Alen Stajcic: Rio disappointment to fuel Westfield Matildas

Westfield Matildas boss Alen Stajcic with Co-Captain Lisa De Vanna.
Westfield Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic has opened up about the Westfield Matildas’ Rio Games campaign, labelling it as an ‘opportunity missed’ but determined to use it as motivation.

Reflecting on his team’s campaign, which ended in a heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat to host nation Brazil in the last eight, Stajcic knows it was a case of ‘what might have been’.

Having reached an all time high ranking of 5th after the going through the Rio qualifying tournament undefeated, expectations were high and Stajcic made no secret of his intent and belief that the Westfield Matildas were capable of winning Australia’s first ever medal in football.


But those dreams were shattered when Brazil marched into the medal rounds at Australia’s expense in a penalty shootout after neither team could find the back of the net in regulation and extra time.


Stajcic says the Westfield Matildas plan on using the hurt from their Rio campaign to spur the team on to reach greater heights and success over the next four year cycle.

“I think the general mood amongst the whole team including me was that it was an opportunity missed,” said Stajcic.

“I think it was probably the first tournament ever where the Matildas were a genuine chance of winning a medal if we played to our potential, and we certainly had patches where we did that but not as consistently as we were in the qualifiers.

“I think all of the players and coaches realise that and certainly for me and after talking to some of the players, it has fuelled the fire and certainly provided more motivation now to know we can push on even further over the next cycle going into the next World Cup and Olympics and compete with any of the top nations on any given day.”


The Westfield Matildas’ next matches are scheduled to be as part of their participation in the Algarve Cup, which will be held in Portugal from 1-8 March 2017.


Football Federation Australia

Who will Alen Stajcic pick for the Matildas attack? #Rio2016

Matildas co-captain Lisa De Vanna celebrates a goal with Caitlin Foord.

Matildas co-captain Lisa De Vanna celebrates a goal with Caitlin Foord.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Josh Bennett @JoshBennett50
With a host of established stars and a new breed of talent emerging, the Matildas are blessed with a sensational attacking third.

But with limited spots available in Alen Stajcic’s 18-player squad for the Games in Rio, who’s in line to make the final cut? We take a look.

Co-Captain Lisa De Vanna is one of the first picked for Australia and is the only player in the squad to have played at the Olympic Games.

De Vanna is the last remaining player from the 2004 Olympic team which made the quarter finals in Greece, losing to Sweden in the final eight.

The 31-year-old’s absolute class, experience and leadership is vital to the squad’s younger players.

While known for terrorising defences in behind, she showed she can strike from distance too with an absolute rocket in Australia’s 1-1 draw against New Zealand in Melbourne this month.

Perhaps Australia’s most prolific attacker, Kyah Simon is another who is certain to be on the plane to Brazil.


The Sydney FC star has been in devastating form over the past 12 months and was one of Australia’s best at the 2015 World Cup, scoring three times.

She also bagged four goals in five games in the Olympic qualifying tournament earlier this year and will likely start up top for the opening game in Rio against Canada.

One player who has burst into form in recent times is the lightning-quick powerhouse Caitlin Foord.

The 21-year-old was used as an right wing-back at the World Cup but has been thrust further forward in recent matches with devastating effect.

The Wollongong product netted a superb double against New Zealand in Ballarat three weeks ago with her pace and power dazzling the visitors.

The best athlete in the Green and Gold, Foord’s ability to get up and down the pitch coupled with her versatility make her an invaluable asset to this side.

Another banging on the door for a starting berth is Canberra United goal-scorer Michelle Heyman.

The 27-year-old has been a more than capable option for Alen Stajcic when called upon over the past 12 months and provides a genuine goal-scoring option.

A natural goal-scorer, Heyman netted crucial goals against Japan and DPR Korea in Australia’s unbeaten Olympic qualifiers this year and also found the net in a 9-0 drubbing of Vietnam.

An intriguing sub-plot ahead of the Rio Games is the fitness of Glory striker Sam Kerr.

Kerr has struggled with injuries in recent times and is battling to be fit for the tournament after undergoing surgery last month.

