BY CONNOR STEPHENS
The Matildas open their World Cup campaign on July 20 against underdogs the Republic of Ireland. Being played at ANZ Stadium, a big crowd is expected to arrive and show their support for the host nation as they begin what is expected to be a promising tournament.
Australia have set high expectations for themselves heading into the tournament, and have not disappointed in the lead up, beating heavyweights Spain 3-2 in a Cup of Nations match in February, establishing their prospects and proving that the hosts will be a dominant force throughout this tournament. The Matildas have also won 6 of their last 7 matches, with their only loss coming at the hands of Korea Republic in the Asian Cup Quarter Final.
Ireland have only lost 2 of their last 5 matches, but in saying that, both of those losses have been at the hands of the USA, who have won the last two tournaments, and go in as favourites chasing a hat trick of consecutive World Cups. Despite Ireland entering the tournament as underdogs, their recent results show that on their day they can cause an upset, and beating them will be no easy feat.
With 120 International caps to her name, Captain Sam Kerr has been around forever, and the Matildas will be looking to her to lead from the front and use her experience in the big moments. She knows where the goals are, and has proved that in 3 different domestic leagues and on the International stage, so no amount of pressure will bother the Australian spearhead.
Katrina Gorry provides much excitement for the Matildas, as she is an absolute machine in the midfield. She has a tank that can run for miles, and having missed some Football over the last couple years, she is looking fired up and determined to lead Australia to their first ever World Cup title. If Gorry brings her A game, the Australian Midfield looks unbeatable and will most definitely give it to the heavyweights in the dog days of the tournament if the Matildas progress.
For the Republic of Ireland, Katie McCabe runs the show. The Captain, McCabe can operate anywhere on the left side of the ground, from Left-Back to the Left Wing, and her pace will trouble the Matildas if she isn't marked tightly. Giving her even a moment's can open the game right up for Ireland and the Aussies will need to keep a close eye on her if they want a result from this game.
Don't be surprised if a defender such as Ellie Carpenter is given a tagging job on McCabe, and if this is the case, this will prove to be one of the match ups of the tournament in my opinion. Two small, tough footballers with exquisite athletic ability doing battle, what more can we ask for on World Football’s biggest stage?
While this game has every chance to provide spectators with a lot of entertainment and fast, explosive Football, I believe that the host nation has a point to prove, and that they are a class above their opponents for this game.
I am tipping a 3-1 win for the Matildas to open their campaign, with Sam Kerr to potentially score a brace and stamp her name on this tournament. This is Australia's tournament to lose and they will leave no stone unturned.
What's your verdict?