Just seven days out from the opening of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Matilda’s young gun, Steph Catley, believes Australia has the x-factor to get them through the ‘Group of Death’ and become World Champions.
The Matilda’s touched down in Canada earlier last week to begin their final preparations for the tournament which begins this weekend.
“Being in Canada you start to make it real and you start to think about the games coming up and the possibility of making it out of the group,” Catley told The TURF earlier this week.
“There’s a huge belief in this group that anything is possible and we love going in as the underdogs against teams such as the USA and Sweden – it’s really exciting.”
The Matilda’s have found some fine form of late; wins against Holland and Finland in Cyprus before demolishing Vietnam 11-0 in their farewell match in Sydney, there’s a new feeling around the camp of what can be achieved.
“In Cyprus we
played some really good football and we have had some good form leading up to
these last few games before the World Cup starts. I think we’re really starting
to hit our peak and leading up to a World Cup that’s exactly what you want”.
Despite the positivity within the group, there’s no denying the challenge that the Matilda’s face in their opening match against the United States in Winnipeg on Monday morning.
“I think the thing that makes them such a god team is that they’re all so strong and individually skilled, they all have their unique talents, and I think we’ve done enough research and played against and alongside them to know all of that.”
The second ranked USA are hot favourites heading into the tournament and are searching for their third World Cup after a devastating loss to Japan on penalties at the 2011 World Cup.
“They are a very strong side but if we’re switched on and up for it we can definitely beat them.”
Playing club football in the States, Catley has come face-to-face with the talent of the USWNT, lining-up alongside midfielder Tobin Heath and forward Alex Morgan for the Portland Thorns FC.
“I felt lucky to go to Portland, it’s one of the best clubs, if not the best club in the league in terms of its facilities and the support it gets from the club in general”
Steph signed for the Thorns early last year and has since benefited from the quality competition in America’s national women’s soccer league.
“It was a big step for me because it was the first time I had lived away from home and I had to adjust and learn and be able to stand on my own two feet both on and off the field, so it took me a game or two to get into it but once I got my confidence and started playing like me I started to get into the stride of things.”
At 21-years old, Catley has stamped her mark in the squad as a regular starter for the Matilda’s, attaining 32 international caps shows the versatile attack and quality she brings into the national team. In 2013, Steph won the W-League Young player of the year award, the same season she captained Melbourne Victory’s winning W-League campaign.
“Women’s football in Australia has come a long way in the past couple of years. You can see it in the way the players are performing in the W-League and performing overseas, the depth of talent is continuing to grow and increase which can only be a good thing and help us to have a world class team”
However despite the impressive resume, Monday’s hit-out will be Catley’s first World Cup, a moment sure to cherish in all it’s entirety.
“Every time I put that Australian shirt on, whether it was the first time or the last game I played, you get a strong feeling of pride and excitement of what’s to come and going onto the field with your best mates and representing your country.”
“You can’t ask for much more.”
Words by Jacob Arnott & Ari Charilaou.