Matildas prepare well for World Cup opener

I’m typing this as I watch the Westfield Matildas train here in Vancouver – and I can report the team are working very hard. And overall, the team’s preparations have gone well ahead of the 26,000 fans expected at Winnipeg Stadium for our opening World Cup game with the USA early next week.

Since arriving in Canada, our Australian women have played a training game behind closed doors against China across the US border in nearby Seattle.  It ended 1-1. We’ve also played New Zealand and will play Switzerland later this week to round out preparations.

These unofficial games of 3 x 30 minutes have allowed coach Alen Stajcic to experiment with different players in different positions – which is what these sorts of games are all about. They have also given players across the squad match fitness ahead of the group games.

Michelle Heyman (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Vietnam.

“Staj” would’ve got what he wanted out of these games so far. He’s been able to experiment away from prying eyes and reinforce his possession based mentality that he’s bringing in to the national team. 

Giggs, Beckham inspired Matilda's World Cup dream

The mood across the camp is good, too. Players are getting match time and adapting to their new surroundings and the hype around a World Cup.

And I loved it when Kyah Simon scored a cracker against China. Nothing gets you back in the groove like scoring, as I know from my time with the Matildas.

Likewise Sam Kerr’s cracking headed goal will have given her confidence another boost.

Matildas players celebrate a goal in their demolition of Vietnam.

However, all the focus is on the first match against the US next Tuesday morning in Australia (Monday night our time here in Canada).

I believe Staj is very close to knowing his starting XI for this crucial game.

As for the artificial surface – which has been a big talking point – I reckon it’s the same for both teams. The one which adapts quicker to it will reap the advantage.

But it's not just about Australia reacting to the US; the US will know all about Lisa De Vanna. She has destroyed them in the past while Sam Kerr has played in the US league for WNY Flash and is another danger. 

Matildas star guided by ex-Socceroo Dad

Team USA will be wary of the attacking riches the Australians have and USA's 0-0 draw with South Korea recently would’ve been disappointing. However, they remain a quality side, no doubt about that.

Emily van Egmond celebrates with Michelle Heyman.

I hope our younger players won’t allow the occasion to get to them in Winnipeg. But with the more experienced De Vanna already showing her leadership qualities around our younger players since being given the co-captaincy, we should be in good shape mentally for the big game.

And I should also say, the players are buzzing at the amount of support they are receiving on social media and the messages they are getting from back home. It means a lot to them. So keep them coming! And stay right here for the latest news, videos, galleries and features on our national team. 

That’s all from Vancouver - I’ll report later in the week after as the excitement builds ahead of our first game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.