Did the Matildas pick the right players for their AFC Asian Cup campaign?

-

Tony Gustavsson has chosen attacking depth over defensive assurance for his final 23-player AFC Women’s Asian Cup squad, but did he make the right choice?

The Matildas kicked off their 2022 AFC Asian Cup campaign with an emphatic 18-0 victory against Indonesia.

online pharmacy https://buynoprescriptionrxxonline.com/med/flagyl.html no prescription pharmacy

Their squad includes a mix of players from the A-League Women and European women’s leagues like Chelsea star Sam Kerr. 

Embed from Getty Images

Two players were trimmed from an original 25-player training list.

The four players that were vying for the final two spots on the plane to India were defenders Winonah Heatley and Karly Roestbakken, as well as attackers Holly McNamara and Cortnee Vine.

All four of the players that were competing for their place in the squad are aged 23 or under with the youngest being Holly McNamara at only 18. 

McNamara and Vine were ultimately given their first international call-ups for the competition, sending both young defenders back to their respective club duties despite their prior international experience.

The training squad was as follows:

Goalkeepers: Mackenzie Arnold, Teagan Micah, Lydia Williams

Defenders: Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Charlotte Grant, Winonah Heatley*, Alanna Kennedy, Aivi Luik, Courtney Nevin, Clare Polkinghorne, Karly Roestbakken*

Midfielders: Kyra Cooney-Cross, Emily van Egmond, Clare Wheeler, Tameka Yallop

Forwards: Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Emily Gielnik, Sam Kerr, Holly McNamara, Hayley Raso, Remy Siemsen, Kyah Simon, Cortnee Vine

*Players who missed out on the final two spots available in the squad. 

Embed from Getty Images

Through 2021, the Matildas played a total of 16 matches conceding 37 goals and keeping only two clean sheets. 

As such, why didn’t Gustavsson chose to bolster his defence over attack?

Let’s break down each player’s careers and seasons to date so that we can compare them at a numerical level and potentially understand this choice. 

Winonah Heatley

Age: 20

Club: Melbourne City FC

Embed from Getty Images

Heatley made her A-League Women debut with the Brisbane Roar in February 2020, at age 18, and went on to make three appearances throughout the season. 

Spending two seasons at the Roar she scored her first professional goal and firmly established herself as a rising star. 

Playing all 12 games in her second season and racking up 1059 minutes over the course of a strong campaign in which Brisbane made the finals. 

This quality showing earned her a move overseas to the Swedish Women’s Premier Division with Växjö DFF; making four appearances across league and cup competitions. 

Impressing in Sweden, Heatley earned her first call up to the Matildas squad in September 2021.

She was an unused substitute in a 3-2 loss but the experience gained by simply being in and around the squad can not be denied.

Heatley returned to Australia for the 2021/22 A-League Women season signing for Melbourne CIty. 

So far through 2021/22 she has played five matches and doubled her professional goal tally with two, Melbourne City currently sit second on the A-League Women’s table.  

She has played 436 minutes out of the available 450 this season. 

Karly Roestbakken

Age: 21

Club: Canberra United FC

Embed from Getty Images

Roestbakken made her professional debut for Canberra United at age 15 during the 2016/17 A-League Women season. 

She went on to make three appearances in total that season scoring her first professional goal in the process. 

Over the next three seasons from 2017 to 2020, Roestbakken made a further 31 appearances and scored another goal each season bringing her total to four.

Roestbakken achieved all this before her 20th birthday and in doing so got her European call up with LSK Kvinner – the champions of the Norwegian Toppserien.

Roestbakken continues to play in the Toppserien with LSK Kvinner where she has made 18 appearances across two seasons in Norway including playing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

online pharmacy https://buynoprescriptionrxxonline.com/med/zovirax.html no prescription pharmacy

 

Roestbakken made her Matildas debut in their World Cup victory against Brazil during the 2019 group stage and last played for them in 2021. 

Since then she has made a total of seven appearances for the Matildas, gaining her invaluable international experience at such a young age. 

