Westfield Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic admits he has been taken aback by watching how Sam Kerr has coped with her emergence into stardom.
Kerr has returned to the squad for the team's double-header with Chile in the Seven Consulting International Series, which starts with Saturday’s clash in Penrith, live on FOX SPORTS, SBS TV and via the My Football Live App.
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While having a star player available is a boost for any manager, Stajcic takes additional pleasure from the way the 25-year-old's character has developed throughout her rise.
He told RSN Breakfast Club: “Having known Sam since she was 13, having sort of been the joker in the team for a long period of time, to see the way that she has developed and matured over the last couple of years is really phenomenal.
“To sit back and just watch her grow, the way she interacts with her team-mates.
“They’ve virtually grown up together, they really are a collection of sisters who have grown up in this national team from the ages of 15 and 16 and are now heading into their mid twenties.
“To see her grow within the team but also to see her deal with all the extra attention she’s had, whether it be awards night, or media attention, or corporate attention or the attention she’s got from overseas clubs, she really had dealt with it in a way which has surprised me.
“She’s so mature now, she’s so level-headed, so balanced in her life and she really is a pleasure to have in our team and representing our team the way she does.”
While Stajcic is able to welcome back a host of experienced heads into his squad, he will certainly not be taking the world’s 39th-ranked nation lightly after they secured FIFA World Cup qualification for the first time.
He added: “We’ve played a couple of lower ranked teams this year and the world of women’s football is quickly evolving and developing a lot like men’s football where the whole world has really taken it on board.
“The gap between a top-tier nation and some of those teams around 20, 30 or 40 isn't as big as it once was and Chile is a really good example of that.
“They’ve qualified for the World Cup, they lost 3-1 to Brazil in the final of the Copa America whereas probably five years ago they might have lost six or seven nil.
“Some of these countries around the world are really putting a lot of effort, money and development into progressing their women’s football and for that reason we can’t take them lightly.
“It’s a South American nation, football is a religion over there and definitely their technique and street smart are up there with some of the world’s best sides.
“It’s going to be a little bit of an unknown but definitely a tough challenge for us on Saturday.”