It’s beginning to feel real now. The World Cup draw for France 2019 took place over the weekend and the Matildas will face some familiar faces and a tournament debutant.
The Matildas will play Italy, Brazil and Jamaica after being drawn in group C. Australia’s seeding meant it avoided the likes of the USA, France, Germany, England and Canada.
While it’s no group of death, to brush it off as anything less than a strong group would be foolish.
Although Alen Stajcic’s side has had Brazil’s measure in the last three to four years, they can’t be underestimated.
Since the incredible win via Kyah Simon’s goal in the round of 16 in Canada in 2015, Australia has lost to As Canarinhas only twice – in a pre-Olympic friendly and the Olympic quarter final. Otherwise it has been four straight wins with an aggregate score of 14-5.
While this streak can inspire confidence, it won’t make the team complacent. The perennial threat of Marta and the return of Formiga after her 2016 retirement coupled with the likes of Debinha and Andressinha make Brazil no easy beats.
Italy return to the world stage after failing to qualify for the last four tournaments. Despite this absence, the Azzurre qualified for France 2019 only losing one game.
A strong, defensive side in the grandest Italian tradition, Milena Bertolini’s team will provide a strong test for the Matildas. Historically, this fixture has been quite even with each side enjoying three wins with two draws as well.
Jamaica are the unknown quantity for the Matildas with the two teams having never played before. The Reggae Girlz made history by qualifying for their first ever World Cup.
Jamaica has no national women’s competition and up until the CONCACAF Caribbean women’s qualifiers in May 2018, had been inactive for two years.
Jamaica won that tournament and progressed through to CONCACAF Women’s Championship where they finished second in the group stage behind Canada, lost heavily to the USA in the semi-finals before beating Panama on penalties in the third-placed play off to book their ticket to France.
Progression out of the group stage will be the minimum requirement for the Matildas with the quarter final stage the current personal best. Making it to the final four would be an incredible achievement and a reflection of the team’s last two years and it is entirely possible.
Australia’s World Cup Group
AUS v Italy
AUS v Brazil
AUS v Jamaica