When fit, Kerr is one of Australia’s most dynamic attackers and Stajcic will give her every chance to prove her fitness.


One of the youngest players in the squad, Melbourne City’s Larissa Crummer is one player who provides Alen Stajcic with a different dimension in the final third.

Crummer is coming off a breakthrough season in the Westfield W-League where she claimed the Golden Boot award with 11 goals and NAB Young Player of the Year.

A physical player with the ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play, Crummer proved she is a star of the future with a couple of assured performances off the bench at the 2015 World Cup.

Other options for Stajcic in attack are Canberra United’s Ashleigh Sykes and Newcastle Jets’ Tara Andrews, though both weren’t involved against the Kiwis.


Football Federation Australia

Who will Alen Stajcic pick for the Games? #Rio2016

Who will coach Alen Stajcic pick when he selects his Westfield Matildas squad for the Rio Olympics?

Monday, 20 June 2016

Josh Bennett @JoshBennett50
Who’s in the frame for a seat on the plane? Matildas boss Alen Stajcic faces some tough decisions over the next fortnight as he looks to settle on a final squad for the the Games in August in Rio.

Unlike the Asian Cup and World Cup where a 23-player squad is permitted, the Games restricts playing rosters to just 18, meaning selection will be even more difficult – especially given the huge amount of talent in our women’s ranks.

The Matildas are in camp at the AIS for the next two weeks (June 20-24) and (June 27-July 2) as players look to impress the coaching staff in order to book their spot on the plane to Rio.

Australia come into camp off the back of a two-game friendly series against New Zealand earlier this month, with the Matildas earning a 2-0 win in Ballarat before being held to  a 1-1 draw in Melbourne.

Alen Stajcic’s side are now unbeaten in their past eight matches and have defeated top ten opponents Japan and DPR Korea in the past seven months, along with Korea Republic.

Stajcic indicated that the squad chosen for the New Zealand series would contain the majority of players headed for Rio but left the door ajar for others to stake a claim.

“This squad (for the matches against New Zealand) will obviously contain a lot of the players that will head to Rio but it’s certainly not 100 per cent finalised yet,” Stajcic said.

“There’s still a chance for players to put their hand up and again we’re trying to increase the depth of the team so we can be as competitive as we can internally and on the international stage as well.”

One player who could come into contention is striker Sam Kerr, with the Perth Glory forward on the comeback trail after recent surgery.

“Sam Kerr had a minor bit of surgery two weeks ago and hopefully she’ll be returning to playing in the next few weeks,” Stajcic said.

“Time is getting tight for her, but if everything goes well she’ll definitely be in contention for one of the spots.”

While experienced stars Lisa De Vanna, Katrina Gorry and Emily van Egmond are virtually guaranteed a spot in Rio, there are plenty of other sub-plots which makes the final make-up of the squad so intriguing.

Can Westfield W-League golden boot winner Larissa Crummer force her way into the team? Is 16-year-old defender Ellie Carpenter a chance of making the trip to Brazil?

And with only two keepers in the squad who will get the nod as back-up to Lydia Williams? Stajcic can only take one of Casey Dumont and Mackenzie Arnold.

It looms as an interesting fortnight with Stajcic set to name his final 18-player squad for the Rio Games on July 4.

This week we’ll look at each part of the squad – keepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers – and assess who’s in the frame for a seat on the plane.


Football Federation Australia

Alen Stajcic agrees to new four-year contract

Westfield Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic addresses media at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Westfield Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic has agreed to a new four-year contract which will keep him at the helm until at least 2020.

Stajcic was initially appointed to the job on an interim basis in April 2014 and the new agreement will see him in charge for the AFC Women’s Cup 2018, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 and the 2020 Games in Japan.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) CEO David Gallop said he was delighted to reward Stajcic with a long-term contract.

“Alen has done a remarkable job in achieving results with the Matildas, but his work on the team culture and player development has been equally significant,” said Gallop.

“My satisfaction comes from seeing a coach who honed his skills in Australia and shows a huge personal and professional commitment to the game leading our nation against the world’s best.

