Matildas to keep up the pace in Asian Cup

Ed Jackson |

Clare Wheeler says the Matlidas’ huge win over Indonesia has set the tone for their Asian Cup bid.
Clare Wheeler says the Matlidas’ huge win over Indonesia has set the tone for their Asian Cup bid.

Matildas midfielder Clare Wheeler says Australia’s 18-0 Women’s Asian Cup demolition of Indonesia has set the template heading into a clash with former coach Alen Stajcic’s Philippines.

Wheeler made her first start for the national team in Friday’s group stage opener against the world No.94 Indonesians as Sam Kerr blasted five goals to become Australian football’s leading all-time international goalscorer.

That ruthlessness has shown how determined the Matildas are to show no mercy throughout the tournament as they aim to win the continental title for the first time since 2010.

Next up is a clash with the Philippines, who claimed a 1-0 upset win over Thailand in their opener, and a familiar face in the opposition dugout in Stajcic.

Wheeler never played under Stajcic during his five-year reign as Matildas coach before his acrimonious departure in 2019.

Several members of the squad know Stajcic very well however and Wheeler admitted that would no doubt add an extra element to the clash with the Malditas.

“It’s not an everyday game, certainly, but the girls have been at AFC plenty of times and they want to win the trophy,” Wheeler said.

“We haven’t won it since 2010 and that’s the main focus here rather than who’s coaching.”

Wheeler was one of the least experienced players on the park for Australia in the Indonesian thrashing, which also included a debut off the bench for teenager Holly McNamara.

Picking such a strong team against Indonesia was all about making a statement of intent, Wheeler says.

And she’s confident players such as Cortnee Vine and Remy Siemsen will be given their chance to contribute as the tournament progresses.

“Now that we’re in performance mode, we all have clarity in what we’re doing and what our roles are in the team,” the 24-year-old said.

“Definitely looking forward to every game getting that one bit better because this is a tournament that we want to win.

“There’s no second best here. We want to win it and that’s what we’re trying to achieve.”