New York to Ho Chi Minh
One player who will be key to our chances is Australia’s leading female keeper Lydia Williams, who plays for Western New York Flash in the National Women’s Soccer League.
At the last AFC Women-s Asian Cup in 2010, after the Matildas qualified for the World Cup then went on to win the tournament, as a celebration of our achievement, we shaved off then coach Tommy Sermanni-s moustache AND died his grey locks a dirty deep brown!
I wonder if interim Matildas coach Alen “Staj” Stajcic will be up for something of the like when the 2014 version of Asia-s showpiece women-s football event national kicks off this week in the Vietnamese capital?
One player who will be key to our chances is Australia-s leading female keeper Lydia Williams, who plays for Western New York Flash in the National Women-s Soccer League (NWSL).
However for the next few weeks she is back in the lower half of the globe to compete with her Australian teammates for the Asian Cup title, while also fighting to secure a berth in the 2015 World Cup.
Williams and WNYF teammate - and fellow Matilda - Sam Kerr had a tight schedule before arriving in Vietnam to join the rest of the group.
Last week, after a Wednesday night game against Kansas City (they won 2-1, thanks to a match saving effort by Williams in the dying minutes), they left on a flight to New York at 5am the next morning.
Williams wasn-t too concerned about departing so soon following their match.
“Sleeping on the long flights to Vietnam is important. It will help us adjust to the time difference,” the seasoned traveller insists, adding she should adapt quickly and is confident the jet lag won-t impact her performance.
After a serious injury ended Adrianna Franch-s NWSL season before it even began, the Western New York Flash stepped in to sign Williams as their starting goalkeeper.
And as soon as the opportunity was presented, Williams was off to the east coast of America in a…well, flash.
“From the first correspondence, it was a space of six days till I was on the plane to the USA to join WNYF,” the Aussie said.
Beyond her immediate family, Lydia consulted with the staff of the Matildas and even called on former coach Tommy Sermanni for advice. With hardly any time between finding out and setting off, Williams managed to say her goodbyes to most and was on her way.
At the age of 25, Williams has played two full seasons in Sweden with Pitea IF, and despite a knee injury that kept her out of a season for the Westfield W-League, she has been an integral player for Canberra United.
Williams also stood between the posts during the 2010 Asian Cup as a more-than-capable replacement for Melissa Barbieri. This year, however, with no Barbieri in the squad Williams has her sights set on securing that number one spot under Stajcic.
“I am excited about the whole Asian Cup experience. Hopefully this year I will play more of an integral role. I have my eyes fixed on that number one spot.
“This being a qualifying tournament [for the 2015 FIFA Women-s World Cup], the mental battle of backing up every second day is always a tough challenge,” she said.
Australia has Japan, Jordan and Vietnam to play in the group stages. When asked about those opponents, Williams noted the difficulties for Japan in having Euro-based stars.
“It will be an interesting tournament, Japan are missing four or five of their players. Their respective European clubs won-t release them. Kozue Ando and Shinobu Ohno for example.
“They will still be a quality side, but their absence will leave significant gaps in Japan-s strongest starting team.”
Of course, World Cup qualification is the stuff dreams are made of. However, for Williams and the rest of the Matildas squad, a more focus is the 2014 Asian Cup.
“The challenge for us is of course taking the title again,” she said.
“Our first game against Japan will give us an accurate idea as to where we measure up. They will be our strongest competition for the group stage at least.”
Don-t forget Fox Sports will broadcast live and exclusive the Westfield Matildas- tilt at AFC Asian Cup glory in Vietnam, starting on Wednesday night.
The live coverage features commentary from Fox Sports Hyundai A-League commentator Brenton Speed who-ll be joined by former Matildas striker Sarah Walsh.
Fox Sports will air all three Aussie group matches live beginning with Wednesday-s massive showdown against Japan. The broadcast kicks off at 11.05pm on Fox Sports 3HD & Fox Sports 3.
Fox Sports will continue to follow Australia-s Asian Cup bid through the finals should they advance to the last four.
AFC WOMEN-S ASIAN CUP FOX SPORTS BROADCAST SCHEDULE
WED 14 MAY: AUSTRALIA V JAPAN FOX SPORTS 3HD & FOX SPORTS 3?LIVE, 11.05pm
FRI 16 MAY: AUSTRALIA V JORDAN FOX SPORTS 1HD & FOX SPORTS 1?LIVE, 8.05pm
SUN 18 MAY: AUSTRALIA V VIETNAM FOX SPORTS 2HD & FOX SPORTS 2?LIVE, 10.05pm
Westfield Matildas Squad for AFC Women-s Asian Cup 2014
Teigen ALLEN - Defender (Western Sydney Wanderers), Laura ALLEWAY - Defender (Brisbane Roar), Nicola BOLGER - Midfielder (Sydney FC), Tameka BUTT - Midfielder (Brisbane Roar), Kim CARROLL - Defender (Brisbane Roar), Stephanie CATLEY - Defender (Melbourne Victory), Brianna DAVEY - Goalkeeper (Melbourne Victory), Lisa DE VANNA - Forward (Boston Breakers), Casey DUMONT - Goalkeeper (Sydney FC), Caitlin FOORD - Forward (Sky Blue FC, USA), Kate GILL - Forward (Perth Glory), Katrina GORRY - Midfielder (Brisbane Roar), Michelle HEYMAN - Forward (Canberra United), Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT - Midfielder (Brisbane Roar), Alanna KENNEDY - Defender (Western Sydney Wanderers), Samantha KERR - Midfielder (Western New York Flash, USA), Leena KHAMIS - Forward (Sydney FC), Teresa POLIAS - Midfielder (Sydney FC), Clare POLKINGHORNE - Defender (Brisbane Roar), Hayley RASO - Forward (Brisbane Roar), Ashleigh SYKES - Midfielder (Canberra United), Emily VAN EGMOND - Midfielder (Western Sydney Wanderers), Lydia WILLIAMS - Goalkeeper (Western New York Flash, USA)
** Emma Checker and Amy Harrison were added to the list submitted by Westfield Matildas Interim Head Coach Alen Stajcic after the AFC Women-s Committee amended a regulation to allow participating Member Federations (countries) a total of 25 registered players for the AFC Women-s Asian Cup 2015, two more than the number originally permitted.
Both Checker and Harrison will remain in Australia on stand-by until required, whilst the rest of the squad is in Vietnam.