Your Westfield Matildas 2019 World Cup squad guide: Defenders

The FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™ is almost upon us and Ante Milicic has announced his 23-player squad.

Here's a guide to the defenders picked to represent the Westfield Matildas in France.

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Alanna Kennedy
With 77 caps to her credit, Alanna Kennedy is looking forward to her second FIFA World Cup with the Westfield Matildas

2. Gema Simon

Date of birth: 19 July 1990 (28 years old)
Caps: 11
Debut: Cyprus Cup v Scotland on 10 March 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus (4-2 loss)
Clubs played for: Newcastle Jets, Ottawa Fury (CAN), Melbourne Victory, Suwon (KOR), Avaldsnes (NOR)
Previous World Cups: None

Her 2019 so far:

Consistently outstanding for club and country, Gema Simon has been difficult to ignore in 2019.

The Armidale-born left-sided player was a regular for Newcastle Jets in the Westfield W-League, missing just one match as the Hunter club finished narrowly outside the top six.

She played the full 90 minutes in the Westfield Matildas' hard-fought 5-3 loss to the United States in April, showing the excellent engine and willingness to get forward for which she is renowned.

Deployed as a left-back in that encounter, Simon can also operate as a wide midfielder or winger: versatility that is likely to prove invaluable in tournament football.

Gema Simon tackles Tobin Heath in the Westfield Matildas' recent friendly against USA

4. Clare Polkinghorne

Date of birth: 1 February 1989 (30 years old)
Caps: 116
Debut: Friendly v China on 19 June 2006 in Shanghai, China (2-0 loss)
Clubs played for: Brisbane Toro, Queensland Lions, Queensland Academy of Sport, Brisbane Roar, INAC Kobe Leonessa (JPN), Portland Thorns (USA), Houston Dash (USA)
Previous World Cups: 2007, 2011, 2015

Her 2019 so far:

One of the most experienced of Ante Milicic's squad, France 2019 will see the Brisbane Roar and Houston Dash defender contest her fourth World Cup, alongside goalkeeper Lydia Williams and forward Lisa De Vanna.

Polkinghorne once again proved her worth for Roar in 2018/19, providing a steady presence at the back during a Westfield W-League campaign that saw them finish second on the ladder.

The 30-year-old made 13 starts, pulled off 20 tackles and made 31 interceptions as the Roar finished above eventual Grand Finalists Sydney FC and Perth Glory.

While principally a defender, she has found the net on nine occasions for the Westfield Matildas, with her most recent strike earning the team a 1-1 draw with fellow World Cup hopefuls England in a friendly at Craven Cottage, London, in October 2018.

Clare Polkinghorne
Clare Polkinghorne: a reliable presence in Ante Milicic's backline

5. Karly Roestbakken

Date of birth: 17 January 2001 (18 years old)
Caps: 0
Debut: N/A
Clubs played for: Canberra United
Previous World Cups: N/A

Her 2019 so far:

Karly Roestbakken consolidated her status as one of Canberra United's most reliable and the Westfield W-League's most eye-catching rising stars in 2018/19.

She completed her third seasons in the Westfield W-League with United, playing 10 matches and earning nomination for the NAB Young Footballer of the Year award.

And the versatile teenager - capable of plying her trade in both midfield and in defence - was a key member of the Westfield Young Matildas squad that in April booked their spot in 2019 AFC U-19 Women’s Championship.

Roestbakken replaced Laura Alleway in the Matildas World Cup squad on Friday 7 June after the experienced defender was unable to recover sufficiently from a foot injury.

WATCH: Laura Alleway likes to get forward and support her attack, as shown by this strike for Victory against Adelaide United

7. Steph Catley

Date of birth: 26 January 1994 (25 years old)
Caps: 71
Debut: Friendly v New Zealand on 24 June 2012 in Wollongong (1-1 draw)
Clubs played for: Melbourne Victory, Portland Thorns (USA), Melbourne City, Orlando Pride (USA), Reign FC (USA)
Previous World Cups: 2015

Her 2019 so far:

The current year has been much better for Catley than 2018, a period she spent largely on the sidelines with an Achilles injury.

