European moves will only benefit Westfield Matildas, says Milicic

Ante Milicic says the growing number of Westfield Matildas players opting to play in Europe will only enhance their game and have benefits for the national team.

A host of Westfield Matildas players in the squad for next month’s Olympic qualifiers are now with European clubs, including skipper Sam Kerr.

Kerr signed with Chelsea last month and scored her first goal for the Blues in their big 4-1 win over Arsenal in the Women’s Super League on the weekend.

Fellow attacker Hayley Raso will join Kerr in England after signing with Everton, while Caitlin Foord is also set to announce a deal with the Gunners shortly.

With Emily Gielnik playing with German giants Bayern Munich and the likes of Lisa De Vanna (Fiorentina) and Alex Chidiac (Atletico Madrid) also at big clubs, it seems the trend to move to Europe is growing.

“I think the girls have seen for themselves what is happening in Europe with the women’s game, how they are investing, how professional it is and they want to be a part of it,” Milicic told reporters on Tuesday.

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“They want to test themselves and challenge themselves and they know to do so then that’s what they need to do.

“I’m delighted for Hayley [Raso] now she has decided to join Everton and as well Caitlin Foord going to Arsenal, they are great clubs.

“It’s different environment [to what they are used to in America] with the cold, coming up against a different variety of footballer as well and I think for them to get to the next level it will only enhance their ability.”

Vice-captain Steph Catley is one player who continues to play all year round, going from the Westfield W-League with Melbourne City to America’s National Women’s Soccer League where she plays with Reign FC.

She admitted the prospect of playing in Europe is more appealing for players now and agrees it could have benefits not only for the Westfield Matildas but the Australian game in general.

“I think it’s definitely a change in the tide in where the girls are going,” Catley said.

Steph Catley speaks to reporters in Sydney on Tuesday
Steph Catley speaks to reporters in Sydney on Tuesday

“A lot of us have been in America for a long time and if you look at the World Cup and see what the European teams have been doing and the way they are playing their football, they have improved out of sight.

“And the leagues over there are going from strength to strength.

“The girls in this team are trying to get better anyway we can and if that means heading over the Europe to better their game for the national team, for the league and football in Australia in general, then they are going to be doing that.”

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The main focus for now though is the upcoming Olympic Games qualifiers in China next month.

Most of the 20-player squad for that tournament are in camp in Sydney this week as they fine-tune their game for the matches against Chinese Taipei, Thailand and China.

The Westfield Matildas will play three matches in the space of six days and need to finish in the top-two of the group to advance to a final qualifying round in March.

“It’s the same for every team,” said Milicic when asked about the gruelling schedule facing his side.

“The conditions are the same…you know when you are playing in Asia, with the fields, with the referees, with the opposition, the temperatures there.

“China, being the home nation have an advantage but you have to overcome these obstacles if you want to get through to the next round.

“This is a very determined group that’s prepared to do that.”

Matildas celebrate a goal


CALENDAR: Your Westfield Matildas 2020 guide - key dates and more
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Upcoming Matches – Westfield Matildas

Westfield Matildas v Chinese Taipei
Date: Monday, 3 February 2020
Venue: Five Rings Sports Centre, Wuhan, China
Kick-off: 4.00pm (local); 7.00pm (AEDT)

Thailand v Westfield Matildas
Date: Thursday, 6 February 2020
Venue: Five Rings Sports Centre, Wuhan, China
Kick-off: 4.00pm (local); 7.00pm (AEDT)

Westfield Matildas v China PR
Date: Sunday, 9 February 2020
Venue: Five Rings Sports Centre, Wuhan, China
Kick-off: 7.30pm (local); 10.30pm (AEDT)  

Ticketing & broadcast information to be advised.

ULTIMATE GUIDE: Westfield Matildas at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualifiers
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