Matildas’ coach Tom Sermanni expects to make several changes to his team despite a winning start to Australia’s Women’s Asian Cup campaign in China on Wednesday.
With an eye on tougher matches against South Korea and China, Sermanni named an inexperienced line-up for the Group B opener against Vietnam at the Chengdu Sports Center, the gamble paying off with a 2-0 win.
W-League top scorer Sarah Walsh was unavailable for selection as she continues to recover from knee surgery, leaving the majority of the attacking to her Sydney FC clubmate Leena Khamis.
And the 23-year-old got Australia off to a perfect start to the tournament by opening the scoring midway through the first half. A cross from the right wing was not cleared by the Vietnamese defence and Khamis headed home at the back post to put the Matildas 1-0 up.
With Vietnam offering Australia’s defence little problems, the victory was sealed early in the second half when Temeka Butt was upended in the box and Kylie Ledbrook calmly slotted the penalty for her first senior international goal.
Sermanni was clearly relieved to claim the win and said he would be bringing in his more experienced players such as captain Melissa Barbieri and vice-captain Collette McCallum for the matches against Korea and China.
“Happy to get it over with and get three points,” Sermanni told AAP. “We’ll take a 2-0 win, the performance was scratchy but sometimes that happens at tournaments.
“They’ll probably be at least six-seven changes going into the second game.” Vietnam, ranked 32 in the world, will be the easiest match in Australia’s group at the Asian Cup, which doubles as a World Cup qualifier.
Australia must get through their group and finish at least third in the tournament to book their ticket to next year’s World Cup in Germany. And Sermanni believes a win against either Korea or host nation China should be enough to see Australia through to the final four.
“If we can get another win in one of these two games hopefully that’s enough to get us into the semi-finals,” he said.
The Matildas play Korea at the same venue on Friday.