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Matildas' captain De Vanna excited by challenge against China

Jason Dasey and Gary Phillips assess what Australia must improve upon ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Matildas' skipper Lisa De Vanna is determined to soak in the embrace of bumper home crowds this week for two matches against China.

The national women's soccer team play a two-game series against their Asian rivals -- in Melbourne on Wednesday night and Geelong on Sunday.

For the first time in Victoria, they'll play in front of five-figure crowds at elite venues.

It's still a massive rush for the national captain, who doesn't have to look too far back to remember tougher times on tour.

"It was crap. It was terrible," she told AAP.

"We had to wear boys' [training] clothes. I was washing undies and bras in the sink staying in budget hotels. It was really tough.

"But what we had back then was the love for the game and that hasn't changed.

"What has changed is we have proper support to be better athletes.

Lisa De Vanna
Lisa De Vanna says the Matildas are thriving with their new-found national popularity.

"It's taken a very long time for that to happen but it's been worth it."

De Vanna says the national team's leap from obscurity to the mainstream made them more endearing.

"People start to hear about the struggles and people like the unsung heroes. The battlers that come out winners," she said.

"Australia love winners, and we're winning and doing it playing good football.

"People are jumping on the bandwagon and I'm all for it."

While this week's crowds will rival A-League attendances, only a stellar walk-up crowd on Wednesday will see another record broken.

In September, 16,829 people packed Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium to witness Sam Kerr lead the Matildas to a 3-2 win over Brazil.

Based on sales, FFA are expecting about 12,000 at AAMI Park and 10,000 for the second match at Geelong's GMHBA Stadium.

Australia's Mark Milligan and Bailey Wright recap a long qualifying campaign and what to expect from them at the World Cup.

"We've played in big tournaments when we've had big crowds against us," she said. "This is different. To come home and have friends and family support us and the nation support us... it's the anthem that gets me every time.

"Everyone singing that anthem, it gives me goosebumps and chills down my back."

This week, De Vanna faces hot competition for a starting berth.

Fit-again forwards Michelle Heyman, Kyah Simon and Larissa Crummer have been added to the squad, which already includes Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso.

First-choice goalkeeper Lydia Williams will miss the opening match for personal reasons, with Mackenzie Arnold expected to deputise.


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