‘Be better for longer’: Kerr’s challenge to Matildas
Captain Sam Kerr has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging the Matildas to become a 90-minute team in Tuesday's second Chile friendly in Adelaide.
Saturday's 2-1 win over the 37th-ranked South Americans, in front of a record crowd of 20,029 at Bankwest Stadium, iced a historic week headlined by a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement that will give them equal share of national-team revenue with the Socceroos and equivalent off-field support.
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Coach Ante Milicic labelled the victory, sealed via a brace from Kerr, a "beautiful occasion" befitting the week's events.
And he praised his squad for overcoming several challenges, including the fact they hadn't played together since the World Cup in June, the distractions of the CBA, Kerr's impending move to Europe, and a threadbare bench featuring only three outfield players.
Add in a stellar international debut for code-hopping defender Jenna McCormick and there was plenty to celebrate.
But Milicic also lamented the Matildas' late fade-out that coughed up a consolation goal for Chile off a set piece, asserting "we have to finish and kill these games a lot earlier, we don't need a final 10 minutes like that".
RECORD BREAKING!— Westfield Matildas (@TheMatildas) November 9, 2019
Thank you to the 20,029 fans who have come to see us and have made this match the highest-attended women’s football international in Australian history!#WeAreMatildas #AUSvCHI pic.twitter.com/GI4dBqjQ5g
Kerr expressed gratitude for the "unbelievable" home support, but voiced similar on-field frustrations.
"At the end of the day we want to play well in every game and dominate in every game, and for 75 minutes we did," Kerr said.
"We've just got to become a team that does that for 90 minutes and closes out games like that, and not let them get back into it.
"For the most part we are, but that's the challenge for us going forward.
"It is a case of getting back together, getting the cobwebs out.
"We haven't played together since the World Cup. We've been playing with our clubs and other players and different styles of play.
"For the first hit-out in however many months, you've got to be happy with the 75 minutes.
"At halftime we had dominated, the first 20 minutes they had about 17 completed passes, which is unbelievable.
"We've just got to carry that on for the 90 minutes."
In last year's friendly series with Chile, the Matildas bounced back from a shock 3-2 opening defeat to inflict a 5-0 rout on their visitors three days later.
The aim will be a repeat at Coopers Stadium, where organisers are hoping for a crowd of around 10,000, and where Australia will seek to make a statement ahead of February's Olympic qualifiers.
Defensive stalwart Alanna Kennedy returns from suspension to face a side against Kerr and her fellow attackers played plenty of promising passages in Parramatta, but were often lacking the final ball.
"It's a team that's drawn recently with Brazil, a team with a strong football culture," Milicic said.
"It's actually the type of opponent that causes us problems with their direct style of football, stop-start game, a couple of good individuals.
"They're the ones we struggle in patches against.
"We created some really decent chances, but at the same time a couple of frustrating issues there with when to cross, when not, when to recycle, getting caught offside, final pass.
"But, still pleased."