While her Melbourne City side missed out on the finals for the first time in their history, Catley was able to make a successful return to the playing field, racking up 585 minutes of action across the campaign.

The 25-year-old made seven appearances for the defending champions and contributed one goal during City’s 4-0 rout of Newcastle Jets in Round 12.

Catley has enjoyed a positive start to the 2019 NWSL season with Reign FC as she continues to prove her value ahead of France 2019.

WATCH: Steph Catley was on the score sheet for Melbourne City shortly after making her comeback from injury

14. Alanna Kennedy

Date of birth: 21 January 1995 (24 years old)
Caps: 77
Debut: Friendly v New Zealand on 24 June 2012 in Wollongong (1-1 draw)
Clubs played for: Sydney FC, Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney Wanderers, Perth Glory, Western New York Flash (USA), Orlando Pride (USA), Melbourne City
Previous World Cups: 2015

Her 2019 so far: 

Alanna Kennedy is only 24, but her trophy cabinet would stack up well against even the most hardened collectors of silverware.

Her most recent triumph was to help Sydney FC to the Westfield W-League 2018/19 Championship – the fourth Grand Final win of her career.

Kennedy is a centre-half by trade, but the immensely talented Campbelltown-born stalwart could excel in just about any position on the pitch, such is her skill-set.

She often shields the defence from a deeper-lying midfield role for NWSL side Orlando Pride, for whom she scored a memorable bicycle kick in the National Women's Soccer League in April.

Alanna Kennedy makes a brilliant tackle against the USA on Friday
Alanna Kennedy brings versatility to the Westfield Matildas' defensive game

21. Ellie Carpenter

Date of birth: 28 April 2000 (19 years old)
Caps: 31 
Debut: Olympic qualification match v Vietnam on 2 March 2016 in Osaka, Japan (9-0 win) 
Clubs played for: Western Sydney Wanderers, Canberra United, Portland Thorns (USA)
Previous World Cups: None

Her 2019 so far:

After emerging on the Westfield W-League scene as a 15-year-old in 2015, Ellie Carpenter's subsequent rise has been nothing short of meteoric. 

The 2018/19 Season has been the latest chapter in the Canberra United and Portland Thorns teenager's progression as a first-class international footballer. 

This week named as the Westfield W-League's NAB Young Footballer of the Year for the second successive season, Carpenter's athletic prowess and ability to maraud up and down the flank make her an attacking asset – as well as a defensive one – in Australia's FIFA Women's World Cup quest.

Ellie Carpenter Australia World Cup squad 2019
Still only 19, Ellie Carpenter is already a mainstay in the Westfield Matildas backline

23. Teigen Allen

Date of birth: 12 February 1994 (25 years old)
Caps: 40
Debut: Asian Cup group stage v Vietnam on 19 May 2010 in Chengdu, China (2-0 Win)
Clubs played for: Sydney FC, Western Sydney Wanderers, Western New York Flash, Melbourne City, Vålerenga (NOR), Melbourne Victory
Previous World Cups: 2011

Her 2019 so far:

Allen earned her second Westfield W-League Premiership in a superb season plying her trade for Melbourne Victory.

Much more familiar with the lower rungs of the ladder, Jeff Hopkins' side played brilliantly all season, with left-sided fullback Allen one of the standout performers as they lost just twice all season to finish top of the ladder.

The 25-year-old subsequently joined up with Ante Milicic for the Cup of Nations earlier this year, where she played 90 minutes in a 3-0 win against Argentina as Australia secured the inaugural trophy.

Having made her senior international debut as a 15-year-old in 2010, Allen has now been around the top level for nearly a decade. She heads into the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ entering the prime of her career with the mind of a seasoned veteran despite her relatively tender years.

Teigen Allen has relished being in camp with the Westfield Matildas in the USA
Teigen Allen: experience belying her years

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