“He’s grown into a true leader who represents the ambition and dedication required to make Australia a top football nation.”

Speaking in Sydney today, Stajcic said it was a momentous week for him personally and the Matildas.

“I’m really honoured about the trust placed in me to continue with the Matildas,” said Stajcic. “We have come so far over the past two years, but there’s no limit to what this group of players can achieve.

I’m very happy on a personal level, but I think it’s also important for the program to have this certainty. The timing helps our focus on Rio.”

Stajcic’s new contract coincides with the announcement of a 20-player Westfield Matildas squad for the upcoming internationals against New Zealand in early June.

The two matches against the Football Ferns, to be played in Ballarat (4 June) and Melbourne (7 June) will be the Westfield Matildas’ official farewell matches for the Rio Games before they depart for Brazil in early July.

Tickets for both of the Westfield Matildas’ matches against New Zealand are on sale now

Football Federation Australia

Matildas coach on gold medal and global dominance

Westfield Matildas coach Alen Stajcic is adamant his side is capable of claiming the gold medal at the Rio Games having proved themselves to be the best in Asia in qualification.

Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull addressed the players at an official function in Sydney on Monday.

He said he hoped the team would be in the Gold Medal play-off at the Games.

Stajcic said the Matildas had already set their own goal to be on the dais at August’s showpiece event as they try to manage a new level of expectations.

“We’re talking like that, we’re fully confident in our own abilities,” Stajcic told reporters.

“We don’t need that pressure from outside, we’ve already put that pressure on ourselves and that pressure was on even before we went to the qualifiers.

“We all know what the capabilities are within the team and if we put it all altogether, and I think you saw an indication of it at qualifiers, but if we can keep improving we can certainly challenge for medals.”

Stajcic said the Matildas had been overwhelmed by the support they’d received in Japan and the backing had helped inspire the squad’s recent performances.

“It’s just a massive boost for our confidence and just the fact that we’ve got so much respect and adulation from the Australian public coming home,” said Stajcic.

“It means so much to the team. I think we’ve really broken through the barrier of mainstream Australia and it’s something that we’ve strived for for a long time.

“To know that we’ve got that recognition just further reinforces how powerful football can be.To now know that the girls are fully pledged role models for up and coming boys and girls just really gives us an extra spurt to keep going towards Rio.”

The Matildas, currently ranked 9 in the world, look set to rise up the standings off the back of their unbeaten run in Osaka.

The world’s top three of USA, Germany and France will all be at the Rio Games, with Stajcic saying top three will be the next goal for his young squad following the Games.

“I’ve known these players for a long time and known what they’re capable of and there’s just so much talent within this group.

“And there’re still so young, that’s the best part.

“The majority of players are still between 20-24 years of age so the world’s our oyster.

“If we keep improving and working hard – we’ll be ranked five or six come the next rankings – and our goal is to push ahead by the next World Cup and be in the top three and we’ve got that within the group.”

Football Federation Australia

Alen Stajcic’s vow: ‘Matildas can be world class’

The Westfield Matildas celebrate qualifying for the Rio Games after their win over DPR Korea.

The Westfield Matildas have arrived back in Australia with coach Alen Stajcic declaring the side is on course to being world class team.

After qualifying for the Games with an unbeaten run of five matches in an intense 10-day qualification campaign in Osaka, the team are on a high.


But there’s no time to look back, said Stajcic at Sydney airport on Friday. He wants the team to take it to the next level now.

“They’ve put us on a good course to becoming a world-class team which was one of our goals we set a year ago,” he said.

“And I think when the new rankings come out, we’ll be much higher up. I think we can beat all those teams [ranked above them].”

Part of the team’s next stage in development  is preparation, which includes negotiating players’ availability and FIFA windows in preparation for the Rio Games.

“We’ve got to get back to FFA hopefully next week. Hopefully we’ll get is sorted as soon as possible.

“It’s very tough. We’re dealing with clubs in America, Germany, Japan, Sweden and some players domestically… it’s a real jigsaw.

“But I”m sure FFA will support us. They have over the last two years so I’m sure we’ll get the support we need.”

