Alen Stajcic’s first-hand knowledge of the Matildas will pose a “unique challenge” to Australia at next year’s Asian Cup in India.
- Stajcic coached the Matildas from 2014 up until his controversial sacking in early 2019
- It will be Australia’s sixth Asian Cup appearance, winning the title in 2010 and finishing runner-up on three occasions
- The Matildas have also been drawn against Indonesia and Thailand in Group B
The former Matildas boss will face his old team in the continental competition in January after Australia and Stajcic’s Philippines team were drawn together in group B of the 12-nation tournament.
The draw adds extra spice to the opening stages of the tournament following Stajcic’s controversial exit from the Matildas’ role at the start of 2019.
Matildas assistant Mel Andreatta knows Stajcic well from his time in charge of the national team and said the 47-year-old’s experience will be a factor in Australia’s preparations.
“With his experience and his knowledge of this team and the individual skills of players in our team that will be a unique challenge that we need to prepare for,” Andreatta said.
“We’ve still got to go out there and perform at our best and get a result in that second match of the group.”
Australia will start their tournament against Indonesia on January 21 before facing Stajcic and the Philippines three days later.
The final group game will be against Thailand, which faced current Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson when he was part of the United States’ coaching staff at the 2019 World Cup in France.
Gustavsson was excited for his first taste of an Asian Cup next year.
“Finally, we know what’s ahead of us so let’s start to prepare,” Gustavsson said.
“I’m already really curious to get into new teams that I haven’t played before. For me, that’s going to be a new experience.”
The tournament will be Australia’s sixth appearance at the Asian Cup, after winning the title in 2010 and finishing runner-up on three separate occasions.
Defending champions Japan have been drawn in group C along with South Korea, Myanmar and Vietnam.
If Australia top their group and Japan finish second in theirs, it means the two rivals will face each other in the quarter-finals in a potentially mouth-watering clash.
With qualification for the 2023 World Cup already secured due to Australia’s co-hosting of that event with New Zealand, Andreatta hinted next year’s event could be a chance for some of the team’s up-and-coming talent to get a taste of tournament football.
“This is another opportunity for all the playing group — new players, young players, current players, players returning into contention for selection — to find that drive or strengthen the resolve and create that energy, despite already qualifying for World Cup, to still perform,” she said.
“At the end of the day, in a high-performance sport and environment that’s what it’s all about.”
Asian Cup 2022 groups
Group A: India, China, Taiwan, Iran
Group B: Australia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia
Group C: Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar