Abu Dhabi: Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President on Friday praised the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 in Abu Dhabi for capturing the imagination of a Continent and the tournament was a reward for four years of unity and stability.
At the AFC Executive Committee meeting at the UAE capital, Shaikh Salman said: “Tomorrow we will witness the kick-off of the biggest-ever AFC Asian Cup when hosts, the United Arab Emirates, take on Bahrain.
“The AFC would like to thank the UAE Government, the Local Organising Committee – and all those involved in delivering this tournament – for their hard work during the past four years.
“History will be made with so many new initiatives for the AFC Asian Cup, which over the months have been introduced for this AFC Asian Cup.
“And on February 1, we will crown the champions of Asia after an exciting tournament and none of this would have been possible without the hard work and important contributions of so many people.
“This is the culmination of four years of not only hard work but also the unity and stability, and the reward is a tournament that will capture the imagination of the entire Continent.
“We also thank our Member Associations for their spirit of cooperation and unity as they embraced the new and successful qualifying competition. We thank them all and we look forward to a tournament that lives up to the slogan of ‘Bringing Asia Together.’ Good luck to everyone.”
More than 2.5 billion people in 55 countries will have the chance to watch the AFC Asian Cup and with 1,449 accredited journalists from all over the world – billions more will be able to read about the exploits of the record 24 teams.
The AFC’s own digital platforms will keep hundreds of millions of fans informed of events at a tournament which boasts record prize money, a record number of officials, innovations such as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and the Additional Assistant Referee (AAR), as well as additional extra time substitutes, a new trophy and match ball.
The AFC President said: “This tournament is one which will make history and one that will be a great source of pride for the game in Asia. May the best team win.”
Source : AFC Asian Football Confederation Website
The Westfield Matildas will learn their group stage opponents for the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup when the draw is held this Saturday night.
Alen Stajcic’s side will be heavily fancied to go all the way in Jordan after streamrolling through a record-breaking 2017.
But which challenges will Australia need to navigate in order to be crowned champions for the second time?
The tournament will be contested by eight nations, split into two groups of four.
Hosts Jordan are the least experienced as they have only appeared at one previous tournament, finishing bottom of Group A in 2014.
Japan prevailed on that occasion, edging Australia – now the AFC’s top-ranked nation – 1-0 in the final.
That was, surprisingly, Japan’s first ever triumph. China PR dominated the tournament with seven straight wins between 1986 and 1999.
The other teams to have qualified are South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Philippines.
Amman, the capital of Jordan, is due to spread the hosting of all games between two venues.
One is the Amman International Stadium, which was built in 1964 and was the scene of last year’s FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final.
The other is the nearby King Abdullah II Stadium, home to the Al-Wehdat Sports Club and able to fit 13,000 people.
While the Westfield Matildas will take plenty of their own big names to the tournament, they will come up against some headline acts in April.
Japan captain Saki Kumagai was one of two players Sam Kerr beat to the title of AFC Women’s Player of the Year last week and it will be fascinating to see Kerr go head-to-head with the Lyon defender.
South Korea star Ji So-yun is one of few other players currently plying her trade abroad, lighting it up for English outfit Chelsea.
The midfielder has almost 100 international caps and is her country’s all-time top goalscorer.
Jordan, meanwhile, will have their hopes pinned on Stephanie Al-Naber, a goalscoring midielder who netted nine times in just five games in qualifying.
Source : My Football Website
Former Matildas star Heather Garriock says the days of dual code athletes in women’s sport must come to an end if they’re serious about becoming professional.
The first-year W-League coach has brought the hardline stance to Canberra United this season but it’s not the reason foundation player Ellie Brush has joined the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Garriock, 34, says if female athletes want to make their sport fully professional then they must take a professional approach and commit 100 per cent.
Brush has been with United since the W-League’s inception in 2008 but last year split her time between the capital and the GWS Giants for the inaugural AFLW season.
The 29-year-old Canberran has made the permanent move to Sydney to live with her partner and this season will play for the Wanderers and the Giants.
“Canberra United has been a massive part of my life for the past 10 years and they’ve been like family, so it was a massive decision and tough decision but the right one.
“I hold the club very close to my heart and certainly that first game against them is going to be very tough, so it’s sad, but people move all the time and I’m looking forward to a new challenge.”
The AFLW proved a huge success with the eight teams made up of athletes from all different sports, but Garriock emphasised they won’t be getting any of her players this season.
“I’m not negotiating with AFLW and football commitments, if we want to become a fully professional league then it’s non-negotiable and players have to commit for the whole season,” Garriock said.
“Ellie has been the backbone of Canberra United and I appreciate everything she has done for the club but I know her playing AFLW last year was hard on the team.
“We had a conversation and she told me she was leaving for Sydney but we have a really good relationship and we’re good friends so there was no hostility or anything.”
Canberra United forced Australia’s most famous dual-sport female athlete and Garriock’s Matildas teammate Ellyse Perry to pick one sport which saw the star cricketer leave for Sydney in 2012.
“I played with Ellyse and she’s a phenomenal person and she juggled both exceptionally, but from my perspective it was hard when she wasn’t at training during the week to prepare for games on the weekend,” Garriock said.
“I just don’t think it’s fair to teammates and you wouldn’t see other professionals doing it, Ellyse did it for a long time and I take my hat off to her but I don’t think you can do it in this day and age.”
Canberra United gave Ellyse Perry an ultimatum in 2012 which saw her leave for Sydney. Photo: AAP
Brush said she respected Garriock’s commitment to the game and women’s sport but said playing both codes allows her to be a full-time athlete.