There is a two-week window before the Games which Stajcic can access the players.

“But I’d like three or four weeks with the players,” added Stajcic. “It’ll be a bargaining effort with all the clubs around the world.”

Reflecting on the last two weeks of the team’s qualification for the Rio Games, Stajcic felt the 3-1 win over Japan was the best he’s ever seen the Matildas play. He likened it to how they played against the USA at last year’s World Cup.

“But this time, we did it over 90 minutes. Not just 45 minutes [against USA] which is a sign of the maturity of the team.

“That really set the momentum. It gave us a lot of confidence. It set the tone for the rest of the tournament.

“Such a tremendous effort against the odds and a grueling schedule, for the players to back up game after game is an unbelievable effort,” he added.

© 2015 Football Federation Australia ABN 28 106 478 068 | All Rights Reserved

The Matildas celebrate but Head Coach Alen Stajcic knws there is still a lot of football to go in the tournament

Westfielld Matildas v Japan

Head Coach Alen Stajcic was ecstatic with the Westfield Matildas’ history making win over Japan but knows the job of qualifying for Rio is by no means done.

The Westfield Matildas recorded a rousing 3-1 win over tournament hosts Japan and made some history in the process to open their Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 – Final Qualification Round in Osaka on a bitterly cold Monday night.

First half goals from Lisa De Vanna and Michelle Heyman followed by Katrina Gorry’s second half header gave the Westfield Matildas their first ever win against Japan on Japanese soil in eight attempts.

The victory was the Westfield Matildas’ sixth, and first since May 2010, against the former World Champions and the team who knocked them out at the Quarter Final stage of last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.

Stajcic says his team had spent the last four weeks planning on how to turn the tables on the loss in Canada and he was justifiably over the moon as the Westfield Matildas toppled the hosts and highest ranked country in the qualifying tournament.

“We know they’re a world class opponent and we’ve prepared over the past four weeks to play this match and play it at a tempo and a rhythm that we wanted to rather than how we played the World Cup match against them six months ago,” said Stajcic.

“I thought we did that very well and compared to six months ago I thought we controlled better patches of the game and even though Japan created quite a few chances I think we were a threat and a lot more positive than we were in that game six months ago.”

“We executed a lot better than that day and I think we thoroughly deserved the win.”

But while being delighted with the result, Stajcic knows one win counts for nothing and that there is still a lot of hard work ahead before the Westfield Matildas can start to think about the Olympics in Rio.

“It’s the first time we’ve beaten Japan in Japan and from my living memory I think it’s the first time we’ve beaten a world champion team in a major tournament rather than in a friendly so there’s lots of history attached to the result but we’re not close to qualifying at all yet,” said Stajcic.

“It’s just one game, there are four more tough matches. This is a tournament where any team can beat any team…so we’ll enjoy this win for an hour and then we’re focusing on our next match because if we think this is enough we won’t qualify.”

After not playing a match at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, co-captain Clare Polkinghorne was given the captain’s armband for the match while Japan’s starting line-up featured nine of the eleven players that started against the Westfield Matildas in last year’s World Cup Quarter Final, goalkeeper Erina Yamane and Emi Nakajima the only new faces.

In her 50th appearance, Westfield Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams produced a host of sharp saves in windy conditions and they proved crucial as De Vanna scored her 38th goal for her country, superbly heading home a pinpoint Gorry cross.

With their tails up, the Westfield Matildas then doubled their advantage when a slice of luck allowed De Vanna to release Heyman with a well weighted through ball, the striker taking a quality first touch to round Yamane before slotting the ball into an empty net.

But right on the stroke of half time Japan clawed a goal back through Yuki Ogimi to leave the game delicately poised at the break.

Williams pulled off a crucial fingertip save just after the hour mark as Japan pegged the Westfield Matildas back into their won half in search of an equaliser.

However in the 78th minute Gorry, arguably the shortest player on the field, rose to expertly angle a header from Emily van Egmond’s quality cross to restore the two goal lead, a lead they would hold onto up until the final whistle.

