Australia reached the quarter-finals of the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ under the guidance of coach Tom Sermanni in what was a breakthrough achievement for the team from Down Under. Fast forward four years and Sermanni is now aiming to prove Australia is here to stay as a force in the women’s game.
Sermanni’s experience of women’s football is vast, having featured at the 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup; the only coach at Germany 2011 to have done so. The 2007 AFC Women’s Coach of the year also has significant experience at club level in Australia, Japan and USA. Last year the Matildas became the first Australian team crowned Asian champions since the nation’s move into the globe’s largest geographic confederation five years ago.
Drawn into Group D, Australia will commence their campaign against Brazil, before further matches against Equatorial Guinea and Norway. An exciting and dynamic Australia team – the third youngest at Germany 2011 – finished their preparations this week with confidence-boosting victories against firstly Mexico, and then England in a behind closed doors friendly.
Five days out from the opener against Brazil in Monchengladbach, Sermanni chatted to FIFA.com about his new-look team and their preparations for Germany 2011. The Scotland-born Sermanni also talks about which teams can do well at Germany 2011 and the changes he has seen in the women’s game over the last four years.
FIFA.com: What are the positive attributes amongst Australia's class of 2011?
Tom Sermanni: I think some of the positive aspects are that we have a lot of pace and mobility in the squad. We have a lot of good footballers and we have a lot of young players that haven’t reached that age of fear. There is a lot of cohesion and good feeling within the group and there is also a lot of energy both on and off field which are all positives.
What are the positives and negatives in having so many young players within the squad?
If things go well there is no problem, but if not then that is when the unknown arises in terms of which players stand up and which are affected. The good thing is that there is a real sense of energy and confidence that we wouldn’t have had say eight or nine years ago. Although these players are still young, we have had a couple of campaigns in Asia which has really toughened them up. The pace of the team and the pace they that can play at is a positive for us.
The women’s game has grown and developed significantly having become quicker, technically better and teams are more tactically mature.
Do you think experience is not as important as it is in the men’s game?
In women’s sport, generally players get opportunities at a younger age than male players. There is not that hierarchical structure as in fully professional sport, so the opportunities are there and the experience factor is less relevant.
Are you happy with the team’s final preparations?
I’m very satisfied with where we are at. We have two solid wins under our belt finishing out the 90 minutes strongly and playing in a manner that was pleasing. Everyone is fit and well so it’s a positive environment.
Is the team excited to face Brazil and play in the World Cup?
I think so and it has started to really kick in that we are at the World Cup. We have had a great training camp and enjoyed being around the football culture and it’s very exciting for the players.
Who do you think will do well at Germany 2011?
Germany are obviously, for me, the favourite. Brazil and the US have earned the right to be classed as teams that can win it. Outside of that there are a big group of teams - around seven or eight - that could go deep into the tournament in the right circumstances, should they get on a roll. I honestly think there is not a lot between many teams now.
What factors have contributed to the growth of Australian women’s football in recent years?
The two most important things have been the move into Asia and the establishment of the W-League [national competition]. Moving into Asia caused us to reassess our programme and also to review our philosophical approach in terms of training, and types of players being developed. Basically it helped us change from being seen as a competitive team to a team that can potentially win trophies. The W-League has given players an outlet to compete in a good standard and in a highly competitive elite women’s competition. That has really helped improved the type of player being developed and provided opportunities for players.
What developments have there been in the women’s game since China 2007?
The women’s game has grown and developed significantly having become quicker, technically better and teams are more tactically mature. Also the gap between the various nations is closing quickly, much like men’s football.