Australia and New Zealand commenced their final preparations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ with two keenly contested matches last week.
Australia won both contests to stretch their winning run against the Football Ferns to 20 matches dating back to 1994. Playing on home turf at Gosford, the Matildas won the opener 3-0 on Thursday, before a tighter contest three days later at the same venue ended with a 2-1 scoreline, in a match that could have gone either way.
The matches were Australia’s last before heading to Germany next month, while New Zealand will face China in Jinan on Friday in their final international ahead of the squad announcement on 7 June.
Australia began the first encounter in dynamic fashion with teenager Caitlin Foord scoring ten minutes into her debut international. Despite the setback, a tough contest ensued until the home side began to exert their dominance in the final half hour. W-League player of the year Kyah Simon scored a spectacular long-range goal, while Leena Khamis iced the cake with a third.
The second match appeared set for a repeat performance as Catherine Cannuli put Australia ahead early. However the Football Ferns collected a deserved equaliser midway through the opening half, with Hannah Wilkinson converting after some fine approach work from WPS star Ali Riley.
The decisive moment of the match arrived early in the second half with Collette McCallum curling home a trademark free-kick, in a goal reminiscent of her spectacular effort against Canada at China 2007.
“I think some of our players are just lacking a bit of match fitness and this is something we’ll now have to work on over the next month before we go to Germany,” said Australia coach Tom Sermanni. “In saying that we won the game and you’ve got to remember that sometimes that’s the most important thing at the end of the day.”
New Zealand coach John Herdman took a number of positives from his team’s improved showing in the second match. “We’re not about to celebrate the result, but performances are important and on a different day that performance could have brought a different result,” said Herdman.
“The last five games we played we haven’t been able to put our strongest team out there and today we were close to it. That team went out there and performed and it’s a very clear picture of where we are, and what we can keep working on to get us closer to the World Cup.”
Australia are in Group D at Germany 2011 alongside Brazil, Equatorial Guinea and Norway, while New Zealand are in Group B with England, Japan and Mexico.