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Laying the foundations to realise our potential

by Ashley Morrison on Jul 14, 2011

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The pain of losing is less when you lose to a better team, and know that you gave it your all, and were simply not good enough; to lose when you have played badly is a much more bitter pill to swallow. With nearly a week past, we can acknowledge that, sadly, this was a pill that the Matildas had to take following their quarter-final exit to Sweden at the Women’s World Cup.

Tears were shed and a lot of ‘if onlys’ were discussed on Sunday, but when the emotions subside they have a great deal to be proud of. This was the youngest squad in the tournament with an average age of just 22 years of age. They were placed in a very tough group, and matched it with the best in Brazil and Norway.

Check-out Ashley's upcoming Matildas doumentary No Apologies Required

Sure, they gifted the opposition five of the seven goals they conceded in the tournament, which is a very scary statistic. However that comes from a naivety that one has to expect from such a young team. What is essential is that they learn from those mistakes. It is also vital that the criticism directed at those responsible stings and they ensure that it drives them to prove their doubters wrong; one bad shot does not make a golfer a bad player, neither does one mistake make a bad footballer.

The Olympic qualifiers are just around the corner, and coach Tom Sermanni and the FFA have to look at this squad closely, and decide when changes should be made. Some of the older players may need to start playing a lesser role as the next generation comes through.

There are no doubts that this group of players has the potential to be playing in the World Cup semi finals in four years time, but the foundations have to be laid now.

Sermanni’s contract expires in December of this year. As one journalist said in Germany, the Matildas boss is “the Guus Hiddink of women’s football,” and he is very much in demand. He has already turned down the opportunity to coach the USA twice, and it is believed that England, after sacking Hope Powell, are already eyeing the Australian-Scott as the replacement.

Sermanni is an excellent fit and has the runs on the board. He’s liked by the playing group as well as respected. They may not agree or like some of his decisions, but no one questions them.

The players have stated that they would like more time together to work on technical aspects of the game, and many stated that assistant Spencer Prior had been great in this role, but was appointed too late.

If this is needed, then more camps need to be arranged and essentially more games.

If more games are not possible then FFA needs to actively move to help these young women get more football. These players will never mature into the team that they should unless they play more games at a high level. A 10-week W-League, although better than nothing, is not enough for them to reach the potential they undoubtedly have. The Sweden team was stacked with full-time professionals, and against Australia it showed.

The FFA and their contacts need to arrange for our Australian girls to get placements in the better leagues around the world. Surely this is money better spent than bringing some ageing male star back to the A-League.

Women’s football in Australia is the fastest growing female participation sport. Which means there is massive potential to grow this side of the game and even pull females fans in to watch the Socceroos and the A-League, but they have to be made welcome and feel a part of the ‘football family’.

What was noted in Germany was the obvious lack of FFA ‘bigwigs,’ as the girls quietly went about their business. In truth, all concerned were happy that they were not there as it made for a more relaxed intimate atmosphere amongst the players, families and fans. Maybe that is one of the reasons this team does so well, as they are constantly having to do everything themselves, like carry ice buckets, water, etcetera.

We do not have to change everything, but we would be doing Australian women’s football — and Australian football as a whole — as well as all of these players and staff a huge disservice if we did not do everything to ensure that they reach the potential that they so obviously have. To do that we need to first secure the coach and then build a three-year plan that sees them playing more top-level football around the world.

Canada 2015 and glory awaits.