Cortnee Vine

Age: 23

Club: Sydney FC

Embed from Getty Images

The oldest player vying for a spot in the Asian Cup squad; Vine debuted for Brisbane Roar at the age of 16 in 2015. 

She went on to make 10 appearances during her two seasons with Roar making the finals series once in 2016. 

Vine then moved south to Newcastle Jets for the 2017/18 season and played two seasons there contributing four goals across 21 appearances.

Following her stint with the Jets, Vine joined Western Sydney Wanderers for the 2019/2020 season.

online pharmacy https://buynoprescriptionrxxonline.com/med/cipro.html no prescription pharmacy

 

Vine has never played for the Matildas but has made 11 appearances for the under-20s Australian Women’s side. 

She currently plays for Sydney FC and is in her second season with the club.

She played in and started 11 matches in her first season, scoring four goals while providing three assists. 

This ranked her equal-fifth on the top goalscorers list for 2020/21.

Sydney finished as premiers in 2020/21 but fell short in the grand final, losing 1-0 to Melbourne Victory

So far in 2021/22, Vine has played six matches scoring four goals and laying on two assists giving her a goal involvement in every single game she’s played so far.

She has played 424 out of a possible 450 minutes thus far in 2021/22.

Holly McNamara

Age: 18

Club: Melbourne City FC

Embed from Getty Images

McNamara has taken the A-League Women by storm in 2021/22.

In her debut season she has provided a major spark to Melbourne City’s attack. 

So far she has scored once and provided three assists in her five starts. 

City sit second on the ladder and McNamara is truly making her mark at the top level contributing to a championship level squad. 

Walking into the starting team of an A-League Women’s squad is no mean feat, especially for an 18-year-old. 

Coming off an ACL tear sustained during Young Matildas duty, McNamara could have made this jump a lot sooner were it not for bad luck. 

She has played 421 out of the available 450 minutes in her debut season.

The Decision

With all four players playing 380 or more minutes of their available 450 so far this season in the ALW, they’re all integral components within their league squads. 

Heatley and Roestbakken can feel hard done by in missing out on a spot for the competition.

Especially with both having previous international experience, unlike the players chosen.

Viewing their stats lined up together, the goalscoring and chance-creating threat that
Vine and MacNamara possess is clearly their greatest attribute. 

Calling up two debutants at a major competition like this is a risky strategy but it could be exactly what the Matildas need to make it over the hump. 

Having achieved a best ever fourth-place finish at last year’s Olympics it is understandable that Gustavsson has faith in his defensive line, despite their worrying tally of 21 conceded goals in 2021. 

During the 2021 Olympics, Australia lost their semi-final 1-0 to Sweden before being bested 4-3 by the United States in their bronze-medal game. 

In their most recent Asian Cup campaigns, the Matildas fell to Japan in the final 1-0.

Embed from Getty Images

Three out of four of these deciding games were settled by a scoreline of just 1-0 so it can be suggested Gustavsson is looking for attacking dynamism in these all important fixtures. 

Despite MacNamara’s amazing start to life in the A-League Women with 0.8 goal involvements every 90 minutes, in my opinion Roestbakken would have been the better choice.

With her wealth of experience in Australia, Europe and on the international stage, Roestbakken is a more than capable defender.

She could have provided real competition in the defensive ranks, as well as solid cover for any injuries that may arise through the tournament. 

Embed from Getty Images

Despite this, Vine undoubtedled deserves her spot. Her ridiculous form of one goal involvement every 90 minutes shows her attacking quality.

This quality may be what the Matildas need to get over the hump and earn a first Asian Cup since 2010.

All will be revealed through the tournament. 

Good luck girls!

Feature image credit: Rachel Bach

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

Bill Hedley
Bill Hedley
Journalism under graduate at the University of Queensland. I have been a die-hard football player and fan for the past 16 years and am now a passionate multimedia Journalist, covering Brisbane Roar for the 2021/22 A-League season.

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required