Australian football has enjoyed a boom period in recent years with the nation’s women footballers creating their own niche by achieving breakthrough success.
Under former coach Tom Sermanni the Matildas reached the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ for the first time at China 2007, and reprised that achievement two years ago in Germany. Sandwiched in between was arguably their finest hour as the Green and Gold conquered a highly competitive field at the 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup; Australia’s first silverware at any level since joining the Asian Football Confederation in 2006.
Sermanni’s success led to a role with world No1 USA, with Dutchwoman Hesterine de Reus assuming the reins in January. The former Netherlands international is aiming on building further upon Sermanni’s legacy with success at the FIFA Women’s World Cup high on the agenda.
Potential for growth
Capped 43 times for the Oranje Leeuwinnen (Orange Lionesses) over a ten-year international career that concluded in 1993, De Reus has spent the past two decades coaching in various capacities. Most notable were spells with Netherlands’ youth teams, PSV Eindhoven and the Jordan national team. De Reus also comes armed with a plethora of coaching qualifications and diverse experiences.
“I think the (Jordan) national team has a very good standard,” De Reus told FIFA.com of her experience in West Asia, an area not known for its strength in women’s football. De Reus, however, is adamant that there is significant scope for growth in that part of the world despite the cultural challenges. “The girls really love the sport which is a powerful thing in itself,” she says. “Of course you need to establish role models to inspire others.”
Jordan’s ambitions for historic qualification to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 remain realistic. Indeed, with five Asian berths on the line for the newly-expanded 24-nation tournament, hopes are high. “It is a young and skilful side and a promising team,” says De Reus reflecting on her 18 months in Jordan. “With a good programme Jordan can be one of the competitors (for qualification). There is great support from the federation.”
Young and talented Down Under
De Reus is now channelling all her energies into a youthful Australia team undergoing a period of transition. Australia were the third youngest team at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and De Reus is mindful that raw ability will not always compensate for match experience. “We have a really young squad,” she says. “We have a lot of Under 19 players in our squad which is not common. I think the Australian women’s team is competitive in terms of skill when comparing against the top teams. There is a bit of a lack of game awareness, which for me is the most important thing to work on. However this is normal because the W-League is so short.”
De Reus has set about creating a busy schedule for her young team ahead of Canada 2015 qualifiers mid next year. “For the next year the main aim is getting game experience and playing as many matches as we can,” she said.
Australia’s intriguing mix of raw talent and inexperience was perhaps exemplified last month with a defeat against Dutch club side Den Haag, followed a few days later by a win over a richly-talented France side in the final stage of their UEFA Women’s EURO preparations. “The whole team is very coachable,” De Reus says of the Matildas. “They are so eager to be good, to develop and to win medals.”
After reaching the quarter-finals at the last two World Cups, De Reus is determined to build on Australia's recent success.
“You always want to do better,” says De Reus with a smile. “The girls want to do more, and they are very eager to win a medal. It is not normal to do so with such a young team. But they have very good spirit, so we will try and figure out how we will do it together.”