“I see where she’s coming from and applaud that she’s trying to be as professional as possible but we’ve still got to make ends meet,” Brush said.
“If you’re on a Matildas contract you’re a full-time athlete but below that you’re only playing and getting paid for five months of the year.
“If I could chose one I would, but I think the two can work well together and if I wasn’t playing both I’d have to be working another job.
“I got away with it last year because it was the first AFLW season but if I’d stayed in Canberra it wouldn’t have worked this time because other players would be able to commit more than me and Heather expects 100 per cent commitment, which is fair enough.”
Source : The Canberra Times
YOUTHFUL MATILDAS THRIVING
Having made her international debut at 17, van Egmond, now 24, is one of the more experienced faces in the Matildas squad having made 63 appearances for the national team.
But she’s not alone.
Superstar attacker Sam Kerr (55 appearances) earned her senior debut at just 15, while Caitlin Foord (58 appearances) scored on her full debut against New Zealand as a 16-year-old.
Fullback Steph Catley (62 appearances) also debuted at just 18 in 2012, while more recently Ellie Carpenter was capped as a 16-year-old in 2016.
Alanna Kennedy (22) has 57 appearances for the Matildas while Tameka Butt (26) and Elise Kellond-Knight (27) have 61 and 85 caps respectively.
And it’s that experience which van Egmond believes the Matildas are starting to profit from.
“We’re very fortunate because we’re still quite a young team,” van Egmond told Matildas.footballaustralia.com.au .
“Tom Sermanni (former Matildas coach) brought a group of us through at a young age to get that experience. We’re now at 23-24 and I think we’re starting to mature a lot and you’re starting to see that.
“What Staj (Alen Stajcic) has implemented within the group has been fantastic as well. The way he wants to play and the exciting brand of football that we’re showcasing.”
ROOM TO IMPROVE
Australia are ranked number six in the world and have now won five straight following their Tournament of Nations triumph last month and a clean sweep of Brazil on home soil.
But midfielder Chloe Logarzo admitted there’s still improvement left in the Matildas and insists coach Alen Stajcic won’t be resting on his side’s recent success.
“There’s always room to grow, even if you’re on top,” Logarzo said.
“Staj, I learn a lot from him. He’s a guy that always wants to keep moving forward.
“Even if we are the best in the world, there’s always something to tweak and that’s a great mentality to have.
“But of course we want to keep going until we hit number one. And it’s not even about hitting number one. It’s about being consistent and plateauing and making sure we can be the best that we can be.”
Source : Football Federation Australia
How good has it been to watch the Westfield Matildas take on – and beat – the best nations in the world in recent months?
As a former captain of the national team, I get such pride seeing this current bunch of girls outperform and outclass the world’s best right now. They’re on their way to becoming known as one of the world’s best.
Their attitude, skill and team spirit has been a breath of fresh air. Australia’s football, is just a pure joy to watch.
Not surprisingly the Australian public is jumping on board. And why wouldn’t you?
STAJ THE ARCHITECT OF GOLDEN GEN
This hasn’t been an overnight success story. The leaps and bounds the team have made has taken time.
For me, it really started to change when “Staj” [coach Alen Stajcic] took the team on. He brought in a “no-excuses” attitude.
He put expectations on the players to achieve a lot more. He’s got big dreams, belief in the team and what they can achieve, and the team all have belief in Staj.
This has lead to them to start reaping the rewards of putting their faith into one dream.
Whether they have been in the national team set-up for 15 years or a rookie in the squad, they’re all working together, all on the same page.
Like my good mate Lisa De Vanna, it’s hard to believe the girl who lived with me when she was 14 is now where I was towards the end of my career.
I’ve watched her from the beginning of her career all the way to leading Australia out onto the field as team captain. Maturing as a player and person both on and off the field.
She’ll love being a part of this squad, and being part of the team’s growth and the young talent that Australia has right now.
And what about Sam Kerr?
I love watching her play, she runs out with a smile and ends the game smiling – that’s what people want to see.
She’s got a little bit of flamboyance but by no means whatsoever has she got an attitude about her.
She’s just a kid that loves to play football and that shows. With her, what you see is what you get.
This filters right through the girls and is a major reason for the scenes we’ve seen in Penrith and Newcastle over the last week.
Almost 32,000 fans at the stadiums and hundreds of thousands of viewers on TV says it all.
These girls are great role models for kids – girls and boys.
People want athletes that are not only good at their chosen sport but also positive role models their kids can look up too on and off the field.
The girls not only gave 100% in both games against Brazil, they all stayed around afterward and signed shirts, took selfies and signed posters for all the supporters.
And they’ll do it again in November when they take on China in two games in Victoria.
There’s one question I’ve heard quite a lot lately regarding this brilliant Westfield Matildas team?
Can they win the next FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in 2019?
Well, we’re certainly on the right track. You can be sure everyone one of the girls in that team will believe they can.
In the past, it’s been a possibility but the odds were probably against us because we struggled to get back-to-back wins against the big teams.
Yes, we were always competitive with the top nations in one off games, but pulling off back-to-back wins consistently was the challenge.
We’ve now won three in a row against Brazil and five in a row against nations ranked in the top 10 including the USA who are ranked number 1.
We’re past the point of just being another team and other top nations are starting to take notice. Now they really fear us.
That glass ceiling? The girls are shattering that!
The sky really is the limit. Let’s make sure we stay behind the girls and give them all our support.
It’s going to be a big couple of years for the Westfield Matildas.
Let’s all enjoy the ride!
Source : Football Federation Australia