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Pirlo 'not interested' in Australia move


Matildas will aim to attack vs. China says coach Alen Stajcic

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

Coach Alen Stajcic wants the Matildas to not only overcome China, but beat them in style in Wednesday night's international at Melbourne's AAMI Park.

The Australian women's national team will close their accounts for the year with two friendlies this week against the Asian heavyweights in Melbourne and Geelong.

A memorable year saw breakthough success in July's Tournament of Nations saw the Matildas defeat the United States, Japan and Brazil in quick succession, becoming the world's number six-ranked team.

More importantly to Stajcic, he was able to grow his playing ranks across each line of his team. And nowhere is that more evident than up front.

Sam Kerr, the U.S. league's player of the year, is an obvious selection, but there's plenty more talent behind her to fill two other places in the Stajcic's 4-3-3 lineup.

All-time leading Matildas' scorer Lisa De Vanna is in the mix along with fit-again trio Kyah Simon, Michelle Heyman and Larissa Crummer.

Then there's Hayley Raso, one of the W-League's standouts this season and gun forwards Caitlin Foord and Tameka Butt.

The Matildas celebrate Samantha Kerr's goal.
The Matildas will face China in two matches in Melbourne and Geelong.

"It's a good [selection] problem to have," Stajcic said.

"And that's been the point of this year, to build that depth. Which we have done."

With the Asian Cup -- which doubles as World Cup qualifiers -- looming in April, Stajcic is eager to avoid the situation that befell Australia at last year's Olympics.

An injury to key defender Steph Catley cruelled the side on the eve of the tournament before their quarterfinal loss to Brazil.

"It was a really big challenge to try and cover that position without unravelling and possibly one of the reasons we didn't pick up a medal," he said.

"We've gone a long way down the road to fixing that now. This is the final piece of the puzzle."

Veteran pair Lydia Williams and Elise Kellond-Knight won't play in Wednesday night's game after taxing transits, with Stajcic saying "not too many" that turned out in the W-League on Sunday would back up at AAMI Park.

That could mean Kerr starts on the bench, along with Emily Van Egmond, Laura Alleway, Ellie Carpenter and Heyman.

Stajcic urged the bumper crowd expected at both games to give his side a send-off for their boom season.

"To have that emotion and level of acceptance and respect and engagement [from a home crowd], it's something we as a team have never really experienced before," he said.


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