COVID-19 outbreaks no concern for Matildas

Ed Jackson |

The Matildas have an option to rest players after their win over the Philippines in the Asian Cup.
The Matildas have an option to rest players after their win over the Philippines in the Asian Cup.

The threat of being knocked out of the Women’s Asian Cup due to a COVID-19 outbreak rather than on the football pitch isn’t causing concern within the Matildas camp.

Host nation India was forced to withdraw from the tournament on Sunday after being unable to field a squad of 13 fit players for their Group A match against Taiwan.

Australia’s opponents in their second group game on Monday, the Philippines, have also been dealing with an outbreak in their squad and had several players unavailable for the 4-0 defeat to the Matildas in Mumbai.

Philippines coach Alen Stajcic labelled COVID-19 the “invisible enemy” after the defeat but Australia midfielder Emily van Egmond says India’s plight hasn’t changed the team’s protocols or sparked fear of having their tournament suddenly ended in a similar fashion.

“Obviously, it’s a pandemic. It’s turned around the whole entire world but we have the best protocols in place to keep us safe,” van Egmond said.

“We have a tight-knit bubble. We know that we’re ensuring we’re doing everything possible to make sure we’re all healthy and able to do our part for the team and that’s credit to our medical staff.

“The sole focus for us is football. We’re here to perform, we’re here to do a job.”

Van Egmond scored her fourth goal of the tournament in the victory over former Matildas coach Stajcic’s resilient Filipino team, who held the much-fancied Australians scoreless in the opening half.

The 28-year-old notched Australia’s third goal after captain Sam Kerr and an own goal had broken the deadlock before young gun Mary Fowler’s smart finish from the edge of the box in the 88th minute iced the victory.

Having won their first two matches by a combined scoreline of 22-0, Australia have the option to rest key players or expose up-and-coming talent such as Cortnee Vine, Remy Siemsen, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Clare Wheeler to more tournament football in their final group match against Thailand.

Defenders Alanna Kennedy and Ellie Carpenter could also be left out of the Thailand game given both are a booking away from a suspension.

Whichever team Tony Gustavsson picks, van Egmond says the Matildas will be eager to maintain the ruthless attitude displayed in their previous games.

“We have a plan. We want to win against Thailand and have a good statement going into these quarter-final games,” she said.

“The most important thing is to have 23 players who are healthy and available.”