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Three Burning Questions: Matildas v Chinese Taipei

by Ben Somerford on Feb 06, 2020

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Will they? Won’t they? There’s been more schedule changes for the Matildas’ upcoming Olympic qualifiers than a Tiger Airways flight, but finally it’s here.

It’s all fairly understandable given the alarm at the coronavirus outbreak and kudos to the FFA and their new CEO James Johnson for making this event happen at short notice.

Australia takes on Chinese Taipei in their opening game on Friday night at Campbelltown Stadium (7:30pm AEDT) as they chase a spot at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

There’s only two spots available in Asia for Tokyo and securing top spot in Group B will allow the Matildas to get the best possible play-off draw, likely against either South or North Korea, who are both ranked in the top 20.

Before then, we discuss the first step in the process as the Matildas shape up with Chinese Taipei, as GGArmy’s Ben Somerford answers three burning questions.

Will Sam Kerr play any minutes?
The Matildas captain’s quad was the subject of a lot of interest on Wednesday. In fact, around 15 TV cameras and their supporting journalists swarmed around Kerr at a press conference, desperate to learn if she’s fit to play a part in these upcoming qualifiers.

Kerr said the injury is being blown out of proportion, she’s been training all week but also said she’s unlikely to play in all three matches. That left us with more unanswered questions, but you could assume with three matches in seven days, she’s be inclined to rest up against the lowest ranked opponent, Chinese Taipei, who are 40th in the world. Of course, if Australia need her, expect her willing and able on the bench, but she certainly won’t be starting.

What impact will the re-scheduling play, if any?
There’s no doubt the hasty rearrangement of the qualifiers due to the coronavirus will have thrown out players, coaches and officials. Given it’s all happened last minute, over the past fortnight, little things will not have been planned as perfectly as coach Ante Milicic and his players may have liked.

But then again, being able to play in the Matildas’ backyard offers a lot of advantages which the home side should relish.

For the visitors Chinese Taipei, who arrived from winter in their homeland and would’ve been planning for cold-ish weather in Wuhan in the mid-teens, it’s a considerable challenge to acclimatize to an Australian summer. But the forecast for Sydney on Friday night is quite similar to that in Wuhan, albeit a bit warmer with rain around. They already have a game under their belts too, beating the higher ranked Thailand 1-0 on Monday.

Looking at the rankings, will this be a one-sided win?
Indeed, Australia are seventh in the world compared to Chinese Taipei’s ranking of 40. But it’s worth noting the Matildas have only played twice since crashing out of the World Cup prematurely in June, recording 2-1 and 1-0 wins over Chile in Parramatta and Adelaide respectively.

Both were hard-fought and given it’s been almost three months since then, don’t expect an immediately cohesive display from Milicic’s side, who still carry scars from last year’s last 16 exit in France.

Chinese Taipei’s 1-0 win over 38th ranked Thailand shows they’ll be no pushover but an Australian side boasting talent from Arsenal, Chelsea and Bayern Munich whom are playing on home turf should be far too strong.