Ante Milicic has settled on the 23 women who will fly the flag for Australia at the upcoming World Cup, but there is no place for the experienced Kyah Simon with teenager Mary Fowler instead making the cut for the tournament in France.
Simon, who has represented the Matildas at two previous World Cups, has only recently returned to action for her American side, Houston Dash, following ankle surgery in December.
Game time for the 81-cap forward has been severely limited this year, and concerns over her match fitness have opened the door to Fowler, the 16-year-old Cairns-born attacker who has been at the centre of a tug of war with the Irish FA over her eligibility.
“It was a thorough process,” Milicic told Fox Sports. “We’re confident in the monitoring system we had in place. We tried to stick with criteria of form and fitness.”
Simon’s consolation prize is a call-up to the Matildas’ pre-tournament camp in Turkey as a standby player, along with 17-year-old Melbourne Victory striker Kyra Cooney-Cross, and Milicic did not rule out the possibility of either making it to France.
“The 23 are selected but we’ve seen in football anything can happen,” he said. “We want to cover ourselves so that if anything goes wrong the standby players are ready to go. Kyah hasn’t got back into the form and fitness she would like but I’m sure she’s going to be richer for the experience.”
A cloud was also hanging over Sydney FC’s Chloe Logarzo, who is yet to feature for the Matildas during Milicic’s tenure after picking up an ankle injury in the W-League grand final. But having proved her fitness in recent games for Washington Spirit in the NWSL, the key midfielder has been called up.
Logarzo’s teammate in the US, Amy Harrison, also gets the nod but there is no place for Alex Chidiac in the group, which will be led by captain Sam Kerr and her vice-captain Steph Catley.
Milicic’s 23 boasts of healthy blend of youth and experience – eight players will be getting their first taste of a World Cup, while the likes of Lisa De Vanna, Clare Polkinghorne, and Lydia Williams will be appearing at their fourth.
Kerr, Laura Alleway, Caitlin Foord, Elise Kellond-Knight, Emily van Egmond, and Tameka Yallop (nee Butt) will be appearing at their third and, in total, the squad has 1,300 international caps to its name.
“This is a special group of Australian footballers because, as a unit, they have accumulated a wealth of international experience despite the average age of the team being quite young,” Milicic said.
“Having players that have appeared at multiple Fifa Women’s World Cups in our squad will help to guide the eight players traveling to their first Women’s World Cup, and I believe we will have genuine competition for starting positions across all areas of the pitch.”
Milicic was in Sydney to make the announcement and will now head back to Europe to finalise preparations for the tournament at a training camp in Antalya. From there, the Matildas will travel to the Netherlands to play a friendly in Eindhoven on 1 June before getting their World Cup campaign under way against Italy in Valenciennes on 9 June.
Australia squad: Lydia Williams, Mackenzie Arnold, Teagan Micah; Teigen Allen, Laura Alleway, Gema Simon, Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley, Alanna Kennedy, Clare Polkinghorne: Elise Kellond-Knight, Emily Van Egmond, Tameka Yallop, Aivi Luik, Chloe Logarzo, Katrina Gorry, Amy Harrison: Sam Kerr, Lisa De Vanna, Caitlin Foord, Emily Gielnik, Hayley Raso, Mary Fowler. Standby: Kyra Cooney-Cross, Kyah Simon.