we are going to treat it in the same way,” Gustavsson said. “From when we arrive to those match days with what we hope will be record crowds, this is our chance to prepare for the big moments that want to be a part of in 2023.”
Covid-19 had prevented the Matildas from appearing on home soil for a 19-month period until they played Brazil twice in Sydney’s west earlier this month. The two games at CommBank Stadium drew crowds of 15,000 and 12,000 and, with restrictions further easing in New South Wales and stadium capacity limits lifted, FA is pushing to surpass the record of 33,000 for a Matildas game in Australia – set during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Although torrential rain and flood warnings in NSW have dampened expectations.
As for the match-up, neither side will be at full-strength. The only question is how experimentally both coaches approach the contest. “Without revealing too much with names and such, it’s actually been about 20 to 30% of the roster that haven’t been able to train Thursday, Friday, and we do have some question marks for the game tomorrow,” Gustavsson revealed yesterday.
For Vlatko Andonovski, it’s a case of doing without a host of names that have dominated the international scene in recent years. From the side that took on South Korea in October, four players with over 100 caps have not made the trip to Australia, including superstars Megan Rapinoe, Alex Lloyd, and Tobin Heath, while those matches also brought the curtain down on the international career of Carli Lloyd.
Other centurions like Christen Press, Julie Ertz, and Crystal Dunn are also not among the touring party, so it will be an opportunity for the next wave of US internationals to prove their worth, especially in attack.
The last time these sides met the outcome was an end-to-end 4-3 extravaganza for the Olympic bronze medal. Something similar this afternoon would do nicely to grow the hype around World Cup 2023.