The victory puts the Westfield Matildas at the top of the group as China defeated Vietnam 2-0 while Korea Republic edged out DPR Korea 1-0 in the other two matches played on the opening day.

The Westfield Matildas must now back up for their next match against Vietnam on Wednesday (2 March 2016) at Yanmar Stadium (kick-off 4.35pm local, 6.35pm AEDT).

Football Federation Australia

Alen Stajcic to ring the changes for Vietnam clash

Westfield Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic is set to make a host of changes to his line-up for the second match of their 2016 Olympic qualifying tournament against Vietnam at Yanmar Stadium on Wednesday 2 March.

Co-captain and veteran Lisa De Vanna is one player certain to be rested from the match, while a number of players who started against Japan will move to the bench as the Westfield Matildas prepare to back up less than 48 hours after their historic and memorable win over the host country in their tournament opener.

The Westfield Matildas’ match against Vietnam will be shown LIVE on 7mate in prime time (kick-off 6.35pm AEDT).

“There will probably be six or seven changes to the team that starts against Vietnam,” said Stajcic.

“We only had four players who didn’t get on against Japan plus the three substitutes that came on so at the moment I’m expecting that the majority of those players will start tomorrow.”

Of those that could start is 15 year old Western Sydney Wanderers defender Ellie Carpenter, who was a late inclusion into the squad due to an injury to Aivi Luik.

While Sharon Wass is the youngest player to play an ‘A’ international for the Matildas (Wass was 14 years 240 days v New Zealand in 1981), Carpenter would become the first capped Westfield Matilda to be born in this millennium if she takes the field.

The victory over Japan, who are ranked fourth in the world, has given the Westfield Matildas the perfect platform to try and lock in one of the two spots up for grabs at the Olympics. However Stajcic is fully aware a slip up against Vietnam would spoil that foundation.

The Westfield Matildas’ most recent encounters against Vietnam resulted in two comprehensive victories in Sydney just prior to last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, but Stajcic is taking little notice of those score lines believing they are not a true reflection of the challenge Vietnam pose.

Adding weight to Stajcic’s view is that a stubborn Vietnam only went down 2-0 to China in their opening match of the tournament proving they will be anything but a push over.

“I’ve watched their game against China and they were very well organised and made it hard for China to score. The two goals China scored were off a corner and the other one was a penalty. Aside from that they didn’t really create many other chances,” said Stajcic.

“I’m almost wiping those two games we played against them in Sydney before last year’s World Cup because Vietnam only came over at the last minute and maybe they weren’t as well prepared as they could have been.”

“We’re certainly not going to be complacent. We’ll show them a lot of respect, and getting these three points will be just as crucial as the ones we got against Japan.”

With fatigue set to play a significant part deeper into the tournament with the teams faced with the schedule of five games in 10 days, Stajcic knows if the Westfield Matildas can get points on the board early on it will put them in a highly favourable position.

“It’s a race to the finish line. You want to have points in the bank early rather than having to panic and play desperate football towards the end of the tournament when everyone is going to be tired and fatigued,” said Stajcic.

“That win against Japan was a great way to start and if we can pick up more points tomorrow and then on Friday against Korea Republic it will put us in good stead for the final two games next week against DPR Korea and China.”

Wednesday’s other two matches sees DPR Korea take on China while Japan face Korea Republic.

A top two finish in the group will see the Westfield Matildas qualify for August’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Match Information

Westfield Matildas v Vietnam
Wednesday 2 March 2016
Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka
Kick-Off: 4:35pm local time (6:35pm AEDT)
LIVE nationally 9:30pm AEDT on 7mate (LIVE stream: )

Westfield Matildas record v Vietnam

Played 5; Won 5, Drawn 0, Lost 0

Last three meetings
21/05/2015 Westfield Matildas 11-0 Vietnam (Friendly)
19/05/2015 Westfield Matildas 4-0 Vietnam (Friendly)
18/05/2014 Vietnam 0-2 Westfield Matildas (AFC Women’s Asian Cup)

Football Federation Australia

A niggling quad injury has unfortunately seen Aivi Luik ruled out of the Olympic qualifiers.

