Ante Milicic to lead Matildas at France 2019

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There was a distinct feeling of history repeating itself when the FFA announced the sacking of Matildas’ head coach Alen Stajcic in January.

In a replay of the chaos in the men’s team last year, it left Australia’s women rudderless just when they need strong leadership the most, with a World Cup on the horizon. However, while the Socceroos continue to spiral down the world rankings in the wake of the Asian Cup debacle, there is a buzz of genuine optimism around the Matildas.

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This, after all, is a team that has made a habit of winning. In the past three years, they have played 41 matches and lost only seven of them. Now, with the appointment of Ante Milicic as their new Head Coach, and a positive start to the Cup of Nations, sites like Unibet are taking them seriously as genuine contenders for France 2019.

Who is Ante Milicic?

For followers of the National Soccer League, Milicic will be a familiar face. He played up front for a number of teams over a career that spanned almost 20 years. He also made six appearances for the Socceroos between 2002 and 2005, scoring five goals. In 2009, as his playing career wound down, he took on the role of player/coach at Sydney, the club where his junior career began back in the late 1980s.

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Milicic went on to fill assistant coaching roles for the Socceroos. His appointment as interim Head Coach for the Matildas will be his most senior role to date and his first foray in to the world of women’s football. He will remain in the role till the completion of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Keeping up their winning ways

Of course, there is first the small matter of the Cup of Nations, and Milicic’s tenure got off to a perfect start last Thursday as the Matildas cruised to a 2-0 win over New Zealand in his first game in charge. For both players and coach, it must have been a relief to get the focus back onto the football after the controversy surrounding Stajcic’s departure and Milicic’s hurried appointment. The win was exactly what was needed to calm speculation that this team might self-destruct in similar style to the men, and at the worst possible moment.

Eyes on the prize

France 2019 is only three months away, and the Matildas will be desperate to go a step further than four years ago, when their quarter final curse struck yet again and they were agonisingly bundled out by Japan. Can they do so? The key group match will be in the second round of games, when they take on Brazil at Montpelier. Barring a major upset, these will be the two teams to go through from Group C, so the result will most likely dictate who finishes first and second.

USA are the early tournament favourites at 5/2, with the Matildas at 20/1 to lift the biggest prize in women’s football. The tournament gets underway on 08 June and the final will be on 07 July at the Stade de Lyon.

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