Matildas ready to kick off world cup campaign

Sam Kerr. Picture: Getty Images
Sam Kerr. Picture: Getty Images

THE 2019 Women’s World Cup is here, with the tournament kicking off this weekend.

Despite a packed sporting calendar, chock-full of international tournaments, this year’s major soccer tournament stands out like a Sam Kerr backflip in terms of appeal and interest.

For Australian sports lovers, this upcoming World Cup is one which deserves your undivided attention.

Perth Glory’s Sam Kerr named Matildas captain

 

Alanna Kennedy passes the ball. Picture: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Australia has a big chance of winning

The Matildas arrive in France as one of the favourites for the cup. Despite the surprise sacking of coach Alen Stajcic last year, Australia will be one of the teams to beat.

With a mixture of talent, experience and youthful exuberance, this shapes up as the side’s best chance yet to claim the crown.

Best yet to come from Perth Glory’s Sam Kerr

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Lydia Williams is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, while she will have some sturdy protection in the form of defenders Alanna Kennedy, Claire Polkinghorne and Steph Catley.

Katrina Gorry and Elise Kellond-Knight are well-established central midfielders of international pedigree, while there is a scary amount of firepower up forward in Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso, plus a potential breakout star in Mary Fowler.

If Canada 2015 was the Matildas’ breakout tournament, this could well be the one where they establish themselves as the best in the world.

Players going through their paces at a Matildas training session at Hartfield Park in Forrestfield in March 2018. Picture: David Baylis. d480930

Women’s sport is on the up

Women’s sport is currently in the midst of a golden age. More people are watching, it’s receiving increased media coverage and the quality of the on-field product continues to improve.

Over the past half-decade, the profile of professional women’s sports leagues has increased thanks to the likes of the W-League, AFLW, the Women’s Big Bash League and Super Netball.

Importantly, that success is starting to trickle down to grassroots level as the next generation of stars begin their journey, inspired by an influx of visible female role models.

This tournament will give punters the chance to see the world game’s best female athletes and there’s no better time than now to jump on board the bandwagon.

Sam Kerr celebrates after scoring a goal. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

One of Australia’s most iconic athletes is in her prime

It is fair to say Kerr has transcended the sport. She is one of the biggest names in Australian sport and her achievements have earned her global recognition from fans and sponsors alike.

Not since Cathy Freeman has there been an Australian female athlete as recognisable as Kerr, and the most amazing thing? She is just 25 years old, meaning she is yet to really hit her peak, a scary thought for opposing defences.

She will captain the Australians in France and has spoken about her desire to lead the team to glory on the world’s biggest stage. Kerr’s star seems to destined to continue rising; this could be the tournament which accelerates her reputation into the upper echelons of Australian sporting history.

The other sporting events this year lack intrigue for Australians

There are four other major international sporting events set to take place in 2019. In previous years, all four would be bigger and more enticing to the average punter than a Matildas’ World Cup campaign.

But the times are changing. The buzz around the Cricket World Cup seems to be minimal at best this year; perhaps a reflection of both the increasing-deterioration of interest in the 50-over version of the game and the current antipathy towards the Australian cricket team.

An Ashes showdown in England follows the World Cup, but the general lack of warmth towards an Australian side still trying to overcome the ghosts of Cape Town feels like it may impact on interest back home.

Although, if we are talking about lack of an enthusiasm for a national side ahead of a major tournament, the Wallabies upcoming Rugby World Cup campaign may have our cricketers covered.

And while the Basketball World Cup will pique local interest, it remains second to the Olympic competition in terms of prestige.

ben.smith@communitynews.com.au

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