Aivi Luik

Westfield Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic has been forced to make a late change to his squad for the Olympic qualifying tournament with midfielder Aivi Luik ruled out due to a quad injury.

Luik’s spot has been taken by talented uncapped 15 year old Ellie Carpenter, who has been in camp and training with the squad since the Westfield Matildas arrived in Japan last Monday.

With the tournament seeing the competing teams having to play five matches in 10 days, Stajcic said Luik’s injury concern was too big a risk to take.

“Aivi has had a small quad strain for about a month that probably came about after that 120 minute final she played in the W-League for Melbourne City,” said Stajcic.

“It has been a small complaint and we’ve rested her and given her rehab but the strain has come back, so taking a risk with it would be too much of a risk for our team considering the type of tournament we’re in.”

While disappointed to lose a player of Luik’s experience, Stajcic is confident of what Carpenter will add to the squad.

“Ellie is a youngster who is inexperienced at this level but she brings in so much enthusiasm, she can play in variety of roles for us and she has definitely improved and matured in the short space of time we’ve been together in the past four weeks,” said Stajcic.

“I’m hopeful she can contribute in a number of different ways to our team in the next couple of weeks.”

The Westfield Matildas’ Olympic qualifying tournament begins tomorrow night (Monday 29 February) with a blockbuster against FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Finalists andtournament hosts Japan.

The top two teams from the tournament will qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

The Westfield Matildas Olympic Games Qualifiers will be showcased LIVE on 7mate starting on February 29.

Football Federation Australia

Confidence restored ahead qualifying ‘blockbuster’ says Alen Stajcic

Sydney: Australia coach Alen Stajcic has said his side will continue their build up to the 2016 Olympic qualifiers with renewed confidence following their recent victory over fellow Rio hopefuls Korea Republic.

Kyah Simon’s 15th international goal secured the Matildas a 1-0 win in Incheon in a dominant display that saw Australia return to form after a disappointing showing at the three-team Dewellbon Cup invitational tournament in Chongqing, where Stajic’s side lost 1-0 to England and drew 1-1 with China, who are also taking part in the final round of the Olympic qualifiers next year.

“We played a lot better than we did against China and England in our last trip. This performance and the time we’ve had together over here certainly puts us back on track towards the qualifiers in February,” Stajcic said following the win in Incheon, which was the Matildas last international friendly before the qualifiers.

“There is confidence in the group again, there was a real improvement in the levels at training in what were cold and tough conditions, something we’ll have to deal with at the qualifiers, so it was a good experience for us all round.”

The Matildas will need to be fully motivated for their opening game of the qualifiers, which sees Australia renew acquaintances with familiar foes Japan, with Stajcic singling out the February 29 curtain-raiser in Osaka as his side’s ‘blockbuster’.

“I guess there is no better time to play Japan than first up when we’re fresh and they’re fresh,” said the 42-year-old, whose side drew 2-2 with the Nadeshiko in the group stage and lost 1-0 in the final of the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup before Stajcic again finished second best to Norio Sasaki’s side as Japan claimed a second strain single-goal victory to eliminate the Matildas from the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup at the quarter-final stage.

“We’ve played them three times in the last 18 months and those results were a draw and two narrow losses so we know we’re in the ball park to match them, we’ve just got to do it on the day,” Stajcic continued.

“It’s a bit like the World Cup. It’s almost like a Group of Death trying to qualify and we’ve got our blockbuster first up.”

Following the opening match with the reigning continental champions, Australia take on 2014 AFC Asian Cup hosts Vietnam – who battled their way through the second round of qualifiers – before renewing acquaintances with Korea Republic and then facing their neighbours DPR Korea before rounding off their campaign against China on March 9.

“There’s no use wishing for things. At the end of the day we’ve got five tough games and there are no easy opponents.”

“Four teams made it through to the knockout stages of the World Cup and then you throw in DPR Korea who weren’t at the World Cup because of their drug suspension, so there is no easy order but it’s probably good to get Japan first up because it gives everyone focus and concentration for the path ahead.”

Photo: FIFA/Getty Images


Asian Football Confederation