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Jun 22, 2012

Matildas winning run over NZ in jeopardy

Matildas football coach Tom Sermanni is more worried that lack of preparation rather than 20 absent players will jeopardise his team's 18-year unbeaten run against New Zealand in Wollongong on Sunday.

With 13 players overseas, six injured and midfield veteran Heather Garriock pregnant, Sermanni has named a squad composed totally of locally based players.

The W-League finished almost five months ago and the tenth-ranked Matildas haven't played since failing to qualify for the Olympics last September.

"Because we haven't qualified for the Olympics we sometimes have these sort of down years internationally," Sermanni said.

Conversely, Olympic qualifier and world No.23 ranked New Zealand have been playing regularly and are coming off two wins this month against higher ranked China.

"I'm confident in the squad that we've got player-wise even though we're missing a significant number of players," Sermanni said.

"I think we've still got a very strong squad, but the difference between the teams at the moment is the preparation.

"They've already played nine games this year alone and we're putting a squad together, that's never really as a group played together, let alone go straight into an international.

"I think that's where New Zealand have the advantage or the favouritism for this game."

Sermanni expected to give at least a couple of his younger players a first cap,

He was philosophical about missing a second straight Olympics after failing to get through the tough Asian qualifiers, while New Zealand advanced through the much easier Oceania region.

"With the Olympics coming up and you see the adverts for them and you see the athletes getting ready to go and at those particularly poignant moments you wish you were back in Oceania, but that's just fleetingly," Sermanni said.

"To be honest, getting into Asia has been a terrific step forward for us and I think you've seen the growth of our team and the growth of women's football over the last five years has been enormous."

Sermanni remains comfortable with Ellyse Perry playing both cricket and football for Australia, even though her W-League side Canberra insisted she commit herself fulltime to the club.

"Both sports are now becoming 12 months of the year, so its probably becoming more and more difficult to juggle both sports equally," Sermanni said.

"But Ellyse loves playing both sports and so you want to give players the opportunity to do that as much as you can."

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