Confident, prepared and full of belief – the Westfield Matildas are hitting all the right notes ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, says head coach Ante Milicic.
With a current world ranking of No.6 and some impressive performances in 2019 already under their belt, Australia will not be arriving in France in June as an unknown quantity or as a side likely to be underestimated by opponents.
Milicic, who inked a one-year contract extension on Friday that will keep him at the helm of the Westfield Matildas until the completion of the team's 2020 Summer Olympic Games campaign, believes his side are well-placed to make an impression when football’s showpiece event kicks off in four weeks’ time.
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“Underdogs is a tag that as Australians we often get labelled with, but I must say that these girls will be very well prepared for the tournament and I think they’ll get a lot of confidence from the work that they’ve done leading into it,” Milicic said.
“And that’s where our confidence will come from. We’ll go into every game wanting to win.
We’ll respect all of our opponents, but make no mistake – there will be a strong belief within this group that we can do really well at this tournament.”
Reigning champions and world No.1 the USA – who edged Australia 5-3 in an action-packed April friendly – will start among the favourites to lift the trophy in France.
And they will do so with some justification. Outside of a 3-1 friendly defeat to the tournament hosts in January, the US have not lost since going down 1-0 to the Westfield Matildas in the 2017 Tournament of Nations.
However, Milicic says there’s a number of genuine contenders set to challenge the US for silverware.
“There’s a good eight-10 teams that will probably feel they’ve got a chance of winning the World Cup,” he said.
“Playing last month in the USA, you can definitely see how strong they are, not only with their experience but [also] their physical capabilities.
“That’s a team that’s been together for a very long time and has a lot of experience playing together.”