Matildas expect tough test from former coach

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Former Matildas coach Ante Milicic is now in charge of China’s national women’s team. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty Images

The Matildas will be wary of a China side guided by former Australian women’s national team coach Ante Milicic on Friday night at Adelaide Oval.

Former Socceroos striker Milicic, who was in charge of the Matildas at the 2019 World Cup during his 17-month stint as interim coach, was appointed mentor of the Chinese women’s side less than three weeks ago.

“I know that the position of the head coach of the Chinese women’s national team carries the expectations of tens of thousands of Chinese fans” ex-Macarthur FC A-League men’s coach Milicic said before travelling to Australia.

“My team and I will continue to work hard in training to return the women’s team to its rightful place.

“I hope to increase the team’s ball possession and showcase more technical prowess in the attacking phase during my tenure.”

Unlike Australia, China has failed to qualify for the women’s football tournament at this year’s Olympics in Paris.

However, Matildas star Steph Catley expects her side to receive a stern test from the Milicic-coached team.

“We’ve always had some tough battles against China,” Catley said.

“They’re an incredible team, they’re very structured, very disciplined, and they’ve got some great individual talent as well.

“An extra added tough point, is that now Ante is coaching them, and he’s a former coach of ours, so he knows us very, very well.

“That’ll add an extra layer and make it that little bit tougher.”

Steph Catley (left) was part of the Matildas team coached by Ante Milicic (right). Picture: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes
Steph Catley (left) was part of the Matildas team coached by Ante Milicic (right). Picture: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes

The Matildas also meet China in Sydney on Monday night, with both games serving as preparation for the Australians’ Paris Games campaign starting in July.

“This is one of the last opportunities we’ll have to play competitive games before we start heading into Olympic prep, so it’s important for us to have a good hit-out, and start to look forward to those games (in Paris),” said Arsenal’s Catley, who has captained the Matildas in the absence of injured striker Sam Kerr, who will miss the Olympics.

“Our team’s in a really good place right now, and lots of girls are coming off the back of some really good A-League seasons, and most of us have been playing over in (England’s) WSL and in (other) top leagues.

“We’re feeling fit, ready to go, and it’ll be a great opportunity for us to have a good hit-out going into the Olympics.”

The Matildas squad also contains former Adelaide United star Charlotte Grant.

“We knew we changed the game at (last year’s) World Cup, but to see that in my hometown of Adelaide, it just goes to show how much football has grown, not only in other states, but in Adelaide,” the Tottenham defender said.

“I’m really excited to play in front of my family, friends and everyone that’s supported me along the way.”